Melanie Greenberg: How Can Countries Say No to Peace?

“Positive peace” involves building societies strong enough and resilient enough to handle conflict through dialogue and politics, said Melanie Greenberg, Chief Executive Officer of the Alliance for Peacebuilding.

Ms. Greenberg said this idea could serve as the structure behind the post-2015 development goals. “We are asking for a really fundamental realignment in the goals themselves about how governments work with their own societies and civil societies,” she said. 

While the United Nations Millennium Development Goals came from what many say was a top-down process, discussions around the new development goals, expected to be launched post-2015, are including peacebuilding and statebuilding goals that are priorities for fragile states. 

“We have to have a narrative that’s strong enough and doors that are opened enough to say to countries that are recalcitrant, ‘But, what do you mean, how can you say no to peace?’”

Ms. Greenberg said these ideas can also help developed nations confront their own problems with violence, such as gun violence in the United States. “I think by framing this in the positive peace kind of way, that these are things all countries aspire to, it's not just fragile states,” she said.

The interview was conducted by Maureen Quinn, Director of Programs at the International Peace Institute.

Listen to interview (or download mp3):

Transcript:

Maureen Quinn: We're here at the Global Observatory today, we're very lucky to have Melanie Greenberg, the CEO of the Alliance for Peacebuilding

So Melanie, the United Nations system, the member states, and civil society are in deep consultations and debate about the post-2015 development agenda, and specifically looking at a new framework, and where is the opportunity to build in drivers for peace and security. What goals might you consider for this future agenda to address the issues of peace and security?

Melanie Greenberg: Thank you very much, Maureen, it's really an honor and pleasure to be part of the Global Observatory

I see this as a moment and looking at our goals for a real realignment of how we think about positive peace. And this is a term of art within the peacebuilding field, but I think really could serve us as scaffolding behind the goals that we want to put forward for the post-2015 development goals. 

And the ideas of positive peace linked to all societies; that's universal, it's not just us doing things to you or to them. And it involves how do we build societies that are strong enough and resilient enough to handle conflict, which will always be present—through politics, through dialogue, rather than through deadly violence. So, working from the idea of positive peace—where all citizens have dignity, where we look not only institutions but the relationships between groups—we can then work outwards to goals. 

So, the goals for the post-MDGs related to that, to my mind, are around governance, which is probably the key, whether we couch that as democratic governance or inclusive governance and participation—I would clearly go towards the participation side of things. It's around safety and security, how do people perceive their own safety, their own institutions, their own police forces, and finally, how do we think about integrating all those goals in all the areas of the post-MDGs. 

If this is indeed scaffolding, then we have to build conflict sensitivity and issues of peacebuilding across all of them. So how do we look at water and sanitation and conflict sensitive ways of sharing resources, how do we think about women and violence against women as a key indicator of where societies are in their own peacebuilding? So, I see some specific goals more related to inclusivity in governance, but also see this mainstreamed in a way that can really hold up and support the other goals.

MQ: The Millennium Development Goals emerged from what many say was a top-down process. But looking at 2015, there's been this huge global consultation, real outreach to the grassroots level. As we approach 2015 and the launch of the next agenda, how can you keep it as an inclusive dialogue?

MG: That's a really, really important question, because it goes both to the process but also the structure of how we want these goals to be. We are asking for a really fundamental realignment in the goals themselves about how governments work with their own societies and civil societies. And part of that has to be expressed just in the process we used getting there. 

I think it has been very inclusive; there’ve been not only formal civil society processes, but the opportunity for online engagement. And I think the challenge will be keeping their feet to the fire, keeping those voices present once the doors close and we move into the open working group and into the real political wrangling. 

And we have to have a narrative that’s strong enough and doors that are opened enough to say to countries that are recalcitrant, "But, what do you mean, how can you say no to peace? How can you say no to people feeling secure, to people feeling where their next meal is coming from?" And just keeping those voices, keeping the technological space open, using Facebook and social media to pressure the countries—that’s really our job as  this process unfolds. And I think in many ways this has been the easy part, that including civil society in the consultation, the high-level panel, input has been difficult, but the really difficult part is going to be how to keep our voices in that political wrangling.

MQ: Thank you. I want to go back to the issue of universality for goal related to peace and security, I guess because I am a little skeptical. Could you give an example of that?

MG: Well, I think looking just at our own country—that if you look now the levels of gun violence, at the levels of income inequality, at the levels of access to justice—we have so much to work on here, which is exactly what we're asking other countries to do. I think by framing this in the positive peace kind of way, that these are things all countries aspire to, it's not just fragile states. Then we can start maybe taking the defensive edge off, that maybe it's a question of degree, or it's different in different sectors, but that these are some things all countries should aspire to, but just seems to speak to the universality.

MQ: My last question is about any ideas or suggestions you have that would encourage at the national, local, and global level the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals to the greatest extent possible between now and 2015. 

MG: I think in some ways there is this false cut-off that somehow we're starting with a blank slate after 2015. I think that actually a lot of the things that we're talking about today have started to happen. And I am thinking just for example about gender inclusion and violence against women, Security Council Resolution 1325 has had a very profound effect already on how we think about women, mainstreaming gender, women in security, women in development. So, I think that we can use tools like that. What we know now from the peacebuilding and statebuilding goals—it's happening right now in countries like Liberia, Somalia, that are going through their fragility assessments. 

So I think a lot of the tools we're using to frame post-2015 are actually happening now, and we can really encourage that over the next 18 months and use those as examples to say, “Look what's happening in these fragile states, and look at the relevance to post-2015,” and really see the continuum, and not that somehow we're starting with a complete reinvention of wheel.

MQ: Thank you so much for joining us at the Global Observatory.

MG: It's a pleasure to be here, thank you.



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