The war in Syria has entered its final stage, one in which diplomacy will dominate military action. The most likely scenario for the end to this conflict—the Syrian government’s victory—creates a set of political risks to the EU: legitimisation of the undemocratic regime in Syria, engagement in highly politicized reconstruction projects that do not contribute to the improvement in living standards of Syrians, and granting Russia political gains without it also accepting adequate responsibility for the fate of Syrian returnees.
President Kagame, Facing Weak Opposition, Should Renew Peacebuilding Efforts
Rwanda has been hailed by observers as a model of post-conflict recovery following the atrocities in the early 1990s that left hundreds of thousands of Rwandans dead and many more displaced. In many respects, the praise is well-deserved. But, when held up against key benchmarks for reducing state fragility and the risk of conflict, signs are growing that peacebuilding efforts may be falling short. Fortunately, this election isn’t expected to stoke violence, but to sustain Rwanda’s remarkable progress, particularly its development gains, it will be critical to heed these warning signs early, before tensions build or another deadly wave of violence emerges.
Consensus is growing among experts in foreign policy, development and defense concerning the definition of state fragility; it’s now widely understood as a lack of institutional capacity or legitimacy that weakens the social contract between citizens and their government, increasing the risk of conflict. In fragile conditions, particularly following a violent conflict like the one that tore apart Rwanda’s social fabric and destroyed its economy in 1994, peacebuilding efforts there and anywhere else should focus on five objectives that are critical to sustaining progress.
This article was originally published by the International Peace Institute (IPI) Global Observatory on 27 April 2017.
A year ago today, the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly adopted dual resolutions on “sustaining peace.” With this framework, the UN embraced a prevention approach in its peacebuilding efforts, with continuous attention of the international community from early warning to post-conflict recovery. Sustaining peace emphasizes inclusive dialogue, mediation, accountable institutions, good governance, access to justice, and gender equality. It encourages utilizing existing societal mechanisms and capacities to build resilience and drive positive peace. Yet there is still confusion over what this means in practice. Two recent case studies might shed some much-needed light on the matter: The Gambia and Burundi.
The resolution of The Gambia’s potential political crisis following an election in December last year has been hailed as a success story for preventative action on the continent. The UN was quick to commend the work of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in preventing the outbreak of conflict by helping to peacefully remove President Yahya Jammeh. Earlier this month, The Gambia held successful National Assembly elections, with the United Democratic Party winning the majority of seats. The party and its newly elected President Adama Barrow now control both the legislative and executive branches of government and there is hope that they will usher in a peaceful period with respect for democratic rule.
Sentiments directed toward the situation in Burundi have been vastly different. Efforts from regional, continental, or international actors have been either insufficient or ineffective in attempting to resolve the crisis triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s subversion of constitutional rules and democratic norms to gain a third term in power.
The sustaining peace framework offers options for international actors to keep The Gambia transition on track and also to prevent a worsening of the situation in Burundi.
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.
Many in Sri Lanka had hoped that the arrival of world leaders for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo recently would have signalled the triumphant re-emergence of Sri Lanka on the world stage, having cast off doubts about war crimes committed at the end of its 25-year-long civil war and concerns about the increasingly authoritarian nature of its government.
Instead, the summit ended up being a political disaster for the Sri Lankan administration. Prominent leaders—of Canada, India and Mauritius—boycotted the event, only half of the Commonwealth’s 53 member states sent an actual head of government (the others were represented at a more junior level) and those leaders who did turn up insisted on asking questions publicly about accountability for war crimes allegedly committed at the end of the civil war.