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United States

Saferworld's newest policy and advocacy location, the Washington DC office, was established in April 2013. The United States is the largest single national development donor worldwide, with diplomatic, development, and security involvement across the globe – as such, a vital interlocutor in Saferworld's core mission.

Worldwide, there are few places in which US development, diplomatic, and military interventions do not overlap. Saferworld believes in a holistic, inclusive vision of security and conflict resolution, and proactively engages across the spectrum of diplomatic, development, and defence actors to produce a sustainable, strategic vision of security and conflict-sensitive engagement.

The US office provides context-specific recommendations for US security and foreign engagement, strengthening the role and effectiveness of preventive peacebuilding mechanisms within US foreign policy. Saferworld works to ensure civil–military coordination is approached in such a way that puts the safety and livelihoods of those directly affected by conflict and insecurity first.

Specific areas of focus

US conflict prevention policy

Saferworld has strongly engaged with the effort to build more strategic conflict prevention capability into US policy and operations. Dealing with the upstream causes of conflict is far more effective and affords policymakers a greater range of options than dealing with symptoms reactively. It is the best way to ensure that community-led approaches, which most reliably protect civilian life and address social stability, will be successful – reducing the need for far costlier and riskier ‘boots on the ground’ and crisis interventions.

Security, justice and governance

We advocate for US policy and practice that supports the provision of responsive, effective, and accountable security and justice services that meet the needs of communities. This includes aid provision and transitional security in conflict-affected areas, and stresses the role of good governance as a foundation of peace and security.

We encourage the US to adopt a programmatic approach that prioritises local peoples’ experiences of injustice and insecurity in order to constructively increase locally owned policy and practice. Saferworld’s work on community security and security sector reform are critical components of this.

Aid and conflict

The Overseas Development Institute estimates that by 2025, nearly 80% of the world’s poorest will live in conflict-affected and fragile states. Even in areas not already struggling with conflict, development aid has always represented an influx of money, resources, and attention into unstable social and political structures that can destabilise just as easily as stabilise. Saferworld works with donor and policy communities in Washington to build development thinking that better recognises the mutual effects of aid and conflict, and becomes more conflict sensitive – with peace as both a goal and an enabler of development.

Saferworld also works with the US Institute of Peace, Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute and other governmental and non-governmental partners on improving the policy and strategy governing complex operations. NGO, civilian government and military operations are increasingly overlapped, sometimes beneficially and sometimes to great detriment. Saferworld is taking a lead role in helping to build positive practices.

Countering violent extremism and building constructive alternatives to counter-terrorism

The rhetoric of terrorism and violent extremism is at the top of the political agenda across the world, with the United States as the single most engaged actor – and current approaches to addressing these issues have yielded only mixed results at best. The US office brings together high-level governmental, non-governmental, and security personnel to re-evaluate current conceptions, operations, and policies; explore more constructive alternatives which take a peacebuilding approach; and help identify more effective paths to long-term peace.

US-China cooperation

A cooperative rather than competitive approach between two key international actors, the US and China – based on common interests – would greatly enhance global conditions for peace and sustainable development, as well as providing direct benefits to both actors. We recognise that both the US and China have a mutual interest in security in Africa – and that engagement, while critical to African development, has the potential either to increase security or further destabilise some of the continent’s already fragile countries. In response we are coordinating with key US governmental and non-governmental actors to help use this mutual point of interest as leverage to foster more cooperation.

US national security policy combines development and diplomacy with defence into one integrated framework – but the rhetoric of combined effort and the implementation are often at odds. Given the increasing spread of conflict worldwide, particularly driven by non-state actors and non-state dynamics, and overlapping with transnational criminal and ecological drivers, there has never been a greater need to draw on new learning and experience to help redefine security and re-prioritise development and diplomacy within that framework.

Over the past decade, the number of conflict-affected countries has increased, with a growing negative impact on development and governance priorities. In order to reduce threats, increase safety and better address the key drivers of this insecurity, there is a critical need for improved and more proactive forms of engagement by the international community that will reduce the need for military interventions and increase protection of civilians. This is a particularly critical issue in the United States, usually the largest force behind such engagement.

Featured projects

“A better state of peace”: American strategy beyond the limits of warfare

A briefing that outlines recommendations for the next US administration to promote peace and security.


Lessons from counter-terror, stabilisation and statebuilding

Saferworld takes a deep look at what lessons can be learnt from Western counter-terror, stabilisation and statebuilding efforts in Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen.


US-China cooperation

A series of roundtable discussions on building US-China cooperation by leveraging a mutual interest in African security were held in 2014 and 2015. A briefing on US-China engagement was produced in June 2015.