Put Peacebuilding at the Heart of Post-2015 Talks

Lord McConnell


As the nature of conflict has changed in the post-Cold War era, so too has the UK government’s policy discourse on development aid. Since DfID’s first White Paper in 1997, Eliminating World Poverty: a challenge for the 21st Century, we have witnessed a growing recognition that development and security are intrinsically linked. Over the last decade the UK has placed great emphasis on stabilising fragile and conflict-affected states, and the Coalition Government took Labour’s work on this a step further in 2011 with their Building Stability Overseas Strategy (BSOS), an integrated approach to defence, development and diplomacy to ensure a durable and positive peace in fragile states.

Some may use the increased assistance offered to countries like Yemen as a rallying cry to denounce the ‘securitisation of aid’, but the facts suggest that this strategic shift is necessary – both morally and logically.

Over 1.5 billion people currently live in fragile and conflict-affected states and it’s no coincidence that not one of these has yet achieved a single Millennium Development Goal. People in fragile or conflict-affected states are more than twice as likely to be undernourished as those in other developing countries, more than three times as likely to be unable to send their children to school, twice as likely to see their children die before age five, and more than twice as likely to lack clean water. This is simply unacceptable.

Inequality and poverty are principal drivers of conflict – those who lack opportunity and a stake in their future are far more likely to turn to violence. Tackling these issues ‘upstream’ can go a long way to preventing future conflict. With the cost of insecurity generated by conflict totalling a global annual burden of $400 billion, being proactive makes fiscal sense. In terms of trade and investment, the incentives are also clear. The average cost of civil war is equivalent to more than 30 years of GDP growth for a medium-size developing country, and trade levels after major episodes of violence can take 20 years to recover.

The UK has championed the search for solutions internationally – from the key role of women in peacebuilding, to the need for greater urgency and coordination in post-conflict reconstruction. We have been consistent under both Labour and this Coalition government. With the publication of BSOS and the World Development Report on Conflict, Security and Development in 2011 we now have a road map, both nationally and internationally, to transform interventions and change millions of lives. Tonight, I will be asking the government about the progress they have made since the publication of BSOS. Is the Early Action Funding Facility working? Have they established the independent assessment of their conflict prevention work? How are they taking forward building capacity in regional institutions, like the African Union, and the ‘prevention partnerships’ with the emerging powers, like Brazil? Has the new internal Watchlist of fragile countries made a difference?

But this week is also a chance to influence policy in the next decade and beyond. The Prime Minister will co-chair and host the UN High-Level Panel established to report on the development framework required after the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. Peacebuilding is the most important development challenge of our age, so his is a fantastic opportunity for the UK to put issues of conflict and development centre stage. 

The MDGs were a product of their time. They focused on basic services and needs. But the world has moved on and today the poorest and most vulnerable people live in countries affected by violent conflict. I want us to use our leadership role in the High-Level Panel to insist that the new development framework reflects the importance of personal security and freedom from violence. New goals should specifically reference justice and the institutions that guarantee it. They should also provide for employment to underpin the social development that is the best method of conflict prevention. This week the Prime Minister must say clearly that we want to see these advances discussed, debated and agreed, and that we will use our unique position in the UN Security Council, the European Union, the World Bank and the Commonwealth to make this happen. 

For the millions who suffer from conflict around the world, this is a matter of life and death. We should put them first.

4 comments for “Put Peacebuilding at the Heart of Post-2015 Talks

  1. 30/10/2012 at 3:28 pm

    A key insight in BSOS is that local voices and local partners in conflict affected countries can reach the parts that HMG can’t – in terms of knowledge, contacts and reach. So it would be good to hear what progress has been made on the ground to give Southern voices a real say in peacebuilding?

  2. Rhodri Mawr
    31/10/2012 at 1:06 pm

    I am no expert on defence (war) or security matters but I was drawn in to some research of the military war mongering markets in the last few weeks and I was very surprised to find how much of the work of military installations in this country is done by private enterprise.

    I question two of the remarks made by the noble lord both concerning equality:

    “Inequality and poverty are principal drivers of conflict”

    Poverty certainly is, but inequality may not be. If you are not hungry(!Lord Mcconnell!) or cold, then you can afford to ignore what others have, and that you do not, without to much difficulty. Perhaps when the noble lord next does his ‘hunger week’ he might also like to do it in the cold, without wintertime heat!

    Peacebuilding is the most important development challenge of our age, so his is a fantastic opportunity for the UK to put issues of conflict and development centre stage.

    I agree about the value of the UN in peacekeeping, the one most positive influence
    in peace keeping today.

    This second statement is the usual contradiction in terms employed by soldiers to justify keeping people “down” whilst they exploit the local economy, whether by land grabbing, or other methods.

    I think Geo.Galloway (member for East end?) would laugh like a drain at the contradiction and have an immediate response with which I am lacking except to point it out.

    Peace keeping and pacifism are two rather different things; one probably the domain of the far left and the other the realm of the far right in political jargon. Never the twain shall meet.

    I am however looking forward to reading
    George Stevenson’s novel in the Flashman series about the First Afghan War. There is no escaping man’s nature, whatever statement
    of principle that one may make.it may shed some light for me, on the current ones both against USSR and US/UK.

    The noble lord’s exuberance and enthusiasm
    “fantastic opportunity” is worrying in the context!

  3. MilesJSD
    31/10/2012 at 4:22 pm

    I wish the Lords-of-the-Blog would include a judicially-impartial Graphic,
    such as a coloured and percentiled pie-chart, with such topics as this one,
    showing the relevant but otherwise invisible or hidden ‘overshadowing’ and ‘underlurking’
    Also, I call it a fallacy, and an emotive liberty, to claim that the “nature” of conflict has changed;
    for “Nature” doesn’t plan and control (nor fail to plan and control) our human-civilisations’ various sorts of conflict,
    and neither does ‘God’;
    Governments do,
    aided and abetted by under-educated individual-capitalists and religious-‘leaders’.

    Timeframe-wise worse, that these drivers-causative governments, individual- capitalists and religious-‘leaders’ are still putting off peace-building until after their 2015 Westminster election, whilst they continue
    1) learning “that development and insecurity are intrinsically linked”
    2) waiting to be taught how to implement both Method III Cooperative Needs & Hows Problem Solving,
    and the participatively-democratic methodology for people-centred governance published (in one leading instance) after the 1978 UN Declaration for Primary Health Care as an NGO internationalised document (titled “Health Care Together” authors Johnston & Rifkin, and including both detailed skilling for People and local leaders, and a Strategic-implementation know-how appendix)

    when both Method III and the “Health Care Together” skills can be sufficiently comprehended and “inner-practiced” alone at home by any-one

    is another iatrogenic-factor causing never-ending other falsehoods and blindnesses to dominate and undermine the formal-argumentations and the moral-reasonings of these Aid and other Global and Local home Big-and-Small issues.
    Therefore, that “The UK has championed the search for solutions…” is false;

    as are the well-intentioned (but under-informed) noble lord’s implicit claim
    that Britain is ‘world-leading’
    and closing call for us to ‘put the victims first’;
    whilst he (and thereby we) blindly and self-centredly carry on drawing more than one-human-living each from the Common Purse,
    and in our privileged and protected “private” lifeplaces are anything but emulable examples of peace-enhancing personal-efficiency and national-sustainworthiness.

  4. Lord Blagger
    31/10/2012 at 8:59 pm

    What about revenge, fear or greed?

    What happens when people find out that hundreds of thousands of pounds of their money have been looted to hand to other people?

    What happens when those other people have their benefits axed because those people who’ve lost their entire pensions because the state has looted them, take matters into their own hands?

    What happens when the people they expect to cough up most of their cash, to bail them out, such as the young decide they aren’t going to be victims of the state like their sheep like elders?

    War between states is old school. Its days are over.

    The violence and crimes are states against their citizens

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