Shifting the Peacebuilding System: Going Local for Impact at Scale

By Elise Ford Supporting people directly affected by conflict is often presented as a moral imperative: these are the actors that deserve our support.  But local peacebuilders are much more than that. Local and national actors working at the frontlines of peace are the only actors with the knowledge, relationships and legitimacy to foster lasting change. The evidence is clear:  locally led peacebuilding is not just the principled choice, but the only choice if we are serious about achieving the goal of sustainable and inclusive peace. Work by organisations like Peace Direct, researchers like Severine Autesserre and initiatives like USAID’s Local Works demonstrate the tangible impact of local peace. There have also been countless new, ambitious peace policy frameworks in recent years.  Most—and probably all—of these documents emphasize the importance of local ownership.  But we’ve seen time and again that policy commitments alone won’t overcome the pervasive and dominant dynamics that currently drive peacebuilding approaches.  Shifting these dynamics will require not simply agreement on abstract principles, but rather a fundamental shift in the culture and DNA of peacebuilding. Humanity United has made a commitment to put local and national actors at the heart of our peacebuilding efforts.  That is a core principle for how we design our peacebuilding work, but we also want to ensure that locally driven peace is the default solution to conflict for everyone. The Conducive Space for Peace initiative is a key partnership for Humanity United as part of a broader set of activities we are supporting to kickstart a global conversation about how we can begin to do peace differently.  Critical questions that must be answered as part of this transformation include:

  • How can power and resources be better channeled to local actors already playing a central role as peace change agents?
  • How can funders move away from business as usual towards models that allow for more risk-taking, innovation and sustained support?
  • How do we move from upward accountability model – reporting back to political constituencies and tax-payers – and instead allow international support to be judged by the affected communities it is intended to serve?

Tackling these big questions will require creativity and innovation from players that share our end goals from within and outside the formal peacebuilding field. The Conducive Space for Peace Accelerator event during Geneva Peace Week will bring together actors from across the globe who share a commitment of creating a Conducive Space for Peace.  We hope this conversations, meetings, and relationships built over this event will sharpen our toolkit to bring about systemic change and strengthen the movement for locally driven peace. We’re excited to see what emerges.

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