“Efforts to sustain peace must be locally-led, nationally owned, regionally anchored, and internationally supported,” said Yasuhisa Kawamura, Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations, at a June 12th IPI event. “It is indispensable to include all relevant actors in peacebuilding and sustaining peace.”
His statement was a reflection of the shifting dialogue on the UN peacebuilding and sustaining peace agendas. Rather than imposing strategies from the outside, the growing call for inclusive national ownership of peacebuilding policy posits strengthening the capacities of national and local actors in its design, with an emphasis on including those who may be marginalized within society.
To sustain peace in challenging contexts, international peacebuilders must establish close partnerships with local actors to better understand their key concerns and needs. The policy forum, co-sponsored by Sophia University in Tokyo, Kakenhi, One Earth Future, and the Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN, drew on a series of case studies and published research to provide reflections on how the international community can better engage with local peacebuilders.
In opening remarks, Fabrizio Hochschild, Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination at the UN, asserted that peace deals alone do not address the root causes of conflict. Instead, it matters who is at the table, he explained. “Peace deals made among men who were self-named representatives of those who took up arms in in the name of this or that cause—those peace deals, where they’re just made in closed off chambers among a small group of conflict actors—are unlikely to be sustained,” he said, “and processes that are more inclusive, that bring in those most affected by conflict, are much more durable.”
Daisaku Higashi is a professor and Deputy Director at the Center for Global Cooperation and Training of the Sophia Institute of International Relations at Sophia University in Tokyo. He offered an approach to understanding why exclusion happens based on the local dynamics from his studies in South Sudan, Iraq, and Syria.
He made two key arguments as to why inclusion is so difficult. In South Sudan, he said, exclusion happens “when one side or both sides are afraid that if they included the enemy into the political process, they would be defeated by elections and maybe marginalized politically and economically, and even could be punished.” He recommended that a solution in these cases would be to have present a “credible mediator to ascertain participation [that is] inclusive of all conflict parties to the process.”
The second reason exclusion happens, he said, is “when one side of the military conflict is convinced that they can win the war and maintain the entire territory by military power.” To address this scenario, it is “vital for the international community to convince a winning party of the importance of inclusive political processes,” he asserted.
In Syria, there has been a “huge expansion” of military powers in government territories in the past three years, he said. In his field work, Dr. Higashi spoke to Staffan di Mistura, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Syria, who told Dr. Higashi that “chronic insurgency will be continued” if there is no political solution. The way forward, Dr. Higashi said, is to “persuade the Syrian government to accept the historical lesson, as set by Iraq, that excluding certain political groups—the Sunni group in the case of Syria—is very likely to result in the relapse of the conflict.”
But supporting inclusivity in peacebuilding is a particular challenge when some members of society are categorized as terrorist groups, he explained. As a result, he said, it was “very difficult” for a UN special envoy to speak to them or include them in the nation-building process. He said that it is “crucial” to sustainable peace to include these “very brutal” groups in negotiations and that one way to do so is to give UN special envoys more freedom to speak with them.
Indeed violence and instability may be caused by exclusion, Conor Seyle, Director of OEF Research at the One Earth Future Foundation said. Drawing on the book he co-authored, Governance for Peace: How Inclusive, Participatory and Accountable Institutions Promote Peace and Prosperity, he argued that there are four key pillars of good sustainable peace: inclusivity, accountable government, state capacity, and social services.
“When all four of these conditions are present,” he said, “the result is a sustainable system,” which “appears to be able to recover from external shocks or potential flashpoints for conflict.” When none of the pillars are present, however, the result is a “seriously challenged system,” he said.
“Both greed and grievance seem to play a significant role in creating the preconditions for violence to erupt,” said Dr. Seyle. “Violent groups take up arms when they feel that there is something that they can get through violence, whether it’s economic resources, natural resources, or political power, or when they feel that they are righting some perceived wrong, addressing some insult or historical grievance caused by some other group,” he said.
Inclusivity lessens greed, he said, when “all relevant identity groups in the society feel that they are able to access the resources being provided by the government or by that society.” Provision of access and equal treatment are “critical” parts of undermining the root causes of conflict, he said.
In response, Hasini Haputhanthri, author of the IPI Case Study on Sri Lanka, “Local Networks for Peace: Drawing Lessons from Community-led Peacebuilding,” gave three key lessons that demonstrate how a lack of inclusivity in peacebuilding results in a relapse into conflict.
First, she said, bringing “predefined frameworks” and “external resources” into a local setting without a sufficient understanding of the historical social context and local dynamics is not inclusion, and will not result in sustaining peace. Secondly, she said, “Inclusion takes trust, and trust takes time.” Her third lesson was that “inclusion has to happen on an equal footing.”
“I think it has to begin with us recognizing our own blind spots and working within our own peacebuilding community,” she said, describing the process of catalyzing inclusivity. “Inclusion is also about how we, the educated of the world, who create these structures for supporting local communities to nurture peace and drive these structures, see eye-to-eye with the communities that we work with.”
Peace cannot be sustainable “if we cannot see eye-to-eye with a sex worker, with an ex-combatant, with a terrorist—if we don’t go beyond those labels and nurture their ideas and opinions, including when it’s difficult to talk about all these things,” she said.
Despite the fact that the international community offers more money and support to peacebuilders, radical groups are “so much better at organizing, getting that video clip that goes viral, and getting people out,” she said. But the reason may be that “they talk to the people’s needs,” she said, “which we are still failing to recognize, because we come with certain frameworks. And that is the issue.”
“I really try to talk to the other side,” Ms. Haputhanthri said. “Most of the peacebuilding work that’s happening with civil society and government in Sri Lanka now excludes the other—it’s preaching to the converted. We all come together and talk…but it is not including people who are different than us.”
Jake Sherman, Director of IPI’s Center for Peace Operations, moderated.
Mr. Fabrizio Hochschild, Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, United Nations
Dr. Daisaku Higashi, Professor, Deputy Director at Center for Global Cooperation and Training, Sophia Institute of International Relations, Sophia University in Tokyo
Dr. Conor Seyle, Director, OEF Research, One Earth Future Foundation
Ms. Hasini Haputhanthri, Author of the Sri Lanka Case Study, IPI’s Local Networks for Peace: Drawing Lessons from Community-led Peacebuilding
Mr. Jake Sherman, Director of the Center for Peace Operations, IPI
H.E. Mr. Yasuhisa Kawamura, Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations