FriEnt Peacebuilding Forum 2018: from global to local – and back again! Enhancing peacebuilding together, or ‘embracing the messiness’

The fourth FriEnt Peacebuilding Forum was held in Berlin on 13 and 14 June. ‘Connect – Reflect – Create: Enhancing Peacebuilding Together’: the title of this year’s forum was really brought to life by the 230 people who attended from over 30 countries and international organisations. In workshops, interactive dialogues and panel debates, representatives from government, civil society and the academic and scientific community came together to discuss, reflect and create in a bid to strengthen and consolidate peacebuilding in an increasingly uncertain and confusing world.

One of the first topics addressed was the question of how exactly the new frameworks for peacebuilding – particularly the 2030 Agenda, with its Goal 16 on promoting peaceful, just and inclusive societies, and the UN resolutions on sustaining peace – can help to reinforce and improve peace efforts in a local context. During the debate featuring Lesley Connolly (International Peace Institute), Harriet Lamb (International Alert), Sara Sekkenes (UNDP) and Nina Tsikhistavi-Khutsishvili (International Center on Conflict and Negotiation), it soon became clear that the international frameworks are setting the right course. For instance, they agreed that efforts to promote peace have to be managed at local level, embedded in the regions and given coordinated international support. 

Connect

Something else that soon became apparent, however, was the fact that we are now at a critical juncture if we are to turn fine words into concrete action. This is because efforts to implement international agendas at a local level are facing major challenges in light of growing polarisation, increasing attacks on the multilateral system and new dynamics of conflict and violence. Despite the concerns over the current situation, participants nevertheless came up with creative solutions, shaping inclusive partnerships, for example. Multi-layered, interrelated problems mean that isolated ventures by individual actors soon reach their limits. Inclusive partnerships that recognise the independent role played by local actors need to be strengthened if we are to be able to counter a global trend, namely that the hands of civil society are becoming increasingly tied.

Reflect

In the panel discussion on the second day entitled ‘Breaking Silos: A new movement for prevention?’, David Steven (Center for International Cooperation, New York University) spoke once again of the need to find strategies for successful prevention work that spanned the boundaries between individual institutions and sectors. Emma Leslie (Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Cambodia) used the example of her work in Asia and the Pacific region to outline some of the dilemmas and ways of overcoming this silo mentality. Graeme Simpson (Interpeace) presented the findings of the progress report on UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on youth, peace and security, which questions numerous prejudices and assumptions concerning youth violence and radicalisation and explores the peacebuilding potential of young people.

Create

FriEnt members and international partners put on no fewer than 17 workshops during the forum. What works in peacebuilding? What answers do we have to trends in violence? What new ideas and approaches will help us? What are the challenges in specific conflict regions? Where are there political challenges in Germany and Europe? Although extremely diverse, the questions and topics covered in the sessions were invariably geared towards breaking down silos and enabling dialogue between different stakeholder groups. After all, said David Steven, this was one of the key prerequisites for coping with complex challenges.

Embrace the messiness

‘Embrace the messiness’ was the message from the experts at the FriEnt Peacebuilding Forum, an exhortation reiterated during the closing round of panel discussions. It stands for not only acknowledging the complexity of a situation, but also putting it under a microscope to identify opportunities for launching prevention and peacebuilding measures. Strong, inclusive partnerships help to bring together local and international expertise, improve analyses and identify the right strategies and approaches in order to make a contribution to peacebuilding in confusing and unpredictable situations.

We would very much like to thank our members and international partners for all their hard work in putting together the FriEnt Peacebuilding Forum. Reports in English on the individual panel debates and workshops will soon be published on our website to provide more insight into the event.

This is not the last we will see of the FriEnt PBF. For this reason, the FriEnt PBF Voices Blog will remain our constant companion. We have talked to eight international experts about their views on sustaining peace and have now published the videos. And, staying true to the connect-reflect-create theme, we have also asked a number of participants to reflect on some of the key points of the forum and on the future of peacebuilding. What should peacebuilding look like in 2030? We want to learn from people’s different perspectives and ask ourselves how we can accelerate innovation in the field of peacebuilding and strengthen our collective impact in the area of policy.