Photo: The White House/flickr.
How can policymakers and conflict mediation practitioners effectively engage with religion? Indeed, how can practitioners mainstream such engagement with religious actors and organizations? And, what do we even mean when we ask these questions? These were just some of the questions posed at Religion, Foreign Policy and Development: Making Better Policy to Make a Bigger Difference a recent conference held at the UK Foreign Office’s Wilton Park that brought together policymakers, academics and practitioners for two days of wide-ranging and intense discussions.
Opportunities to engage with fellow practitioners are undoubtedly important for a number of reasons. Like gender and other cross-cutting themes, religion also runs the risk of being compartmentalized by experts and given little systematic consideration by colleagues in the same institution working on other topics. This is a challenge that those of us working in the field of mediation and conflict transformation also face: how do we make sure that religion’s role is adequately addressed by those who are working to resolve and transform conflicts? » More
Photo: Jabiz Raisdana/flickr.
At the recent G20 meeting in Sydney, representatives committed to increase growth by more than $2 trillion over the next five years through the adoption of ambitious and comprehensive structural reforms. However, research just released by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) suggests that while focussing on productivity and employment is vital for economic prosperity, so too are concerted efforts to increase peace.
The Global Costs of Violence Containment report provides one of the first estimates of the economic cost of violence and the fear of violence to the world economy. It finds that violence, and attempts to prevent and protect against it, cost the global economy upwards of US $9.46 trillion per annum or 11 per cent of Gross World Product. » More
A boy waving a Yemeni flag in front of a group of protesters, courtesy of Al Jazeera English/flickr
“This is the first time in history that a body that is inclusive, with all representatives from Yemeni society, got together […]. Instead of the politics of closed-door meetings, what we see here is a very transparent, inclusive process.” Jamal Benomar, UN Special Envoy to Yemen, about the Yemen National Dialogue Conference
Why Participation is Needed
Much has been discussed and written in recent years about the importance of broadening participation in mediation processes. There is a general consensus amongst practitioners and academics that the inclusion of actors beyond the warring parties is desirable. This is not just a normative question: inclusive processes can certainly lead to more durable, legitimate and locally owned processes. Influential actors (including ‘those with guns’) need to be represented because they have the power to end the conflict, and if sidelined, they will block the process. Affected actors (such as civil society), should also participate in one way or another, as any peace agreement will directly affect their lives and the future of their country. A recent statistic study indicates that inclusion of civil society actors in peace settlement indeed increases the durability of peace. Among many other actors, the United Nations underlined the value of the inclusion principle in its ‘Guidance for Effective Mediation’. So if it is that important, why are many processes today still far from inclusive?
Pillars of peace. Image: Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).
One of the major challenges facing the peacebuilding and development community today is how to balance short term humanitarian assistance with long term efforts to build capacity and resilience. We see this tension played out in many countries receiving significant overseas development assistance (ODA). Part of the problem is a lack of reliable data which, in turn, affects our ability to understand the effectiveness of the resources that international donors have channeled into peacebuilding efforts. This does not imply that these efforts are failing, but rather that we don’t know enough about their impact and the extent to which they are making progress towards building long-term capacity and resilience.
To help monitor and evaluate the long term progress of countries, the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) has developed a framework that analyzes data and attitudinal surveys in conjunction with current thinking about the long term drivers of peace, resilience and conflict. Recently launched in Geneva, the Pillars of Peace report identifies the attitudes and structures that typically underpin peaceful societies. The report shows that countries which tend to be more peaceful have a number of characteristics in common. For instance, peaceful countries are more equitable, have lower levels of corruption and higher levels of human capital. This shows that development assistance needs to look beyond short term efforts to contain violence and instead focus on the slow moving but underlying ‘Pillars’ that support peaceful societies. » More
UN Peacekeepers and UN Police from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. Photo: MATEUS_27:24&25/flickr.
In 1948, the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) was deployed as the first United Nations peacekeeping mission, mandated to monitor the Arab-Israeli ceasefire. In the aftermath of World War II, the international system had evolved into a bipolar order in which international actors were focused mostly on interstate disturbances and proxy wars. During this time, organized crime was mostly concentrated in cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Naples, Palermo, and Tokyo, and of little significance to the international community. Peace operations and organized crime were separate and unrelated issues. » More