Sustainable Peace Practices

Concepts and priorities in global peacebuilding are shifting. The failures of top-down interventionism in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere have added weight to critiques of liberal interventions that pre-conceive the ends and means of supporting conflict to peace transitions. The actors and issues that peacebuilding must contend with are increasing, including transnational ideological movements, fragmented oppositions, increased migrants flows, social media organizing, and climate change. The required peacebuilding responses are more complex and dynamic than ever before, and are stretching the limitations of traditional state-based approaches. To create peace that is truly sustainable – that won’t be ruptured by the inevitable disturbances within and between states – we need peacebuilding processes that emerge from the will and agency of local people rather than outsiders, and are responsive and resilient to context changes. These imperatives are in part being picked up in global normative frameworks, including the United Nations’ Sustaining Peace Agenda and Pathways for Peace, but it is not clear how these broad policy directives can be opertionalised.

During 2018 and 2019 Adapt Peacebuilding is researching the elements of sustainable peace. The research will draw on practical case studies and reflections from expert practitioners involved in research, policy and practice. The following tentative hypotheses will be tested, based upon scholarly and practical experience:

1. Peacebuilding is more effective when it is genuinely locally owned. Genuine local ownership (which may be contested within countries) is evident (rather than rhetorical) when peacebuilding processes are demonstrably designed and managed by local stakeholders, rather than outsiders that might finance or technically support the peacebuilding process.

2. Peace building is more effective when it employs adaptive management methods which allow the process to respond to context changes in real time. These methods are identifiable in contrast to the rigid, pre-planned initiatives that are normally required by donor’s management methods.

3. Peacebuilding is more effective when it takes an explicitly systemic approach. This means that peacebuilding interventions are rationalised based on explicitly systemic methods of context analysis that consider complex and non-linear causality. It also means methods of implementation that intentionally employ systems and network strategies that seek to leverage opportunities to scale impact and foster systemic transformation.

4. It is hypothesised that the preceding characteristics in total will allow for scalability of peacebuilding interventions, which will be identifiable as increases in the number of people that are positively impacted by these processes, and increased influence over national level dynamics.

5. Peacebuilding is more effective when it is more inclusive with respect to the concerns and aspirations of an affected society, which means both recognising content of concern and ensuring meaningful roles for civil societies, women and youth, in addition to political, military and economic elites.

6. It is hypothesised that the preceding characteristics in total will on average lead to a peace that is more sustainable, insofar as there will be less likelihood of further outbreaks of violence.

This work for now goes under the rather clunky acronym LASSTINg peace. The interviews that inform this work in 2018 and 2019 will appear on the Adapt blog. We welcome your comments!