In the first workshop session, “Understanding Peacebuilding: Three Perspectives,” Beth Cole, director of the Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), presented an analysis of the broad components shared by peacebuilding missions. Next, Kirby Reiling, conflict specialist with USAID’s Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation, outlined a framework developed by USAID to assess conflicts so that interventions can be targeted and evaluated. Finally, Sharon Morris, director of youth and conflict management for Mercy Corps, explained how her organization seeks to manage conflicts. All three speakers provided an overview of what peacebuilding entails; the major concerns, issues, and decisions facing peacebuilders at different levels; and the complexity of the environments within which peacebuilders have to make decisions and operate.
Importantly, each presentation offered a different perspective on the peacebuilding process. Cole provided a holistic, integrated approach to support peace, stability and development at the country-level. The USAID presentation and framework by Reiling was also a national-level approach, although the same framework could be applied regionally or in particular sectors. Morris’s description of Mercy Corps’s experience describes peacebuilding at the project level with substantially more limited goals—not peace or stability in the overall country, but incremental improvements in people’s security, freedom of movement, or trust in government institutions.
In 2009, USIP and the US Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute released the report Guiding Principles for Stabilization and Reconstruction, laying out the broad characteristics of peacebuilding missions that operational systems engineering could be used to analyze.1 USAID’s Beth Cole described the report as the product of an effort to create the equivalent of a military doctrine for organizations that work to bring peace to societies emerging from conflict.
Cole and the other authors of the report drew from the experiences of organizations and individuals involved in peacebuilding and from more than 1,000 documents on various aspects of peacebuilding. They identified patterns, drew lessons, and synthesized broadly shared principles for peacebuilding activities. The report identifies five broad goals, or end states (below), for peacebuilding missions, along with 22 conditions needed to achieve them (Figure 2-1).
Safe and Secure Environment: Ability of the people to conduct their daily lives without fear of systematic or large-scale violence.
Rule of Law: Ability of the people to have equal access to just laws and a trusted system of justice that holds all persons accountable, protects their human rights, and ensures their safety and security.
Stable Governance: Ability of the people to share, access, or compete for power through nonviolent political processes and to enjoy the collective benefits and services of the state.
Sustainable Economy: Ability of the people to pursue opportunities for livelihoods in a system of economic governance bound by law.
Social Well-Being: Ability of the people to be free from want of basic needs and to coexist peacefully in communities with opportunities for advancement.
The report also lists seven cross-cutting principles which, together with the end states and conditions, form a strategic framework for stabilization and reconstruction (S&R). The principles apply to every actor and every end state and are focused on outcomes.
1 USIP and the US Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute. 2009. Guiding Principles for Stabilization and Reconstruction. Washington: USIP.
FIGURE 2-1 Guiding Principles for Stabilization and Reconstruction describes five broad goals (end states) and 22 conditions needed to achieve them along with seven cross-cutting principles (in the center circle) that apply to all of the goals. The goals are depicted as overlapping circles to emphasize the interdependence of the principles and the linkages among them. SOURCE: USIP, Cole workshop presentation.
The principle of host-nation ownership and capacity requires the affected country to drive its own development needs and priorities even if transitional authority is in the hands of outsiders. Ownership requires capacity, which often needs tremendous strengthening in S&R environments.
Political primacy demands that a political settlement be the cornerstone of a sustainable peace. Every decision and every action has an impact on the possibility of forging political agreement.
Legitimacy has three facets: the degree to which (1) the host-nation population accepts the mission and its mandate or the government and its actions; (2) the government is accountable to its people; and (3) regional neighbors and the broader international community accept the mission mandate and the host-nation government.
Unity of effort begins with a shared understanding of the conditions. It refers to cooperation toward common objectives over the short and long
term, even when the participants are from many different organizations with diverse operating cultures.
Security is a cross-cutting prerequisite for peace and creates the enabling environment for development. The lack of security is what prompts an S&R mission to begin with.
Conflict transformation guides the strategy to transition from violent to peaceful means of conflict resolution. It requires reducing drivers and strengthening mitigators of conflict across political, security, rule of law, economic, and social spheres, while building the host nation’s capacity to manage political and economic competition through peaceful means.
Regional engagement entails encouraging the host nation, its neighboring countries, and other key states in the region to partner in promoting both the host nation’s and the region’s security and economic and political development. It has three components: comprehensive regional diplomacy, a shared regional vision, and cooperation.
The five goals focus on the what, not the who, of peacebuilding, Cole emphasized, and in that respect are less complex than actual peacebuilding operations, which bring in a broad array of actors with diverse objectives and motivations. Nevertheless, the systematic framework for peace presented in Guiding Principles for Stabilization and Reconstruction is both aspirational and practical, presenting approaches that can be used to achieve each of the 22 conditions. The guide is being widely used, not just in courses for peacebuilders but in the field.
Cole acknowledged, however, that, in working toward the end states, tradeoffs are inevitable. For example, drilling a well in a community, while serving the goal of improved social well-being, may at the same time give rise to conflict because not all groups in the community have equal access. As another example of a tradeoff often seen in peacebuilding, she explained that bringing a warlord into government could end a violent regional conflict but at the same time undermine the legitimacy of the government at the national level. Understanding tradeoffs using a systems approach can guide the development of a strategy that reduces (but, she cautioned, cannot eliminate) the negative consequences of tradeoffs.
In assessing the five goals defined in this framework, the analyst must identify gaps and challenges in the steps needed to achieve them. Gaps are weaknesses in knowledge, and challenges are shortfalls in practice even after best practices have been identified. She cited the rebuilding of education systems after conflict as an example of a difficult gap. “We can build the schools,
but we don’t know how to put teachers in them, and we don’t know what curriculum they should be teaching. It’s an enormous problem.” Similarly, reform of the security sector has not been done well anywhere, according to Cole, even when the basic principles of doing so are known.
Coherent peacebuilding strategies require attention to all of the conditions and end states, not just a few, Cole emphasized. The interdependencies among the goals must be addressed to generate stable solutions. For example, in dealing with the youth militias that often proliferate during civil war, a security sector program of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration will not be sufficient. Changes to the legal code may also be required. Programs to retrain demobilized youth and provide economic opportunities will be necessary, as will community-level intervention to support reconciliation and development to foster a sense of social well-being and achieve sustainable peace. In short, Cole said, “it is a tiger team approach.”
The vast majority of conflicts since World War II have been intrastate conflicts, said USAID’s Kirby Reiling.2 As of the end of 2011, 37 countries were in armed conflict, according to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (www.pcr.uu.se/research/UCDP/), and several more were recovering from recently terminated armed conflicts.
Armed conflict and political instability can take a range of forms, such as insurgencies, coups d’état, intercommunal violence, violent extremism and terrorism, and crime. Over half of USAID’s funding goes to countries affected by or recovering from conflict, requiring that the agency consider the interaction between conflict and development.
To inform their programming, most development agencies like USAID have created conflict assessment frameworks, which define a systematic process to analyze and prioritize the dynamics of peace and conflict in a given country. These frameworks are designed to help agencies and their partners formulate strategies, develop policies, and design programs to prevent, mitigate, and manage conflict. Although these frameworks were not created specifically using the methods of systems engineering, they provide an example of how the development of strategies for peacebuilding are becoming more structured and more principled and how peacebuilding as a field is moving toward a more systems-oriented approach to strategy development.
2 The views and opinions expressed by Kirby Reiling during his presentation and summarized here reflect only his perspective, not necessarily that of USAID.
FIGURE 2-2 USAID’s Conflict Analysis Framework 2.0. The framework is used to identify current conflict dynamics, possible future trajectories, and potential options for response to the crisis. SOURCE: USAID, Reiling workshop presentation.
USAID began conducting conflict vulnerability analyses around 2000 and published its first Conflict Assessment Framework (CAF) in 2004 and revised it in 2012. CAF 2.0 (Figure 2-2) now connects analysis more closely to response so that development activities have greater impact.3
USAID developed the framework to integrate conflict assessment more closely with programming, Reiling explained. Monitoring of the program can guide subsequent analyses, resulting in a continuous learning process. Systems thinking has the potential to improve the quality of analysis and design and to help with operational planning and processes in development more generally.
CAF is based on a theory of how and why armed conflict occurs. All societies have conflicts, including latent conflicts that are not necessarily violent. Conflicts are not only inevitable but often desirable—they spur competition for innovation and help people achieve their goals. But when conflict becomes violent, the consequences can be devastating from development and
3 CAF 2.0 is available on the USAID website, at www.usaid.gov/what-we-do/working-crises-and-conflict/technical-publications.
humanitarian perspectives. Conflicts therefore need to be managed so that they do not become violent.
Reiling then described a series of features of CAF that can be used to analyze and understand conflict in order to identify, support, and design conflict management institutions and programs. First, the framework takes account of the intersection between identity, institutions, and societal patterns, and the grievances, resiliencies, dividers, and connectors in a society.
Identity involves how people see themselves and how others see them. It can be based on nationality, ethnicity, religion, gender, social class, and/ or occupation. Many or all of these features of identity may be present in a single individual.
Institutional Performance involves the laws that help people resolve differences effectively and legitimately. Courts are a common form of conflict resolution in most societies. Their institutional performance can be gauged by whether they work, whether they are legitimate, and whether people perceive them to be fair.
Societal Patterns emerge from the interactions of identities and institutions over time. For example, a social identity that affects legal decisions in a way that creates a persistent sense of exclusion or inequality can lead to a profound grievance. When adequate rules are in place and generally applied consistently, grievances do not necessarily lead to violence because the established institutions manage the conflict.
In addition to social factors, key mobilizers are needed, said Reiling. Conflict requires leadership, organization, financial and human resources, and weapons, all of which call for individuals and groups who have the means, the motivation, and the resources to provide these necessary ingredients.
Peacebuilding also requires key mobilizers—people and organizations that can work with the system to prevent or eliminate conflict. In cases of legitimate grievance, these people and organizations may assist groups or individuals in seeking redress through nonviolent measures. Peacebuilders may need to distinguish between groups’ or individuals’ interest in violence to redress a grievance and their pursuit of violence to achieve private gains or maintain the status quo.
Reiling described three features of the framework designed to accommodate changes as a conflict evolves over time: context, trends, and triggers.
Context, which often changes slowly, might include geography, environment, or external relations. For example, minerals such as diamonds are part of the environment and, if present in a country, their economic value and related concerns may influence decisions by governments, peacebuilders, development officials, or armed or criminal groups.
Trends, such as increasing urbanization, growing crime, climate change, or environmental degradation, could be or become a major driver or mitigator of conflict. For example, a trend in exclusion from a resource (i.e., broader or narrower) can affect people’s calculations of their costs and benefits in deciding whether to engage in violence.
Obvious triggers of conflict may be a disputed election, an assassination, or an armed attack, but triggers can also be unpredictable or the work of a lone individual, such as a man setting himself on fire as a protest against police abuse, an act that sparked the recent revolution in Tunisia.
These elements intersect and therefore can be depicted as a systems map. Although mapping has been used occasionally in conflict assessments, Reiling said the challenge is to produce a map that is at once comprehensive enough to be illuminating and straightforward enough to inform decision making.
Last, Reiling described three possible approaches to conflict assessment that can be used with or without a systems engineering lens (they are summarized in chapter 4 of CAF 2.0).
Design peacebuilding programming based on a theory of change. A theory of change defines how a group expects to reach a commonly held long-term goal. Analysis of the conflict determines the steps necessary to create peace and shows how each step enables the next. For example, a program to improve community relations with the police following the collapse of an authoritarian state could begin with basic training for the police to explain how they should behave, continue with mediated meetings between the police and the citizenry to set expectations as to police behavior, and conclude with a series of surveys to track improvement. Each step would be decomposed into a series of related activities. Reiling suggested that the theory of change lends itself to an engineering solution because it requires stakeholders to carefully define what activities in what sequence will produce the desired outcome.
Build conflict sensitivity into traditional development programming. Most USAID programs are focused on achieving a development objective
such as improving education, strengthening the rule of law, supporting the court system, or getting people employed. They may or may not be attempting to mitigate conflict through this work, but in many countries affected by or recovering from war, it will be impossible to ignore the dynamics of the conflict as they affect (and are affected by) a particular project. Development programs need to be sensitive to conflict so that they make a situation better rather than worse. As with the first approach, this requires an understanding of the dynamics of a conflict through conflict analysis.
Enhance institutional resilience to conflict. One way to sustainably build peace is to work with a country’s own systems for managing and resolving disputes; these might include politics, the security sector, justice and rule of law, employment and service delivery, and overall administration of the state. By identifying actors who are trying to bring people together, contextual factors that encourage peace and social inclusion and the indigenous capacities that foster peace, the framework can be used to support programming that reinforces these positive elements in a society.
Sharon Morris discussed Mercy Corps and its work as an international relief and development organization focused on high-risk transitional environments in both conflict and postconflict settings. These are very challenging but also environments of opportunity.
The organization’s approach to managing conflict intersects traditional peacebuilding and development. Most of its programs start by convening different groups, as in traditional peacebuilding. For example, a program in Somalia convenes people from across a wide range of social fault lines—clan elders, business leaders, youth, women, government officials, and representatives of the private sector—and works with them to provide the tools and skills they need in negotiation, conflict management, and conflict analysis to talk about the difficult issues that lead to violence.
However, the program also recognizes that simply bringing people together is usually not enough. Most conflicts have deep underlying causes related to development, and unless development is combined with peacebuilding, a recurring cycle of violence is likely. In Somalia, competition over access to natural resources is deep and long-standing. In the timber areas where Mercy Corps works, conflict centers on the charcoal trade and is getting worse because of the impacts of climate change and drought. It is a very difficult problem, because a ban on charcoal production in an area where the
natural resource base was severely eroding put young people and women out of work, requiring development assistance to provide alternative employment. Thus, Mercy Corps’s work sought specifically to negotiate agreements related to tensions over the charcoal trade.
Mercy Corps is using this model in more than 30 programs around the world and is achieving “very positive results,” according to Morris. In Ethiopia, for instance, a program that blends peacebuilding with natural resource management led to a reduction in violent incidents, an increase in freedom of movement, and an increase in well-being among the communities versus comparison groups that did not receive the intervention. Furthermore, the communities that received the intervention had an increased resilience to drought, because, with access to markets, they were able to share scarce resources more effectively. These positive changes created a virtuous cycle to replace the vicious cycle caused by dwindling natural resources.
One of the central challenges of peacebuilding is that it takes place in a conflict environment rather than a stable environment, whereas many development programs are designed for stable environments. “If you [put] a youth employment program … in a place like the Niger Delta, it’s not going to work,” said Morris. In the Niger Delta, profound market distortions have arisen from endemic violence among communities that has eroded the trust necessary for a functioning market. Furthermore, the relationship between the private sector and youth is deeply damaged. For example, rather than turning to the private sector for employment, some young people see it primarily as a target for kidnapping, extortion, and other sorts of criminal activities. Interventions need to take account of such distortions to work.
As another example, Morris discussed a large youth program that Mercy Corps operates in Kenya, designed to deal with violence in the lead-up to the elections in March 2013. It is a complex program, with components for economic development, civic engagement, and youth leadership.
Research has shown that young Kenyans participate in violence for a number of reasons, said Morris, such as a lack of dignity, a lack of respect, or a feeling that a community is being disadvantaged in some way. In a stable setting, a youth program would be uncontroversial, but in Kenya, where youth are seen by many politicians as a political weapon to threaten and intimidate opponents, the program has become highly politicized. Politicians on all sides are protesting the program, which reaches a million youth, because it reduces their ability to direct the young through money, ethnic affiliation, or appeals to young people’s need to belong. The program is designed to give young people the skills needed to deal with the perverse
dynamics of their situation. Approaches include creating a support system for young people, pairing them with adult mentors, and building coalitions of moderate adults. Another important component in this program has been creating the capacity to communicate with youth—an SMS4-based system that provides warning to enrolled youth that political elites may try to manipulate them and encourage them not to participate in any emerging protest and associated violence. The goal is not to support any particular political movement but to break the linkages that enable political elites to use young men to incite violence.
In Iraq, a Mercy Corps program has created a network of more than 100 Iraqi leaders crossing all fault lines—Arabs and Kurds, Sunni and Shi’a, men and women, government and tribal elders, and civil society leaders. The group includes both “good guys and bad guys,” according to Morris, because “if you are not pulling in people who think violence is an okay way to achieve their objectives, you are not doing your work.” This network of leaders has resolved more than 200 disputes to date, some of them major differences between parliamentary factions and between the Sadr militia and the central government.
Because the network often finds out about disputes after they have already escalated, it has been developing an early warning system in which developing disputes can be put on maps and become a focus of attention. “If a tribal dispute over land is flaring up in this province, how can we get the tribal leaders … up there fast?” To protect its neutrality, the early warning system is independent of the security forces or government, so the network is seen as belonging to every institution, not just to one.
Mercy Corps would like to increase the level of technological sophistication it can bring to its programs. However, many technologies, including the Internet, are not available in some places where Mercy Corps works, and in other places cell phone technologies are more effective than Internet-based technologies. Also, a given technology may not work in unstable environments, even if many people like to use it. The goal of technology must be to get the right message to the right people. An e-mail or text blast to a million youth may be less effective than getting a targeted message to youth in a particular area saying that a protest is taking shape and asking them what they can do to prevent it.
Morris concluded by observing that peacebuilding projects in the field tend to operate in environments with extremely poor technical support.
4 Short message service.
Therefore, as a rule of thumb, any tools or systems developed for field deployment need to be very simple. “I have seen some very complex systems being developed, and they are not going to work. Our field team in Iraq is all Iraqi, they are living under deep violence every day, and asking them to take on a whole new complicated system isn’t going to work. So the simpler we can keep these tools and approaches, the better.” In such low-capacity environments, the challenge is to make the knowledge (e.g., points of leverage, metrics, and data gaps) developed using systems analysis easily available whether through simple tools, well-designed programs, or an effective and coherent strategy.
Workshop participants discussed the role of information technology in peacebuilding, the potential applications of technologies in systems approaches, and the multiple roles of peacebuilders. In response to a question about the kinds of information technology Mercy Corps uses in its programs, Morris said the organization uses various different kinds, but as a general rule tries to adopt the simplest, most easily accessible technologies it can. For example, for early warning and crisis mapping applications, Mercy Corps personnel collect information using Excel spreadsheets and integrate and distribute it using Google Maps. In locations where the Internet is unavailable, the NGO relies more on SMS and other cell-phone-based technologies. Like many NGOs, Mercy Corps is not trying to develop technical competence other than that necessary to further the goals of their programs.
Linton Wells, National Defense University, pointed out that some individuals in the peacebuilding community, such as crisis mappers, have considerable technological capacity that is dependent on Internet access. Morris responded that the challenge for such individuals is to make their technology usable in unstable, infrastructure-poor environments. “You have to know enough about the dynamics [of a place] to adapt it and tweak it and make it fit.” Otherwise, advocates of technology can try to do too much.
Robert Ricigliano raised the distinction between negative peace, which amounts to the absence of violence, and positive peace, which is associated with the goals Cole described. Far more people around the world are dying of malnutrition and disease than of armed violence, he observed, although violence can lead to malnutrition and disease. Cole pointed out that NGOs typically divide their activities among humanitarian assistance, development programs, and peacebuilding. But an important question is how to marry
these activities to create more resilient communities. “There are overlaps, and we need to bring our strands of programming together.” Morris agreed, pointing out that, in Africa, the combination of peacebuilding and development provides communities with the ability to withstand shocks more effectively. One problem for systems approaches is that combining the different activities causes models to become more complex, and thus, perhaps, less useful in the field.
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