Transforming Peacebuilding: Can the Internationals Put the Locals First?

A group in northern Rwanda uses community-based sociotherapy to bridge deep rifts created by the 1994 genocide. (Insight on Conflict)

Despite so many efforts to make internationally designed peacebuilding and development projects sustainable after the outsiders have left, international NGOs and donors still struggle to realize the goal of “local ownership” in practice. Now, a new approach called “local first,” led by the UK-based organization Peace Direct, aims to go beyond efforts to merely transfer ownership of a program to a local organization—it seeks to put local people in the lead.

Carolyn Hayman, chief executive of Peace Direct, spoke to the Global Observatory about what this means in practice, how it can deliver powerful results, and how international donors and peacebuilding organizations can adapt. What follows is an edited version of the interview, conducted by Andrea Ó Súilleabháin, policy analyst at the International Peace Institute.



With Battle of Ideas Won, Debate on Responsibility to Protect About Action: Q&A with Simon Adams

Violence forced South Sudanese to seek shelter at the United Nations compound in Bor, South Sudan, March 29, 2014. (Flickr/Sudan Tribune)

There is no longer serious debate whether or not the international community has a responsibility to protect people from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing, said Simon Adams, executive director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. He said that is a sign of great progress around the responsibility to protect (RtoP), the international security and human rights principle adopted ten years ago at the World Summit.

“We’ve won the battle of ideas,” Mr. Adams said. “I think the debate now is how we meaningfully implement it in specific circumstances.”

While he remains optimistic, he said, “we’ve still got very far to go,” and cited Rwanda as an important turning point when the United Nations (UN) had to “accept its inability to live up to the promises it made in the charter.”



Is an EU Force in the Cards for the Gaza Strip?

The Rafah border crossing, August 25, 2014.

It's been two weeks since Israel and Hamas reached an understanding to stop hostilities after 50 days of fighting that caused more than 2,150 deaths on the Palestinian side and 73 deaths on the Israeli side, and the ceasefire seems to be holding. Since August 26, the various Palestinian militias have not shot a single mortar or rocket against Israel, nor have the Israeli Defense Forces struck any targets within the Gaza Strip. However, the prospects of both sides resuming indirect negotiations in Cairo by September 26—which happens to be Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year holiday—seem rather slim at the moment, due to increasing rumors that Hamas might be trying to rebuild its offensive tunnels network.

Moreover, under pressure from far-right members of his ruling coalition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared his unwillingness to free the detainees who were liberated after the Shalit exchange in October 2011 and later re-arrested, as well as another two thousand Palestinians from the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The decision came in retaliation for the kidnapping and subsequent assassination of three Israeli teenagers on June 12 (the two main suspects in this triple crime, Marwan Kawashmeh and Amer Abu Eisha, remain at large). Netanyahu has also said that he won't allow Gazans to build a seaport or reconstruct their airport, which were two of the main demands set by Hamas at the negotiating table in Cairo that would have transformed the current ceasefire into a long-lasting truce.



Polls Key to Understanding—and Defeating—ISIS

The map shows ISIS-led activity.  Areas controlled by the group are in orange. (Institute for the Study of War)

When the Islamic State (ISIS) suddenly began to dominate headlines, their quick takeover and brutal acts surprised the world–but they shouldn’t have. Earlier this year, as ISIS slowly gained ground in Iraq and Syria, polls had revealed a sea change in attitudes that opened the door to the movement’s seizure of Mosul in June and subsequent sweeps across northern and western Iraq. Insecurity was rampant in those Sunni regions; economic conditions were deteriorating; and alienation from the Shia-majority government was increasingly pervasive.

The security collapse in the Sunni regions was dramatic by early 2014, as shown by polling by IIACSS, an Iraqi market research firm, for Gallup International’s World Social Values Survey. Some 21% of residents in Diyala and fully 25% of people in Nineveh said a family member had suffered a crime in the past year. In contrast, just 1% of families in Basra in the mostly-Shia south had experienced such violence. Sentiment was strong that security was deteriorating in the mostly-Sunni west (a massive 84%) and north (55%), while more than two-thirds said it was improving in the south, a Greenberg poll found.



What Role for UN Peacekeepers in Tackling Ebola?

A Jordanian doctor serving with the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) inspects a young woman during a medical outreach event in Monrovia, Liberia, December 12, 2012. (UN Photo/Staton Winter)

The spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa is “racing ahead” of efforts to control it, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). On Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued an “international rescue call” for a surge in assistance, including doctors, beds, supplies, and vehicles needed to halt the spread of the outbreak in West Africa. Of all the countries affected by the virus, Liberia is one of the hardest hit, with 1,698 reported cases and 871 deaths as of August 31.

Understandably, international media attention is focusing on the efforts of frontline health and humanitarian organizations such as the WHO, UNICEF, and Médecins Sans Frontières. However, UN peacekeepers currently stationed in Liberia as part of the UN mission there known as UNMIL could also play a role.



To Build Regional Community, Southeast Asian Leaders Advocate for “Responsibility to Protect”

The headquarters of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta, Indonesia. (Gunawan Kartapranata/Wikipedia)

States belonging to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) joined the whole membership of the United Nations in making a solemn commitment to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle at the World Summit in 2005. As ASEAN now seeks to integrate more closely by 2015, a High Level Advisory Panel chaired by the former ASEAN secretary-general and foreign minister of Thailand, Surin Pitsuwan, is arguing that R2P offers an important pathway to the establishment of an ASEAN Community. The panel (for which I serve as secretary) will launch its report on Mainstreaming the Responsibility to Protect in Southeast Asia at UN Headquarters in New York on Tuesday, September 9.



Operation Barkhane: A Show of Force and Political Games in the Sahel-Sahara

French President François Hollande (R) and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (L) review French troops at Kossei military base near N'Djamena, Chad, on July 19, 2014, after visiting Operation Barkhane's headquarters in the capital. (ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)

On July 15, 2014, French President François Hollande launched Operation Barkhane, a counterterrorism force intended to hunt down terrorist groups in Sahel countries and prevent them from re-forming. This new mission is the continuation of Operation Serval, which was launched on January 11, 2013 in Mali and had the following three objectives: to stop terrorist groups’ offensives; to ensure security in Bamako in order to protect French nationals; and to preserve Mali’s territorial integrity. According to Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, France has fulfilled its mission, but has to prevent “the emergence in another regional state of a threat similar to that which prompted the 2013 intervention.”



New UN Peacekeeping Mission Faces Uphill Battle in Central African Republic

Bags of rice being distributed at one of the camps for ex-Seleka combatants in Bangui, July 15, 2014. MINUSCA's Security Institution Unit has coordinated weekly food distribution by the International Organization for Migration to over 2,000 ex-Seleka combatants in the capital. (UN Photo/Catianne Tijerina)

September 15 will mark the beginning of the latest peacekeeping intervention led by the United Nations, when blue helmets take over from African Union forces in the Central African Republic (CAR). Since 1997 there have been 13 regional and international peacekeeping operations deployed to end violence, disarm combatants, and restore peace in CAR. As the UN launches yet another mission, it is clear that none of the previous interventions was able to address the root causes of the country’s instability, which range from fractured and predatory state structures to deep-seated feelings of marginalization in some communities, particularly where public administration has been historically weak.

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