05 - 06 June 2024

Shifting Power in Peace: New Dynamics and Agendas – Reshaping Cooperation for Sustainable Peace and Development

The FriEnt Peacebuilding Forum 2024 took place on 5 and 6 June in Berlin, Germany.

“We need to stop the binary of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ and reemphasize empathy and interdependence.”

FriEnt Peacebuilding Forum 2024

The Working Group on Peace and Development (FriEnt), which is an association of governmental organisations, church development agencies, civil society networks, and political foundations, held the 6th edition of the FriEnt Peacebuilding Forum (FriEnt PBF 2024) in Berlin on 5 and 6 June 2024. We would like to take this opportunity to thank our partners, distinguished guests, and experts who joined us for this event at which 150 participants from civil society and government agencies from 26 countries worked collaboratively to generate positive perspectives on the role and potential of peacebuilding approaches in security, climate, and feminist policy and practice.

Are we ready to shift power in peace?

Recent decades have seen an enormous development and professionalisation in the field of peacebuilding. Examples, to name a few, include locally led approaches, early warning systems, and conflict sensitivity. Recently, however, as the world moves away from a unipolar world order, international relations reflect a tendency towards reduced peacefulness, a loss of trust and security, and a reluctance to work multilaterally in response to crisis. The geopolitical tensions associated with international power shifts are being exploited by authoritarian and conservative actors to suit their own agendas and power aspirations at the expense of marginalized groups. In times when inequality and injustice continue to be global phenomenon, well-organized and heavily funded anti-democratic and anti-feminist movements are asserting their hold on power by propagating this inequality as natural. The world has undoubtedly become more complex, but complexity is also being used as an excuse to avoid the ever-growing need to show solidarity, empathize with others, and take responsibility for pro-actively seeking peace.

Although the peacebuilding field has successfully expanded into other policy areas (e.g., security) while demonstrating its ability to create synergies with other approaches such as climate and biodiversity (e.g., through environmental peacebuilding), an uneasiness can be sensed in the community. Colonial continuities are increasingly being called into question, and shifting power is at the core of peacebuilding today. While people-centred concepts of security and inclusion have become part of mainstream politics, it feels as if something of their essence has been neglected. The question, therefore, is how can we preserve the core competencies of peacebuilding during this ongoing process of professionalization and integration to ensure that its "heart" and "credibility" are not lost? At the PBF 2024, peacebuilding experts responded to this question by discussing potentials, alliances, and dilemmas in integrated transformation processes.

The EU is a credible ally when it navigates geopolitical complexity peacefully.

There are reasons for optimism. The EU remains relevant, despite these geopolitical tensions, and if civil society partners from the so-called Global South are to be successful, they will need the EU for peacebuilding as much as providing security. However, for the EU to remain a credible peace project, it must be reinforced in its efforts to:

a) navigate geopolitical complexity without discarding its compass of values and losing sight of its long-term vision of enhancing peace and stability and aligning its policies with local needs and perspectives.

b) trust and bring attention to peaceful actors rather than focusing primarily on the armed parties within a violent conflict, for instance by including local civil society at all levels in multitrack peace processes.

c) align its leadership role - where it is requested - with the priorities of its local partners and ensure that any peace dividend primarily benefits the people who have been affected by violence.

d) remember that peacebuilding is more effective if it focuses on the long term, and so ensure that support extends beyond the duration of individual projects.

The “shared environment” narrative is a possible gateway to peace.

The ongoing climate crisis reveals the challenges arising from current human interactions with nature and requires both a rethinking of the relationship between them and a re-evaluation of indigenous experiences. Peacebuilding is most effective when it is at the core of a collective ambition to change systems and allows different worldviews to unite behind a common cause:

a) It is time for a reorientation away from formal ownership (the land that I own) to informal ownership (the environment that I live in), which also includes political implications, e.g. for the EU Supply Chain Act and mandatory corporate heightened human rights due diligence and conflict sensitivity guidelines.

b) A “shared environment” narrative and a just transition of the economy at global and local level should be centred around global common ground, i.e. the 2030 Agenda. Climate policies have a sustainable impact where local realities and perspectives are considered and possible negative side effects mitigated, prevented, or compensated.

c) An awareness of colonial continuities is crucial to avoid repeating and exacerbating unequal dependencies and power structures in climate policy. It can also mean shifting power to alternative, locally legitimized governance structures to improve access to resources and support for the most marginalized people.

Different views and opposition are the starting points for peacebuilding, not the end.

The recent institutionalization of feminist approaches in several countries has created new opportunities for inclusion and power transformation, but it was met with increasing opposition from anti-democratic and authoritarian state and non-state actors. In addition, certain practical dilemmas with feminist approaches have arisen. The transformative potential of power shifts can only be realized if those in power are prepared to relinquish their power. Feminist peacebuilding provides answers on how to address and counter resistance, both from political opponents and within oneself:

a) Peacebuilders and democratic actors should invest in a clear analysis of anti-democratic and anti-feminist actors. While these must be engaged with, the rights of those who are most marginalized must concurrently be protected.

b) Complexity should not be used as a means of resistance or diversion from important issues. The kind of solidarity that is needed is a political decision which is neither transactional nor linked to the necessity to understand or identify with others.

c) Positive Peace and the reduction of power asymmetries can be a common global cause for diverse actors. In addition to funding, it is important to strengthen strategic alliances between actors who share comparable feminist and democratic values, join forces, support informal and social movements, pool resources, and increase visibility. These solidarity alliances can also help to protect individuals in hostile environments.

d) Sustainable efforts for peace require joint learning, analysis, discussion, and decision-making with the aim of ending existing power asymmetries. The legitimate demands of peacebuilding organizations, human rights, and climate activists, which illuminate colonial continuities in the international system, in development cooperation, and in peacebuilding, must be considered in policymaking. Peacebuilding tools should be used to facilitate power shifts.

Conclusion

This year, the FriEnt Peacebuilding Forum set new standards in terms of promoting interactivity, creating protected spaces for discussion, and increased participation of various stakeholders from diverse backgrounds. Together we worked to enhance the visibility of the peacebuilding field – breaking down silos across sectors - at a time when capacities and initiatives for sustainable peace are urgently needed. The insights gained will help to shape FriEnt's future exchanges with political actors, members, and partners.

Voices from the conference
"You cannot have security without having peace." – Cheryl Hendricks
Impressions
Voices from the conference
"Our world goes in diverse directions. No single narrative will cover all perspectives." - Paul-Simon Handy
Voices from the conference
“For a lot of people transition means nothing - if they have nothing to transition from nor to transition to.” - Nisreen Elsaim
Voices from the conference
"193 countries agreed on the SDGs. We should start from that common vision and work our way down to practice." - FriEnt PBF Participant

The FriEnt Peacebuilding Forum is a series of events on current and overarching challenges and trends in peacebuilding. With the Peacebuilding Forum, we want to provide future-oriented impulses for the development of peacebuilding and strengthen the visibility and importance of the policy field in its entirety.

Kontakt

Arbeitsgemeinschaft Frieden
und Entwicklung (FriEnt)
c/o GIZ

Friedrich-Ebert-Allee 36
53113 Bonn

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