The project develops knowledge and analysis of the perspectives of technical and subject experts, and political and strategic analysts. The program understands transnational challenges as threats or challenges which transcend national borders, and those which are national in scope but recur in many societies in a region. These include pandemics, deforestation, climate change, social conflict, migration, fisheries, water shortages and shared use of water tables or river systems.
The knowledge and analysis is developed by means of dialogue among experts from various disciplines and occupational backgrounds. The project's work includes the organizing of workshops in the regions, entering into research partnerships with regional institutions and individuals, carrying out interviews in the field, and research into the state of knowledge and thinking. It seeks the input of experts and practitioners who constitute new voices in the conversation with the US government. It does not shy away from perspectives which dissent from conventional wisdom, as long as they represent significant bodies of opinions in the countries of the regions.
It is important to the analysis to identify underlying trends: specifically to ask what trends can be identified as well-established, and what development experts expect in the coming two decades. The project emphasizes the relationships among social, economic, environmental, technological and political trends, and between these trends and traditional security concerns. Sources and consequences of instability, crisis or conflict are of particular concern, as are the consequences of rapid change. It is equally interested in threats and opportunities presented by the trends identified; and we particularly attend to evolving structures of governance, ideological or other social responses, as well as opportunities for transnational cooperation.
The regions that Regional Voices has worked in are those in which US policy has taken a high degree of interest in recent years. They are also those in which US intentions are viewed with perhaps the highest degree of skepticism and distrust. These regions are also a substantial portion of the realm of Islam. Muslims either constitute the majority in the region (the Middle East), or majorities of major nations (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia), or substantial and important minorities in non-Muslim nations (India, Sri Lanka). Thus, Islam has inevitably been a significant dimension of our inquiry, reflecting the fact that opinion in the regions treats it as the dominant terms of reference or as a perceived source of challenge. The high degree of US interest in the realm of Islam stems from the perceived origin there of terrorism directed against the West, and from the related concern with a sense of ideological challenge from Islam.
However, the project not focused on the inquiry on the dimensions of Islamic ideology or terrorism. Although the regions are of interest significantly because of these twin concerns, Regional Voices has sought to understand the regions in their totality of economic, political, ideological, scientific, and environmental experience; and to understand the security landscape in its full context.
Such multidimensional understanding is also important because these regions evince some of the most acute instances of nontraditional security threats and threats to human security. Adequate understanding of and response to those global human security challenges demands attention to the particular form they take in these regions. Livelihood generation for demographic youth bulges, water scarcity, resource depletion, environmental degradation, natural disasters, climate change, pandemic disease, rapid and uneven economic development, and social conflict- all these and more are found in particularly acute form in these regions.