UK announces funding for pioneering approach to global conflict resolution

The new four-year Smart Peace programme combines the expertise of consortium members to address the challenges of building sustainable peace in some of the world’s most fragile states. Smart Peace is funded through the Department for International Development’s UK Aid Connect award.

The Smart Peace consortium consists of The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, The Asia Foundation, International Crisis Group, The Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich, Behavioural Insights Team and Chatham House, coordinated by Conciliation Resources.

The consortium’s bespoke blend of experience and networks, enables a combination of analysis, adaptive programming, experimentation and rigorous evaluation – leading to a potential step change in approaches to conflict resolution. Learning what works and adjusting activities to rapidly changing political situations are key features of Smart Peace. The resulting insights will help communities, international NGOs and governments to plan and implement peace strategies with greater confidence.

Alistair Burt, who is Minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development states:

"The UK has played a major role in the resolution of several conflicts. I’m therefore pleased that UK Aid Connect will support the Smart Peace project to develop more effective ways of finding peace. By bringing together expertise from around the world, UK aid is helping to develop a deep understanding of the political, economic and social complexities surrounding conflict. It is also developing innovative solutions to improve the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people living in areas affected by conflict."

The need to respond to fragility presents a pressing global challenge – the incidence of violent conflict around the world has spiked dramatically since 2010, with the number of people displaced by violence and conflict reaching 68.5 million by the end of 2017.

Dialogue and mediation are proven to be effective in preventing and resolving conflicts – which are often complex, political and frequently-changing. But there is a gap in understanding of how these approaches can respond quickly to shifting political processes and overcome obstacles that block progress.

This new programme will help to fill this knowledge gap by combining different areas of expertise – new conflict resolution techniques, complex conflict analysis, and behavioural change, which uses information from psychology and cognitive science to understand and influence how people make choices.

Jonathan Cohen, Executive Director at Conciliation Resources, comments:

"To transform a state from violent conflict to peace and stability requires changes at all levels of society. Dialogue and mediation are fundamental within that process. This funding will enable the consortium to make conflict resolution mechanisms smarter, more strategic and adaptive so we are better placed to help prevent violence and tackle the root causes of conflict in the future."

This announcement comes at a time when a number of conflicts dominate the headlines, and there is an acceptance that more needs to be done to find alternative ways of dealing with the challenges these pose. A recent survey suggests that conflict resolution approaches also have the backing of the British public. According to the survey, 71% of the UK public believe that peacebuilding ‘plays a vital role in ending conflicts’, and 60% think that the UK should be investing more in peacebuilding.

News of the award came at a meeting of peacebuilding and policy experts organised by leading UK peacebuilding organisations Conciliation Resources, International Alert, Peace Direct and Saferworld. Discussions at the event focused on positive examples of building peace across the Middle East, and the UK Government’s role in supporting these.