Pathways for Peace : Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict

Full Text Sharing

The resurgence of violent conflict in recent years has caused immense human suffering, at enormous social and economic cost. Violent conflicts today have become complex and protracted, involving more non-state groups and regional and international actors, often linked to global challenges from climate change to transnational organized crime. It is increasingly recognized as an obstacle to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. This has given impetus for policy makers at all levels – from local to global – to focus on preventing violent conflict more effectively. Grounded in a shared commitment to this agenda, Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict is a joint United Nations and World Bank study that looks at how development processes can better interact with diplomacy and mediation, security and other tools to prevent conflict from becoming violent. To understand ‘what works,’ it reviews the experience of different countries and institutions to highlight elements that have contributed to peace. Central to these efforts is the need to address grievances around exclusion from access to power, opportunity and security. States hold the primary responsibility for prevention, but to be effective, civil society, the private sector, regional and international organizations must be involved. Enhancing the meaningful participation of women and youth in decision making, as well as long-term policies to address the aspirations of women and young people are fundamental to sustaining peace.



A surge in violent conflicts in recent years has left a trail of human suffering, displacement, and protracted humanitarian need. In 2016, more countries experienced violent conflict than at any time in nearly 30 years.1 Reported battle-related deaths in 2016 increased tenfold from the post–Cold War low of 2005, and terrorist attacks and fatalities also rose sharply over the past 10 years (GTD 2017). This surge in violence afflicts both low- and middle-income countries with relatively strong institutions and calls into question the long-standing assumption that peace will accompany income growth and the expectations of steady social, economic, and political advancement that defined the end of the twentieth century (Fearon 2010; Humphreys and Varshney 2004; World Economic Forum 2016). If current trends persist, by 2030—the horizon set by the international community for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—more than half of the world’s poor will be living in countries affected by high levels of violence (OECD 2015). The benefit of preventive action, then, seems self-evident. Indeed, the global architecture for peace and security, forged in the aftermath of World War II, is grounded in the universal commitment to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” (United Nations Charter, preamble). Yet the changing scope and nature of today’s conflicts pose a significant challenge to that
system. With conflict today often simultaneously subnational and transnational, sustained, inclusive, and targeted engagement is needed at all levels. This reality has accelerated momentum for countries at risk and for the international community to focus on improving efforts at preventing “the outbreak, escalation, recurrence, or continuation of conflict” (UN General Assembly 2016; UN Security Council 2016). Yet, at present, spending and efforts on prevention represent only a fraction of the amount spent on crisis response and reconstruction.2 A shift away from managing and responding to crises and toward preventing conflict sustainably, inclusively, and collectively can save lives and greatly reduce these costs.
Pathways for Peace : Laying the Groundwork for a New Focus on Prevention Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict is a joint study of the United Nations and the World Bank. The study originates from the conviction on the part of both institutions that the attention of the international community needs to be urgently refocused on prevention. While the two institutions are governed by different, complementary mandates, they share a commitment, founded in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to the prevention of conflict as a contribution to
iv Executive Summary
development progress, as expressed in the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council resolutions on sustaining peace3 and the eighteenth replenishment of the World Bank Group’s International Development Association.4 This study recognizes that the World Bank Group and the United Nations bring separate comparative advantages to approach the prevention of violent conflict and that they have different roles and responsibilities in the international architecture. Therefore, while a holistic framework is essential to implementing prevention, the findings and recommendations of this study do not apply to all organizations in the same way. This study seeks to improve the way in which domestic development processes interact with security, diplomatic, justice, and human rights efforts to prevent conflicts from becoming violent. Its key audiences are national policy makers and staff of multilateral and regional institutions. The background research and literature reviews, including 19 case studies, were prepared in partnership with leading think tanks and academic institutions. Regional consultations were conducted throughout 2016–17 with policy makers, members of civil society, representatives of regional organizations, development aid organizations, and donor partners in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and North America.
Eight Key Messages for Prevention The study’s findings revolve around eight key messages:
• Violent conflict has increased after decades of relative decline. Direct deaths in war, numbers of displaced populations, military spending, and terrorist incidents, among others, have all surged since the beginning of the century. A rapidly evolving global context presents risks that transcend national borders and add to the complexity of conflict. This places the onus on policy makers at all levels, from local to global, to make a more concerted effort to bring
their tools and instruments to bear in an effective and complementary way. • The human and economic cost of conflicts around the world requires all of those concerned to work more collaboratively. The SDGs should be at the core of this approach. Development actors need to provide more support to national and regional prevention agendas through targeted, flexible, and sustained engagement. Prevention agendas, in turn, should be integrated into development policies and efforts, because prevention is cost-effective, saves lives, and safeguards development gains. • The best way to prevent societies from descending into crisis, including but not limited to conflict, is to ensure that they are resilient through investment in inclusive and sustainable development. For all countries, addressing inequalities and exclusion, making institutions more inclusive, and ensuring that development strategies are risk-informed are central to preventing the fraying of the social fabric that could erupt into crisis. • The primary responsibility for preventive action rests with states, both through their national policy and their governance of the multilateral system. However, in today’s shifting global landscape, states are often one actor among many. States are increasingly called to work with each other and with other actors to keep their countries on a pathway to peace. • Exclusion from access to power, opportunity, services, and security creates fertile ground for mobilizing group grievances to violence, especially in areas with weak state capacity or legitimacy or in the context of human rights abuses. This study points to specific ways in which states and other actors can seek to avert violence, including through more inclusive policies. • Growth and poverty alleviation are crucial but alone will not suffice to sustain peace. Preventing violence requires departing from traditional economic and social policies when risks are building up or are high. It also means seeking inclusive solutions through dialogue, adapted macroeconomic policies, institutional

 Executive Summary v
reform in core state functions, and redistributive policies. • Inclusive decision making is fundamental to sustaining peace at all levels, as are long-term policies to address economic, social, and political aspirations. Fostering the participation of young people as well as of the organizations, movements, and networks that represent them is crucial. Women’s meaningful participation in all aspects of peace and security is critical to effectiveness, including in peace processes, where it has been shown to have a direct impact on the sustainability of agreements reached. • Alongside efforts to build institutional capacity to contain violence when it does occur, acting preventively entails fostering systems that create incentives for peaceful and cooperative behavior. In order to achieve more effective prevention, new mechanisms need to be established that will allow greater synergy to be achieved much earlier among the various tools and instruments of prevention, in particular, diplomacy and mediation, security, and development.
This study demonstrates that prevention works. Many countries have successfully managed high-risk conflicts and avoided descents into violence. These experiences offer lessons in prevention that can be applied to other contexts. There is no one formula, as each situation is specific to the actors, institutions, and structures of each society, but common threads can be teased out of these experiences. This study also shows that prevention is cost-effective. Analysis undertaken for this study finds that a system for preventing the outbreak of violence would be economically beneficial. Even in the most pessimistic scenario, where preventive action is rarely successful, the average net savings are close to US$5 billion per year. In the most optimistic scenario, the net savings are almost US$70 billion per year (Mueller 2017).

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.