Creating space… to share ideas on the future of peacebuilding

Overview

After a full day of discussions and workshop sessions the concluding fishbowl gave participants the option to share important takeaways of the FriEnt Peacebuilding Forum for their own work. Dunja Brede (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, GIZ), Flaubert Djateng (ZENÜ Network) and Sidonia Gabriel (Center for Peacebuilding, KOFF/swisspeace) started the concluding exchange as seated discussant before other participants of the Forum came in.

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  • It is time to open up for new forms of cooperation and social contracts beyond what are largely Western concepts, to analyse scientific evidence and extend one’s way of thinking.
  • There is no need for new instruments or tools, but to do things better.
  • On the one hand, we need to jump out of the “peacebuilding bubble” and engage with other actors such as the business community, the security or humanitarian sector in order to address peacebuilding issues.
  • On the other hand, we need to improve coordination amongst ourselves (at home and in the field) before starting to reach out to partners and actors in other fields.
  • Against the backdrop of the 2030 Agenda, we need to understand and address power relations in transformation processes as a crucial element for change or stagnation – at home and abroad.

Summary

The statebuilding paradigm – a concept in erosion?

New forms of violence such as violent extremism are challenging the statebuilding paradigm as such. The erosion of states and the lack of social contracts between state and society have shown that Western concepts of statebuilding are not applicable to every context. Moreover, Western statebuilding efforts can put endeavours for peacebuilding at risk in times when new actors ignore the construct of a state and the rule of law. But what does that mean for development cooperation and peacebuilding? What are appropriate approaches? It is time to open up for new forms of social contracts and “functional equivalents” beyond Western concepts, to analyse scientific evidence and extend one’s way of thinking. This takeaway is in line with the following one which stresses the importance of self-reflection.

Reflect your own role

Participants stressed the importance to reflect one’s own role and sphere of influence. There is no need for new instruments or tools, but to do things better – with passion, courage and professionalism. Against the background of ongoing crises the participants strongly felt the urgency to channel pressure in a more constructive way whether in the global North or South and not to wait for others such as the UN for their reaction. This was stressed by partners from the global South who were asking for more support by German organisations in the field of arms control and bilateral development cooperation with repressive governments.

Time for a mind shift: the need to jump out of the fishbowl

More than twenty years after the genocide in Rwanda and the development of the peacebuilding sector in development cooperation, the field has experienced a high level of professionalism. Moreover, goals for peacebuilding are prominently embedded in the 2030 Agenda. Still, the reality seems to be sobering today. Participants from the Forum felt a need for a mind shift, to start thinking out of the box, to jump out of the fishbowl or – as some described it – to jump out of the peacebuilding bubble. Much more engagement with other actors such as the business community, the humanitarian or the security sector was called for in order to address peacebuilding issues in one’s own area of influence. But addressing peacebuilding issues in other sectors seems to be challenging as interests, norms, languages and timeframes differ. Furthermore some participants stressed that “First we need to improve coordination amongst ourselves before reaching out to others.” For stakeholders such as a network operating in a certain country this could for instance mean to act as a translator for dialogue at the national level. For others this could mean to improve political coherence at national level through the adoption of a 360 degree perspective.

It’s about power, stupid!

The issue of addressing power relations in processes of transformation was described as elephant in the room. Developing tools or setting standards is useless if the system is corrupt and unwilling to reform. The way power relations in transformation processes are addressed is crucial for escalation, stagnation or peaceful change.

Sonja Vorwerk-Halve
FriEnt

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