Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Data show that over the last decade the world has become significantly less peaceful. Globally, the economic impact of violence on the economy is enormous and current peacebuilding spending focused on building peace is well below the optimal level. On average, violence accounts for 37% of GDP in the ten least peaceful countries, compared to only 3% for the ten most peaceful.
International organizations, governments and private stakeholders should therefore invest more in building peace. The first step for many governments should be to reduce military spending. But what is next? Here I would like to present three basic approaches and instruments for peace.
Mainstreaming conflict prevention. Often international stakeholders pay attention to conflict when they are already escalated, and solving conflict is highly complex. In the “conflict cycle” (early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management, and post-conflict rehabilitation) governments and international organizations should invest on mainstreaming conflict prevention. It is possible to set up regulatory frameworks and institutional mechanisms that help actors pre-empt future conflict, manage ongoing tensions, and reach political agreements. In the last years, organizations such as the UN, EU and OSCE have invested on early warning and conflict prevention, but the way to mainstream this approach and to have full consistency with other mechanisms is still long.
Infrastructure for peace (I4P). This concept, first developed by John Paul Lederarch in 1999, has been used by scholars and practitioners to analyze the success of existing structures and initiatives in supporting a country’s transition to peace. By linking stakeholders, I4P facilitates greater communication, collaboration and coordination between diverse stakeholders to increase collective action. Bridging different sectors, peace infrastructure implies commitment from the government, often elevating and incorporating local mechanisms or practices into national agendas and structures with an integrated and multi-sectoral approach.
Unarmed civilian peacekeeping (UCP). The term UCP describes a set of activities that civilians undertake including (but not limited to) accompaniment, presence, rumor control, community security meetings, securing safe passage and monitoring. This approach is already implemented by several NGOs in different regions of the world. UCP challenges the assumption that peacekeeping and civilian protection requires the military and the use of weapons. UCP can provide protection from violence and human rights abuses across the world in an effective and less costly way of protecting them, as Nonviolent Peaceforce is doing in South Sudan. Interestingly enough, last week the German government in its document “Prevent crises, overcome conflicts, support peace, Guidelines of the German Federal Government” has mentioned UCP: “it supports Civilian Peacekeeping as a tested methodology to protect people from violence and serious human rights violations”.
I would like to clarify that these paths are not easy, but they do deserve more space, studies and practices. When I established the Agency for Peacebuilding (AP) with some colleagues, we wrote: complexity for peacebuilding means avoiding oversimplifications and shortcuts—both theoretical and practical. It means being open to confrontation, to diversity and to the peculiarities of each scenario and context. It also means facilitating and supporting dialogue, starting with the relationship between citizenships and institutions. It means looking at problems in more depth, for instance by disclosing the systemic obstacles that undermine conflict resolution tools. Finally, complexity means not only finding possible solutions where others are just pessimistic, but also providing the means to achieve them.
Bernardo Venturi – Italy
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 23