Parallel Session 1
Building and sustaining peace through inclusive country dialogues: The case of Sierra Leone
This panel was hosted by the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (IDPS), a partnership between the governments of 20 countries affected by conflict and fragility (g7+), development partners (OECD-DAC INCAF) and civil society (CSPPS). The IDPS is the architect behind the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States – a call to action for different ways of operating in fragile and conflict-affected environments, which prioritises effective peacebuilding and statebuilding, country ownership and leadership.
This session brought together members of the IDPS with CIC/NYU Pathfinders multi-stakeholder partnership to implement the SDG16+, to provide their perspectives on the role of inclusive dialogue processes between donors, governments and civil society, in supporting peacebuilding and statebuilding and the Agenda 2030 in Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone’s government representative re-affirmed the continued relevance of the New Deal principles for Sierra Leone, although it requires some simplification. Sierra Leone is a founding member of the g7+ and is currently chair of the g7+ and co-Chair of the IDPS. Sierra Leone is also a New Deal pilot country and as such, has experience of New Deal implementation. For instance, in 2012 findings of the Fragility Assessment (FA) were used to inform planning of the national development plan (2013-18). In 2016, the updated FA was particularly useful in the elaboration of the Government’s response plan to the Ebola outbreak. The Service Level Agreement (SLA) of Ministry of Health, are testament to the incorporation of the New Deal (effectiveness) principles beyond Finance and Planning. Some challenges were also noted – even if many of the basic principles are understood, e.g. ‘mutual accountability’ – sometimes the overly technical language is a problem (FOCUS, TRUST, PSGs) for wider uptake.
New opportunities for applying the New Deal emerged with the new government in place since March, as strong commitments were made to many of the issues that are close to the International Dialogue: inclusive governance, social justice, strengthening democracy, tackling corruption and fighting against violence against children and women, amongst other issues. Plans are underway for a new national development plan and the national budget – both of which are to be ready in November 2018.
Supporting coherence and coordination between actors and initiatives in order to avoid duplicating efforts and overwhelming the government is key. DEPAC (Sierra Leone’s mechanism for dialogue between donors, civil society and government) which meets on a quarterly basis, needs to be re-energized.
We should be careful not to get bogged down in processes that focus on targets, indicators and mechanisms and lose sight of what brings us together. The SDGs are just a vehicle to address broader questions such as eradicating all forms of violence, building democratic institutions etc. The country dialogue process should focus on helping the government to deliver on its priorities and commitments, including delivering the SDGs and playing a leadership role as a Pathfinder for Goal 16+. The New Deal principles could help, but it is important to ensure that the form follows function and not the other way round.
Yet, processes are important. How we get to where we want to, in a way that builds cohesion and inclusion is not always straightforward. Participants identified several potential challenges including the profusion of initiatives around building peaceful, just and inclusive societies and competition between these initiatives.
Some interest was expressed in mapping and an assessment of all these initiatives with a view to aligning them before presenting an offer to the government. Whilst scoping is important, others insisted on prioritising concrete actions and results, rather than overwhelming the new government.
The country dialogue process could provide a forum for fostering coherence between these initiatives, identifying synergies and creating partnerships within the country based on comparative advantage; improving and strengthening coordination between donors; and strengthening the existing institutions. The FA in particular was identified as a useful country-led assessment that could be used to convene all those wishing to invest in joint risk assessments. It was suggested strongly that the IDPS convenes a country dialogue around sharing and further developing this assessment.
The language around ‘fragility’ is sensitive in New York and inside Sierra Leone, and as such may need to be reviewed. Building peaceful just and inclusive societies, which are resilient, could work better as a message.
The lack of national cohesion became most apparent during and after the elections. Yet, someone suggested that Sierra Leone’s political tensions are deeply rooted in its history and state formation itself. Some highlighted the potential contradiction between ending impunity and the need for building cohesion. Civil society participants insisted on the importance of accountability without a political witch-hunt. Social cohesion with accountability, security and land rights (particularly in context of mining and extractives) were suggested as possible focus of future country dialogues.
Civil society representatives raised concerns about increasingly restrictive NGO policy – in light of government concerns to have more visibility over service delivery, requiring NGOs to register to ensure equitable regional distribution.
The IDPS has piloted the New Deal principles in Sierra Leone since 2012 and has learnt lessons.
The New Deal principles remain relevant and provide a framework to inform the implementation of the SDGs – but some updating and simplification is needed including on the language.
To ensure wider uptake, national ownership and leadership over the New Deal and country dialogue process is critical.
To advance the country dialogue process, the IDPS needs to seize the momentum.
Promoting and supporting coherence and coordination between actors and initiatives in order to avoid duplicating efforts and overwhelming the government is key.
During the next country dialogue meeting, discuss terminology around fragility and explore whether ‘resilience’ may fit better (including in the methodology of the FA), to inform national planning.
IDPS members and partners need to prepare a comprehensive offer to the new government that translates the IDPS global narrative about relevance of the New Deal for the implementation of new agenda, with a view to ensuring buy-in from the government and informing the new development plan, and include national social cohesion objective (November 2018).
October SDG 16+ Alliance event: could be an important moment for a galvanizing event.
2019 will mark the end of the first four years of the implementation of SDG16, this will be an opportunity to assess progress.
Lucy Brewah, Economist, Development Assistance Coordination Office (DACO), Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, Government of Sierra Leone (g7+)
Valnora Edwin, Director, Campaign for Good Governance, Sierra Leone (CSPPS)
Mark Mattner (moderator), Director, Sector Program Peace and Security, Disaster Risk Management, GIZ
Kathryn Nwajiaku, Head of Secretariat, International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (IDPS)
David Steven, Senior Fellow and Associate Director, CIC/NYU Pathfinders