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Catalytic Processes for Integrated Country Peacebuilding Strategies: What Are They Accomplishing?

June 20, 2006 // 2:00pm4:00pm
Event Co-sponsors: 
Africa Program

Chetan Kumar, Interagency Liaison Specialist, Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, United Nations Development Programme, New York

Ben Hoffman, Director, International Project on Peace and Prosperity, Ottawa, Canada

Moderator: Michael Lund, Consulting Program Manager, Woodrow Wilson Center Project on Leadership and Building State Capacity; Senior Associate for Conflict and Peacebuilding, Management Systems International, Inc.

Michael Lund opened the session by highlighting the challenges that failed and fragile states pose to the international policy community. Lund observed that inter-agency synergistic approaches to international interventions are needed in order to more effectively reduce the multiple "root" causes and drivers of conflicts and to facilitate a country's movement beyond violence. He noted that certain NGOs and development organizations have already experimented with in-country efforts to facilitate such multi-actor processes to formulate and implement multi-pronged post-conflict or peacebuilding strategies. These collaborative initiatives, he posited, go beyond the rhetoric of peacebuilding and conflict prevention and actually serve as catalysts that promote the broader participation of a variety of actors. In order to evaluate the efficacy of these approaches for future implementation, however, Lund noted that it is important to ask how individual country engagement was achieved, what was the entry point, who were the key actors and how effective frameworks were constructed to ensure positive program impact.

Chetan Kumar recognized that international actors possess varying technical skills and programmatic portfolios; consequently, the challenge is determining how to effectively integrate discrete, country-specific projects into one uniform transitional process that can apply globally. In addition, Kumar recognized that if sustainable peace is to be achieved, such collaborative international efforts are ineffective without the existence of a coherent internal state, local parties that are capable of driving positive attitudinal change, and adequate local institutional capacity to effect change.

Kumar noted that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) initiated projects in East Timor and the Solomon Islands that were not as successful as anticipated, due to the fact that they assumed they were working with coherent internal states and consequently never addressed the fundamental divisions and exclusionary tendencies that existed between and within the state actors critical to sustained resolution of the conflict. This assumption served to undermine the peacebuilding effort irrespective of the integrated and collaborative nature of the international intervention.

Interestingly, the successful post-conflict transitions in Mali, South Africa and Niger showed little evidence of collaborative international interventions, but rather, their success originated from UNDP support of local parties capable of driving and effecting positive attitudinal change within key actors. Consequently, the key ingredients to success in these cases were catalytic elements within each society. Kumar recognized that institutional and individual national capacity is essential to the constructive management of threats to stability. He noted that in most pre- or post-conflict situations, a residue of institutional capacity will remain in tact. However, in some cases, the institutional capacity of the state was never fully developed or has been purposely manipulated. Kumar suggested that enhancing a country's institutional and individual leadership capacity through establishing networks and linkages between individual leaders is an effective conflict prevention tool. Consequently, in Guyana, the UNDP launched a Social Cohesion Program to strengthen institutional capacity in an effort to develop the internal infrastructures for peace. In addition, a National Center for Conflict Prevention was recently established by the Government of Sudan with support from the UN in an attempt to build individual capacity within the newly integrated government to anticipate and respond to emerging conflicts in the East of the country.

Ben Hoffman noted that conflict prevention processes are well documented but underutilized resulting in a significant "knowledge-action" gap in the field of conflict prevention. In addition, he reiterated the need for multi-sectoral and integrative approaches to conflict prevention. These approaches, Hoffman emphasized, should be early, holistic, collaborative, facilitative and sustained if they are to effect change.

Speaking from his experience in Guinea Bissau, under the auspices of the International Project on Peace and Prosperity (IPPP), Hoffman emphasized the need for flexibility and the ability to combine action, advocacy and scholarship when attempting conflict prevention work so as to address the problems holistically. In Guinea-Bissau, Hoffman recognized the need to work with the elites and power brokers who control most of the country's resources and often function behind a proverbial "curtain" concealing their actions and operating on a platform removed from the rest of society. In doing so, his team developed a forward looking "Peace and Prosperity Plan" that reaffirmed the need for targeted initiatives that address the economic dimensions of conflict prevention and peacebuilding. This plan further emphasized the need for integrated approaches to assistance in order to address the full spectrum of a society's needs.

Both speakers reiterated that conflict, in and of itself, is not destructive but, indeed, natural and always present. Rather, the issue of concern is that violence results from mismanaged conflict. Specifically, Hoffman noted the distinct reality of how African societies are organized that situates most political action in capital cities and leaves the majority of its citizens outside of the power centers. This reality is further complicated by the fact of the leadership deficit that almost always exists in pre- and post-conflict situations. Consequently, both speakers emphasized the importance of relationship-building and communication in fostering understanding between key protagonists to the conflict.

Kumar acknowledged that the UN, as an external actor, can sometimes be perceived as contributing to conflict in certain situations; however, he noted that the UN is increasingly sensitized to this perception of its role and attempts to share experiences rather than prescribe solutions and support those within the country who are trying to effect positive change. Hoffman, describing the smaller and more agile nature of the IPPP in Guinea- Bissau, noted the value of open, transparent and credible actions taken by external actors without concern to gaining recognition. In addition, he identified the value of flexibility and the need for short-term actions that develop indigenous processes for capacity building. He particularly stressed the imperative of youth involvement in leadership initiatives within the West African context.

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