Category Archives: National Security

Education and Violent Extremism in Africa: The Importance of Evidence-based Interventions for National Security

The international development sector, especially in the United States, is facing an uncertain future. Long considered to be both a virtuous endeavor and a crucial mechanism for achieving US foreign policy aims, development assistance is struggling to remain relevant. Both politicians and citizens are skeptical of development aid and are increasingly focused on more traditional strategies to ensure national security, particularly in the face of the growing threats of terrorism and violent extremism. Shifts in spending priorities call into question the longevity of US investments in education and women’s empowerment, as well as the continued existence of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and State Department in their current forms.

Education, Workforce Development, and Violent Extremism in Africa

However, as US military leaders have argued, development assistance can be just as important as defense spending to ensuring our national security. Clear connections can be drawn between expanding access to education and workforce development—areas in which USAID has built expertise—and countering violent extremism (CVE), a top foreign policy priority of the Trump administration. Violent extremist groups often recruit from the young, poor, disenfranchised, and marginalized populations of a society, which include many of the same individuals targeted by education and workforce development programs.

These connections are especially clear in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa’s youth population is growing far more quickly than the number of jobs available, leading to high rates of youth unemployment across the continent. Ten to twelve million African youth enter the workforce each year, but governments struggle to create opportunities for them in economies that are often still largely agricultural. Between 2000 and 2007, the working-age population in Africa grew by 96 million; only 63 million jobs were created during the same period.

In the absence of quality education and gainful employment, African youth may be more susceptible to recruitment by the extremist organizations gaining influence on the continent. Helping African governments figure out how to break the link between unemployed youth and extremist organizations will be a crucial policy issue for the US government as Africa’s power and population grow.

A  constructed classroom by USAID.
Abdulaziz Bashir, USAID (2017)

Education and Violent Extremism: The Evidence

 It is easy to imagine increased US support for education and workforce development programs in Africa as one solution to this problem – if African youth have access to education and jobs, courtesy of USAID-funded programs, they will be less susceptible to recruitment by extremist groups. However, reliable evidence on the relationship between education and violent extremism is actually quite scarce.  An evaluation published last year by US-based NGO MercyCorps of the impact of access to education and civic engagement programs on political violence in Somalia suggests the story is more complicated than it might seem.

The MercyCorps-led impact evaluation, which examined the effects of a USAID-funded program in Somaliland called the Somali Youth Leaders Initiative (SYLI), suggested that education can make youth either more or less likely to become involved in political violence, depending on both education quality and the larger context. It found that while increased access to secondary education reduced youth participation in political violence by 16%, it increased youth support for political violence by 11%. However, when access to education was combined with opportunities for youth to become more civically engaged in their community, participation and support for political violence dropped by 14% and 20%, respectively.

Impact of Youth Leader Initiative on Stability
Mercy Corps (2016)

While additional evaluations are necessary to confirm these results, the story they tell makes sense. Educated youth living under repressive or inept governments with no access to meaningful work opportunities may become increasingly frustrated with their situations. They may then be more likely to turn to political violence as a way to affect change. However, if youth are given positive strategies for changing their lives and communities along with access to education, and see their education as linked to a better future, they may become less likely to resort to violence than their uneducated peers.

The Impact of Education Quality

 Especially in sub-Saharan Africa, the relationship between education and violence is further complicated by the question of the quality of education youth can access. Over the past decade African governments (with support from funders like USAID) have successfully increased the percentage of African children enrolled in school. However, in many cases this increased access has come with lower quality; children are now attending school, but are not learning.

MercyCorps’ study shows evidence of this trend. It found that youth with access to education had a much less favorable view of government performance in providing education – probably because they were receiving low-quality education. African governments, and their international partners like USAID, need to be worried not just about whether youth are in school and engaged in their communities, but also about whether poor-quality education is adding fuel to the fire.

Implications for Funding and Policy

As MercyCorps’ research illustrates, US policymakers concerned about the rise of extremism in Africa should think twice before abandoning US investments in education on the continent. While proposed budget cuts to USAID have yet to be approved by Congress, general consensus within the Agency is that education, environment, and gender programs are likely to be scaled back, while spending on health is likely to be maintained. Advocates for education within USAID, the State Department, and their partner organizations need to focus their message to ensure elected officials and the public understand the links between education and extremism and continue funding education interventions.

More research is needed to fully understand the relationship among education, civic engagement, and violence. However, evidence from the MercyCorps study suggests that even if funding for education is cut, prioritizing education quality, workforce development, and civic engagement will maximize the effect of US education spending on violent extremism. USAID and its partners should prioritize these strategies now, but especially if anticipated budget cuts come to pass. While the international education sector needs to tailor its advocacy message to align with the US government focus on CVE to minimize budgetary impacts on its work, it should also focus on incorporating empirical evidence like MercyCorps’ study into project design to improve learning outcomes and decrease violence.

Increasing access to quality education in Africa should be a central component of the US government’s CVE efforts on the continent. However, evidence also suggests that USAID must consider the larger context in which education takes place to ensure their programs actually increase the opportunities available for youth, rather than just their frustrations.

Sarah Maniates is a second year MPP student at Sanford concentrating in international development and education policy. She spent the summer interning with USAID’s Bureau for Africa.

Congressman Schiff’s Call to Action

Congressman Adam Schiff gave the Terry Sanford Distinguished Lecture on October 30, 2017 at Penn Pavilion. The conversation was moderated by Professor Bruce Jentleson.
Photographer: Jackie Park

Representative Adam Schiff spoke at Duke University as part of the Terry Sanford Distinguished Lecture Series on October 30th, the same day Special Counsel Robert Mueller handed down the first indictment in the Trump-Russia investigation.

Schiff is the U.S. representative from California’s 28th district and the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. As a member of the committee tasked with investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, Representative Schiff addressed questions about President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who had been indicted earlier that day, and former Trump aide, George Papadopoulos, who was currently cooperating with federal investigators. Schiff spoke to the difficulty in measuring the cumulative effect of advertisements, tweets, and cultural messages propagated by Russia prior to and continuing after the election. He spoke with concern about the weaponization of language, the polarization of the media, and the fear that democracy itself could be dismantled “brick by brick.”

And while Schiff has lived and breathed the particulars of the House investigation for nearly a year, he still challenged those in the audience to take a step back from it:

“What’s the bigger picture here? For everyone in this room, we’ve lived in a world that was ever expanding in its freedoms. And each year, more of us lived in democratic societies, and more of us had a free press, and more of us had the right to practice our faith and associate with who we would, but we may now be at a point where we cannot say that will be true next year.”

As Representative Schiff responded to each of moderator Bruce Jentleson’s questions, it became increasingly clear why he’d been chosen to speak as part of The Terry Sanford Distinguished Lecture Series which focuses on bringing “men and women of the highest personal and professional stature” to Duke University. Schiff’s answers felt larger than the questions themselves. He didn’t just address the possible collusion, or the constitutional crisis the country might face were Trump to fire Mueller, he cut to the core of democracy itself—and to the individual role of every American within it.

Speaking passionately, but with his characteristic calm, Schiff made clear his belief in America as more than just a country, but an idea, too. “It’s incumbent on all of us, to be champions of that idea”.

Schiff said that growing up in Boston, President John F. Kennedy’s famous words, “Ask not what your country can do for you” was so much a cultural touchstone that it inspired him to a life of public service. But at the lecture he wondered aloud:

“Why would anyone want to get involved in something so crass, so ugly as our political environment right now? I feel like everyone in my generation should apologize in everyone in your generation for handing off a piece of work.”

But Schiff did more than apologize, he put out a call to action:

“We need you,” he said, looking out at the Duke students, faculty, and staff assembled. “We need you more than ever. With the incredible array of things going wrong, it’s tempting to say I’m not going to begin at all. And I would just say to you, don’t try to do it all. Just decide in the next year, or two years, or however long it takes, I’m going to make a difference on the thing I care most about.”

Congressman Schiff then paused, “We’re all going to be held to answer for what we do right now.” He returned to Washington D.C. the next day. 

 Meg Fee is a first-year student at the Duke Sanford School of Public Policy focusing on food policy.

Countering Violent Extremism at Home: Treating Communities as Partners, Not Targets

A superior strategy for countering of violent extremism demands an overhaul of the Federal Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) approach. The US government can better mitigate extremist violence by supporting local and communal initiatives with financing and resources, de-policing CVE strategy, and divorcing violent extremism from the notion that it’s solely a “Muslim” issue.

President Obama’s Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States argued that “protecting American communities from al-Qa’ida’s hateful ideology is not the work of government alone. Communities—especially Muslim American…are often best positioned to take the lead because they know their communities best”. Current Federal CVE strategy includes (1) enhancing federal engagement with ‘at-risk’ local communities, (2) continuing to build up government and policing expertise for preventing violent extremism, and (3) countering violent extremism propaganda while promoting our own ideals. Continue reading

Addressing Human Trafficking in North Carolina’s Schools Through Preventative Training

27582913190_033f837728_zGiven the nature of modern human trafficking of school-age individuals, educators and school employees are uniquely “positioned to recognize changes in behavior and appearance that may indicate human trafficking involvement”. In North Carolina, school officials are mandated to report potential cases of sexual abuse and exploitation, and to instruct students on human trafficking. However, despite this requirement, the State of North Carolina does not mandate the training of school officials on how to prevent, identify, report, or address potential human trafficking of school-age children.

The trafficking of children is a harsh reality in North Carolina and throughout the U.S. An estimated 100,000 children are traded for sex in the U.S. each year. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that over 250,000 children ages 10-17 are exploited through commercial sex in the U.S. annually. For girls, the average entry age is between 12-14, and for boys, the entry age is 11-13. Continue reading

Speaker Primer: Ambassador Wendy Sherman

On Thursday, Ambassador Wendy Sherman will give a talk at 6pm in Fleishman Commons. The Journal thought it might be nice to give a quick primer on Amb. Sherman, and discuss why she was invited to give a prominent lecture at Sanford (she will be giving the Amb. Dave and Kay Philips Family International Lecture).

Amb. Sherman will give a public talk on “Negotiating Change: The Inside Story Behind the Iran Nuclear Deal” on Thursday. She’s uniquely qualified to give such a talk; she led the American negotiations with Iran that resulted in the July 2015 agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear capabilities. She currently holds a residential fellowship at Harvard’s Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School.

As Prof. Peter Feaver (who will be hosting the talk) notes, Amb. Sherman has spent more time negotiating with Iranian counterparts than any other senior American leader. She was appointed the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (the fourth highest civilian position in the Department of State) by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2011, and held that position until October 2015. For her efforts during that time, she was awarded the National Security Medal, which has also been given to the likes of Robert Gates, “Wild Bill” Donovan, and Allen Dulles, for distinguished achievement in the field of intelligence relating to national security. Colleagues have praised her courage, calling her an “iron fist in a velvet glove,” and a “badass.”

Prior to the success of the Iran negotiations, Amb. Sherman was also a Special Advisor to President Clinton and assisted with much of the North Korea nuclear negotiations as a then-Policy Coordinator. The Clinton Administration’s negotiation tactics with North Korea were criticized as “appeasement” by James A. Baker, who himself held several positions in the Reagan and Bush Administrations, including Secretary of State from 1989-1992. This public critique (an op-ed in the New York Times), and the failure of the North Korean negotiations, may have shaped the way Amb. Sherman approached the Iranian negotiations.

Sherman is also a prime example of the “revolving door” between Washington, D.C., and the private sector. In the private arena, she’s worked as a Vice Chair for the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global consulting firm that boasts Madeline Albright as its chair. Amb. Sherman has also directed EMILY’s List and been the CEO and President of the Fannie Mae Foundation, the charitable arm of the mortgage financing company.

It will be interesting to hear her perspectives on the Iranian negotiations, on which she has said that “deception is part of the DNA,” and how they differed from (or were similar to) the North Korea negotiations. Her ideas on U.S. national security, and how diplomacy fits into the bigger picture, will also be a worthwhile conversation. And if that’s not enough material to pique your interest, you can also ask her about being a woman in national security; a woman negotiating in Iran; or any of the topics listed by Secretary of State Kerry as he gave a press statement on the departure of Amb. Sherman:

“Since the fall of 2011, she traveled to no fewer than 54 countries on America’s behalf. In that time, it would be easier to list the major issues on which she did not play a significant role than those on which she did. At one time or another, she was fully engaged in the Central American refugee situation, the Ukraine crisis, the Syrian civil war, the struggle for stability in Libya and Yemen, the restoration of diplomatic ties with Somalia, the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria, the confrontation with ISIL, the rebalance to Asia, the elections in Sri Lanka, and on and on. Whatever, the issue, Wendy could be counted on for advice and diplomacy that was smart, realistic and sure to advance America’s interests and values.”

Hope to see you in the Commons tomorrow!

Our Winter 2015 Print Journal is Here!

Our new print edition is out! After months of hard work, the Sanford Journal of Public Policy is proud to announce that our Winter 2015 print journal is ready to go, and we couldn’t be more proud of it.

Sanford Journal Spring 2015 Print Journal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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