Bilal, S., Hauck, V. 2015. Prosperity for peace: Editorial. GREAT Insights Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 1. February 2016.
Addressing the root causes of fragility will be critical to realising the Global Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Yet while global matters are interconnected in a complex manner, they are often approached in a fragmented and narrowly specialised way. This is especially common when addressing peacebuilding and development in fragile and conflict-prone environment, where security and humanitarian approaches generally prevail.
Approaches to peacebuilding and fragility must focus not only on the security dimension, but also at the underlying causes and consequences that characterise conflict-prone environments, including the economic ones. In this context, greater attention must be paid to how peacebuilding processes can be better informed through an economic development lens, how approaches to promote economic development should take conflict and peace concerns into account, and what underpinning issues need to be considered in doing so.
This is particularly important for Africa where 46 out of the 54 countries of the African Union (AU) have experienced conflict. As stressed by Commissioner Solomon Dersso of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights during the AU Summit in January 2016, “either Africa confronts head on the causes of conflict or faces the consequences of perceptions of fragility”. So, besides immediate relief, the challenge is to address the critical economic conditions and captured rents, as in the case of natural resources, that lead to and fuel conflicts. It is also about adopting a longer-term perspective in post-conflict and conflict-prone contexts so as to provide new economic perspectives and prosperity over time. It is therefore about creating jobs, opportunities for more decent living conditions and means of substance, more equitable distribution, and developing sustainable and inclusive productive capacity.
This issue of GREAT Insights focuses on these complex inter-linkages between peace and prosperity, based on concrete experiences. The issue looks at this from three angles. The opening section presents how peace and economic development can be approached conceptually and practically. The second part discusses how peace and economic development cannot be delinked from questions about supporting business and creating job opportunities. The third section addresses questions about investments and financing, including illicit financing flows, and discusses instruments which outside agencies can deploy to support fragile environments in their path towards more resilience and development.
Dealing with such complex and interrelated matters immediately raises many questions, such as where to begin and how to approach situations, which can vary enormously – ranging from post-conflict and gradually resilient societies like Timor-Leste to countries, like South Sudan or Central African Republic, with conflicts spread throughout their territory. Evidently, highly context specific approaches need to be followed. Several messages emerge from the articles in this issue which should be taken into account in fragile or conflict-prone environments when promoting economic development and growth.
Evidence from a variety of conflict situations confirms that there is a lot to gain from deploying more conflict sensitive approaches when promoting economic development. Conflict sensitivity is relevant to governments, private sector and international agencies. It needs to be addressed at the very practical level, such as investing in conflict assessments or conflict impact studies, and start already when identifying and designing investments in conflict prone contexts.
There is also a lot to gain in combining pragmatically context-specific institutional reforms and shaping regulatory frameworks for the private sector with a range of bottom-up support approaches to help the social and economic fabric to grow. Stimulating cross-border trade and relationship building between business communities of different origin are other means to promote peace and economic development. There is also evidence that establishing effective business-government platforms for dialogue and advice can support peace and economic growth. Another measure might be the provision of small-scale and gender-sensitive loans to entrepreneurs.
At the international level, conflict sensitive programmes and information provision to increase the awareness of multilateral companies about how to invest in often resource-rich but governance-poor environments are much needed. This also goes for supporting continental policy discourses on fragility, such as the sessions on illicit financing flows held during the 2014 Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa and discussed in this issue.
Supporting peace and prosperity evidently does not lend itself to simplistic recipes. Approaches to work from the bottom up are often complex, tedious and long-term. Addressing economic development in fragile and conflict-affected environments cannot rely primarily on isolated technical approaches such as strengthening business opportunities for the private sector, or providing vocational training to the youth alone. A range of ‘interconnected building-blocks’, as described in this issue, has been deployed to deal with conflict in Medellin, Colombia. These comprise dialogue between diverse and rallying stakeholders, institutional as well as informal monitoring mechanisms to signal conflict and address them, deployment of conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms and stimulating responsible business practices. More sophisticated ways are needed for effective conflict management measures and fostering enabling environments.
We hope that this issue of GREAT Insights usefully contributes to spreading more awareness about conflict sensitivity in promoting prosperity and peace and on how such endeavours towards more comprehensive approaches can be addressed.
Dr San Bilal (Editor), Head of Economic Transformation and Trade Programme, ECDPM
Volker Hauck (Guest Editor), Head of Conflict, Security and Resilience Programme, ECDPM
This article was published in GREAT Insights Volume 5, Issue 1 (February 2016).