Pathways to Peace Report: An opportunity to change mindsets and build inclusive, democratic societies

Armend Bekaj writes about ‘Social exclusion and inequality: what is the efficacy of conflict prevention today?’ – an International Training on Dialogue and Mediation (ITDM) Alumni Network seminar co-hosted by the Foundation and the Department of Peace and Conflict Research (DPCR) at Uppsala University.

Understanding grievances, finding compromises

‘Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict’ is a joint report by the World Bank Group and the United Nations (UN) published in 2018. A core outcome was the identification of some of the underpinning elements of violent conflict in the world today and focusing on tackling social exclusion and inequality as preconditions to a successful conflict prevention. The authors called for action and gave us a list of recommendations for governments and civil society to urge for the reduction of violent conflict and the utilisation of prevention mechanisms.

Fast forward to 2022, perhaps it’s time to revisit some of the report’s findings. We are seeing that violent conflict has not dissipated. If anything, it has gotten worse as we witnessed with the war in Ukraine, the ongoing instability in Afghanistan, a fragile peace treaty in Ethiopia, a protracted conflict in Syria, or the simmering social tensions in Iran. In addition, it seems that inter-state conflicts, that showed a considerable downward trend in the post-Cold War era, have made a troubling comeback.

We can therefore ask the question on everyone’s mind: ‘What is happening?’ Why not engage and discuss the issues with those working with these important security questions. ‘Social exclusion and inequality: what are the efficacy of conflict prevention today?’ was the ITDM Alumni seminar topic facilitated by the Foundation in collaboration with the Department of Peace and Conflict Research (DPCR), Uppsala University on 28 November 2022. What do practitioners think about where the community is today vis-à-vis the Pathways report? What are the main factors leading to social exclusion and inequality, and who is most affected?

Speakers from Peru, Colombia, Rwanda, India, and Indonesia provided interesting views and shared their experiences.

‘Persisting horizontal inequalities’ was lifted as a common red thread issue. It was listed as an element fostering grievances leading to creating a breeding ground for societal friction leading to violent conflict.

Ana Prada from Colombia talked about former combatants with disabilities being left behind by the state. She saw it as an opportunity lost as the country is still at the beginning of implementing peace accords. This is an ideal time for institutions to be inclusive of a community that need to be successfully integrated in society as a precondition to a long-lasting peace.

Nukila Evanty from Indonesia shared stories about the Free Papua Movement that started an anti-government insurrection due to persistent societal inequalities. As a response, argued Evanty, it was up to the government to instigate a dialogue and to build trust. These are necessary steps to ameliorating social discord.

Richard Kananga from Rwanda underline the issue of ‘bad governance’ in some African contexts as a breeding ground for corruption and nepotism. In a number of countries, there are capital investments taking place from foreign companies, but due to corruption and shady deals only a handful group of individuals connected to the government make a profit. This further leads to marginalisation and social discontent.

‘Pathways to Peace’ says that the state and its institutions remain prime actors in tackling social exclusion. Participants in this seminar concurred. But how do we move forward? The first step in that direction is really to understand the grievances of communities that are marginalised or hurting. Or, as Freddy Ortiz Nishihara from Peru pointed out that to change one’s mindset it is wise to consider one that is inclusive, democratic and empathetic. We do this through education and always striving for compromises, even at the face of utmost adversity.

Armend Bekaj By Armend Bekaj

About Armend Bekaj

Armend Bekaj is a Programme Manager in the Foundations’ Peacebuilding thematic area, focusing on the International Training on Dialogue and Mediation course. His expertise is in the nexus between peace, conflict and democratisation studies and with experience from International IDEA, the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as well as the Berghof Foundation.

Bekaj holds a Doctorate in Political Science from the University of Sheffield and a Masters in Conflict Resolution from the University of Bradford, England and is also a Researcher at Uppsala University’s Department of Peace and Conflict Research.