We Need To Talk About Peacebuilding

by Outreach ~ June 10th, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized.
Prevention is better than cure has been the guiding principle of modern medicine. This simple mantra has for some become a philosophy of how to live better – we deal with problems before they develop, avoid potential issues through careful management and plan cautiously for an uncertain future.

Government policy has never been a big fan of prevention – there aren’t always votes in solving a problem before it escalates. A bigger problem is how you measure prevention – if the problem happens anyway you will be blamed for wasting money. If you avert the problem entirely you will blamed for wasting money. In the prevention game it can often be a no-win scenario.


Conflict prevention has proven itself to have real value time and time again. Civil servants and academics have been aware for some time that there are key metrics that suggest a country is on its way to becoming a failed state. The proliferation of small arms, violence against women and democratic illegitimacy all indicate a drift towards war.

Dealing with these problems is a difficult and dangerous process which could involve teaching people how to vote in Afghanistan or educating women against FGM in Mozambique. It might involve cracking down on crime lords in Sierra Leone or strengthening the police investigation capacity in Iraq.

Peacebuilding works – so much so that the government is tripling the resources dedicated to it over the next three years. Investing in a more peaceful world is something that appeals to the idealist in all of us – but something must be amiss if the government doesn’t want to talk about it.

The last annual report on the government “Conflict Pool” (the funds that support UK peace building efforts abroad) was commissioned in 2009/2010. All government policies must be reviewed in order to be effective – we are facing a whole parliament without a review of how the Conflict Pool is (or isn’t!) working.

Recommendations laid out by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact for improving the Conflict Pool have never been reported back on, and if you want to find out about individual projects financed by the Conflict Pool, good luck – most are considered politically sensitive and therefore classified – therefore we as citizens don’t know where our money is going.

What is the Conflict Pool funding? Appeasing a despot? Digging a well or buying arms? There’s a saying in management – if we don’t track it, it doesn’t matter. Peacebuilding matters and more must be done to make the Conflict Pool more transparent.

Potentially wasting public money is tragic enough – but when it costs lives, exacerbates extremism and dooms states to totalitarian rule or mafia states, Liberals everywhere should be screaming about it.

Foreign policy in the 21st century won’t be the gunboat diplomacy of centuries past – it will be the building of stability, prosperity and influence through long-term peacebuilding.

The government should be shouting its commitment to peace from the rooftops. It’s an election year now and we need to talk about peacebuilding. Clearly the government doesn’t want to – and now we need to find out why.

Back to top