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Financing peacebuilding: Walking the talk

The Foundation participated in the Carnegie PeaceBuilding Conversations in The Hague, in the Netherlands by moderating a session on ‘Financing Sustaining Peace and Peacebuilding – walking the talk of innovation’.

Watch the conversation


The deficit in funding for efforts to build and sustain peace globally, and in particular in fragile and conflict affected contexts, is widely acknowledged and lamented. There has been a surge of interest during recent years in innovative financing to fill this gap. This was the theme for the session ‘Financing Sustaining Peace and Peacebuilding – walking the talk of innovation’ which the Foundation held as part of the Carnegie PeaceBuilding Conversations, an event that connected 350 people for 3 days in The Hague in the Netherlands.

Henrik Hammargren, Executive Director of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation moderated the session that engaged approximately 80 participants and a diverse panel of speakers, including Riva Kantowitz (Center on International Cooperation); Henk-Jan Brinkman (United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office); Arif Neky (UN Resident Coordinator’s Office, Kenya); Harriet Lamb (International Alert); and Steve Killelea (Institute for Economics and Peace).

ODA for peacebuilding activities
A 2017 report by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), indicates that countries affected by conflict and fragility receive only 24% of Official Development Assistance (ODA), of which only 16% is for peacebuilding activities. The 2018 Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development States of Fragility Report shows that in 2016 just 2% of total gross ODA went to conflict prevention and associated activities. In comparison, as the UN Secretary-General underscored in a speech to the General Assembly in March this year, over the past 10 years, the international community has spent US$ 233 billion on humanitarian response, peacekeeping and hosting refugees.

Related to this point, Riva Kantowitz urged participants to consider, ‘how can we invest in Sustaining Peace through innovative financing? We need a common agreement on what the toolbox for innovative finance can consist of. The discussion must be about what kind of money and how it is spent, not just about more money’.

ODA remains extremely important for fragile contexts. Most fragile contexts do not have a diversity of financing options at their disposal and may not for several years. Research and experience over the past decades have clearly demonstrated the importance of comprehensive national and regional peacebuilding strategies matched by an agreed financial plan or compact. This is still largely not happening and also warrants revitalised efforts.

Sharing experiences
Arif Neky shared experiences from the context of Kenya which has transitioned to being a middle-income country, and focused on the efforts of the UN Country Team in Kenya in dialogue with other development actors to devise new funding strategies. He presented the example of the SDG Partnership Platform, a public-private group that creates a pipeline of investment toward the Global Goals. Neky went on to outline some of the peacebuilding challenges that Kenya faces and underscored the importance of cross-border peacebuilding initiatives.

Steve Killelea, Institute for Economics & Peace introduced how he believes that businesses can be encouraged to invest in peace and the work of IEP to encourage business investment through addressing systemic issues of 1) corruption; 2) youth unemployment; 3) migration because they lack opportunities; and 4) measurement.

Engaging the public in what they think of about peacebuilding is essential according to Harriet Lamb, ‘We’ve made the case for the cost-efficiency of prevention. We’ve provided knowledge. It’s time to bring the discussion to the streets.’ Harriet shared the recent survey that International Alert has conducted on the perceptions of peacebuilding around the work and the important insights that can be gained from people as we work to sustain peace in the long term.

New sources of financing
Most support for peacebuilding projects after countries have experienced violence is dependent on ODA.  Beyond ODA, which is and will remain an important source of funding for peacebuilding and sustaining peace in low-income and fragile contexts for the foreseeable future, there is a need for other sources of financing. In his January report on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Member States and donors to support the UN Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) at a level of $500mil annually in order to meet the demand for this instrument. In the session Henk-Jan Brinkman outlined some of the successful projects funded by the PBF in diverse contexts and emphasised that many remain unfunded as there has been an insufficient level of commitments (and the PBF is entirely reliant on voluntary contributions).

During the discussion several questions were raised that are intended to stimulate further dialogue in various fora going forward, including how innovation should be understood and whom it is for. Is it critical that innovation in financing for peacebuilding brings about more and new sources of funds? How can existing resources be used more effectively and efficiently, in particular in leveraging additional financing?

As the Foundation continues to explore and stimulate discussion on this topic we are keen to engage with others who are thinking about this topic. We are particularly interested in hearing new voices, ideas and experiences.