Conflict and Social Division in Nigeria: Addressing the Roots of Polarization

Apr 08, 2021

Conflict and Social Division in Nigeria: ADDRESSING THE ROOTS OF POLARIZATION

With Dr. Fatima Akilu, Tim Phillips, and Karen Bernstein

Thursday, April 8, 4:00-5:30pm
Register via Zoom
(free and open to the public, but registration is required)

We will be joined by leading experts in the psychology of conflict to explore some of the underlying issues that are dividing communities in Nigeria, the success of local peacebuilding initiatives, and what we can learn and apply to the U.S. context.

Dr. Fatima Akilu is a psychologist, current Executive Director of Neem Foundation (Abuja, Nigeria), and former Director of Behavioural Analysis and Strategic Communication at the Office of the National Security Adviser in Nigeria. There, she designed and implemented Nigeria’s national Countering Violent Extremism strategy. Karuna Center partners with Neem Foundation through our joint Protecting Our Communities Initiative, which supports rural Nigerian communities at the center of violent clashes between crop farmers and nomadic cattle herders. We collaborate to share peacebuilding tools—such as early warning-early response systems, media outreach, and community dialogue groups—that community members can use to help stop the cycle of violence.

We will be joined by two experts from the U.S.-based organization Beyond Conflict, which has been doing pioneering research into the role that dehumanization plays in intergroup conflict.

Tim Philips is Beyond Conflict’s founder and CEO. Using the unique approach of shared experience, Tim helped catalyze the peace and reconciliation processes in several nations, including Northern Ireland, El Salvador, and South Africa. In recent years, Tim has led Beyond Conflict’s work with scientists and community leaders to apply lessons from brain and behavioral science to address a range of challenges, such as toxic polarization, racial justice and inclusion, conflict resolution and reconciliation.

Karen Bernstein leads Beyond Conflict’s Decoding Dehumanization program. For most of her career, Karen worked in entrenched violent conflict and post-conflict reconstruction contexts, specifically in Israel and occupied Palestinian territory, Cambodia, Nepal, Ireland/Northern Ireland, and South Sudan. Karen has 20 years of working in conflict zones including as a UN civilian peacekeeper and as the Middle East Peace Process Advisor to the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

Our discussion will review the research and work done by both Neem Foundation and Beyond Conflict. We will explore some of the creative and adaptive peacebuilding approaches that have been developed and applied based on the findings of their work—and the potential relevance of these approaches to other contexts, including the U.S.