The peacebuilders: Making conflict resolution permanent
Out of the UN comes a new idea for ending war. Peacebuilders: An intensive process that gives permission for foreign 'interference' in conflict resolution.
(Page 3 of 6)
In its first five years, the PBC has succeeded most where it exploits its permission to be so political and interfere so heavily.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
In Burundi, the commission's support helped to decrease the reported use of torture by intelligence forces friendly to the president by as much as 80 percent, says a local human rights group. In the CAR, it helped push forward a political dialogue that brought an end to an ugly rebellion.
From refugee return to building army barracks to elections, "all of it is very, very political, and for that you need a political body," says Ms. Wyeth. "You have a lot of different international actors playing a lot of different roles in these countries, and you need some political mechanism to bring all these actors together, to hold them more accountable, and to have more transparency about what the international community is doing in a country."
So far, the commission works only in Africa. Technically, that's because only African countries have so far asked to be PBC partners – which in turn may influence which countries ask for help. "There's a kind of stigmatization, but I think it's ill-placed," says Ms. Cheng-Hopkins. "This is not a poverty commission.... Unfortunately ... it happens that, so far, a lot of the [countries] that come on belong to the very poorest in the world."
Still, as a word, 'peacebuilding' sounds weak, It's an awkward compound noun – an aspiration, composed – as if shoving into a single word two pretty good ideas clears the way toward achieving them. "If you ask me to show you the thing called peacebuilding, I can't," says Peter Ngu Tayong, a media adviser in the UN's Sierra Leone headquarters. "Nobody has seen the animal called peacebuilding."
The PBC's funding arm, with money from 47 UN states, supports 173 projects in 19 countries. But they, alone, are not a measure of peacebuilding. In a world glutted with aid projects, it's easy to miss what may be the revolutionary part of peacebuilding: It demands attention to process.
For most of modern history, peace was a matter of paper. Politicians sat around a table, hammered out a cease-fire, and signed it. Peace was a matter of what powerful men decided in consultation with one another, not a condition to be rebuilt and sustained for a broader community.
That neglect often turns into state failure. Paul Collier, author of "Wars, Guns and Votes," writes that 40 percent of postconflict countries slip back into violence within a decade – and that those relapses make up 50 percent of the world's civil wars. Examples of reversions to violence are plentiful – Rwanda and Burundi; Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire; Uganda and Sudan – but they aren't confined to Africa. The condition holds in Indonesia, Georgia, the Philippines, Colombia, Lebanon, and Haiti.