The G7 Summit’s priorities this year include: “Building a more peaceful and secure world. As the nature of conflict changes, it’s more important than ever to reach out to our partners and build solutions that can deliver lasting peace.” Just how great are the human and economic costs of violent conflict? According to the Institute for Economics and Peace, the economic impact of violence containment on the world economy is $9.46 trillion per year, equaling almost 11 percent of World GDP.
How can G7 focus their resources to effectively “reach out to our partners and build solutions that can deliver lasting peace”?
We suggest that the partners must ultimately be local actors: those regularly affected by conflict and living with the consequences. The Liberian Pen-Pen Peace Network is an example of a local actor. Formed in 2013, the Network consists of actors from multiple sectors including everyday citizens who have collaborated to prevent violence related to strained intercommunal relations, Ebola, and tensions around elections. With support from the Purdue Peace Project (PPP), their partners have included, among others, the Liberia Ministry of Transport and the Liberia National Police. The approach the PPP and others utilize has come to be called locally driven (led) peacebuilding: “Locally driven peacebuilding is an approach in which the people involved in, and most affected by, violent conflict work together to create and enact their own solutions to prevent, reduce, and/or transform the conflict, with the support they desire from outsiders.”
Social science research and practitioners’ evidence bases demonstrate that local ownership is key to lasting peace. Peacebuilding strategies designed with deep knowledge of specific context and cultures are more likely to yield positive, lasting impacts. Emphasizing this point, the 2015 High-Level Independent Panel on United Nations Peace Operations underlined the value of local missions engaging with local communities as core to success. An example of local leadership includes, for example, in Sudan, local peace committees operating in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States successfully mobilizing to prevent violence before it erupts. These peace committees are supported by the local organization Collaborative for Peace in Sudan (CfPS), with support from Peace Direct (UK) and funded by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Locally led peacebuilding does not only have impact at the local level. Efforts at the local level can prevent conflicts from spilling over to other parts of the country or even across borders. Relationships that are built across ethnic or religious groups in one community can help secure relationships at a national level. And networks that are initiated at the local level can be expanded across the country to monitor and prevent violence.
When solutions are generated on the ground, led and driven from a local community, and with support (financial and other) from national and international allies, we see that they can deliver lasting peace. Conflicts are increasingly local and global. Locally led peacebuilding may not be enough on its own, which is why the partnership between donor countries, international funders and NGOs, and local, community groups on the ground is so key. However, international efforts must be in the service of local priorities, and international partners like the G7 countries must work to make sure that national governments commit to supporting local efforts too.
Here are examples of solutions that are locally driven but supported by outsiders:
- The United States Agency for International Development’s Local Works program seeks to make development more locally-owned and sustainable through a mandate that prioritizes such approaches. Launched in 2015, their most recent Guidance states that Local Works provides funding to: “Support local ownership, leadership, and self-reliance. Find creative ways to do things in support of, rather than for, our local partners.”
- The EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy (June, 2016) also recognizes the importance of “locally owned approaches” for the effectiveness of the EU’s engagement in third countries in appreciation of the fact that a “positive change can only be home grown”.
- The government of Canada, via the High Commission of Canada in Kenya, has allotted program funds (Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, CFLI) for projects designed by local groups in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, and Uganda. Similar initiatives exist in Nigeria. “Ensuring security and stability” is a thematic priority of CFLI.
Although the participation of local actors is central to creating sustainable peace, too often these voices are left out of policy conversations and ignored when it comes to the design and evaluation of peacebuilding strategies. G7 country humanitarian and development assistance, already generous in its support, must strengthen its focus on partnerships with organizations and citizens at the national, sub-national, and community levels in fragile or conflict affected states that have the in-depth knowledge of local history and culture necessary to comprehend and resolve the deep sources of tensions.
Reaching out to local, grassroots organizations and citizens will require long-term relationships of trust, smaller funding streams, and more flexible monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. The priority “reach out to your partners and build solutions that can deliver lasting peace” is not without its challenges, but the benefits of engaging at the local level include better understanding of what is happening on the ground in conflict contexts, relationships with civil society that can endure post-conflict, and more creative solutions to preventing and ending violence and keeping the peace.
About the authors: Stacey L. Connaughton is an Associate Professor in the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University, USA. She is the Director of the Purdue Peace Project. Jessica Berns is a Consultant to Non-Governmental Organizations, University-based programs, and philanthropists dedicated to good governance, peacebuilding, and social cohesion.
Photo by Candice Seplow via unsplash.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in the print edition of the 2018 G7 Summit magazine.