Placing the value of local peacebuilding firmly on the Development Aid agenda


Monina O’Prey


Foundations for Peace (FFP) is a global network of local funders working to build peace, alongside social justice, in regions emerging from, or currently experiencing violent conflict. Launched in New York in 2006, the organization works collaboratively on peacebuilding initiatives, including supporting victims and survivors of conflict; working with political prisoners and combatants; supporting affected communities with gender and leadership issues; and building capacity and security for young people.

The FPP also create and produce reports, such as the ‘Small money: Big Impact’ report, which demonstrates the value of small grants making a big contribution to sustainable peacebuilding efforts, through peer learning, case studies, and policy inputs.

While all conflicts are complex and unique to their specific situation, FFP members are rooted in their country’s contexts and see many commonalities when it comes to impact on civilian life.

Violent conflict upends normal political processes and the voices and opinions of those directly affected by violence – women, children and other marginalized groups – are typically unheard. Local support and engagement from organisations such as the FPP can help to shift this dynamic.

Through shared experience of work in conflict regions, the FFP recognises the value and sustainability of local peacebuilding efforts and why this should be placed centrally into the peacebuilding and development aid discourse as an integral part of the way forward.

The world has changed beyond recognition over the past decade. Alongside the impact of rising inequality and climate change, war has become the new norm, and peace and security issues dominate the globe. Many democracies are faltering with a rising prevalence of failed states, conflicted or divided societies, and stalled development. Conflict and injustice go hand in hand, and in an interconnected world, borders mean little, and war spreads easily.. The consequences are death, destruction, forced migration, displacement and economic chaos.

Studies show that, despite the best efforts of many, the architecture surrounding development aid does not contribute to lasting peace in conflict-affected communities. Indeed, the aid system tends to undermine the autonomy of local activism, which is essential to transforming conflicts.

The evidence suggests that such transformation must come from within. Unless local people own and develop the change, it will fail to take root.  A key aim for external efforts in delivering aid should be the support of local efforts to build peace within the region. Indigenous forces for change make for lasting peace and no amount of external intervention on its own can deliver this.

The valuable efforts and resources of philanthropists and other stakeholders in peacebuilding, including the work of international aid agencies, are enhanced by the work of organisations such as the FFP, supporting community activists over the long term to open space for the growth of civil society, to develop a new narrative, and to work on conflict transformation initiatives that meet local circumstances and needs. Each initiative has values which are based on respect for all identities and are inclusive of the many diverse voices and people who are often marginalized or demonized.

The UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes 17 goals for all nations seeking to attack the root causes of poverty, economic injustice and human rights violations. In those countries where violence and conflict hold sway, these goals will not be realized unless top priority is given to the 16th goal:

To promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels’.

Looking to the future, FFP will continue to share learnings and offer peer support to those working at a local level to build peace. The FFP will also be placing a renewed emphasis on the need for a new paradigm regarding development and peacebuilding, within contested or deeply divided societies, and to explore new models of partnership working for community-based conflict transformation.

The Laying the Foundations for Peace: a policy contribution 2016 conference, marking 10 years of collaboration to promote the value of local peacebuilding initiatives, will be held on the 4th November 2016 at Philanthropy House, EFC, Brussels.

Monina O’Prey is the Secretariat for Foundations for Peace.

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