Summary of "Towards Better Peacebuilding Practice: On Lessons Learned, Evaluation Practices and Aid & Conflict"

Summary of

Towards Better Peacebuilding Practice: On Lessons Learned, Evaluation Practices and Aid and Conflict

Ed. by Anneke Galama and Paul van Tongeren

Summary written by Eric Brahm, Conflict Research Consortium

Citation: Galama, Anneke and Paul van Tongeren, eds. Towards Better Peacebuilding Practice: On Lessons Learned, Evaluation Practices and Aid & Conflict. Utrecht, The Netherlands: European Centre for Conflict Prevention, 2002.

This book is the result of an October, 2001 international conference sponsored by the European Platform for Conflict Prevention and Transformation in conjunction with Cordaid that attracted 300 participants from over 50 countries representing governments, research institutions, and NGOs. The goal was to reflect on the lessons of ten years of conflict resolution and peacebuilding experience.

One of the central benefits of the volume is to cobble together much wisdom on evaluating peacebuilding efforts. One section provides a very user-friendly approach to dealing with evaluation, providing an overview of different models of evaluation in the literature. It reminds the reader to be cognizant of different methods depending on the stage of the project cycle. It discusses common problems encountered in the process and suggests ways to deal with them. Another section attempts to cull together a collection of best practices in peacebuilding. A collection of short essays provides a fine, if perhaps daunting, list of issues to consider. A third section provides an extensive discussion of the challenges of delivering aid in the midst of conflict. Other sections explore lessons from a number of other areas related to peacebuilding. The role of the media, religion, gender, and security in relation to peacebuilding are examined. In addition, early warning and networking are considered. Finally, coming soon in the wake of September 11, the conference considers the consequences of the terrorist attack and its aftermath for the future of peacebuilding.

Throughout, the book is very accessible. Tables and charts provide a useful short-hand. Chapters are followed by a collection of print and web resources for further information.

What follows is an outline of the summary of the conference (see pages 15-41 for further elaboration).

  1. General Lessons for the Field
    1. General Lessons
      1. Conflict prevention is no longer in its infancy
      2. Because the nature of conflicts has changed since the end of the Cold War, it is necessary to change the process, the goals and the actors that can lead to peace.
      3. The role of 'ordinary people' in peacebuilding
      4. Peacebuilding must be seen as a process, rather than a goal.
    2. Guiding Principles
      1. Build upon local experiences/peace initiatives.
      2. Include all relevant actors in decision-making.
      3. Partnerships with local organizations.
      4. Cooperation with other organizations in the field, at the NGO, intergovernmental as well as governmental level.
      5. Long-term engagement.
      6. Use comprehensive approaches
      7. Impartiality
      8. Gender perspective
      9. Importance of interpersonality/trust building
      10. Empowerment
      11. The need for qualified staff.
      12. Forgiveness is internal and begins with the self, reconciliation is external and deals with the outside world.
  2. On Reflection, Learning and Evaluation Practices
    1. Impact, Evaluation and Learning
      1. Lessons Learned
        1. A sustained peace process has a value of its own. The focus thus should be on the actual process towards peace rather than just on the result, however peaceful.
        2. Focus should be on long-term monitoring and learning instead of one-off evaluations.
        3. A wide range of stakeholders should be involved in the planning and monitoring process of any initiative in order to integrate different peace visions.
        4. To achieve sustainable development, the evaluation/learning process must be owned by the partners/recipients.
        5. The linking of the micro-level of the intervention to the macro-level of the conflict is essential when evaluating an initiative.
        6. The creation of a self-regulating and self-accountable practitioner community is needed.
        7. In evaluation activities, as in any other development activity, the safety of informants, partners and beneficiaries must be addressed.
        8. Institutional learning needs to be prioritized.
        9. Good peacebuilding is about being good human beings and embodying and reflecting personal and organizational integrity.
        10. PCIA (Peace and Conflict Impact Assessment) could be used as a connector by organizations in the field to similar organizations in other conflict settings around the world.
      2. Problems
        1. For whom and by whom is the PCIA done? Who is driving the process?
        2. Indicators are an important part of PCIA, but how do you select them, when and by who are they selected?
        3. What is the theoretical base for PCIA and how do you translate theory into practice?
        4. Is mainstreaming of the field desirable or even possible?
        5. Do PCIA tools take all issues into consideration in the appropriate way?
        6. Are there resources enough within organizations involved to carry out a PCIA?
        7. Are there sufficient resources within organizations to work on institutional learning?
        8. Is there donor openness to lessons learned and a willingness to allow mistakes?
        9. Lessons can be subjective, relative or contextual.
    2. The Reflecting on the Peace Practice Project: Reflections on the Effectiveness of Peace Work
      1. The linkage between context analysis and designing peace strategies.
      2. Effectiveness criteria for peacework.
  3. Lessons on Aid and Conflict
    1. Lessons Learned
      1. General lessons on the linkage between aid and conflict
        1. Aid agencies can work around, in or on conflict.
        2. Working in conflict can be harmful.
        3. Aid agencies have to decide to what extent they wish to work 'in' and 'on' conflict.
        4. A paradigm shift is needed in donor policies and in the policymaking of NGOs.
        5. Conflicts are characterized by dividers and connectors.
        6. Aid delivers 'messages' as well as resources.
        7. The objective standards of 'peace' have to be identified if you want to include peacebuilding activities in policymaking.
      2. Donors and NGOs
        1. Donor education is a key element in ensuring that aid is 'responsible'.
        2. NGOs themselves need to become more articulate in their explanations to donors as to why peacebuilding should be included in the programs and the training of staff.
        3. Recognizing that donors are steered by (international) politics, integrated lobbying and advocacy work by NGOs is crucial.
    2. Problems
      1. There is an organizational competition amongst NGOs in the South for funding.
      2. A complicating factor in peacebuilding and development is the dominance of political, and international actors working in the background of this field.
      3. There is a lack of in-depth analysis of cultural, social understandings of peace and conflict.
      4. Although it is likely for 'development' to have a broader impact, outright politicization of aid is probably not desirable.
      5. The risk of mainstreaming.
  4. Areas Assessing Lessons Learned.
    1. Early Warning
      1. Lessons learned.
        1. No blueprint for early warning.
        2. Uniformity in reporting is important.
        3. Early warning reports should be concise.
        4. Early warning must be practiced as on-going monitoring.
        5. The role of theoretical frameworks.
      2. Problems
        1. Too little attention to capacities for peace.
        2. The timeframe of early warning is often too short.
        3. Unclear institutional landscape.
        4. Too little focus on cost analyses.
    2. Media and peacebuilding
      1. Lessons Learned
        1. Media can provide linkages within society.
        2. 'Practice what you preach.'
        3. Media is an element in a holistic approach to peacebuilding.
        4. The role of research.
        5. The need to link foreign media with local media.
        6. Three categories of peacebuilding media objectives.
        7. Local partnerships.
      2. Problems
        1. Media can work both positively and negatively for NGOs.
        2. Problems of impartial journalism.
        3. The problem of getting access to mainstream media.
    3. Networking
      1. Lessons learned
        1. Networking has a large role to play in pulling together an expanding, but dispersed field.
        2. Complementary partnerships are necessary to deal with little resources.
        3. The joining of forces is important to strengthen impact of the field.
        4. How to build an effective network.
      2. Problems
        1. Too little complementarity between Northern and Southern networks.
        2. There are problems in the functioning and financing of a secretariat.
        3. It is difficult to establish networks between governments and NGOs.
    4. Gender and Peacebuilding
      1. Lessons Learned
        1. Increase women's voices in peacebuilding processes.
        2. Engendering peace processes means not only including women, but also men.
        3. Understanding the gender aspects of conflict in order to engender peacebuilding.
      2. Problems
        1. Violent conflict can change the position of women in a positive way, but how should these changes be sustained?
        2. More research on different aspects of the role of women in conflict is needed.
    5. Religion and conflict
      1. Lessons learned
        1. Focus on various levels within faith based communities.
        2. Non-discrimination on the basis of religion or belief is the key, instead of a specific state-church relation.
        3. Careful analysis of the causes of conflict is necessary to prevent their meaning too easily labeled as 'religious conflicts'.
        4. Interregilious dialogue and co-operation are fundamental to curbing religious intolerance.
      2. Problems
        1. conflict potential within religion itself.
    6. Security and Peacebuilding
      1. Lessons Learned
        1. Lack of governance of the security sector is often a source of conflict and a key obstacle to peacebuilding.
        2. Security institutions could play an effective, legitimate and democratically accountable role in society.
        3. If law-breakers face prosecution and social disapproval, people will be discouraged from engaging in armed violence.
      2. Problems
        1. Security is essential to development - people must be safe and feel safe.
        2. Involvement of local communities.
        3. The police should gain from reform.
        4. Broad engagement of donors is crucial.
  5. September 11 and its Aftermath
    1. Concern about the abuse of the term 'terrorism'
    2. Concern about the shifting of priorities to the 'war on terrorism.'
    3. Concern about possible polarization between 'the West' and 'the Islam.'
    4. Concern about the possible spillover of the conflict in Afghanistan.
    5. The link between the fight against terrorism and the resolution of the conflict in the Middle East.
    6. The added need of early warning from the conflict prevention field.
    7. The added need for institutional co-operation.