Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A New 'Dawn' for the Niger Delta - by the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations

Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations
September 25, 2014

Dear colleagues,
Nigeria faces some serious challenges, but it also offers great hope. Meet Regina Josiah, one of 21 young people from the Niger Delta who our coalition selected to learn filmmaking and who have become positive role models for restive youth. Regina received an opportunity to tell her own story, through film, about how violence has affected her and to help produce episodes for a reality TV series that our bureau had a hand in creating.
"Our film is a good one that is telling people why we shouldn't go into violence because violence is not the best solution," she told U.S. officials. "This film you are about to watch is going to make a great change in this community and in the whole wide world." She went on to thank ourambassador to Nigeria and the show's director "for everything you have done in our lives."
Date: 09/25/2014 Description: The stars of Dawn in the Creeks, alongside State Department officials Steve Schwartz AF/W, Consul General Jeff Hawkins, and Counselor Tom Shannon. - State Dept ImageEach week millions of Nigerians can tune in to Dawn in the Creeks, airing on all major networks in Africa's most populous nation. They are seeing examples of fellow citizens finding practical solutions to problems that might otherwise lead to violence. Driving this effort is a board of 14 Nigerian change agents assembled by the U.S. Consulate and the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO). For creative vision, the board turned to Jeta Amata, a celebrated film director who grew up in the Niger Delta. The initiative targets areas in the Niger Delta, an oil-rich region plagued by problems and grievances. The board includes influential Nigerians from the worlds of business, entertainment, advocacy, civil society and religion. Many are able to influence persons in positions of power, while others can mobilize the grassroots. This board of leaders will continue the work after U.S. financial support ends.
To supplement the TV show, we reach Nigerians every week through talk radio and social media. We're also supporting Nigerian initiatives in the Delta to decrease the recruitment of youth into violence. Collectively, all aim to counter the narrative that violence is an effective way to solve problems, particularly as national elections approach in February.
Since its creation three years ago, CSO has committed itself to creative approaches to conflict that draw upon lessons learned and best practices. As diplomacy evolves to deal with 21st Century challenges, it is increasingly important to reach out beyond elites to "silenced majorities," including women and youth. In Syria, for example, we applied that lesson by identifying and supporting capable members of the opposition and civil society. CSO piloted training and assistance to a broad spectrum of local leaders, activists, and members of Syria's "silenced majorities." CSO is now working with its partners in State and across the U.S. government to assess these programs and develop a way forward for a more sustainable approach.
In Honduras more than 300,000 citizens now have increased opportunities to make their communities safer by working with reformed law enforcement, thanks to CSO's efforts to replicate a neighborhood crime-solving program. In addition, our support helped strengthen the civil society coalition Alianza so that it achieved a nationwide presence and now routinely meets with senior government officials to promote security reforms.
Though we can take heart from our accomplishments, the deep-rooted conflicts we take on do not yield in a year or two. Once CSO has contributed to setting a trajectory, ultimate success requires long-term local effort. That's why we make sure that a local organization or some other partner, such as the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, is committed to carrying on the work.
I am grateful every day for the people CSO has attracted to tackle such tough problems. A top official in the U.S. Embassy in Beirut recently wrote to thank us for sending one of our staff members and for making him available on such short notice. She described him as a "great analyst, writer, and conceptual and creative thinker." That enthusiasm is representative of dozens of messages sent by ambassadors and other partners.
This bureau is part of the J Enterprise - seven State Department bureaus and offices that collectively help countries build more democratic, secure, stable, and just societies. All of us are striving to increase teamwork in J so that we can maximize our impact.
As most of you know by now, I will be leaving this talented and conscientious group at the end of the month. Fortunately, one of these impressive colleagues, Erin Barclay, will be taking the reins as the Acting Assistant Secretary until a new nominee is selected and confirmed. I know that she has what it takes to continue building on the three-year CSO foundation. You will be hearing from her through future letters in this series.
Opinion surveys show that the American people are increasingly leery of overseas commitments. But, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, 65 countries are now at a high or very high risk of social unrest. The United States must not shrink from the global stage. Other countries look to us for ideas and leadership, and the international system does not work smoothly without our support. I believe that CSO is pioneering approaches that will bring high returns for modest investments.
We welcome your ideas on how we can help nations beleaguered by conflict. You can write us at CSOpublic@state.gov. We also encourage you to forward our news to people you think would like to join this conversation. Previous dispatches are athttp://www.state.gov/j/cso/releases/other/c51066.htm. You can find us at @StateCSO orwww.facebook.com/StateCSO.
Ambassador Rick Barton
Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operations