This is a draft of a document I’m working on for publication by International Alert in a few months. Therefore comments would be very welcome indeed.
Despite major gains for peace in the past few decades, violent conflict remains a factor in too many places. Over 1.5 billion people live in fragile and conflict-affected countries, and the current situation of people in countries as diverse as Syria, Yemen, Libya, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Philippines, Mali, India, Colombia, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Ukraine, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, and the Central African Republic – and in fragile parts of more stable countries where gang- and crime-related violence prevails – is a salient reminder of the need to focus national and international efforts on peacebuilding.
Economy and conflict are intimately linked. Competition over access to resources lies behind, indeed is often at the heart of most wars and other forms of organised violence. Sustainable peace within and between societies is really only possible when people have fair access to sustainable livelihood and asset accumulation opportunities, combined with general well-being, justice, security in a context of good governance.
Economic success is clearly the main preoccupation of businesses. And economic development is often the major preoccupation of governments and individuals – prosperity symbolises their ambitions for progress and a better life. So those promoting economic development play an influential role in defining how societies make progress. In countries affected by violent conflict, or where institutional fragility increases the likelihood of violent conflict, the nature of economic development takes on even more importance. This is because it is not axiomatic that economic development is good for peace. Unfortunately, while some economic development approaches support progress towards sustainable peace, some approaches can also undermine peace. For example economic growth based on narrow, non-labour intensive sectors like mineral extraction have contributed to instability and violence. It can be perceived as excluding many people from the benefits of growth, and is also apt to be captured by narrow elite interests who therefore do their best to retain control of the levers of political and economic power. A more diverse and labour-intensive economy, on the other hand, typically allows for wider participation and thus a stake in stability and further development.
This means that how people and organisations leading economic development efforts do so, is of fundamental importance to peace in their contexts. Their actions shape the economy, which in turn helps shape the prospects for peace. Politicians, civil servants, businesses, NGOs and international organisations all play a role in shaping the economy, and thus peace, through a combination of policy, business and investment decisions, and development programmes and projects. International agreements and norms, and those who determine them, also play an influential role.
But most of these people and institutions pay little attention to this aspect of their role and those who do, often lack guidance in how to integrate peacebuilding into their work. The larger report summarised here provides them with broad guidance. It elucidates a framework within which they can integrate peacebuilding goals and strategies into their primarily economic plans, and provides overall practical advice on how they can begin to do this. Finally, it provides higher level recommendations which, if taken on board, would enable economic development promoters to integrate peacebuilding into their work more routinely, and thus combine economic development, profitable business and investment, and progress towards sustainable peace.
2 A peace-conducive economic development framework
Figure 1 above illustrates the main elements of the peace-conducive economic development framework which we explain here. It is organised in four categories.
2.1 Outcomes of peace-conducive economic development
‘Peace’ is intuitively obvious at a human level, but seems very vague and distant to those defining policy, project or business outcomes. So one of the challenges is to identify simple, practical and recognisable indicators of progress towards peace which are relevant for economic promoters. Drawing on International Alert’s experience and this research, we isolated four broad outcomes of peace-conducive economic development for this purpose:
- Decent livelihoods. People are gainfully employed in decent work (self-employed or employed by others). They earn enough to live with dignity, and are treated with equality and dignity while working. They are not treated in an inhuman or degrading way; and nobody ‘owns’ another person or can force them to work under threat of punishment. Decent livelihood opportunities need to be both available and fairly accessible, to minimise exclusion and maximise mobility. This requires per capita economic growth.
- Capital. People are able to own and accumulate economic assets securely, to provide them with a cushion in time of need, to improve their income, and to invest in and improve the economy; and to do so in a way which is fair to others. As with livelihoods, access to capital accumulation opportunities needs to be fair. Capital may be individually or jointly owned and managed, including by the community or the state as in the case of welfare safety nets.
- Revenue and services. The state, or other authorised institutions, collect sufficient revenue, and invest it to provide the infrastructure and services needed for the economy and peace to flourish, and to do so fairly and strategically, with both economic growth and strengthening peace as explicit policy intentions.
- Environmental and social sustainability. Economic development enhances or at least avoids damaging the environment, and enhances or at least avoids undermining peace-positive attributes in society.
To integrate peacebuilding, businesses, governments and others should thus explicitly map how they will contribute to these outcomes through their policies, projects, business plans and approaches.
2.2 The political economy
Political economy is an analytical lens through which to understand the intersection of political and economic power, where power over different opportunities is held and resources allocated, and by whom. All economic policies and projects must be devised and implemented within the realities of the political economy, so as to capitalise on opportunities and avoid being obstructed by vested interests. Otherwise they will fail.
Most political economy analysis frameworks seem to converge on four fundamental, inter-linked parameters – ‘the four Is’:
- Interests: of individuals and groups, in relation to changes versus the status quo
- Incentives for stasis or change, as they apply to different specific interests
- Ideology and values, underpinning people’s perception of what is in their interests, and which may modify the most obvious rational economic preferences
- Institutions, inasmuch they provide opportunities for particular courses of action, especially in terms mediating between the different interests of different actors. Institutions are as often informal – for example culturally determined approaches to decision-making, deference to older people, civic duty, informal taxation paid to gangs – as formal.
Interests and incentives define how those with or without power will respond to a given situation or opportunity, either seeking change or to maintain the status quo. People’s interpretation of their interests is coloured or modified by their values or ideology. And institutions are the norms and mechanisms through which people’s and organisations’ actions and transactions are mediated in line with their interests and the incentives operating on them, and which tend to reflect and reinforce the prevailing values – or at least the values of those with power. In short, the political economy determines where opportunities for change do or don’t exist.
2.3 Seven levers of change
We identified seven domains of intervention in which economic development promoters can plan their contribution to peace. For economic development actors wanting to contribute to peace, these are the ‘levers of change’.
The make-up of the economy – the kinds of economic activity which prevail, and how people contribute to and benefit from them.
Variables include imports and exports; openness; the strength of consumer demand; diversity; the relative proportions of primary, secondary and services sectors; peasant versus commercial farming; and vulnerability to supply chain or market risks. Over the long term peace is correlated with diversity, a high jobs:investment ratio, dynamism and creativity; long, multi-stranded value chains providing opportunities for new business and for jobs, and taxation and regulation; and economic sectors which are by nature dynamic – e.g. thriving small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) contribute to a more creative political and economic culture. An economy dominated by natural resource sectors tends to be liable to elite capture, and may reinforce clientilism, corruption and exclusion. ‘Shadow’ or illicit economic sectors and practices can have a similar effect. But it is important to contextualise these kinds of issues: e.g. open markets are better for peace, but allowing powerful elites privileged access and economic power may provide short-term stability. Likewise informal economies may be hard to tax, but may be the best way to maximise livelihood opportunities in the short and medium term.
Human capital – the capacity and capability of individuals and groups, and society as a whole to make economic and social progress through the application of spirit, knowledge and skills.
This assumes a well-educated population, and specifically in skills relevant to important economic sectors, creative problem solving, entrepreneurship and teamwork; a spirit of inclusion, and an openness to human capital improvement across gender and identity groupings; a reasonably healthy population with sufficient access to meet their basic needs and to entertain and fulfil aspirations. These attributes are critical to peaceful problem and conflict management and resolution, and thus to peace; and also, in the main, to economic development.
Relationships – functional relationships across and between societies enable communication and foster predictability and trust, which in turn underpins functional relationships.
Collaboration and resilient relationships both within and between gender and other identity groups is a critical element of peace. Relationships allow people to understand the interests and needs of others, and provide the opportunity for the development of trust, empathy and collaboration which is essential to routine, non-violent management of conflicts.
The rule of law – the availability and accessibility of formal and informal mechanisms, based on clear a priori rules, for avoiding and adjudicating disputes, and punishing those who break rules and norms.
Rule of law assumes the predictable production and execution of judgements by authorised parties; and in this predictability resides its power to prevent violence. It means the application of clear, consistent and fair rules, emphasising property rights and the rights of the individual; the absence (or rareness) of impunity. No-one is above the law. It ultimately replaces and discourages unfair and violent behaviours and is thus good for peace; while impunity encourages them and undermines peace. It also encourages investment.
Security – the degree to which individuals, families, communities and organisations are and feel safe, now and in the foreseeable future.
Security is a function of service provision by state and other providers, of individual and group capacity, and of the strength and quality of social norms, relationships and social capital. Cicero wrote that the security of the people is the highest law, and it remains one of the key components of peace. Without it, the risk of violence and harm increases, and therefore pre-emptive violence also becomes more likely; whereas security allows people to build trustful relationships. A sense of security allows and encourages people to accumulate economic assets and build human capital, thus increases their resilience to shocks. Security is also an enabler of business and economic activity more broadly.
Infrastructure – the existence of and access to an enabling physical infrastructure, especially in terms of energy, communications and transport, and essential services such as health facilities and schools.
Infrastructure should be tailored to actual needs and opportunities across society, not favouring only some groups. It should be open, accessible and maintained – and thus ideally funded through tax or other sustained income. Public infrastructure should be managed for public good. Access to information prevents distorted rumours from exacerbating conflict; access to other infrastructure allows needs to be met and enables progress on the other elements in this model. And infrastructure is of course an essential enabler of economic development.
Land and capital – the opportunity to accumulate or borrow financial capital for investment, and/or to acquire the rights to use land.
When capital is widely accessible, based on business merit rather than identity or relationships, it allows for a more diverse and resilient economy, which is by nature more resilient to violence, as there are more resource options and less narrow competition. Access to capital and/or land is important for peace in that it allows for inclusion, and for the creation of jobs and business opportunities; people in decent work and with developed capital or land (i.e. a stake) are less likely to fight.
2.4 Opportunity, leadership and agency
The economies of conflict-affected societies are by definition insufficiently conducive to peace. They are unlikely to be transformed automatically, not least because their political economies tend to be dominated by those with an interest in, and the power to maintain the status quo. Changes of the kind needed to support peace tend to be incremental, often organic, and non-linear: but they also benefit from a combination of three factors: opportunity, leadership and agency.
Moments which are propitious for change occur. These are opportunities for progress, if seized by the right leaders with sufficient capacity and agency. The risks of conflict associated with large mining or oil projects in a fragile context are well-known. On the other hand, the arrival of a large disruptive mining or other economic project, with multiple stakeholders and potential winners and losers, represents an opportunity to practise and demonstrate good governance. By engaging multiple stakeholders and respecting their interests, those leading such a project can create an experience of participation, consensus and compromise which may be relatively rare in some contexts, resulting in improved relationships among citizens, and between citizens, state and businesses, which can be built upon for other governance purposes. Likewise, new technologies, the end of a war, or reconstruction after a natural disaster represent opportunities to use or test new approaches.
Leadership for peacebuilding through economic development is provided by politicians and government, as in the case of structural changes to the rural economy underway in Rwanda, designed to promote the twin aims of economic growth and long-term stability; by businesses, as in the development of communications infrastructure and the fair allocation of jobs by investors, and the adoption of new practices by farmers; by civil society activists promoting local livelihoods and economically literate education, etc.; by international agencies operating within the country in question; or by international actions with cross-border impacts, such as the implementation of anti-money laundering measures or moves to decriminalise drugs. Despite concerns about ‘doing-no-harm’, and the complexity and limits of cause-and-effect models, the role of progressive agency remains critical, at whatever level or scope.
2.5 Tensions between economic development and peace
We saw in 2.3 that economic development and peacebuilding go hand-in-hand, in many respects. By promoting one, we can often promote the other. But this is not automatic, and there are undeniable tensions between some economic development initiatives, and the needs of peace, for example:
- Fast-tracking economic growth initiatives may undermine peace processes if they are insufficiently inclusive or conflict-sensitive
- Economic growth or transformation initiatives which make land or other resources accessible for commercial investors may create new land- or resource-based grievances
- Promoting socio-economic mobility too rapidly may undermine the perceived or actual interests of incumbents
- There may be competition between human capital and infrastructure needs for public investment funds, with infrastructure having the fastest economic return, but the latter having a greater sustainable peace return
- A trade-off between enabling rational strategic economic investment opportunities, focused in few geographical areas, and the need for more widespread investment in infrastructure to enable peace dividends across society
- In general, there is a tension between short-term stability and long-term sustainability; and between incumbency and openness
- Meanwhile some peace processes may ignore economic factors, for example the interests of potential peace spoilers, and thus fail: new democratic institutions seen as good for peace may hinder existing economic norms, and thus be subject to spoilers.
Managing these tensions is critical in ensuring that economic development contributes sustainably to peace.
4 Using the framework
The framework is designed for analysis and planning by politicians, civil servants, businesses, NGOs and international agencies – separately or together. Its utility is in working out how to integrate peace into economic development: in practical terms, to adapt economic approaches so they promote peace. The starting point for most planners will therefore be their own initial economic development niche or project. Obviously the processes for determining public policy, or planning business development projects are rarely linear. But for the sake of clarity, we outline a generic five-step planning process which consists of clarifying the mandate, defining relevant peace outcomes, analysing the political economy and the seven ‘levers of change’, developing a concrete plan, and then implementation and evaluation.
Step 1: Mandate
If most economic development promoters ignore their potential contribution to peace, a critical first step is clarify this – engaging all key stakeholders (for example politicians, constituencies, boards of directors and shareholders). For governments and many international agencies this should present no problem a priori, and businesses are increasingly aware of their responsibility to create ‘shared value’, i.e. ‘identifying and expanding the connections between societal and economic progress’. Many international agencies increasingly recognise a role in contributing to peace, as illustrated by the World Bank’s creation of a Center for Conflict, Security and Development to guide its programming.
Step 2: Relationship to the four peace and prosperity outcomes
The next step is to determine a more specific ambition in terms of our four ‘outcomes’ of peace-promoting economic development: sustainability, decent livelihoods, revenue and services, and safe capital accumulation. Most economic projects expect to have some impact on some of these, by default. But we must go beyond the ‘default’. This means examining all four characteristics to determine whether and how the agency and its project can make a difference to them as they link to peace and conflict in the specific context. This also requires identifying the tensions between peace and economic development which we noted earlier, and working out how to resolve them.
Step 3: Analysis of the political economy and the seven levers of change
The next step is to identify the extent to which the project’s contribution will be possible within the constraints of the political economy, the likely opportunities for change, the leadership and agency needed, and the mechanisms for adaptation in terms of the seven ‘levers of change’. Above all this requires a thorough and critical analysis of the context using a political economy lens, and of any proposed strategy.
Step 4: Plan
Once the project analysis has been done, pathways through which to achieve the peaceful prosperity outcomes using the levers of change are defined. This should involve a wide range of stakeholders, to ensure buy-in but also that the plans are reality-checked, and take sufficient account of diverse interests.
Step 5: Implementation, adaptation and evaluation
The project is then implemented, with continuous participatory monitoring by disinterested parties to ensure that assumptions about the political economy were sound, that the intended outcomes for peace and economic development are being achieved as planned. Plans are adapted as needed and lessons are learned and shared.
The full report gives an account of how this framework can be used by governments in public policy, by businesses, NGOs, international agencies and in international norms and policies. We draw on a small number of these here as illustrations, applied to the political economy and to each of the seven levers of change. Taken all together, they reinforce the idea that change is incremental, indirect and often small in scale, and requires leadership, agency and opportunity. They also show that integrating peacebuilding into economic development is practical and feasible.
As an example of how political and economic power can interact in support of peace: the incidence of piracy in Somalia is lower in areas where clan leaders (i.e. institutions) benefit from informal taxation of imports and exports, as piracy disrupts this trade and thus their interests. Piracy grew when livestock exports to Saudi Arabia were banned; and then reduced when the ban was lifted. In another example, business leaders with access at the highest level of government in the Philippines have come together to provide politicians with advice on bringing the country’s long-running civil wars to a sustainable close, and in Kenya to help avoid election violence. Both cases combined close links to politicians with a business interest in stability.
The make-up of the economy
After the 1994 genocide, the government saw that Rwanda’s economic dependency on small farms, poor soils and limited consumer markets provided insufficient resilience to the demographic and social pressures which had contributed to instability. It has joined the East African Community to enlarge its markets, is modernising the agricultural sector, and is developing the information technology sector through specialised training and infrastructure: all this with the twin aims of improving the economy and reducing tensions. Banks in Peru require businesses to complete a kind of social impact study as part of their loans process, to ensure projects contribute to ‘shared value’ in society as well as commercial gain. NGOs, the government and international organisations all contributed to restructuring Burundi’s coffee sector, to make it less corrupt, more efficient and more open to participation, as a contribution to peace.
Recent research described how a mining company supported the establishment of a multi-stakeholder forum to explore alternative livelihoods for land-poor communities in its area of operation, as a contribution to local stability through wider economic participation and social stability. The formal disciplines and culture of many modern businesses is often quite different from local informal, sometimes clientilist approaches, and can thus create a model of different, often more effective and fairer approaches. These values sometimes ‘leak’ out into society through the business gates. The idea of jobs creation programmes for peace was popularised by the 2011 World Development Report, but this has not yet been translated into practice on a wide scale. International agencies, businesses and host governments could consider jointly developing programmes to create jobs in very large numbers, over sufficient time – perhaps twenty-five years – in fragile contexts to provide work for young people who might otherwise become radicalised for violence, an economic boost, and peace-promoting infrastructure development, all at once.
The study Local Business, Local Peace gives examples of employers consciously integrating staff from different ethnic or religious identities at work, in contexts of mutual mistrust outside, as a contribution to improved harmony and economic success, e.g. in the Philippines. In many countries, business networks have played proactive roles lobbying for improved relationships across conflict divisions, or better local justice and security provision. Trade can strengthen relationships. In Uganda the Lord’s Resistance Army – a rebel group associated with the Acholi tribe – attacked Lira town. The population of Lira, predominantly from the Langi tribe, boycotted Acholi businesses. Commerce as a whole stagnated, and it was Langi business leaders who initiated a process to reopen trade relations. Last year in Colombia over 120 businesses launched a #Soy Capaz (‘#I can’) peace campaign, aimed at reinforcing the peace process, using symbols of togetherness linked to their products such as “I can …wear my enemy’s shoes” and “…buy him a drink”. In Uganda, NGOs have bridged the communications gap between government, community members and oil companies, helping to reduce misunderstandings and conflicts and help ensure the oil sector contributes to prosperity and peace.
Rule of law
Businesses can help improve justice mechanisms. In Colombia the rebel group Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) attacked oil pipelines in the 1980s and 1990s to extort money from oil companies. When the latter tried to deal with this through the justice system, they found it corrupted and of no help. So they collaborated with central government to resource a parallel, independent justice task force. This contributed to a drop in ELN attacks on the pipeline and the local population. The Ugandan NGO Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment has supported communities and local governments to use the courts to prevent large scale agricultural economic projects going ahead which risked undermining relations in society, as well as between citizen and state.
All businesses can contribute to improved local security by ensuring their own guards, or any they hire as contractors, or government security services they collaborate with follow human rights norms in line with the international Voluntary Principles for Security and Human Rights. They can also go further, making improved local, human security a specific part of their own planning as a contribution to enhancing the living environment, and design their projects and practices accordingly. Mobile phone companies can ensure they site communications masts to maximise coverage in insecure areas. Government and NGOs are collaborating in Philippines to test new approaches to gun control in areas affected by civil war and criminal violence, aiming to improve people’s safety without undermining the informal economic activities on which many people depend.
The UN Global Commission on Drug Policy’s 2014 report proposes replacing the failed ‘war on drugs’ approach with a global drug policy regime centred on health and safety, with an end to the criminalization and incarceration of drug users together with targeted prevention, harm reduction and treatment strategies for dependent users. It recommends governments regulate drug markets and adapt their enforcement strategies to target only the most violent and disruptive criminal groups rather than punish low level players. This is politically difficult, but an effective illustration of how global policies interact with people’s security, and of how this could be transformed, with sufficient political will.
In the DRC, NGOs have facilitated discussions and community decision-making to ensure that local infrastructure projects are peace-conducive. On a bigger scale the government of Myanmar has worked with NGOs over the past two years to run participatory consultation processes in designing its Special Economic Zones, so they contribute to economic progress and are socially sustainable. This way of working can lead to multiple outcomes: a better project, more likely to succeed, and a sense of ‘democratic’ participation in a country with little history of that. The Asian Development Bank in Nepal and the World Bank in Sri Lanka and Kyrgyzstan have integrated positive peace analysis and peace objectives into infrastructure projects, typically using them as opportunities to improve local participation in decision-making and governance, as important factors in sustainable peace.
Land and capital
NGOs in the Philippines have supported indigenous communities, settler communities, the government and mining companies to map and plan fairer and clearer access to land in areas where it has been a source of conflict around economic development.
The objective of this research was not to evaluate existing initiatives. Given the long-term and non-linear nature of peacebuilding, and the relative newness of economic peacebuilding as a field, it would have been beyond our resources to find and assess examples of successful peacebuilding-through-economic-development approaches which have stood the test of time. But one inescapable finding is that peace is far from being integrated routinely into economic development policies, programmes and projects. The concept of conflict-sensitivity is becoming well-known and taken into account as a mitigation approach. But conflict-sensitivity is usually about mitigating harm. The idea of using economic development as a positive peacebuilding tool remains underused, beyond the simplistic and often wrong-headed notion that ‘economic development is good for peace’.
Those integrating peace into economic development need to understand and deal with tensions and paradoxes. This means navigating a careful course between meeting the needs of incumbents in the political economy, and opening up opportunities to others. It means getting the balance right between short-term and longer term benefits, and between the needs of growth and participation. At times it means balancing starkly different peace and economic development needs, as well as short-term and long-term stability needs. Pathways to peace will often be harder to argue for than economic growth, so navigating these tensions requires analytical and political skill, especially as the pathways to peace relatively indirect and unpredictable.
In the absence of any other practically-oriented framework for analysing how to integrate peace into economic improvement, we have provided one. This aims to simplify and bring together a complex set of issues and integrate peace within a more familiar language of development. It identifies four generic peaceful economy outcomes, recognises the importance of political economy, and above all isolates seven ‘levers of change’ for programming. It is one framework among many which might have served the same purpose, and makes no claim to be more than an accessible starting point. We nevertheless recommend it to economic development promoters in conflict-affected countries as a way to consider how they might contribute to peace – as they have a responsibility to do.
Taking a broad look at economic development in fragile and conflict-affected contexts, we also make the following recommendations to help peace become more effectively and routinely integrated into economic development in fragile contexts:
- Governments, international agencies, businesses and economic development NGOs in fragile and conflict-affected countries should to integrate contributing to peace into their formal mandates, their economic policies, programmes and projects.
- This means identifying and seizing opportunities to pull the ‘levers of change’. Some of these are readily available, and any economic development work being planned or done on any of the seven levers of change is potentially an opportunity for peacebuilding.
- Practitioners should engage in more public discussion, also including academics in fragile and conflict-affected countries about the links between economy and peace, to define what they look like in practice in different contexts, and tease out the opportunities, paradoxes, tensions and overlaps.
- Researchers should identify how economic interventions have had an impact on peace historically over the longer term, and tease out and share lessons for the present day.
- International and local peacebuilding experts should do more to make their expertise available to economic development promoters; and the latter should do more to engage with and learn from them in a spirit of joint enterprise and collaboration.
Originally posted on Ipeanddevelopment's Blog:
Right fine the 0.7% fetish reached its zenith today as the 0.7% bill by Michael Moore was passed today see this twitter announcement. Great, an archaic target is reached by the UK 45 years after it was not legally enshrined in the United Nations. This is a short post as I’ve said much about the 0.7 “fetish” that UK parliamentarians (most UK parliamentarians, there are those against it) have regarding this poor constituted aid target. Come rain or shine, good or bad economies, great or terrible development environments, the UK will provide 0.7% x its GDP (which changes) as Official Development Assistance. It does not save lives, it does not immediately improve development, it is not the golden bullet for development but no, the UK parliament has agreed to this oudated and quite irrelevant target.
Taken as a whole, the framework for integrating peacebuilding into economic development set out in my blog post of 10th February may seem disempowering. It explains the importance of integrating peace into economic development. It identifies areas where actions can help shape a more peace-conducive economy, and broad outcome indicators thereof. But it also makes clear that many of these factors are largely structural and interlinked, thus resilient to change. What this reminds us of, given the five lessons learned summarised in my post of 28th January about how peace gets stronger in society, is the importance of taking a very practical perspective in working out how a specific agency, or coalition of agencies, can contribute to peace through economic development. The framework can be used to help identify specific approaches and strategies for this, for agencies with the right combination of entry point, opportunity, leadership and agency.
In this post, I explore generically how the framework can be used in analysis. As a reminder, the utility of the framework it to work out how to integrate peace into economic development – i.e. in practical terms, to adapt economic approaches so they promote peace. The starting point for most planners is therefore likely to be their own initial economic development niche or opportunity. Obviously public policy, business project or programme design processes are rarely purely linear. But for the sake of clarity, we set out this adaptation process generically in linear form here, going step by step from clarifying the mandate, defining relevant peace outcomes, analysing the political economy and the seven ‘levers of change’, developing a concrete plan, and then implementation, and finally monitoring and evaluation of the impact on economy and peace.
As a starting point it is important to be clear about the mandate of the agency or agencies concerned. Some economic development promoters and businesses maintain (or at least silently assume) that their mandate is ‘purely economic’ – and that even corporate social responsibility is a distraction from maximising economic returns[i]. More typically, businesses go further and accept the need to ensure ‘their stakeholders’ will ‘buy-into’ their project or at least stand in its way – i.e. provide a ‘social licence to operate’. This is a purely transactional approach which can still comply with Milton Friedman’s 1971 famous call that “the social responsibility of businesses is to increase its profits”[ii]. But as explained in chapter one of this paper, there is a genuine overlap between economic and peacebuilding actions and interventions, so even ‘purely economic’ actors can take the needs of peace into consideration if they choose to do so. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly accepted that providing social value as well as financial or economic value is a legitimate expectation of businesses and economic promotion. This is often called shared value, defined by Michael Porter and mark Kramer[iii] as follows:
‘The concept of shared value can be defined as policies and operating practices that enhance the competitiveness of a company while simultaneously advancing the economic and social conditions in the communities in which it operates. Shared value creation focuses on identifying and expanding the connections between societal and economic progress.
The concept rests on the premise that both economic and social progress must be addressed using value principles. Value is defined as benefits relative to costs, not just benefits alone. Value creation is an idea that has long been recognized in business, where profit is revenues earned from customers minus the costs incurred. However, businesses have rarely approached societal issues from a value perspective but have treated them as peripheral matters. This has obscured the connections between economic and social concerns.
In the social sector, thinking in value terms is even less common. Social organizations and government entities often see success solely in terms of the benefits achieved or the money expended. As governments and NGOs begin to think more in value terms, their interest in collaborating with business will inevitably grow.’
Many businesses, large and small, are adopting this way of understanding their value creation role: from Unilever at the top, to small companies in divided societies reaching out across conflict lines in their employment practices as a way to heal divisions[iv]. Moving beyond business to other economic promoters, the World Bank’s recent creation of a Center for Conflict, Security and Development to guide its programming in fragile contexts is indicative of a broadening understanding that ‘pure’ economic and poverty mandates are less and less legitimate. Given the risk of conflict and violence which prevails in fragile contexts, it is vitally important for economic development agencies to clarify with their stakeholders – boards, politicians, staff etc. – that their mandate does explicitly include making a contribution to sustainable peace. This creates the room for manoeuvre to do so, as well as the internal carrots and sticks to encourage it.
2. Relationship to the four peace and prosperity outcomes
Having agreed on the mandate, it is important to determine a more specific ambition in terms of my four overarching indicators of peace-promoting economic development: sustainability, decent livelihoods, revenue and services, and safe capital accumulation. Most if not all economic projects will expect to have some impact on these, almost by default. For example a mining project will create new jobs and royalties and pay attention to sustainability, a new water use or land tenure policy may expect to improve agricultural business opportunities, and a new road will be expected to lead to new economic opportunities and tax revenues.
But it is important to go beyond the ‘default’. This means examining the four characteristics to determine whether and how the project can make a difference to all four of them, and also to ensure that their nuances are not lost. If a mining project will create new jobs and royalties ‘by default’, can it also do so in ways which minimises damage to the environment, and are there ways the project can also help to improve people’s resilience and economic power through safe savings schemes? And to what extent can the mining company ensure that people have access to ‘decent’ livelihoods and employment, both within its direct sphere of control and perhaps beyond? Can it go beyond simply paying taxes and royalties to the state, and consider its role, as a major taxpayer and ‘corporate citizen’, in ensuring that these are well used for public benefit and to strengthen the peace factors?
This is where some of the tensions between peace and economic development begin to come into play. To continue with the mining project example: taking on an explicit commitment to creating public value and peace may lengthen the capital development stage of the project, and thus go against shareholders’ apparent interests; and becoming engaged with questions of what royalties are used for may seem too political for some companies, and create friction with the government – even if it does fit in with the idea of shared value. Hence the importance of working these issues out at an early stage in the planning process, and determining which of the peace-and-prosperity characteristics the project can reasonably and ambitiously aim to strengthen.
3. Analysis of the political economy and the seven levers of change
Having made a commitment to explore ways to contribute to the four core characteristics of a peaceful economy, the next step is to identify the extent to which this will be possible within the constraints of the political economy, the likely opportunities for change, the leadership and agency needed, and the mechanisms for adaptation in terms of the seven ‘levers of change’ identified on 10th February. This is a very broad analytical canvas, but can be narrowed and thus made more user-friendly by association with the main economic development project under review. To illustrate more fully, let us take the hypothetical example of a government policy change.
In this illustration, the government of a large, fragile country recovering from civil war is developing a policy to attract inward investment, focused on the export of high value fresh exports from irrigated farms around a large lake. This meets the government’s needs to raise revenue – royalties from water use, and taxes on inputs and wages; and will provide direct and indirect employment.
Despite lobbying by investors, the government also determines that employment conditions will be regulated to ensure that workers get a decent deal; and that stringent environmental standards will be applied to minimise water and energy waste, and to maintain the quality of water in the lake. Lobbying by civil society means an additional benefit is included into the policy, under which a percentage of the water royalties are dedicated by law to local service provision in the communities surrounding the lake, on priorities to be agreed with community members.
So the new policy is designed to meet at least three of the core outcomes of peace-conducive economic development: decent livelihoods, revenue and services, and sustainability.
Examining the policy proposal through the lens of our framework we can see that it is primarily designed to change the make-up of the economy, by taking advantage of suitable and land water resources. Further analysis indicates the need for human capital development – i.e. training for employees, and for government employees who will be involved in monitoring water use and in the export chain (customs, etc.). Infrastructure development will also be needed to ensure that fresh produce can be reliably exported on a regular basis.
The high value horticulture projects expected to be developed as a result of the policy will not surprisingly interact significantly with aspects of the political economy. The civil war was between two main ethnic groups now in a power-sharing agreement negotiated by the UN: one drawn largely from traditionally pastoralist/fishing communities, the other dominated by farmers, and the latter group is also dominant in government. The lake is in a traditionally pastoral region, but the main investors are members of the ‘farming’ tribe who are closely allied with senior government figures. There are opposing interests at stake (access to the lake shore for pastoralists versus export-oriented farmers). Government figures allied with the investors have an incentive to assist ‘their own’ people. While the less powerful pastoralist tribe’s representatives in government may have personal incentives to make a deal with their fellow ministers, this is in tension with a competing incentive to support the interests of their fellow pastoralists, who badly need continued access to the lake shores. This latter is in keeping with their values, while the government – and the dominant ethnic group – ostensibly espouses the combined values of economic growth and peace.
Critically, to complete this admittedly over-simplified political economy analysis, the institutions available to mediate the tensions between these groups are inadequate: the power-sharing government is based on an externally negotiated peace agreement, and is not underpinned by historically tested governance traditions or systems; and the strongest institutions currently are those operating within each of the two ethnic groups, rather than between them. So the opportunity to resolve the tensions between the competing interests within the pastoral tribe is greater than the opportunity to resolve the competing interests between the investors and the pastoralists.
This is a hypothetical case, so there is no “outcome” to relate. But it is easy to see how, given the opportunity of the peace agreement, and in the absence of the right leadership and analysis, this policy might end up contributing significantly to economic development but not to peace. Indeed, it has all the potential to be conflict-insensitive and to undermine peace, locally or even more widely.
With good leadership and analysis, on the other hand, the potential of the lake, combined with export markets and the right technical and managerial expertise could make a significant contribution to peaceful economic improvement. If the opportunity were carefully and slowly taken to contrive a system whereby the governance of lake water access was amended to integrate export investors and government alongside the pastoralists, while avoiding giving any group too much power, then improved institutions mediating between different interest groups, and between them and the state would have been created. Meanwhile if the investors were incentivised to ensure that jobs and other opportunities were made available to local community men and women, and sufficient training were provided; and to ensure that the market and export infrastructure took account of fish and livestock exports as well as fresh produce, then economic benefits and relationships could all be improved, further strengthening local peace.
This goes beyond mere conflict-sensitivity and if defined and implemented with a view to contributing to peace through appropriately designed economic development, could be a good example of promoting peace-conducive economic development.
Once the project analysis has been done, pathways through which to achieve the peaceful prosperity outcomes are defined. This is obviously something which has to be done in ways which involve all stakeholders, to ensure buy-in but also that the plans take sufficient account of their interests.
5. Implementation, adaptation and evaluation
The project is then implemented, with continuous participatory monitoring to ensure that assumptions about the political economy were sound, and that the intended outcomes for peace and economic development are being achieved as planned. Where necessary, as the results unfold, plans need to be adapted, so mechanisms for this needs to be built into the planning. Lessons learned also need to be shared so they can be taken into account in other projects and policies. By engaging a wide variety of stakeholders in such exercises – politicians, communities, media, etc. – the idea of peace-with-prosperity gains popular and political currency, as well as a very practical understanding.
[i] Robert Simons. The Business of Business Schools: Restoring a Focus on Competing to Win. Capitalism and Society, Volume 8, Issue 1, Article 2, 2013
[ii] Milton Friedman. 1970. The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. The New York Times Magazine, September 13, 1970.
[iii] Creating Shared Value, by Michael E. Porter & Mark R. Kramer. From the January 2011 Issue of Harvard Business Review.
[iv] International Alert, 2006. Local Business, Local Peace: the peacebuilding potential of the domestic private sector.
How hard it is to counter violent extremism which holds up marginalisation and victimisation as raison d’être – and now, in the case of ISIS, as raison d’état. Seeing the news about Egypt’s bombardment of Libya last night, I recalled something I wrote on this blog eighteen months ago with regard to Syria. My point then was that Al Qaeda – today I guess I would have written ISIS – surely wanted nothing more as a reaction to its atrocities, than that the forces of the West would align even more closely with the repressive regimes in the Middle East from under which they emerged.
So they must be ecstatic today, seeing Cairo, Amman and Riyadh and others line up with Washington, Western Europe and their allies – including Israel, or course – to fight them. The relatively repressive measures being implemented against some Muslim youth in western democracies are presumably the painting-by-numbers response to the Islamic terrorist threat which the terrorist strategists sought. But they are of course as nothing, in human rights terms, when compared with the actions taken by the hated regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and elsewhere in the region against people they see as a threat to their stability. And all this will be held up as proof – QED! – that the unrighteous leaders of these countries remain enemies of true Islam, hand-in-glove with the crusaders.
Easy to say and harder to do, but this is why the West and its allies have to take a long-term and comprehensive approach to the phenomenon of violent extremism. The argument for “softer”, upstream measures which can in the longer term help stem the disaffection and alienation which is the true recruiting sergeant of ISIS is not the woolly liberal peacebuilder’s argument as painted by some commentators. It is the rational strategic response to a very simple ‘vanguardist’ strategy Lenin would surely have recognised all too clearly, in which the vanguard forces those in power to behave exactly how the revolutionaries have painted them.
Of course force is needed to counter force, and a coalition must deliver that. But in the meantime other coalitions – of parents, civil society, business, politicians, and social and religious leaders – must come together to stem the causes of alienation by ensuring that young people are listened to, have jobs and the opportunity to make their lives.
And as a start, perhaps we should take a leaf from Orwell’s book and use a more accurate terminology. We don’t just need a strategy to ‘counter terrorism’, nor ‘counter violent extremism'; nor even one which merely ‘counters extremism’. Surely what we need is a more positive approach which neutralises and avoids alienation by engaging with young people on their own terms as members of society and the creators of their peaceful and productive future.
In my previous post, I suggested five ways in which change happens, of relevance to those trying to harness economic development for peace. This is something I am exploring as I write an International Alert report on peace-conducive economic development. That still leaves open the question of how to define a ‘peace-conducive economy’, and how to promote progress towards it? Clearly, simply ensuring economic improvement in a conflict-affected context does not automatically increase peace, as some economic development promoters used to – or perhaps still – believe. So what are the broad indicators of the kind of economic development which motivates people to act peacefully, resolving their conflicts without violence, and in which the presence of positive peace enables economic improvement in a virtuous circle? From the literature and experience, I suggest peace-conducive economic development can be recognised by four broad outcome indicators:
- Decent livelihoods. People are gainfully employed in decent work (whether self-employed or employed by others) – i.e. they earn sufficient income to live with dignity, and are treated with equality and dignity while working. By this we mean they are not treated in an inhuman or degrading way; that nobody ‘owns’ another person or can force them to work under threat of punishment. Decent livelihood opportunities need to be both available and fairly accessible, so exclusion is minimised, and mobility maximised.
- Capital. People are able to own and accumulate economic assets securely, both to provide them with a cushion in time of need, to improve their income, and to invest in and improve the economy; and to do so in a way which is fair to others. As with livelihoods, the access to such opportunities needs to be fair. Capital may be individually or jointly owned and managed, even by the community or the state in the case of welfare safety nets.
- Revenue. The state collects sufficient revenue, and invest it to provide the infrastructure and services needed for the economy and peace to flourish, and to do so fairly and strategically, with both economic growth and strengthening peace as explicit policy intentions.
- Sustainability. Economic development enhances or at least avoids damaging the environment, and enhances or at least avoids undermining peace-positive attributes in society.
In other words, a society – writ large or small – is more likely to prosper and promote stability and peace, when people have more or less equal access to livelihood opportunities sufficient for their needs, and can plan for and protect themselves from future shocks, and safely invest in improving their own economic condition and in growing the economy of which they are a part; when government is able to provide services and infrastructure; and when the social and physical environment is not being degraded and made less productive or conducive to people’s welfare.
More important perhaps, is the question: what makes these four outcomes of a peaceful economy more likely? In other words, what are the underlying features of a peacefully prosperous environment? Drawing broadly on the literature and our own experience, I have sketched a generic framework to explain this, as shown on the right. This identifies seven mutually interacting levers of change, i.e. arenas in which promoters of economic development can identify ways to integrate peace into their policies, strategies and projects. These are:
- The overall make-up of the economy: Different countries and zones have different economies, defined by history and geography as well as the other factors in this model. Variables include import/export balance; openness; strength of consumer demand; diversity; proportions of primary, secondary and services sectors; peasant vs. commercial farming; vulnerability to supply chain or market risks.
- Human capital: The capacity and capability of individuals and groups, and society as a whole to make economic and social progress through the application of spirit, knowledge and skills.
- Relationships: Functional relationships across and between societies enable communication and foster predictability and trust; which in turn underpins functional relationships.
- Justice: The availability of formal and informal mechanisms, based on clear a priori rules, for avoiding and adjudicating disputes, and punishing those who break rules and norms. Justice relies on the predictable production and execution of judgements by authorised parties; and in this predictability resides its preventive power.
- Security: The degree to which individuals, families, communities and organisations are and feel safe, now and in the foreseeable future. Security is a function of service provision by state and other providers, individual and group capacity, and of the strength and quality of social norms, relationships and social capital.
- Infrastructure: The existence of and access to an enabling physical infrastructure, especially in terms of energy, communications and transport, and essential services such as health facilities and schools.
- Capital including land: The opportunity to accumulate or borrow financial capital for investment, and/or to acquire the rights to use land for an economic purpose.
These swim in a sea defined by the political economy (i.e. the sum of interactions between values, incentives, interests and institutions), which influences them and is in turn influenced by them – hence a good understanding of the political economy is essential in determining which of the levers can be shifted, and how far.
As I develop this, I’d be interested to hear from both peacebuilders and economic development promoters if this framework makes any sense as a lens through which to plan and judge economic development which proactively aims to be conducive for sustained peace.
I am writing an International Alert report about how peacebuilding can be more routinely and effectively integrated into economic development, for publication in mid-year. I.e. going beyond conflict-sensitive business practice, to promote peace-conducive economic policy and economic activities. I plan to publish a few blog posts over the next few weeks related to this, and am particularly interested in feedback, challenge, ideas and examples for the report. In this post, I summarise five ‘lessons learned’ which seem particularly relevant to this subject. Very interested in your comments and feedback, either posted here or to email@example.com, for which, thanks in advance.
Some of Alert’s learning about how change happens in fragile societies can be captured in terms of five broad lessons of relevance to anyone seeking to embed peacebuilding within economic development:
- Change is indirect, multi-dimensional and incremental
- Sustainable significant change often implies changes in the political economy
- Many important changes happen from the particular to the general, rather than vice versa
- The importance of opportunities and opportunism…
- … and of leadership and agency.
1. Change is indirect, multi-dimensional, and incremental
Important changes happen indirectly, making it hard to plan long-term processes of change with confidence. To add to the complexity, the implications of actions in one area or sector spill over readily into others; and of course not only is progress non-linear, but is also liable to checks and reverses.
For example the enactment of a land reform law intended to open land access to wider sections of society leads to violent local responses on the part of landowners against those newly entitled to land, or their co-option of political leaders into a land-owning cabal to neutralise the new law. This turn increases the rate of urbanisation, which supports industrialisation, but also the prevalence of gang-dominated political economies in new urban areas. This in turn favours improved citizen-engagement by newly-urban populations wanting to reduce levels of violence, and so in the longer run contributes to improved governance, the re-capture of the monopoly of violence by an increasingly accountable state, and increased stability and prosperity.
This game of development snakes and ladders makes planning hard. But it also shows that change is incremental, and that one can recognise specific and simpler steps forward within larger, complex causal networks. These, at least, can be planned and implemented.
2. Sustainable significant change often implies changes in the political economy
For significant changes to be sustainable within society (at whatever scale), tends to require actual changes in the way power is held and resources are allocated, and thus in the spheres of institutions, values, interests and incentives.
Changes to governance systems in Mali through the decentralisation project of the 1990s are now seen not to have increased accountability and responsiveness as intended, because budgets were not genuinely decentralised institutionally; the locus of local decisions over important local resources such as land was never really moved to the new system, hence there was no interest or incentive for local power holders to take account of it; and thus the value of democratic accountability and responsiveness was neither felt nor embraced (indeed, was probably undermined). On the other hand, the economic incentives provided to the elite in parts of eastern Europe linked to accession to the EU, provided genuine incentives to adopt changed economic practices and institutions which later became open to others, in what remains a work in progress.
However, trying to ‘change the political economy’ directly is probably a fool’s errand – or at least a mission reserved for risk-taking political leaders seizing rare historic moments of opportunity. Political economies do change, but they usually evolve rather than undergo major disruptions, because of the power of incumbency, or because new incumbents exploit the system which ‘works’, rather than trying to change it. When the features of the political economy do change, it is as a response to changed circumstances which require adaptations to incentives, interests, values and institutions in order for the powerful to retain and use their power. Thus theories of change in the political economy need to identify the changes in circumstances which may lead to these adaptations.
3. Many important changes happen from the particular to the general, rather than vice versa
Despite the grand language of political science, and the tendency among some politicians, economic developers and peacebuilders to define their ambitions in terms writ large, important changes often happen at first at a relatively narrow or granular scale, and are later generalised. It is well documented that communities demanding more control of their affairs, or civil society demanding a voice, can be a more sustainable mechanism for systemic political change, than a top-down ‘decentralisation’ process or the formal recognition of the role of NGOs. Work on a specific economic sector or sub-sector – or even a particular project in a particular locality – if promoted in a way conducive to peace, can have knock-on impacts on other sectors through systemic change.
4. The importance of opportunities and opportunism…
Moments occur which are propitious for change, and these are opportunities for progress, provided they are seized and good leadership is engaged. The risks of conflict associated with the arrival of a large mining or oil project in a fragile context, for example, are well-known, and can be illustrated with many examples: the experience of conflict linked to oil production in Nigeria’s Delta over many years is probably the best known.
On the other hand, the arrival of a large mining or other economic project, with multiple stakeholders and potential winners and losers, can also serve as an opportunity to demonstrate good governance, since the project itself needs such a high degree of participatory governance, to succeed. By engaging multiple stakeholders and respecting their interests, those leading such a project can create an experience of participation and win-win compromise which may be relatively rare in the context, and improved relationships among citizens and between citizen, state and economic actors which can be built upon for other governance purposes.
Likewise, new technologies, the end of a period of violent conflict or reconstruction after a natural disaster represent opportunities to use or test new approaches. It has been suggested that the response to the pacific tsumani disaster in 2004 contributed positive progress for peace in the long-running civil war in Aceh, but the opposite in Sri Lanka, because of different approaches and different circumstances. Likewise the unexpected death of a political figure can provide opportunities; or a change in external circumstances. Changes in drugs policy in Europe or the USA could have a significant impact on the political economy, incomes, access to land, and other factors in drug producing nations affected by conflict.
5. … and of leadership and agency
Finally, and despite the preceding paragraph, leadership and agency are also essential in determining when changes happen, and the nature of those changes; and can be critical in harnessing opportunities to progressive ends.
This might be done by politicians and government, as in the case of structural changes to the rural economy underway in Rwanda, designed to promote economic growth and long-term stability; by businesses, as in the development of roads and the fair allocation of jobs by investors; by civil society activists promoting local livelihoods, education, etc.; or by international agencies operating within the country in question; or by international actions with cross-border impacts, such as the implementation of anti-money laundering measures or moves to legalise drugs. Despite concerns about ‘doing-no-harm’, and the complexities and limits of cause-and-effect models, the role of progressive agency remains critical, at whatever level or scope.
Much of the foregoing appears to render ‘theories of change’ very limiting and limited as ways to think about progress, unless they are either very short term and project-based, or contain multiple possible scenarios of cause-and-effect, and remain under regular review. Despite the best intentions of Karl Marx, the whig historians, and Francis Fukuyama with his End of History, there is no room for a teleological perspective in either economic development nor peacebuilding: both peace and economic development require a combination of circumstance and agency.
One final point here: despite what I have said above, people want the changes they want, and as soon as possible. So one of the important elements for promoters of peace-conducive economic development to bear in mind is the need to seek short-term changes which are reasonably progressive in delivering sufficient dividends to new beneficiaries, and seem like incremental steps in the right direction, while maintain a sufficient flow of benefits to incumbents and enabling further change to occur, as in the following diagram.
Now that we’ve had a little time to digest the democratic ouster of Mahinda Rajapaksa by Maithripala Sirisena as president of Sri Lanka on 8th January, what are the peacebuilding opportunities and challenges?
Rajapaksa’s regime was effective in many ways: it had defeated the twenty-five year Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebellion in a crushing military victory in 2009; it implemented a great deal of infrastructure improvement, including in the war-ruined north; attracted much inward investment from elsewhere in the region; and improved living conditions for the growing middle class.
But its manner of governing proved its undoing. The Rajapaksa family circle dominated not just the reins of government, but also large swathes of the economy, seeming far more corrupt than earlier regimes. The cost of living rose sharply recently, partly as a result of the government taking out huge foreign loans – some of which were transparently used to promote the family’s economic and political interests. President Rajapaksa’s governing clique was closely allied to Sinhala Buddhist hardliners, and he did little to foster reconciliation with the ‘defeated’ Tamil minority, while allowing new conflicts with Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority to be stoked. His modernisation agenda paid scant attention to the needs of tens of thousands of poor families whose homes were razed to make way for new economic projects; and the new infrastructure built in the post-war north was designed with little involvement of the people living there, who were simply expected to take it or leave it. Human rights violations allegedly committed during the final stages of the civil war, and afterwards, were not investigated. A common popular comment on his rule was that “he simply went too far” – and this is also given as one of the reasons why security forces and political allies refused to go along with the coup he is alleged to have attempted, when he realised he would lose the election.
President Sirisena is popularly known by his nickname “Maithri”, or “blessings”, but we should be careful not to expect too much. In a political system known for shifting loyalties, the strength of his power-base will be determined by the parliamentary elections due in April; he may not show his full hand until after then, for political reasons. The coalition which he led in the presidential elections includes a variety of unnatural bedfellows, all of whom must be satisfied. And the margin of his victory was small, with 51.3% of the vote. While in a nice piece of symbolism he was sworn into office by a Tamil judge, and he has promised to rebalance the political institutions in favour of the judiciary and parliament, and to investigate alleged human rights violations by the state, it is not clear how far he will go in promoting much-needed national reconciliation. Although he won the election largely on an anti-corruption ticket, it will be hard to root out the corruption which is endemic in the political system; or to hold together a wide coalition without allowing some members to ‘benefit from power’.
I have written before about how political systems and political cultures tend to be resilient to change. Ironically, even though he is not personally from a political elite background, the natural result of President Sirisena’s election could eventually be a restoration of the pre-Rajapaksa status quo, in which a narrow elite political class ran Sri Lanka in a way which allowed its members to retain their political and economic dominance while providing technocratic government but failing to resolve political issues like the need for nation building and inter-community reconciliation, and the need for jobs for young people; nor to prevent a 25-year civil war. If that were to be the case, there are risks of more instability and insecurity down the road.
Expectation management will be key, and beyond that from a peacebuilding perspective, it therefore seems critical to seize this opportunity to:
- Open up government to as much transparency as possible
- Prevent conflicts and promote reconciliation between Tamils and Sinhalese, and with Muslims
- Increase the genuine power of local government, so that people can participate better in decisions which affect them
- Create a policy environment which supports economic opportunity for young people from all groups
- Support the emergence locally and nationally of young leaders from diverse backgrounds who are committed and have the talents and skills to promote a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka – the next generation of politicians.