What we’ve gotten wrong with peace processes, and how to fix it
Today, we face unprecedented challenges for global peace and security. Record levels of displaced people, new and ongoing internal conflicts and an unrelenting attack on multilateralism are sadly defining the ‘new normal’. Key to addressing these challenges will be the international architecture for peace and security and whether it is able to re-frame how it approaches the design and implementation of peace processes to solve our collective challenges.
Part of the challenge of building long term sustainable peace are the interrelated and fundamental problems with the way peace processes are structured today.
Firstly, too often, peace processes are focused on conflict resolution rather than the fundamental objective — sustaining peace. The goal of peace processes ought to be about helping societies build capacities to deal with conflicts in non- violent ways rather than redress violent conflict alone.
Peace processes take time, often up to 20 years — but rarely are actual peace processes crafted with this timeframe in mind.
We have the Geneva Conventions to guide conduct in war but lack such principles on the process of building and sustaining peace — Scott Weber, President of Interpeace
Without a clear long-term normative vision, short-term milestone-driven outcomes will continue to be traded for the real end goal of sustainable positive peace. Related to this, our peacebuilding approaches have become too fixated on negotiations ‘at-the table’. While negotiations are critical to any peace process, they need to be supported by a much larger array of actions and activities that help implement agreements.
We also know that too many peace processes are externally driven — whether by UN actors or non-UN actors. It is challenging to build locally and national-owned and inclusive processes. Peace processes often struggle to engage all relevant actors and almost always fail to adequately engage the rest of society. Partly as a consequence of the fixation on negotiations, too many peace processes are either not implemented at all or essentially ended at the stage of conflict cessation. However, this milestone is only the beginning of the longer-term peace process. Conflict tends to re-onset on-average within seven years because political priorities shift, due to changing governments or new political priorities or because fundamental grievances that gave rise to the original conflict are not actually resolved.
Without a clear long-term normative vision, short-term milestone-driven outcomes will continue to be traded for the real end goal of sustainable positive peace.
Furthermore, there is often a failure to anticipate the new conflict factors and triggers generated by the peace process itself. This situation calls for a fundamental re-think in the way peace processes are conceived and structured. Peace processes can be improved through new frameworks and standards to guide and monitor their implementation to reorient their focus toward long term sustainable peace. It is clear peace cannot be built through one UN or external government led process, but rather through an
interrelated set of processes taking place at various levels, at various times and involving a wide variety of actors and tools.
This requires the international community to step back from narrow, around-the-table perspectives about how peace is made and put in place an expanded frame of reference that more fully accounts for who is relevant, to which processes, within what level of society and when.
The proposed Inclusive Principles for Peace will commence a process across the international peace making, peacebuilding, diplomatic, as well as development and humanitarian fields, to help frame new ways of ensuring the coherence and effectiveness of local, national, regional and international approaches to enabling long term peace.
Views expressed in this publication are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paris Peace Forum.
Scott Weber, President of Interpeace
Scott Weber is the President of Interpeace, an international organization for peacebuilding. Initially created by the United Nations in 1994 and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, Interpeace supports locally-led peacebuilding initiatives in more than 21 countries worldwide. As President, Mr. Weber is responsible for strategy, positioning and resource mobilization to
grow the organization’s impact, influence and reach. Prior to joining Interpeace, Mr. Weber worked in the Office of the United Nations Director-General in Geneva and in disaster preparedness. Mr. Weber is French and American and holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, Economics and Russian from Georgetown University and Certificates of Executive Education in Leadership from Harvard University’s JFK School of Government
and Oxford University’s Saïd Business School.