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Freeing Prevention From Conflict: Investing in Sustaining Peace

Courtesy Sasha Maksymenko/flickr

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 21 April 2016.

As the preparations for the May 2016 United Nations General Assembly’s high-level debate on peace and security intensify, prevention seems to be on everyone’s lips. The three 2015 UN global peace and security reviews that frame the debate have conveyed a common message: that the political instruments, tools, and mechanisms the world body deploys to address violent conflict all attest to the failure of early prevention. All three reports, not surprisingly, recommended a greater focus on prevention. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his follow-on report on the recommendations of one of these reviews, by the High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO), wholeheartedly endorsed this.

The skeptics among political observers and those who have followed UN reforms over the years should not be blamed for asking, “So, what’s new?” This is not the first time that the UN and its member states, coming to grips with the woeful shortcomings of their responses to old and emerging global threats, have rediscovered the virtues of prevention. Nothing concentrates the mind more than imminent crisis and once that danger dissipates so does the political will needed, they would argue, to make prevention the first port of call before the outbreak of violence.

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For Lasting Peace, Exceptions Must Become Rule: Q&A with Séverine Autesserre

Peace dove/Mural azulejos día de la PAZ

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 12 January 2016.

Despite an increased spotlight on the disconnection between international peacebuilders and the communities in which they work, the situation does not appear to have improved dramatically in the past year, according to Séverine Autesserre, Associate Professor of Political Science at Columbia University’s Barnard College.

Dr. Autesserre, whose 2014 book Peaceland is credited with bringing the problem to wider attention, said there may have been a change in discourse, but not in practice.

A major issue is that many people and organizations think that they are the rare exceptions to the rule, she said in a conversation with International Peace Institute Policy Analyst Margaret Williams.

“People may agree with the analysis and the need for change, but they may feel it is only for other people,” she said. “That may be why we haven’t seen so many changes in the past year.”

She said policymakers, practitioners, peacebuilders, local authorities, local populations and others have at least shown a greater interest in the exceptions, and these could be highlighted as models for reform.

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Peace Goal Requires Bridge Building between Old and New Powers

American and Afghan soldiers in farah Province, Afghanistan. Image: Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) on 17 August, 2015.

The omission of violent conflict and fragility is one of the biggest shortcomings of the otherwise heralded Millennium Development Goals. The gap in MDG performance between fragile and conflict-affected states and other developing countries remains wide, and the OECD estimates that by 2020 extreme poverty will be concentrated mainly in fragile states. » More

Team UN, World Police: Why We Need an Emergency Peace Service

South African blue helmet during training, 17th of July 2013. Image: MONUSCO Photos/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 29 May, 2015.

It’s been more than 25 years since the Cold War ended, more than a dozen since we created an International Criminal Court, and a decade since the UN World Summit recognised the Responsibility to Protect civilians – and yet there’s been scant progress in preventing armed conflict and responding rapidly enough to protect civilians.

It’s not the fault of UN peacekeepers themselves, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988 and have helped to manage and improve conditions in 69 armed conflicts worldwide, with 56 operations since 1988. Indeed, May 29 is recognised as the International Day of UN Peacekeepers. » More

Mediation Perspectives: Engaging Religion

Obama Meets Dalai Lama

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

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