While civilians are being killed in Aleppo expressions of frustration, despair, hopelessness, is flourishing. Why did the security council not manage to come to an agreement that mandated action at least for the protection of civilians? Why have nobody been willing to supply troops on the ground? Why did we not learn from history and past mistakes? Many point to single causes for why the situation in Syria developed so catastrophically. Or they point to no causes at all, nothing that we should have done or could still do – dwelling into the hopelessness of the situation. The community of professional practitioners working to promote sustainable peace around the world must take a particularly close look at ourselves. My colleagues are no less at the point of despair than the rest of the onlookers. Why has this community not managed to come up with innovative perspectives that would lead us to come up with better solutions, different types of platforms for dialogue, etc. Why have we not been able to influence decision-makers, who are still talking about single causes, single solutions, and are forgetting the complexity of human suffering, power, dynamics of violence, and also human capacity to overcome all these things if we hold our shared humanity and dignity at the core. We go to demonstrations, which in themselves are important to express our concern and support, but we, the peacebuilding practitioners, have a greater responsibility than that.
The second cease-fire within 24 hours was just announced. Now is the time for us to think hard and act together to help the people of Syria move towards sustainable peace. As in most conflict affected contexts, the risk of shifting the focus to new and more violent conflicts after some time is critical; critical because it is exactly in the long-term process of developing sustainable peace and preventing new violence that the international community normally fails. 90% of conflicts that emerged in the 2000s were old conflicts and 50% if those where peace agreements are signed revert back to violence within five years. We need to continue to support a long-term peacebuilding process where local actors take lead and define the process.
By raising this (self) critique, I am not indicating that there is a grand solution to armed conflicts with complex intra-and inter-state power dynamics. There is no ready-made tool box we can apply. When we have taken a technical approach to complex political problems we have failed. When we have emphatically listened and brought about creative spaces for dialogue among people, we may be able to make a difference; a real difference that may change the patterns of new violent conflicts. But we have to come together and think hard, be more innovative than what we imagined we could, listen harder, collaborate better, and take on completely new ideas – to bring about a robust global infra-structure for multiple action on peacebuilding and prevention of violent conflicts.