What does a democracy support organisation have to say about peacebuilding, you might ask?
For one thing, research suggests that democracies support a peaceful and stable international system, are less likely to go to war, are more likely to protect human rights, and are less likely to have citizens committing acts of violent extremism.
However, peacebuilding is often seen as the preserve of specialist peacebuilding organisations. This is my first experience from when I was with peacebuilding was while working on educational programmes with an NGO in Afghanistan. I remember a web of specialised organisations and individuals facilitating sensitive mediations and delivering highly contested reforms. Interestingly, for the organisation I was working for, despite Afghanistan being a fragile and conflict affected setting (FCAS), contributing to peace was only a long-term goal of my programmes and we did not work on it explicitly.
Since leaving Afghanistan over a decade ago, I have become increasingly convinced that non-peace actors operating in FCAS can effectively contribute to consolidating peace and stability but only if they consciously strive to do it. With conflicts reoccurring and violence on the rise affecting millions of people, now is the time to explore how non-specialised peace organisations could strengthen their peace-responsiveness and embed it in their modus operandi.
Westminster Foundation for Democracy is well placed to maximise the peacebuilding potential of its programmes and operations while fulfilling its mandate of strengthening democracy. For years, operating in a conflict and context sensitive way has been a bread and butter of our daily operations. We have been conscious that - at the very minimum - we should not be making the situation worse or deepening political divisions.
However, with our intimate and unique access to politicians and other influential stakeholders, an ability to broker relationships and solutions, and adaptive programmes underpinned by robust political economy analysis with clearly defined leveraging points, WFD can deliver conflict and peace-responsive programming, while building on our core areas of expertise.
We can support peacebuilding democratically. For instance:
- Evidence proves that women’s political leadership improves peace and stability outcomes before, during, and after conflict. Moreover, women are architects of more inclusive policies that benefit diverse segments of society and improve the delivery of vital services for communities which legitimise the functioning of governments.
- Placing gender equality and inclusion at the heart of decision-making processes allows the needs of diverse groups and communities to be understood and addressed. In turn, this can help manage conflict through designing solutions and polices that address root causes of conflicts and bring about transformative change.
- Holding authorities to account, if conducted in a transparent and inclusive way, can legitimise the functioning of governments, manage conflict peacefully and prevent divisions embedded in polices, laws and budgets.
These are selected examples of programming that WFD can deliver and go beyond working in the context to working on the context.
Non-peace actors operating in FCAS, like WFD, should not miss opportunities and deliberately maximise the potential of their programmes to contribute to consolidating peace and stability. What I learnt from my Afghanistan experience is that operating in the context of instability and fragility does not itself make programmes conflict- or peace- sensitive or responsive. But I also learned that by intentionally working together on shared peacebuilding outcomes we can all make a positive difference to the lives of people living in fragile and conflict-afflicted states, and beyond.