Marketing for Peace: Why a marketing strategy can help the UN build and sustain peace

What do the 4Ps of marketing have to do with peacebuilding? In our first blog post Sigrid Gruener explores how to draw financing for peacebuilding.

Helping a hairdresser and a mechanic in Iraq attract new business was not something I always expected in my career path. But this unforeseen and first experience with marketing made me acquainted with the “4 Ps”. Never had the pleasure of learning marketing lingo? Well this model is essentially about four all-important Ps that are vital for any marketing strategy: putting the right Product in the right Place, at the right Price, and with the right Promotion.

So what does this model have to do with peacebuilding? Well, its relevance came to me at a recent workshop with experts on how to ensure adequate and predictable financing for peacebuilding. I was surprised that one of the conclusions we reached was the need for better marketing.

To me, and those I work with, the urgency to tackle the causes of violent conflict and to rebuild communities that have been destroyed in war, in order to prevent relapse into violence, is self-evident. Evidence has even shown that investing in peacebuilding is not only necessary in fragile contexts but also makes financial sense. This is because it reduces spending on future and prolonged humanitarian action; eight out of every ten dollars of humanitarian funding is currently accounted for by conflicts. Why then have efforts to sustain peace remained a hard sell?


One of the challenges seems to lie with how we communicate what we mean by peacebuilding and how to show what has worked to build peace and why. Let’s consider our first marketing “P”. What is our product or service?

Yes, there are dozens of definitions for peacebuilding. Actually, probably more like hundreds. But they are still quite ambiguous and when applied to any country, city or community have to be contextualized to be meaningful. The report of the Advisory Group of Experts (AGE) of the Review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture urges the international community to liberate peacebuilding from the strict limitations to post-conflict contexts and to understand it to include efforts to prevent the lapse and relapse into conflict.

It calls for a reorientation of the entire UN’s work to one in which the challenge of sustaining peace is seen as central to the UN Charter. This is welcomed and most necessary, but it is not likely to convince skeptics, among them several UN Member States, to provide more financial support for peacebuilding.


Which brings us to our next “P”, the question of Price. How much funding is needed to build and sustain peace over the long term? Country by country estimates are needed, but if we just look at the amount that is disbursed through the UN Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), the “price” of core funding has been set at US$ 100 million. This is a drop in the bucket when compared to the US$ 8+ billion that are spent annually on UN peacekeeping operations. These funds, however, come from assessed contributions, which are essentially UN membership dues. The Peacebuilding Fund, on the other hand, relies on voluntary contributions by UN Member States that are beyond the assessed funds, and only few have been particularly forthcoming.

Part of the challenge in convincing countries to fund peacebuilding, and the PBF more specifically, is that it is often needed in countries that are not in the spotlight of the international policy arena, and not receiving large amounts of political attention or development assistance. Looking at the countries supported by the PBF you see a few that are higher up in some donors’ priorities but many are quite low. Chad, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Uganda.


So if we look at some of the places where there is a need for peacebuilding support, our “Place” in the marketing strategy, we realize this is not an easy sell. It is not only UN Member State missions at UN Headquarters in NY who need to be convinced that they should contribute to the Peacebuilding Fund. These diplomats report to officials in capitals who in turn are accountable to their populations. How keen are the citizens of the US, the UK, Canada or Denmark to see their governments paying for reconciliation efforts in the Central African Republic?


And finally we have our fourth and final “P”. Promotion. Where, when and how do we get our marketing message across? Who within the UN is leading this effort and what are their channels? The UN Peacebuilding Support Office has a clear role and mandate to do this but their team is small and under-resourced. The expertise and resources of the UN Department of Public Information, Peace and Security Section could be instrumental in disseminating information about successful peacebuilding initiatives and how the UN system can achieve the integrated approach needed to more successfully build and sustain peace. It is unclear to what extent they are doing this.

The inter-governmental phase of the Peacebuilding Architecture Review is in its final stretch, with a General Assembly resolution expected in March. I hope the language in that document is sufficient to provide a platform for change in the UN Peacebuilding Architecture (a term that may soon be abandoned if the call by the Advisory Group of Experts is heeded), and more broadly in how the UN approaches peacebuilding.

To ensure that the attention to these needed reforms is maintained beyond March, that the recommendations do not remain words on paper, and that we can move closer to securing adequate funding for peacebuilding, my colleagues at the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation will be putting some thought into this idea of a marketing strategy. I hope others will join us.


Sigrid Gruener By Sigrid Gruener

About Sigrid Gruener

Sigrid Gruener is Programme Director at the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation with a focus on Peacebuilding, Inclusivity and Human Rights and heads the Foundation’s Office in New York.

In total Sigrid has over 20 years of experience working as a practitioner, trainer, and researcher in the field of development, peacebuilding, and conflict transformation. Prior to joining the Foundation, she worked with diverse civil society organisations and as an implementing partner to the UN in Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Timor Leste, Panama, and the U.S.

Sigrid holds a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a Bachelor of Arts from American University’s School of International Service in Washington D.C.