Many of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing emerging trends of violence and extremists’ influence that threaten their stability. The indicators are subtle, but, left unchecked, portend levels of large-scale disruption not seen for two decades. With this as a backdrop, in April 2016, 72 Africa, together with George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR), hosted a roundtable discussion on the theme of “Building Sustainable Peace” with an emphasis on Africa. With support from our partners — World Relief, the United States Institute for Peace, and African Leadership, Inc. — we were able to bring together a dynamic group of experts to discuss the critical need for preventing further violent radicalization in Africa and the steps needed to build environments for sustainable peace. The diversity of our roundtable’s participants allowed us to have a vibrant discussion that drew from practical, first-hand experiences, academic principles, interfaith interactions, and government policy to create a consensus on methods for building sustainable peace. This roundtable emphasized the need for increased attention to the prevention of violent conflict and the impetus to act now.

Roundtable Findings:

  • The current trends toward violence and instability are, in large part, based on three broad factors: the lack of government attention to conditions and demands of individuals at the grassroots level, the significant growth of youth entering the workforce with no prospects for employment, and the growing influence of outside forces, many of which thrive on radicalization while operating from failed states;
  • Effective governance structures and processes are critical to a country’s stability, but must function in a way that represents all of society. If these structures do not function effectively, they become distrusted and can be impediments to stable peace;
  • The need for action ahead of violence is of paramount importance, yet Western governments’ focus on Countering Violent Extremism and Counter Terrorism (which are primarily reactive rather than preventative actions) tend to capture most of their attention and priority.  Although necessary, this focus does not effectively stop or contain the spread of radicalization and violence, nor does it address the critical need for local economic development as a means to stable peace; and,
  • Building sustainable peace at the grassroots level is not necessarily an action for governments, although they must help support and fund these efforts. Instead, Non-government organizations (NGOs), academia, the private sector, and even individual philanthropy play a critical role in assisting and supporting local communities in achieving their dreams of economic stability, growth, and peace. Likewise, these stakeholders need to embrace a role of advocacy by highlighting, to governments and supporters alike, the importance of creating environments for sustainable peace and by acting before violent crises happen.

This was an important discussion and one that we hope will continue to gain attention. Equally important was the fact that 72 Africa brought together a diverse group of individuals and organizations that work in the same, or adjacent spaces within the peacebuilding sphere, but do not often connect because their causes are slightly different or are in competition for funding and support.  Through the BSP 2016 Roundtable, alliances and friendships were formed that have created an action-oriented group of individuals committed to waging peace.

Participants in the BSP 2016 Roundtable included:

  • Dr. Kevin Avruch, Dean, S-CAR
  • Amb. George Moose, Vice Chairman, USIP
  • Tim Sample, Chairman & CEO, 72 Africa
  • Fr. Gerry Creedon, Chair, Arlington Diocese Peace and Justice Commission
  • Fazia Deen, Interfaith Outreach/Community Liaison, Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center
  • Dr. Matthew Levinger, Director, National Security Studies Program, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University
  • Jenny Yang, Vice President, Advocacy & Policy, World Relief
  • Rick Gittleman, President, United for Africa’s Democratic Future
  • Jack Deasy, Director, Government Business Development, O3B Networks
  • Dr. Daniel Rothbart, Director, Ethics & Conflict, S-CAR
  • John Tomaszewski, Deputy Director, International Republican Institute
  • Marie Velez Henao, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Pearson
  • Dr. Juliette Shedd, Associate Dean for Administration, GMU S-CAR


Pre-election Peace Summits

Learn more about why pre-election peace summits are important in Africa and how you can take part.