When I look back to 1994, I see a very different world to the one we live in today. We had post-cold war hopes, but we were also sobered by violent conflicts that were unravelling states and threatening a new lawlessness. The experience of two decades means we see with ever more clarity the increasing complexity and urgency of the peacebuilding challenge. Historic conflict-drivers such as exclusion, injustice and inequality are intersecting with new conflict issues. New technology means we are increasingly connected to one another, but at the same time the questioning of core values and human rights standards that underpin our work, along with a loss of faith in globalisation, make the task of finding common and sustainable solutions to conflict more difficult.
In 2020, the number of people forced to leave their homes because of violent conflict and persecution is at a record high – over 70 million. The need to find different and better ways to resolve conflict peacefully and effectively, is more urgent than ever.
That’s why, in Conciliation Resources’ new five-year strategy ‘Building better peace’ our focus is on improving the way peacebuilding is done and ensuring it’s the go-to solution for resolving violent conflict.
We want to move the world away from simplistic peace strategies that focus on peace deals between leaders, but don’t fully address the factors driving conflict. We need strategies for peace that are more creative, that can adapt to the inevitable ebbs and flows, and that, most importantly, include diverse perspectives. But, simply listening to these diverse opinions and enabling people to participate in a peace process, is not enough. Currently, inclusive peace processes don’t live up to their promises. People marginalised in conflict stay marginalised in peace. Over the next five years, we want to focus on enhancing the ability of people affected by conflict to positively influence peace processes.
This means building and strengthening connections and learning between different peace initiatives – those taking place locally, nationally, regionally and internationally and improving the relationships between people in these different processes. It also means putting forward compelling justifications for the adoption of policies which prioritise people-centered peacebuilding and conflict prevention – encouraging investment in long-term, inclusive, and gender-sensitive approaches.
Few countries’ foreign policies see peacebuilding and negotiated solutions as the ‘go-to’ means to prevent or end violent conflict, or even as key elements in a broader strategy. Mediation is too often a poor relation to power diplomacy. But when it does come into focus, international peace support policies often prioritise the formal peace negotiating table over other essential peace initiatives, led by people within society. For peace to be sustainable, better ways have to be found to interweave what happens in formal processes to the transformative work of those outside the limelight - those peacebuilders leading change in their communities. Applying the research and learning gained through our practical peacebuilding work, we’ll ensure that our knowledge and evidence of how to do adaptive and creative peacebuilding reaches those people who have the power to change the status quo.
To ensure we achieve our ambitious goals for building better peace, we also need to build better structures in our organisation. In our new plan, we outline how strategic investment in our staff, our systems and our processes will enable us to deliver on our peace goals, develop evidence and learning of what works in peacebuilding, and share these in innovative and impactful ways. This investment is not only in our own organisation. We couldn't do what we do without the partners we work with, many of whom have worked with us, challenged us, since our earliest years. Over the next five years, we will commit time and resources to continue nurturing these partnerships, to enable our partners to do their work effectively and efficiently.
We are part of a peacebuilding community. Our work is strengthened by that of our peers. If the peacebuilding voice is heard more clearly, our work will be more effective. We are proud to contribute to the work of networks such as the European Peacebuilding Liaison Office, the Mediation Support Network, the Alliance for Peacebuilding, +Peace and Rethinking Security. Each in its own way extends the thinking and practice of our community and enables our voice to be clearer, more vibrant and more focussed. And we know that these networks need to incorporate the insight of partners and passionate peacebuilders in all the contexts in which we work.
The practice of peacebuilding has come a long way since Conciliation Resources started work in a back room in London, in 25 years we’ve built up a wealth of knowledge and experience of what works, and we’re always learning. As our world faces new and complex challenges, now is the time for us to make building better peace a priority.
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We challenge the status quo to find creative approaches to addressing violent conflict. We believe in working collaboratively, over the long-term. By working together, we can make peace possible.
With our courageous partners, and the vital support of our donors, we are helping people living with conflict to reduce and prevent violence in their communities. And we are guiding countries that have suffered decades of war, on to the path to peace.