WED 19 - 6 - 2019
Date: Jun 13, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
Paving the ‘Pathways for Peace’
Rubina Abu Zeinab-Chahine

The concept of “pathways” has increasingly come to frame the challenge of achieving sustainable peace. It is a bridging concept that helps visualize how risks and opportunities are acted upon in different societies.Recently, the United Nations and the World Bank launched a joint study on “Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent,” providing evidence to support a renewed focus on prevention.

The study shifts the thinking about prevention by introducing the term “pathways” to present the trajectory that every society outlines during the dynamic interaction of its actors, institutions and structural factors, illustrating how different risks and opportunities affect those pathways.

The “pathways” concept is utilized to reflect on the progressive aspect of prevention, structuring the possibilities and privileging certain responses.

The study is the first time in which the U.N. and the World Bank speak jointly on the prevention agenda. Having different but complementary mandates, the two organizations bring a comparative advantage to the approach of conflict prevention.

Moreover, the study calls for deeper partnerships between all international actors to advance national pathways for peace.

At the center of this study is the appreciation that to be effective, prevention needs to be recognized as a collective responsibility.

Drawing on the pathways, the study raises key questions on how conflict prevention is framed, understood and addressed.

It features many useful insights and points to valuable initiatives for a wide range of contexts. It reviews recent literature and covers 19 case studies, featuring what has “worked” in different countries and institutions, highlighting what factors have contributed to peace and addressing the inclusion of women and youth as the central element of prevention.

By placing prevention at the core of development processes, the study provides governments and the international community with clear references on improving approaches to preventing violent conflicts.

The relationship between the concepts of peace and sustainable development has been extensively studied in numerous academic platforms. The two concepts are sometimes described as “a two-way relationship” or as “mutually reinforcing concepts.” The study sets out recommendations on how development processes can interact better with other concepts such as security, diplomacy and mediation to prevent conflicts from becoming violent.

While present systems are overly focused on addressing crisis and post-conflict assistance, the study argues that efforts must be refocused on prevention, illustrating many scenarios for anticipated revenues from prevention.

Using unique data on prevention and gathering evidence from the past 16 years, the study indicates that prevention is cost-effective and billions of dollars per year can be saved if prevention systems are scaled-up.

Accordingly, reinforcing societies’ pathways toward peace is achieved by investing in prevention rather than responding to crisis.

Calling for change in the way things are usually done, the study makes a compelling case for why we should invest in prevention. A more strategic approach is also taken into consideration.

Common patterns exist while specific prescription does not.

As noted by Norway’s State Secretary Jens Frolich Holte in his speech at the launch of the study, to address risks earlier, it is important to advance the tools for conflict analysis and understand the structural factors and incentives that shape the environment in which institutions operate and influence decision-making.

The state is a necessity, but not enough of a partner in this endeavor, he added.

“States should be supported to build strong, inclusive and transparent institutions and provide opportunities for livelihoods, justice and security for their inhabitants,” Holte said. “The study gives a valuable analysis of how such factors influence the pathways towards peace.”

It recognizes the importance of understanding people and their communities, their trust in institutions and confidence in the future, perception of risk and experiences of exclusion and injustice.

Prevention is not a question of steering resources away from development; rather, successful prevention encounters the structural barriers to sustainable development. As Holte said, it is a question of how the work can be done more efficiently and effectively by promoting a holistic approach to peace building, development and humanitarian efforts. “Indeed, prevention is an argument for increased investment in long-term development. ... The study presented today makes it clear that investing in prevention is the right thing to do,” he said. A holistic approach to prevention must reduce fragmentation and deliver better results at country level, he added.

There is a growing international consensus that there is an urgent need to advance a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to achieve a lasting prevention. The report states that “Everyone benefits from prevention.” Prevention, a development-driven approach, is essential in assisting the recovery and promotion of sustainable peace.

How will the recommendations in the study be programmed and implemented on the ground?

How will this partnership be translated into action that explores the comparative advantages of the United Nations and the World Bank?

How will this new way of working “strengthen the humanitarian-development-peace nexus,” as Holte put it?

These are all important questions to be explored.

Rubina Abu Zeinab-Chahine is executive director of the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 13, 2018, on page 3.

The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Arab Network for the Study of Democracy
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