People hold up letters that form the word "Peace" during a gathering in Bogota, Colombia, on September 26, 2016, the day Colombia's government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia signed a peace agreement to end over 50 years of conflict. (AP Photo/ Jennifer Alarcon)

The striking increase in violent conflict over the last 15 years has been marked by the number of violent conflicts tripling since 2010 and the rise of non-state actor conflict in many regions. Amid the untold suffering there has been an important positive impact: policy consensus at the highest levels that sustaining peace and preventing violent conflict must be priorities. This is good news, as prevention will not only save lives, but also resources. A new World Bank and United Nations report, Pathways to Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict, concludes that up to tens of billions in losses in countries and billions for the international community in interventions can be saved per year through prevention. This report, and the Security Council mandated agenda that preceded it, increase the United Nations’ commitment to more strategic analysis and action on these issues. While these are exciting developments, perhaps most importantly due to the level at which they have taken hold, important questions remain: what can be done that has not been tried before? And, vitally, how to ensure national actors—states and societies—are steadfastly in the driver’s seat of action?

Many may point to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which clearly speaks to issues of peace, governance, and security as means to facilitating coherent national action.  Indeed, governments are developing roadmaps for the agenda’s realization. While the agenda goes beyond traditional development frameworks, led by development actors, it remains fundamentally challenged to address the underlying politics that too often mediate against a unified analysis of conflict and fragility, and drives partnered commitments for key priorities deserving action across the wider political and security realms. Arguably something else is needed, but what? Read more