South Sudan: Friendship Over Fear

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A civil war that has plagued South Sudan, the world’s newest country, over the past four years verges on ethnic genocide and has left half the prewar population in need of humanitarian aid. As the international community tries to help end the violence, the U.S. Institute of Peace brought two of the country’s promising young leaders—one from each side of the divide—to Washington to pursue research on ways to heal the rifts. By the end of their stay, they may have learned just as much from each other.Read more……

 

 

Top Civic Leaders Aid Nigerian Fight to Curb Extremism

Muslim and Catholic Clerics Pursue Strategy with Retired Army Chief, Foreign Minister and Others

By: Fred Strasser

Nigeria’s Roman Catholic cardinal urges his flock to embrace diversity. The spiritual leader of the country’s Muslims leads efforts to prevent radicalization and condemns Boko Haram. A former United Nations envoy advocates for professionalism among civil servants. A retired army chief of staff presses for the government to reach out more to alienated groups. These leaders and seven other prominent figures form a new high-level advisory group helping northern Nigeria’s powerful state governors address the social, religious and political forces that fuel extremist violence.

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The crisis in Nigeria’s north—including the Boko Haram insurgency and a looming famine that is related to the conflict—have forced more than 2 million people from their homes and destabilized other countries in the Lake Chad Basin. Confronting these conflicts falls in significant measure to Nigeria’s elected state governors, according to USIP Senior Advisor Johnnie Carson, a former assistant secretary of state for African affairs.The 11-member senior working group, brought together by the U.S. Institute of Peace to support a strategic approach to dealing with the sources of violent conflict in the north, is made up of some of the leading figures in Nigerian public life.

There is a limit to how much arms and guns can do in this matter.

Nigerian Cardinal John Onaiyekan
The Sultan of Sokoto,Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, is the highest authority in mainstream Islam in Nigeria. He and Roman Catholic Cardinal John Onaiyekan, the Archbishop of the capital, Abuja, are well-known for their Interfaith Initiative for Peace, which seeks to defuse conflict over issues ranging from elections to land use. Abubakar often says in public that terrorism has no place in Islam. Onaiyekan, in a Christmas television address last year, urged “peace and harmony” between religions and within each faith, in a country where divisions include the role of moral norms in legal codes.“We need to agree on the place of religion in our nation,” the Cardinal said. “If we sincerely want a nation that is united and integrated, we must work seriously towards one law for every citizen.”

Other members of the senior working group include former Chief of Defense Staff and Chief of Army Staff General Martin Luther Agwai, who led the U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur and last year headed a committee investigating violence in Kaduna state; Ibrahim Gambari, a former minister of foreign affairs and U.N. under-secretary-general who now heads the Savannah Center for Diplomacy, Democracy and Developmen in Abuja; Fatima Balla Abubakar, a well-known diplomat and politician; and Aisha Murtala Muhammed, the founder and chief executive of the Murtala Muhammed Foundation, an organization that seeks to bolster business philanthropy throughout Nigeria and Africa.

Thinking Strategically

“The working group aims to expand the conversation from ‘poverty is a cause of conflict’ to thinking practically and strategically,” said Oge Onugobu, a USIP senior program officer for Africa. “For example, where do you locate a school so no one feels disadvantaged? Or does some group appear to have impunity from prosecution? These are things the group, with its deep expertise, can help governors to consider and plan for.”

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H.E. Cardinal John Onaiyekan and Dr. Usman Bugaje in discussion at the senior working group meeting. Dr. Bugaje is an advisor to the Sultan of Sokoto.
With a population of 180 million, Nigeria is the continent’s most populous state and its biggest democracy. More than half of the country’s citizens live in northern Nigeria.USIP has worked for more than a decade with Nigerian civic, religious and government leaders to prevent or halt violent local conflicts. The initiative with the northern governors is funded by the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, and USIP collaborates with a local partner, the Center for Democracy and Development, in Abuja. Onubogu leads USIP’s programs on Nigeria and attended the senior working group’s first meeting on February 28 in Abuja.

A dozen of the northern governors met at USIP in October. They broadly  concluded that ending the war and poverty plaguing their region requires initiatives for education, reconciliation and political inclusion of minorities and women. The working group is aimed at developing plans to address those needs and keeping the governors focused on implementing them.

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Amb. Fatima Balla makes a point, as Dr. Chris Kwaja looks on.
The full working group meets with the governors next month for the first time. In preparation, it will conduct a review of peacebuilding initiatives in northern Nigeria. It also will examine a new peacebuilding organization in Plateau state to see if it’s a model other northern states could use.

A Microcosm of Nigeria

The Plateau State Peacebuilding Agency, a publicly-funded body under the governor’s office, was set up last year to reduce conflict in a state considered a microcosm of Nigeria for its social, ethnic and religious stresses. Over two decades, more than 5,000 people have died in communal violence in Plateau state, stalling economic development and shredding community trust.

The current governor determined that past crisis-oriented attempts to end the conflicts—from interfaith dialogues to citizen input to the use of security forces—were inadequate. The agency seeks to create institutional mechanisms for long-term peacebuilding, including conflict-resolution training, coordination among civil society groups and ongoing interfaith dialogue.

The working group’s efforts to advance stability in Nigeria remain urgent despite what President Muhammadu Buhari calls the”technical defeat” of Boko Haram, said Onubogu. The Cardinal said the same in his Christmas message, lauding Buhari’s efforts against the insurgency but saying, “It is not yet all over.”

“There is a limit to how much arms and guns can do in this matter,” he said. “Religious communities and leaders must come out to play their role, which is often very efficient and very cost effective, in comparison with budgets for military action.”

Source :USIP

As Netanyahu, Trump Meet, How to Keep Doors Open to Peace?

Can Israelis and Palestinians—With U.S. Support—Find a Vision and Take Steps Forward?

By:
Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington tomorrow is likely to produce at least a few initial signs of next steps in a decades-long conflict—and equally long efforts to resolve it. It’s unclear how President Trump will engage on the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but he has indicated his interest in “making the ultimate deal.” He also recently issued a statement on the unhelpful nature of settlements, and affirmed his commitment to the two-state solution.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a floor-to-ceiling map that has Israel at its center, in his office in Jerusalem, July 2016. Photo Courtesy of The New York Times/Uriel Sinai

Certainly, after decades of effort, initiatives to resolve this conflict engender cynicism. One Israeli analyst I recently met referred to the collective perennial diplomatic efforts as the “rest in peace” process, and a refrain from Palestinians is that diplomacy has been heavy on process, light on peace.

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Yet majorities of Israelis and Palestinians still support a two-state solution as the preferred end to the conflict, even while harboring pessimism regarding its prospects. As time passes, this goal becomes more difficult to implement as settlements expand, attitudes harden, political division persists, and mutual mistrust in the existence of a good-faith partner deepens.

But should President Trump take up the challenge, the opportunity still exists. Ultimately the onus is on the Israelis and Palestinians, but in this climate of leadership inertia, and against a backdrop of regional turmoil, there is a role for responsible U.S. engagement. Playing that role sits squarely within U.S. national security interests.

The broader Middle East may be on fire, but those who seek regional stability ignore the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at their peril. The conflict captures the imagination well beyond its borders, and remains an easy rallying cry for violent extremists. This also means that Israelis, Palestinians and many Arab states now share regional security interests. But cooperation among these players on mutual threats will be limited until there are clear signs of a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The prospect of pushing the parties to meaningful direct negotiations in the near term is dim, and trying is inadvisable. But things can, and should, be done short of that objective. Above all, progress will require a clearly-defined vision for how this conflict ends, an articulated commitment by the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships to a shared goal of a two-state solution, and practical steps on the ground that provide a tangible sense to the Israeli and Palestinian publics that the vision is achievable.

The U.S. cannot effectively go it alone as a third party, but it can lead in corralling our European and Middle Eastern allies around a coordinated package of incentives, disincentives and steps that pave the way. These include easing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza; advancing stronger governance and institutions in the West Bank; improving economic opportunity in East Jerusalem; halting settlement activity; guarding against official provocation and incitement; and strengthening support for civil society initiatives that build trust and prepare the ground for peace.

It’s a tall order, but clear avenues and mechanisms exist, should President Trump decide to take up the charge. Peace inevitably will require process, but to succeed, that process must be implemented with an unambiguous destination, and a set of defined landmarks en route.

Source : USIP

In a Divided U.S., One Event Proved There’s Still Bipartisan Foreign Policy

By:
Nancy Lindborg

Amid the public debate about America’s divisions, it may have been easy to miss this image just days before the inauguration: the national security advisers of Presidents Obama and Trump standing side by side to vow bipartisan cooperation in the transition of authority.

The advisers — Obama’s ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser — went beyond simple cordiality. Over two days, they met national security, diplomatic and international development leaders from across the political spectrum to explore common ground for the shaping of America’s foreign and security policies.

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America’s recent political acrimony has been profound, but this gathering — “men and women who have, between them, witnessed every crisis to buffet American national security for 40 years,” noted The Economist — transcended it.The conference, called ”Passing the Baton,” is convened by the U.S Institute of Peace at presidential transitions.

It showed that, even now, dialogue can build the bipartisan foundations of effective policies so vital for national security.

As the Trump administration and a new Congress take on America’s security and foreign policy challenges, here are areas of broad agreement that emerged at Passing the Baton:

1. U.S. leadership is indispensable and will require allies.

Even more than most elections, last year’s contest spurred talk of an isolationist America inclined to turn inward, away from many of its international engagements and allies. But oceans long ago ceased to buffer us against turmoil abroad and every administration ends up having to respond to global crises and the threats they raise for America.

“We have to … take on a much greater leadership role” that “whether we like it or not, the world demands,”Flynn told us. The new administration will review U.S. “relationships around the globe,” he said.

 

But he joined Rice and others from both parties in urging that the United States continue to work with our partners. “In fact, alliances are one of the great tools that we have, and the strength of those alliances magnify our own strengths,” Flynn said.

2. America’s engagement abroad will include “strengthening its platform” at home.

Democrats and Republicans agreed that the United States needs to reinforce internal foundations from which it exercises its role abroad. This means “strengthening our economy, getting our politics to work, [and] restoring our military” following years of exhausting deployments and budget sequestration, said former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, who served under President George W. Bush.

3. Getting ahead of crises abroad means addressing their root causes.

Across the political spectrum, policymakers and experts declared it urgent that the United States lead in an international partnership to focus on fragile states. These countries, governed ineffectively and often repressively, are generating the civil wars, extremism, refugees, pandemics and other crises that have roiled Europe and that threaten American security, noted retired Gen. Jack Keane.

Sen.Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) renewed his idea for an international public-private partnership — a “new Marshall Plan” — to offer greater development and investment to those states willing to enact tough reforms.

Graham and others noted that it is far cheaper to prevent crises in fragile states than to firefight wars and refugee emergencies after violence breaks out.The U.S Institute of Peace recently helped formulate strategic recommendations on that prevention work for the new Congress and administration.

4. U.S. policy must use all available tools and must strengthen those critical to building sustainable peace abroad.

Sens. Graham and Tom Cotton  (R-Ark.); former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who served under President Clinton; and others, military and civilian, all underscored America’s need for strong tools of diplomacy, development and reconciliation.

Many focused on what federal budgeters call “the 150 account,” which covers all international activities except national defense. This spending “is 1 percent of the budget” and “is a great tool in the war on terror,” said Graham. If setting a budget to improve America’s “defense doesn’t mean the 150 account, you made a huge mistake,” he said.

Development work in strategic areas is “incredibly inexpensive compared to … military systems,” said retired Adm. James Stavridis. “These are really penny-on-the-dollar investments.”

5. American policy will need a bipartisan response to attacks on the rules-based international regime.

Leaders from across America’s political spectrum voiced concern at aggression by Russia; military assertiveness by China; a weakening in Europe’s cohesion; and the outsized influence that small groups or individuals can wield through advanced technology and weapons. These signal an erosion in the international system that has managed conflicts and advanced shared values, effectively if imperfectly, for seven decades.

“The world won’t get more orderly without U.S. leadership,” noted Frederick Kempe of the Atlantic Council.

6. Successful foreign policies require long-term consistency — perhaps for a decade or a generation.

Only sustained, consistent policies can solve or prevent crises, and this underscores the need for a bipartisan core to those policies. As Albright noted, the world’s challenges don’t present themselves in four- or eight-year segments.

Last year’s peace deal to end Colombia’s civil war was facilitated by a U.S. policy of economic development, security assistance and support for peace negotiations sustained by three administrations over more than 16 years.

Not all the talk at the conference was harmonious. But Americans from all sides showed their commitment to cultivating common ground on our relationship with the world.

For decades, American leaders have agreed that a bipartisan basis for our foreign policy is essential. Those who gathered at the recent Passing the Baton conference showed that it remains possible.

Originally published in The Hill. Republished with permission.

Source : USIP

The Accord: Colombia’s Commitment to Peace

This accord seeks to correct an accumulation of historic inequities and injustices left unattended for far too long.

By:
Virginia M. Bouvier

There are landmark moments in the history of a nation that transcend borders and herald a new vision for the future. The signing of the peace accord in Colombia represents such a moment. If the Colombian people ratify the Havana peace agreement in the plebiscite scheduled for October 2, it will be the beginning of a transition that finally puts decades of war behind and opens the way to genuine peace. It will be mined across the globe for lessons that might apply to other intransigent conflicts.

Artwork of doves with the Spanish word for “yes,” urging support for a coming referendum, in the window of a kindergarten on the day of the signing of a peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in Bogota, Sept. 26, 2016. In a moment that generations of Colombians yearned to see, the state and Marxist insurgents confirmed an accord to end a 52-year-old conflict, the last major war in the Americas. (Federico Rios Escobar/The New York Times)
Artwork of doves with the Spanish word for “yes,” urging support for a coming referendum, in a window on the day of the signing of a peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC. Photo Courtesy of The New York Times/Federico Rios Escobar

As senior advisor for peace processes at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), an independent and bipartisan organization funded by the United States Congress, my work in the past decade has been dedicated to facilitating a political resolution to the armed conflict in Colombia. In this capacity, I have had the privilege of witnessing this process and multiple attempts to achieve peace. As a result, I recognize the significance, the challenges and the possibilities of this historic moment.

“Even in past peace processes in Colombia, the country has benefited from opening the way for ex-combatants to participate in politics.”

No one should underestimate the significance for Colombia of the signing of a peace accord. After four years of hard and steady work at the negotiating table in Havana, two bitter enemies have agreed to end a conflict that has lasted over half a century.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP), the most persistent insurgency in the Western Hemisphere, has promised to hand over all of their weapons within six months of the signing to the United Nations, the principal guarantor of both the ceasefire between the sides and the decommissioning of arms.

In exchange, the government has agreed to guarantee the FARC security conditions and 10 seats in Congress for the next two terms.

The practice of opening space in political life for insurgents who demobilize has helped make successful transitions in South Africa, Northern Ireland, El Salvador, Guatemala, the Philippines and other countries affected by armed rebellion. Even in past peace processes in Colombia, the country has benefited from opening the way for ex-combatants to participate in politics.
Preventing Resumption of War

The peace agreement not only silences the guns in Colombia but also provides a roadmap to prevent any resumption of warfare. The accord institutionalizes profound changes—though not radical ones—that go to the heart of the issues behind so many years of violence. This accord seeks to correct an accumulation of historic inequities and injustices left unattended for far too long.

These changes include long-delayed proposals such as formalization of land titles and a better balance of resources between rural areas and major cities; more equitable political participation with guarantees for everyone; development programs, credit, and plans that offer alternatives to illicit crop production; and a greater effort by the state to fight criminality.

The final agreement creates mechanisms to confront the past through historical memory in ways that conform to international standards. In addition to establishing a new comprehensive transitional justice system, both state and FARC representatives are taking responsibility for their victims in places including Putumayo, Bojayá, La Chinita, Valle del Cauca and Chocó.

Over the past year, without any media attention, each side has begun to offer symbolic reparations, as well as emotional relief, to victims, as they prepare to address the local impacts of the war and to implement a peace accord.
Innovations

For the world, the peace agreement in Colombia has additional significance. Colombia has introduced a series of innovations that are already becoming models for other countries in conflict. I will mention a few here:

First, the agreement formally signed in Cartagena provides evidence that peace is possible even in conflicts generally viewed as intractable. There are no conflicts where resolution is impossible, only conflicts that have not yet been resolved.

Second, Colombia has put its victims in the center of the process. The negotiators established shared principles on victims, they invited victims to participate at the negotiating table in Havana, they listened to their proposals, and they gave them a leading role in the new transitional justice system established by the accords. These roles are unprecedented.

Third, the accord provides a reasonable formula to balance the tension between peace and justice; the lead government negotiator, Humberto de la Calle, asserted that the accord achieved in Havana represents the best deal that could have been obtained. The Colombian formula is one of the first to explicitly deny amnesty or impunity for sexual violence or other war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. The amnesty it offers will apply only to crime of rebellion and related activities, a practice promoted by international humanitarian law when a war ends.

Fourth, the Colombian formula favors restorative justice. Rather than throw criminals in jail (generally at a high cost without many positive results), the new system (through the Special Jurisdiction for Peace) seeks to establish a dialogue between victims and victimizers that satisfies the rights of the victim to truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition of the wrongs committed. It goes futher, though, as it also seeks to contribute to reconciliation and to the restoration of the victim into society, and a constructive re-weaving of the social fabric.
Paths for Reconciliation

In Colombia (as in other countries like Sierra Leone), where perpetrators are often young or have been victims themselves, a generous approach can offer new paths for reconciliation. This process is being watched carefully from around the globe.

Fifth, the process offers some important innovations on the issue of gender. The table in Colombia established a gender sub-commission with a mandate to ensure the final agreement has a differential gender approach, something that was fully fulfilled. The only other peace process that ever set up a similar sub-commission was Sri Lanka’s, and theirs fell far short of Colombia’s.

Colombia’s final agreement reflects and responds to the differences in harm experienced by women and the LGBTI community. It meets the demands made by delegations of women, lesbians, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex people to protect their rights and recognize them as citizens equal before the law.

As the agreement is implemented, it is expected to close traditional social gaps that have blocked these groups’ access to land, credit and training, education and justice, and economic projects. It should also be noted that indigenous and Afro-descent organizations established an ethnic commission apart from the negotiations, spurred by their exclusion from the formal process and supported by members of the international community. At the last minute, this effort resulted in a chapter on ethnic groups placed at the end of the final peace accord document. The experience of these ethnic organizations reminded the international community that going forward, it will need to think more concretely about how to integrate excluded voices in other peace processes in order to avert new conflicts later.

At the end of the day, the significance of a peace process depends on the rigor with which it is implemented. For now, the route forward set by the accords is clear. The next hurdle is the referendum. The world watches with hope and anticipation, ready and willing to assist Colombia and contribute whatever it may need to end an anachronistic war.

While Colombia enters this new stage—one perhaps even more demanding than the negotiations themselves—the world wishes Colombia success and looks forward to learning from Colombian efforts to establish a stable, lasting and inclusive peace.

Virginia M. (Ginny) Bouvier is USIP’s senior advisor for peace processes. She also is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Latin American Studies; and editor of Colombia: Building Peace in a Time of War (also available in Spanish). Dr. Bouvier blogs at “Colombia Calls” at vbouvier.wordpress.com. This article first appeared in Spanish in the Colombian publication Portofolio: “El acuerdo: un compromiso de Colombia para la paz”
Source : USIP

Aid Is Key to Reform Local Forces on Rights, Leahy Says

By:
Sara Egozi
Restricting U.S. Assistance Aims for Rehabilitation, Not Punishment

The goal of a law that for two decades has barred U.S. aid to security forces that violate human rights is to rehabilitate culpable units, not just punish them, the statute’s author, Senator Patrick Leahy, told an audience at USIP this week. The senator and administration officials who also spoke highlighted a new interagency policy that promotes reform by restoring assistance to partner governments once they have held perpetrators accountable and moved to guard against future abuse.

“Frankly, this should have been happening a long time ago,” Leahy told about 200 representatives of government as well as non-profit groups, international organizations, academia and research institutions. Participants included officials from the Departments of State, Defense and Justice and the U.S. Agency for International Development. “Civilian and military officials at foreign posts should regularly discuss with their partners when and why units have been deemed ineligible for U.S. aid through the vetting process, and what steps the foreign government can and should take to remediate.”

The focus on remediation has intensified as U.S. security strategy moves to greater reliance on local partnerships to counter violent extremism and other threats. By insisting that local security forces respect human rights and demand accountability for violations, the U.S. is strengthening them, Leahy said. Accountability and conduct that complies with the rule of law is, in turn, crucial to those local partners getting the cooperation they need from local populations, he said.

The workshop event, co-hosted by the State Department and USIP, marked a step forward in how the U.S. partners with foreign governments and militaries to achieve the vision of the “Leahy Law,” as the 1990s-era provisions are known. The Feb. 11 discussion followed up on a related workshop almost a year ago that more broadly addressed how to employ U.S. security aid to promote accountability and prevention in connection with human rights violations.

The remediation policy, developed by an interagency committee a year ago, encourages U.S. officials stationed at embassies and combatant commands to engage in “Leahy Law Diplomacy.” That means helping governments refashion corrupt and abusive military and police units to end impunity so they can again receive U.S. assistance. In a series of panels, civilian and military officials, as well as non-profit and academic leaders, explored best practices in accountability, redressing human rights violations, and facilitating effective security partnerships.

Tom Malinowski, the State Department’s top human rights official, said remediation is fundamental to fulfilling the Leahy Law’s original intent of demanding accountability and avoiding U.S. complicity in human rights abuses.

By creating a path to restore assistance where governments make credible efforts at reform, remediation strengthens partnerships with foreign governments and helps build the capacity of security forces.

“This is the whole point of the Leahy Law,” said Malinowski, the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor. “It’s not to punish bad behavior for the sake of punishment, but to induce change.”

Leahy, Malinowski and Rebecca Chavez, deputy assistant secretary of defense for western hemisphere affairs, cited the success of remediation practices in countries including Afghanistan and Mexico. The number of abuse allegations filed with the Mexican National Human Rights Commission dropped by more than 50 percent over the past three years, Chavez said.

The accountability required by Leahy’s legislation is increasingly central to building trust between the U.S. and partner governments, as well as the local support necessary for effective security force operations, the officials said. As the U.S. leans more heavily on foreign militaries to resolve global crises, the Leahy Law, and the push for respect of human rights, will stay at the forefront of security priorities, they said.

Remarks of Senator Patrick Leahy

Thank you Nancy and Tom, and thanks to the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Department of State for hosting this discussion.

I also want to recognize USIP for the important and active role it is playing in efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts overseas.

There is really no other U.S. government entity that can bring together the Departments of State and Defense, USAID, and other Federal agencies, as well as nongovernmental organizations, to develop, coordinate, and implement strategies to prevent and resolve conflict.

This workshop is just one example of this.

I also want to publicly thank Laurie Schultz Heim, who is retiring after nine years as the congressional liaison for USIP.  I’ve known Laurie for a long time, when she was a top staff member for former Senator Jim Jeffords.  There is no question that – like countless Vermonters – this organization is better off thanks to Laurie.

I want to begin with two examples, which I picked at random, of what brings us here today–

In two weeks the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka will visit Washington.  In fact, he plans to speak here at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Those of you who follow events in Sri Lanka know that in the war between the government and the LTTE, and particularly in the final months of that war, tens of thousands of civilians sheltering in camps and hospitals died from shelling by the Sri Lankan army.  In addition, many of those suspected of being members of the LTTE were rounded up by Sri Lankan soldiers and killed.

The Sri Lankan Government is now faced with the question of how to respond to demands by the United Nations, the Sri Lankan people, and many governments including the United States, to punish those responsible for such crimes.

My second example is Nigeria, where Boko Haram is committing horrific atrocities against the local population.  The Nigerian military has mobilized against Boko Haram, but it has also been accused of raping and murdering civilians, in some instances reportedly shooting hundreds of innocent people.

Both Sri Lanka and Nigeria are friends of the United States.  Both have new governments that we support.  We provide hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Nigeria, and tens of millions of dollars in aid to Sri Lanka.

When I first wrote the Leahy Law 20 years ago I had these types of examples in mind, although back then my focus was on Central America.

As we have seen, Central America was not an aberration.  Impunity for crimes by foreign security forces – even some UN peacekeeping troops – remains a widespread problem.

The Leahy Law is designed to help prevent U.S. complicity in human rights abuses by foreign security forces, and encourage accountability when they occur.

Consider the alternative:  providing training and weapons funded by American taxpayers to foreign security forces who commit heinous crimes, even though their governments are doing nothing about it.

The challenge is how to apply the law to achieve what to some may appear to be competing or even incompatible national interests, but which I believe to be complementary.

It is a crime when Boko Haram commits rape and murder, but not when it is done by the Nigerian army?

It was a crime when the Tamil Tigers recruited child soldiers and used suicide bombers, but not when the Sri Lankan army targeted civilians and executed prisoners?

Of course is was.  And if we fail to recognize this we embolden those who would make a mockery of the principle that no one is above the law, and we do a grave disservice to the people of those countries.

When we partner with foreign security forces we automatically become involved in the internal affairs of those countries.  The way those forces act and are perceived by their own people reflects – positively, or negatively – on us.

When our partners, trained or equipped by us, commit abuses, we become complicit – or we are perceived to be complicit – in the predatory and abusive acts that erode the legitimacy of those forces.

I think most people understand this.

The Leahy Law makes clear that the United States will not tolerate or support foreign partners who violate the personal integrity, dignity, or due process of their citizens.  People who order, commit, or cover up such crimes should be prosecuted and punished.

The law also makes clear that those who use torture or shoot prisoners for reasons of political expediency, or because justice systems are slow or inefficient, will not receive U.S. support.

That is what the law requires when a foreign government rejects the need for accountability.

But that is not the outcome we want.  We want to help build professional, disciplined, transparent, and accountable security forces who are suitable partners for the United States.

We can do that not by treating them as if they are above the law – as we unfortunately sometimes have done – but by providing an incentive to answer to the law.

Many of these units may seem brazen and capable in the short term, and it is understandable to want to partner with them.  But we need military partners that are both capable and legitimate – who respect the rule of law, defend the rights of citizens, and build stability in their countries.

That is why the Leahy Law is not in conflict with the strategic, security focus on “building partner capacity” – whether in Nigeria, Sri Lanka, or anywhere else.  To the contrary – the law represents a convergence of universal values and national security interests.

As a former prosecutor, I understand the importance of accountability.  If our partners want to stop extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and forced disappearances, they need to send a clear signal that perpetrators will be held accountable.

We know that often requires significant reforms of judicial procedures and institutions.  And we know that building the capacity of civilian and military justice systems takes time.

We are not prescribing how accountability should be administered in every case, nor do we have unrealistic expectations for countries where the rule of law barely exists today.  We are looking for the political will to stop impunity, provide the right incentives, and send a positive signal to the citizens of those countries.

Disciplinary procedures and credible justice systems distinguish professional soldiers and police from criminals.

Accountability builds the public trust and support that security forces need to respond effectively to terrorism and other violent crimes.

That is why the Leahy Law puts so much emphasis on remediation.  We want to stress that U.S. officials – civilian and military – in Washington, at our embassies, and at the combatant commands, should look for opportunities to assist their foreign partners in remediating units of security forces that have violated human rights.

Frankly, this should have been happening a long time ago, because the Leahy Law has always provided for the restoration of U.S. aid if governments act to clean up abusive units.  The law explicitly requires the Secretary of State to assist governments that take such steps.

Yet, for many years the law was treated as a pie-in-the-sky idea the Congress wanted that should be ignored, rather than risk upsetting the sensitivities of foreign governments.

The law requires active diplomacy – “Leahy Law diplomacy.”  Civilian and military officials at foreign posts should regularly discuss with their partners when and why units have been deemed ineligible for U.S. aid through the vetting process, and what steps the foreign government can and should take to remediate.

I am encouraged that one year after the new remediation policy was developed by an interagency committee, there have been several cases where remediation has worked and there are other cases in the pipeline.

I hope we see more of this.  And I think we will, because the goal of the law is to improve conduct.

This workshop is an opportunity to discuss how our programs to help reform corrupt and abusive military, police, and judicial institutions – whether conducted by the Pentagon, the State Department, Justice Department, or USAID – are improving accountability.

  • Are these programs working, and if not why not?
  • Where have we seen progress in strengthening respect for the rule of law?  Where are perpetrators of human rights abuses being punished?
  • What tools can we offer to assist partner governments with investigations and prosecutions of specific cases of human rights abuses?
  • Are we seeing results from the Pentagon’s human rights training, or is it wishful thinking if abuses continue to be tolerated by high ranking military officers who may have been promoted despite – or even because of – their own criminal history?
  • Can we make progress in a country like Egypt, one of the largest recipients of U.S. military aid, whose government is persecuting civic activists and journalists and ignoring abuses by its security forces?
  • Is there a correlation between corruption – a pervasive problem in many developing countries – and human rights abuses that deserves greater scrutiny?

I look forward to hearing what comes out of today’s discussion.

I am also encouraged that, despite the occasional naysayer who wants to waive the Leahy Law or make exceptions when the facts do not support it, more and more people recognize that the law is less about making accusations than about defending human rights and building lasting partnerships we can be proud of.

They recognize that the alternative is indefensible – supporting abusive security forces that violate domestic and international law and whose governments tolerate or even encourage it.

That is not acceptable to the United States and it should not be acceptable to our partners.

Thank you Nancy, Tom and all of you for helping make the Leahy Law what it needs to be.

Source : USIP

Defeating ISIS Through Civil Resistance?

Striking Nonviolently at Sources of Power Could Support Effective Solutions

By:
Maria J. Stephan

The extremist group ISIS exhibits attributes of both an insurgency and a totalitarian regime. Even top U.S. generals acknowledge that military force alone is insufficient to degrade, much less defeat an organization that rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. ISIS will only be weakened through a multifaceted strategy combining diplomatic, economic, political and other means. Organized civilian action that aims to disrupt and deny the group’s key sources of power could be a critical part of that strategy.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr/Montecruz Foto

Civil resistance can be defined as a strategy of political struggle involving individuals and groups that organize themselves and use techniques such as refusing to cooperate with those in control. That might entail non-cooperation with certain rules or practices or a tenacious collective rejection of the entire system of control. Although the forms and targets of non-cooperation in the case of ISIS will undoubtedly vary by locality, collective disobedience could contribute to an aggressive containment of ISIS and help dissolve its roots by weakening its legitimacy and support base.

“While it is unlikely that core members of ISIS’s punishment brigades will succumb to civic pressure, it is not unthinkable for lower-ranking foot soldiers to begin to question orders.”

Before considering the role of civil resistance, one should assess the motivations and capabilities of this group, also known as ISIL, the Arabic acronym Daesh or the group’s self-conferred moniker “Islamic State.” ISIS’s central political goal is to re-establish an Islamic caliphate, which has not been seen since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. Its strategy to achieve this political vision is, first, military conquest to claim control over territory, starting with Iraq and Syria; and second, to establish functional governance in that territory as a means to legitimize its religious authority.

The theoretical and practical challenge for civil resistance scholars is how collective nonviolent action, both within and outside ISIS territory, can be used to disrupt the patterns of cooperation and obedience on which ISIS depends and deny it the human and material resources it needs to wield control. How can sporadic, localized nonviolent action in ISIS-controlled parts of Syria and Iraq be supported and expanded to a significant scale? One approach would be to apply the six sources of power defined by scholar Gene Sharp, the founder of the Albert Einstein Institution, to ISIS and suggest ways they could be severed through civil resistance.

Authority, or perceived legitimacy, is the quality that leads people to voluntarily obey commands, accept decisions, accede to requests or follow suggestions. It is the perceived right to command or direct the actions of others. ISIS’s ideology is coherent and its vision of an alternative religious-political reality is compelling to many Arabs and Muslims disillusioned with the status quo.

Simply declaring ISIS “un-Islamic” is unlikely to make much headway. Instead Islamic scholars, both Sunni and Shia, who are well-versed in Koranic text could offer pointed renunciations of ISIS’s religious interpretations. In addition, the increasing number of recruits and their families, who have grown disillusioned living under ISIS’s rule, could act as powerful counter-voices to the righteous narrative put forward by ISIS.

Social Media and Satire

“In both the short and long terms, the role of organized civilians in challenging extremist, totalitarian ideology and subverting its power is neither negligible nor insignificant.”

Amplifying these voices and their stories—by supporting and coordinating a united social media campaign, for example—could prove a more fruitful course of action for Western governments that have attempted to create and propagate their own counter-narratives. Digital resistance that enables and empowers credible Arab and Muslim voices should be part of any counter-ISIS strategy.

Humor and satire, which have served an important role in Arab culture going all the way back to its ancient poetry, are among the most powerful ways to undermine ISIS’s legitimacy. Humor, according to scholar Majken Jul Sørensen’s research, allows resisters to undermine an oppressor in a manner that is less confrontational than other tactics like protests or street demonstrations and can also help build movement solidarity.

In Raqqa, Syria, ISIS’s de facto capital, humor has become a staple of anti-ISIS resistance. In response to ISIS’s campaign of terror, television networks and social media throughout the Middle East have used comedy to ridicule the group’s radical views. Given that expressions of art and culture are banned in ISIS-controlled areas, which additionally suffer from power cuts and unreliable internet access, the use of humor to strengthen the resistance will likely be most effective in areas outside of ISIS control.

A second source of power for such rulers are the people who obey, cooperate with or give assistance to the powerholders. ISIS didn’t take over large swaths of Iraq and Syria without the active and passive support of many people. ISIS relies on the skills and resources of imams, engineers, tax collectors and a wide array of others in a society to exert control and influence.

But members of these groups are not equally loyal to ISIS, and there have been several documented cases of popular challenges to ISIS policies and practices. One of ISIS’s greatest vulnerabilities is its inability to provide reliable, good-enough governance to those under its control for an extended period of time. Disruptions in service delivery, joblessness and inflation are as problematic for ISIS as they are for official government leaders.

While mass protests are highly risky under ISIS, there are other tactics that could slow or thwart the smooth functioning of its operations: deliberate underperformance in ISIS administration, sharing of important documents and information with activists and outside supporters and nonviolent sabotage of oil production facilities and other infrastructure, for example.

In instances where sources of power range beyond the immediate domestic context, scholars have found that effective civil resistance requires extending the nonviolent battlefield. One example is disrupting the relationship between ISIS recruiters and potential recruits. Hacktivists from groups like Anonymous are already subverting ISIS’s social media communications.

Cross-Section of Support to ISIS

Besides the trigger-pullers and trained jihadis, ISIS also relies on a cross-section of support from municipal governments, banks, information technology firms and others. ISIS will only be able to create and sustain a functioning state if these groups provide the knowledge and know-how required to do their job.

Each of these groups present vulnerabilities for ISIS’s administrative and governance functions if some of their members either fail to perform as they are expected to, or else begin to disobey actively (though likely quietly). Non-cooperation by the business community also could be potentially consequential, though difficult to organize.

A fourth source of power identified by Sharp is the control of natural and other resources, such as money, land, computers, communications and transportation. ISIS commands a sizeable amount of territory and is organized as a highly efficient company, whose operations are fueled through a self-financing business worth an estimated $2 billion. According to a Rand Corporation report cited by the New York Times, ISIS relies on extortion and taxation, taking in more than $1 million per day, to fund its activities.

Preventative action targeting communities in territories abutting or close to ISIS-controlled parts of Iraq and Syria is another way to both deter ISIS activities and deny the organization a steady supply of material resources. Studies reveal that organizations pursuing nonviolent action who were most self-motivated were also the most capable of “nudging” non-state armed groups while remaining resilient to violence. Civilian deaths were lower in places that had high concentrations of autonomous organizations.

This finding suggests that supporting whatever indigenous ability exists for local communities to organize across sectarian divisions would challenge a key facet of ISIS strategy and help strengthen them in the event of a future ISIS attack. For example, in Iraq, active shuttle diplomacy by a group of mediators from the Network of Iraqi Facilitators helped prevent a sectarian-based spiral of revenge violence following the massacre, by ISIS, of 1,700 Shia cadets at Camp Speicher near the city of Tikrit in July 2014.

Sharp also cites intangible sources of power, such as psychological, cultural and ideological factors that promote obedience to and cooperation with those in power. This may include habits, traditions, religious beliefs, language conventions, a sense of belonging or the presence or absence of a common faith, ideology, or sense of mission.

ISIS is tapping into a number of intangibles—notably a desire for identity, belonging and participation in a meaningful enterprise—to attract adherents and fighters. For alienated Muslim youth in particular, the prospect of joining a seemingly powerful, mission-focused organization holds great appeal. Even some Muslim women, facing family and societal pressures and increasingly enabled by social media, are responding to ISIS’s call for participation in the larger-than-life struggle of reconstructing a caliphate.

Honorable, Dignified Lifestyle

Using poignant testimonials by defectors to undermine ISIS’s claim to be providing an honorable, dignified lifestyle to devout Muslims is only part of the solution. Dissolving the roots of ISIS terrorism requires empowering people with the tools and narratives to challenge the injustices that give rise to violent extremism.

Disempowered youth need to be shown alternative means to achieve social justice and political inclusion. Using the rich history of Muslim and Arab-led nonviolent struggles as a cultural reference, and dramatizing these struggles and their leaders using popular media and educational tools, needs to be part of a longer-term solution to extremism.

The final source of power in Sharp’s list of six is punishment of those who disobey, typically by seizure of assets, imprisonment or execution. ISIS is infamous for its use of penalties, often brutal, to terrorize the populations under their control and to deter dissent.

Making ISIS’s use of corporal punishment backfire politically would be the goal of any potential nonviolent action. According to Brian Martin, there are two conditions for “backfire.” First, an action is perceived as unjust, unfair, excessive or disproportional. Second, information about the action is communicated to relevant audiences.

Certain ISIS actions have provoked counter-mobilization and resistance by those living under the group’s control. There have been isolated instances of ISIS releasing political prisoners in response to organized protests by women and others. While it is unlikely that core members of ISIS’s punishment brigades will succumb to civic pressure, it is not unthinkable for lower-ranking foot soldiers to begin to question orders. The more organized and unified the community is, the greater the chance that such questioning, and potentially changed behavior, would occur.

ISIS keeps its grip on power by inserting itself in all aspects of societal life and by destroying any sort of autonomous political action. In this way, ISIS exhibits features of both a totalitarian regime and a socio-religious movement.

‘Greatest Threat to Totalitarian Rule’

German philosopher Hannah Arendt’s ruminations about totalitarianism and its vulnerabilities are instructive in terms of possible civil resistance responses to ISIS: “The greatest threat to totalitarian rule, and the main target of total terror, is human spontaneity or ‘man’s power to begin something new out of his own resources, something that cannot be explained on the basis of reactions to environment and events.’

Arendt recognized that human agency and eruptions of spontaneous political action are threatening to totalitarian regimes. This type of political action is extremely difficult in full-blown totalitarian dictatorships. However, it is not unimaginable. We have seen spontaneous outbursts of protest activity lead to small victories in ISIS-controlled parts of Iraq and Syria. These incidents should be further studied for what allowed the local communities to exert leverage over ISIS, so that models could be developed for support to such actions.

If ISIS perpetuates its totalitarian-esque control by blocking any sort of autonomous collective action, then the civil resistance antidote is to support self-organization in various forms. An organized population that demonstrates the ability and inclination to act independently of ISIS is a threat to the group.. Local organization can take different forms, especially since protests and direct confrontations may be inappropriate in many cases.

Outsiders—governments and international non-governmental organizations—can support community resilience and subtle forms of non-cooperation with ISIS by helping Syrians and Iraqis create parallel structures and institutions. Practically, this entails providing educational materials and medical supplies to Iraqi and Syrian men and women who may be leading underground schools and medical clinics. It means offering trauma support to those who have been victimized by ISIS and are struggling to re-enter normal life. It requires supporting alternative media and communication channels and getting non-ISIS news and information into the territories it controls and into adjacent areas. This also involves supporting authentic local and regional voices with the cultural heft and legitimacy to challenge the absurdity of ISIS tyranny.

Furthermore, attempting to dismantle ISIS without addressing the severe governance failures and venal corruption that fueled its rise is futile. The civil war in Syria is the greatest humanitarian catastrophe of our time. The displacement, destruction and despair resulting from the war, spurred on by dictatorial criminality and regional proxy conflicts, gave rise to ISIS in Syria and are sustaining its presence there.

A political solution to the Syrian civil war that includes a regional accord involving Iran and Saudi Arabia, and a greater investment in those Syrian individuals and organizations that are capable of mediating across conflict lines, may be the only way to eliminate ISIS in the long term. In addition, strengthening inclusive, representative governance in Iraq, Libya, Tunisia and other countries that have spawned ISIS recruits will help dry up the roots of violent extremism.

In both the short and long terms, the role of organized civilians in challenging extremist, totalitarian ideology and subverting its power is neither negligible nor insignificant. Countering extremist narratives by amplifying local and regional voices capable of making a compelling religious, social and cultural case against ISIS is an essential role for those outside seeking a resolution of this devastating conflict. Counter-narratives, in turn, should be backed by organized collective action and support for autonomous political, economic and social activities. Investing in the strengthening of this type of people power is relevant not only for the fight against ISIS, but for the injustices and governance failures that catapulted its rapid spread.

Maria J. Stephan is a senior policy fellow at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. A more extensive version of this article was first published in the Journal of Resistance Studies Volume 1, Number 2 – 2015 and is available free of charge through that site’s shopping cart feature. The author would like to thank Chelsea Dreher, Danny Hajjar and Siree Aller for their research assistance.

Source :USIP

Lindborg Calls Humanitarian Summit a ‘Wake-Up Call’

NPR, Reuters: USIP President Urges ‘Political Will’ to End Violent Conflicts

By:
USIP Staff

The first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, held this week in Istanbul, should spur political leaders around the globe to recognize that “the world is on fire,” USIP President Nancy Lindborg said. The international community is failing to muster the political will to end the violent conflicts that have ignited the globe’s most dire humanitarian crisis since World War II, she said in interviews at the conference.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr/World Humanitarian Summit

Lindborg noted that 80 percent of global humanitarian aid is directed to victims of violent conflict and 20 percent to recovery from natural disasters—a ratio reversed from as recently as a decade ago. While the world’s response to natural events has improved, it must better address the needs of people suffering from warfare, she said in remarks reported by National Public Radio, Reuters and the Christian Science Monitor.

Reducing the violent conflicts that are driving the largest displacement of people since World War II will require not only political will, Lindborg has argued. It also will demand a greater focus on building more inclusive governance, and thus greater resilience, in countries facing violent conflict. And the world must commit to long-term work to prevent or help countries recover from such conflicts, rather than treating them as short-term emergencies, she has said.

See the Problem to Solve It

By “putting a spotlight directly on these needs,” the World Humanitarian Summit advanced efforts to solve them, Lindborg said after the conference ended. “This conference was more inclusive,” she said, gathering humanitarian organizations with development organizations and governments to discuss ways to better work together.

Over the past year, Lindborg has underscored the need to change the world’s approach to humanitarian assistance amid violent conflicts. Last week she raised the issue in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the war in Syria.

Observations by Lindborg reported from the summit included these:

  • “The summit is a giant wakeup call to the political leadership that, hey, the world is on fire. We can fix how we provide humanitarian assistance, but you need to muster the political will to end these terrible conflicts.” —Reuters
  • “Ultimately it’s going to take crisis prevention and decisions at the top political levels to really address this.” —Christian Science Monitor
  • “We’ve made tremendous progress in the humanitarian system in terms of our ability to alleviate and recover from natural disasters. But none of this matters if it all gets tossed over by violent conflict.” —Christian Science Monitor
  • “These disasters [violent conflicts] are the hardest crises to respond to, and they’re lasting longer. … So it has increased the intensity and the urgency of making the most of our humanitarian action.” —National Public Radio
  • “The innovative aspect of humanitarian response has been percolating for about a decade, but as awareness of an expanding crisis has grown, what we’re seeing is that the people with the skills, the energy, and the ideas for innovation are increasingly applying that spirit to making a difference in the humanitarian arena.” —Christian Science Monitor
  • Source : USIP

Africa: What Does New Momentum for UN Peace and Security Really Mean?

Peacekeeping - ONUB
Force Commander, Major-General Derrick Mbuyiselo Mgwebi, during the military parade. ONUB Photo/ Mario Rizzolio. MHQ, Bujumbura, Burundi. International Day of UN Peace Keepers

A famous maxim of uncertain origin defines insanity as doing the same thing repeatedly, but expecting different results. In her opening statement at the United Nations (UN) High-Level Thematic Debate on Peace and Security, Nobel Peace laureate Leymah Gbowee used this definition to describe challenges faced by UN engagements in peace operations and peacebuilding.

The 10-11 May meeting, called by the president of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and themed In a world in risks: a new commitment for peace, provided a platform to reflect on current challenges to international peace and security. These focused, in particular, on responses to the 2015 reviews on peace operations, peacebuilding, and women, peace and security.

The reviews were a response to the realisation that the important role of the UN in supporting many countries emerging from conflict is often challenged by the re-emergence of such conflict. Following a period of increased peace in the early 2000s, global conflict has again risen in the past five years. Additionally, with the growing presence of violent extremism, the need for different approaches from the UN and others, including the African Union (AU), is becoming ever more urgent.

The UN is currently scrutinising candidates for the position of secretary-general, and this person will have a critical role in implementing the outcomes of the different reviews. The election of a new secretary-general must therefore be kept in mind when considering the process of reviewing UN peace and security tools.

Whoever succeeds Ban Ki-moon will have the difficult task of coordinating and pushing for real changes within the UN system. Many of the most salient recommendations provided at the different reviews require much institutional change and political buy-in. For these to be used effectively, the incumbent will need to be capable of making contentious decisions; and not only those that solely depend on the UN Secretariat to be addressed.

The next secretary-general will have to push for difficult political conversations among member states on how the agenda could be made more effective. Along these lines, the Ethiopian foreign minister, Tedros Adhanom, stated that implementation is absolutely critical in the aim of a paradigm shift and for credibility to be restored.

Ahead of the high-level event, many governments and global think tanks shared their concerns and hopes surrounding the UN peace and security reviews. This included the risk of failing to focus on effective implementation, and the need for strong buy-in from countries to ensure that changes actually occur.

The new UN secretary-general will not be able to respond to all of these issues alone – nor should they be expected to. Member states must support the UN peace and security architecture through continued funding and political will, beyond providing positive responses in an open thematic debate.

Promisingly, member states largely supported the findings of the review reports. Member states, civil society, and academics all emphasised the findings of the reports in relation to prevention, the primacy of politics, the role of regional organisations (particularly the AU) and the need for more sustained financing for UN engagements in peace operations and peacebuilding processes.

South Africa’s statement summarised this. It presented that the UN and regional organisations should adopt a more holistic, long-term preventive approach in addressing conflicts and its root causes, thereby moving beyond managing conflicts as they arise.

That there seemed to be consensus among such a diverse group of countries is a promising indication of increased unity on some of the evolving principles surrounding peace and security responses.

Many actors, for example, mentioned the importance of creating an enabling environment where implementation, leadership and political will become the core aspects of UN peace and security structures and responses. There were also, however, words of caution. Brazil and Egypt stressed that for the three reviews to be successful, broader and more systemic reform of the UN system is needed. Another key challenge was how coordinated approaches among different UN organs could be enhanced.

Countries like Mali and Sweden also emphasised that peacebuilding efforts are likely to fail without honest acceptance of national and local ownership over processes. Margot Wallström, Sweden’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated that peacebuilding takes place at a national level, undertaken by national actors – and that while international actors can provide support, facilitation and accompaniment, they can never lead.

The UNGA meeting also indicated that a difficult road lay ahead in convincing member states of the need to change their methods of interaction. This is significant from an African perspective. Many agree on the importance of respectful cooperation among international, regional and sub-regional partners. However, stronger mutual understanding of comparative advantages for addressing conflicts, notably between the UN and AU, must also be fostered.

This was well presented by Macharia Kamau, Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN and Chair of the UN Peacebuilding Commission. Kamau stated that we cannot have peace in the world when we don’t respect each other as regions and treat our institutions as equals.

The key idea of bringing conflict prevention to the forefront of the UN responses seems, in principle, to be well accepted. But there are still many questions on what it really means for specific roles and responsibilities within the UNGA, the Security Council, and the Peacebuilding Architecture.

Some countries presented concerns around the risk of equating prevention to interventions. However, Ramos Horta, former president of Timor Leste and chair of the peace operations review panel, highlighted an important interpretation of the concept.

He stated that prevention is not just an action, it is the space to provide assistance in addressing root causes, including those related to development. Similarly, while many agree that sustaining peace is a core goal of the UN, there is also a risk that this concept is increasingly becoming lost within its complicated and complex bureaucracy.

Currently there are diverse views on how stronger coherence can be created between different organs of the UN; notably the Peacebuilding Support Office, the Department of Political Affairs, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the role of UN Agencies, Programmes and Funds. Many called for stronger coordination between these organs, and it was also mentioned that trust has to be rebuilt between member states and the Secretariat.

The P5 members remained notably reserved during the discussions at the debate. Given that the P5 hold disproportionate influence over the potential success of the reviews’ objectives, a more significant contribution could have bolstered political momentum on the three reviews.

In her opening speech, Gbowee emphasised that if we want peace, we must invest in peace. Therefore, the role of the P5 in providing resources for peacebuilding initiatives is critical.

If the UN wants different peace and security results, it must be serious in its ‘new commitment for peace.’ A new focus on preventative action is important, but risks becoming a vague concept that is neither fully understood, nor effectively implemented. Rather, to be holistic, pragmatic and nimble, the UN must ensure that the necessary requirements – notably funding, political will and member-state leadership – are provided.

And thus, the UN must not only be able to identify when and where its actions went wrong, but also boldly act on its own recommendations.

Gustavo de Carvalho, Senior Researcher, Peace Operations and Peacebuilding Division, ISS Pretoria and Jonathan Rozen, independent researcher and writer, Toronto

Source : Institute of Security Studies