The work of International Peacebuilding addresses issues of disharmony, violence, crime and war by identifying their underlying causes and implementing nonviolent solutions that promote sustainable peace.
Much of international peacebuilding consists of conflict prevention techniques that prevent violence from escalating into war. The Peace Alliance works to help create the political and social will to invest in this work, advocating improved government infrastructure and direct funding of effective programs.
War-torn societies, characterized by high rates of displacement, damaged infrastructure, and weak or absent institutions are also more vulnerable to disease and may under some conditions provide fertile ground for other international ills like arms trafficking, transnational crime, and terrorist networks. With such cases having risen sharply in the recent past, the work of International Peacebuilding is more important now than ever.
The Peace Alliance is a member of the Prevention and Protection Working Group, a coalition of human rights, religious, humanitarian, anti-genocide, peace and other organizations dedicated to improving U.S. government policies and civilian capacities to prevent violent conflict including mass atrocities, and protect civilians threatened by such crises. The PPWG identifies several issues as among the most pressing in addressing war-torn regions – key of which is the discussion of economic and strategic policy instruments that could have a powerful effect in combating state fragility and reversion to war, such as terms of trade, monetary policy, management of currency fluctuation, among other aspects. Additionally PPWG focuses on ensuring that relevant government actors are dedicated to the effectiveness of stabilization and peacebuilding operations through enhancing civilian capability as well as interoperability among international actors.
Over recent years, the architecture and mechanisms for international peacebuilding have improved considerably. There is a much greater understanding of the complexities of peacebuilding, more self-critique about the limits of international aid/assistance, and increasing appreciation of the unique demands of specific situations, particularly over questions of state-society relations and governance. Read more from Charles Call and Elizabeth Cousens in: Ending Wars and Building Peace: International Responses to War-Torn Societies.
Below are three key internationally focused peacebuilding agencies in the U.S. government that we work to keep funded and to keep their focus on leading-edge peacebuilding practices.
United States Institute of Peace (USIP)
The United States Institute of Peace was created by Congress as a nonpartisan, independent organization in 1984. Its main mandate has been prevention and mitigation of international conflict in a nonviolent manner. If the prevention and mitigation is successful, it saves the United States government the money (and lives) that would have been spent in intensive and expensive armed conflict. In the past year, budget cuts have hurt many peace supporting institutions, including the USIP which saw a 6% reduction in funding.
Programs at the USIP apply across the world in conflict resolution, mediation, post-conflict peace, and violence prevention. The institute is crucial for moving United States foreign policy toward a culture of peace, rather than a culture of aggression. The USIP’s previous budget was $42 million, merely the equivalent of sending approximately 39 soldiers to Afghanistan. The USIP has had an established office in Kabul since 2008 and has continued to establish programs throughout the country. Another program to specifically highlight, in contrast to United States war efforts, is the USIP program in Iraq, based in its office in Baghdad which was established in 2004. There, dialogue has been fostered amongst groups previously in conflict and USIP has supported new NGOs in the region.
International programs cannot be supported without a stable budget. Programs that are created to help maintain peace after a conflict situation, which are a main component of the USIP, are rarely financially supported independently, but yet are a crucial part of the prevention of future hostility, and therefore future costs. The USIP budget goes toward a wide variety of peace building missions, grants, and fellowships.
Examples of Key Projects and Functions of USIP:
- Peace-building educational initiatives in Afghanistan
- Research and policy analysis in Iran
- Promotion of dialogue, security, and stability in Iraq
- Issue engagement in the Sudan and South Sudan.
Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO)
The Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO), a part of the State Department, was created in 2011 to improve the US Government’s ability to predict and prevent conflicts. At any given time, CSO works intensely with 3 or 4 countries, engaging women, youth, and other local leaders to try and gather information about what interventions would truly make a difference in building peace. Right now, CSO’s priorities are Kenya, Syria, Honduras, and Burma, with smaller engagements in Central Africa, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Senegal.
In Kenya, CSO worked to prevent a return of the post election violence that killed 1,300 people and displaced 350,000 5 years ago. With the work of CSO and others, the level of violence after the 2013 election was dramatically reduced, with only 20 people killed. With Syria, CSO is working to unify the and strengthen the moderate opposition groups, building local governments and creating the skills and resilience needed for the eventual transition of power. CSO is working with police and civil society in Honduras, with one of the world’s highest homicide rates, to reduce corruption throughout the Government Security apparatus and restore public trust. And efforts in Burma are helping to build bridges between the government and ethnic minorities.
In deciding where and how they use their resources, CSO draws on a variety of diverse sources, including diplomatic intelligence and media reports, “big data” platforms, polling, local interviews, and international expertise. A major goal as well is to try and bring all the various US and other outside actors in a region, including ambassadors, USAID, the Defense Department, and NGOs in closer communication with each other and with the local leaders in the countries where they operate. With its focus on proactively breaking cycles of violence, CSO is an increasingly valuable and appreciated tool for the US Government.
Complex Crises Fund (CCF)
The Complex Crises Fund (CCF) provides unprogrammed money for the State Department and USAID to ‘prevent and respond to unforeseen crises. In just a few short years, it has become one of the most highly demanded tools in the US foreign policy toolkit, allowing the State Department and USAID to make rapid investments in prevention, stabilization, and crisis response. In 2014, funds from the CCF have been used for conflict mitigation between refugees and hosts in Jordan, and community peacebuilding in the Central African Republic.
The CCF provides for prevention support, post-conflict support, or in countries/regions at high risk of conflict or escalation of conflict, with a goal of targeting the root causes of conflict. The CCF can also be used to support immediate responses by the CSO, in the past up to $10 million.
The CCF was created in 2010 and has since provided critical support for programs in Kenya, Kyrgystan, Sri Lanka, Cote D’Ivoire, Tunisia, and Yemen. CCF provided a quick use of funds for civilian response programs that also involved the host government’s participation. Since the Arab Spring, there has been a new focus on providing support for fledgling democracies at risk of conflict.
In today’s world, highly responsive humanitarian and diplomatic assistance is often required to prevent and end conflict, and the CCF is an important tool to provide civilian and humanitarian response to potential atrocities, preventing the need for later military involvement. The lack of funding and availability of immediate funds for civilian response groups has often led to their ineffectiveness, creating a cycle of apathy towards their funding. This leads to an increase of funding and use of immediate military response, rather than investment in the less costly option of conflict prevention. The CCF is pioneering a new and much more responsive model of funding that has increased the effectiveness of US aid and diplomacy in the world.
Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation
Founded in 2002, CMM works within USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance. Their “People-to-People Reconciliation Fund” brings together individuals of different ethnic, religious or political backgrounds from areas of civil conflict and war – creating opportunities for adversaries to resolve conflicts, reconcile differences, promote greater understanding and mutual trust, and work on common goals toward reducing conflict. CMM has supported over 135 peacebuilding projects in 35 countries and awarded over $115 million in grants for “people-to-people” reconciliation programs.
For example, in Israel and Palestine, CMM has been heavily involved with efforts to build bilingual schools, civil society organizations, peace oriented think tanks, and other institutions where Israelis and Palestinians live and work together, with the hope that building trust and stability between the two peoples will create current and future leaders who will be able to create a long term peace.
CMM also plays a heavy role in developing analytical frameworks that help other government agencies learn how to understand and work in conflict environments. They have trained over 500 U.S. Government and non-government partners in tools that ensure a peacebuilding approach in conflict-affected areas. CMM provides conflict assessments for over 60 countries that help government agencies and NGOs to understand the dynamics of individual conflicts, allowing them to design their programs in conflict sensitive ways, and offer technical assistance both in planning and implementation.