“We need to be better at identifying what is needed to promote and keep peace rather than what is needed to prevent and resolve conflicts”. This is how one participant summed up the discussions following a two-day workshop on Sustaining Peace in the West Asia – North Africa (WANA) region, co-organised by the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and the WANA Institute on 6-7 February in Amman, Jordan.
The workshop provided a space for UN staff and local civil society representatives to share experiences and perspectives on promoting sustainable peace and development in WANA, which has in recent decades experienced multiple overlapping violent conflicts that have killed and wounded hundreds of thousands, triggered mass displacement of people and devastated local infrastructure and economies. The legacy of these conflicts, and the factors that led to their outbreak, pose a difficult political reality for the region. At the same time the countries and populations of the WANA region demonstrate tremendous resilience and local capacity to mitigate and recover from outbreaks of violence and manage the impact of large flows of refugees and displaced persons.
Making Sustaining Peace a reality
The discussions focused on local and international efforts to operationalise the UN Sustaining Peace resolutions, adopted by the Security Council (SCR 2282) and General Assembly (70/262) in April 2016, and highlighted how the resolutions have been able to frame the UN’s role in supporting peacebuilding in terms that underscore its importance beyond the organisation’s engagement in post-conflict countries. “It is critical to keep the peace in those countries that are peaceful”, one participant noted. Also important is integrating implementation of the resolutions with that of other international policy frameworks, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. More resources are needed that provide tools and methods that have been successful in integrating these approaches is other contexts.
Participants also emphasised the need for greater coordination and cooperation between international, national and local actors in strengthening inclusive peace and development. UN Country Teams are often understaffed, under-resourced, and often not trusted or understood by local communities. The organisation should put more focus on playing a convening role, facilitating dialogue between diverse actors, supporting national and local peacebuilding initiatives and finding creative ways to enable and protect the efforts of civil society, especially where that is restricted or repressed.
The need for inclusive processes
The workshop also provided an opportunity to discuss what is needed to strengthen the inclusion of diverse stakeholders in sustaining peace and looked specifically at inclusivity in Jordan. Despite its relatively peaceful status in the region, challenges exist in ensuring that marginalised groups, including refugees, women, youth, rural populations and disabled persons, among others, are meaningfully engaged in society through employment and participation in decision-making processes. While UN development efforts have had a positive impact on inclusivity in the country, more programming with the specific aim of strengthening inclusion is needed.
The importance of engaging young people in the region was in particular highlighted throughout the workshop as well as more in-depth during a session focused on implementation of Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security and the recommendations outlined in the independent Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security. In Yemen, online awareness-raising campaigns and workshops conducted in 10 governorates led to the establishment of several youth-led initiatives that are now working to promote peace and development in the country. One participant pointed out however that “youth are still often considered part of the output rather than the input” and that more is needed to include young people in conceptualising programmes and initiatives.
To further explore inclusivity in Jordan and other country contexts, the Foundation is currently looking at how UN Country Teams work with policy frameworks to strengthen the inclusion of diverse groups in a community. Findings from this and similar meetings in other regions will also contribute to the Foundation’s continued efforts to support implementation of the UN’s Sustaining Peace agenda, including the forthcoming interim report by the UN Secretary-General on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace that is expected in late Spring 2019 and preparations for the next mandated review of the UN’s peacebuilding architecture in 2020.