Peace, security, a future: basic needs that people in the midst of violent conflict desperately want and seek. However, building back trust, livelihoods, institutions and relationships is a complex and long-term endeavours, full of steps forward and back. This is the task of peacebuilding. And we can’t afford not to do it.
Here are just three reasons why peacebuilding matters today:
1. Because the effects of conflict are far reaching
The majority of those risking their lives trying to reach Europe are from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and other areas beset by violent conflict, insecurity or political repression. While we can and should respond generously to their immediate plight, a strategic peacebuilding response looks at what can be done ‘at source’. It takes concerted efforts over the medium to long-term to help people confront and tackle the root causes and drivers of conflicts and their legacies.
2. Because military answers alone to political problems don’t work
At the heart of many violent conflicts lie issues of inequality, injustice and exclusion. While criminality can feed on and into a conflict, there are often genuine and unaddressed grievances at play, which are expressed in violence. Military power may be deployed to prevent or defend against an immediate threat, but it cannot resolve underlying political, social and economic problems and sustain peace. In fact it can sometimes complicate that task.
3. Because conflict shatters lives and stunts development
More than 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by violent conflict. 59.5 million are currently forcibly displaced worldwide, 19.5 million of them refugees, of which half are children. No low-income conflict-affected country has achieved a single one of the UN Millennium Development Goals which expire this autumn. Peacebuilding approaches, including mediation and diplomacy, dialogue and participation, are an essential part of the toolkit we need to meet Goal 16 of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals, to ‘promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development’.