Geneva Peace Week 2019

The contribution of socio-economic programmes to sustaining peace

News | 08 November 2019
On the first day of the Geneva Peace Week 2019, 4 November 2019, Peacebuilding Specialists from INTERPEACE, UNICEF, FAO and ILO met at the Palais des Nations in Geneva to address the contribution of their respective programmes to peacebuilding processes.

The event, which took the form of a panel discussion, was moderated by Martina Zapf, senior Manager from Interpeace. The speakers were Anna Azaryeva Valente, Peacebuilding and Fragility Team Leader from UNICEF; Julius Jackson, Technical Officer (Protracted Crises) from FAO; and Nieves Thomet, Employment for peace specialist from the ILO.

The discussion addressed two key questions:
  1. how have socio-economic programmes been making contributions to peace?
  2. how can we assess the impact of these programmes on peace?
In her introduction, the moderator highlighted the call of the UN Secretary-General on all UN entities to integrate sustaining peace in their strategic planning, and to treat sustaining peace as a collective goal. This means that addressing conflict and its causes is no longer only a task for "traditional" peacebuilding actors, but rather one that must be achieved collectively, across sectors, and in partnership with local actors.

The panellists shared their reflections about how their agencies’ interventions in conflict-affected countries, based on their mandates, contribute to peacebuilding. Mr. Jackson, for instance, highlighted that some conflict drivers are closely related to FAO’s mandate and competencies, such as access to natural resources. Therefore, FAO tries to orient its programmes in a way that contributes directly or indirectly to local peace.

Ms. Thomet introduced ILO’s long-term commitment to sustaining peace since its foundation a century ago. The ILO was founded as part of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I to reflect the belief that universal and lasting peace can be accomplished only if it is based on social justice, and that poverty, unemployment and decent work deficits can become triggers of vulnerability and fragility. In 2017, the adoption of Recommendation No. 205 Employment and Decent Work for Peace and Resilience reaffirmed this commitment. The Recommendation represents a key milestone for ILO’s work in fragile and crisis settings. Its normative approach is translated at the operational level by ILO’s flagship programme on Jobs for Peace and Resilience (JPR). The Programme’s holistic and integrated approach to crisis response goes beyond just creating economic opportunities by contributing to dignity, social transformation, social cohesion and social justice. ILO’s thinking on the relationship between employment and peace has progressed rapidly in recent years thanks to a collaboration with UNDP, the World Bank and PBSO. A joint study among the four agencies identified three main interlinked conflict drivers that decent work and employment programmes can address: lack of economic opportunities, lack of contact and social cohesion and the existence of grievance among groups in the society because of rising inequality, non-respect of human rights and feelings of injustice.

Ms. Azaryeva Valente presented the results of a UNICEF’s study of 2015 showing the correlation between horizontal inequalities in education and incidences of violent conflict. UNICEF’s focus is on conflict transformation, seeking to address the underlying cause of structural and cultural violence that results in repeated cycles of conflict, while delivering its mandate to provide protection of children’s rights in conflict settings. This is done through three steps: firstly, understanding and measuring what individuals can contribute to the protection of children’s rights; secondly, addressing the horizontal social cohesion by strengthening the relationship between groups; and thirdly, strengthening social services and building trust between the government, agencies and the population.

From left to right: Ms. Nieves Thomet (ILO), Ms. Martina Zapf (INTERPEACE), Mr. Julius Jackson (FAO), Ms. Anna Azaryeva Valente (UNICEF).
The one main challenge addressed by the panellists was the same: how to build empirical evidence to show that programmes have an impact on sustaining peace. Evidence and research are critical in order to inform the monitoring and evaluation design of future projects as well as to ensure that the interventions are adaptive.

To tackle this challenge, FAO included a Conflict Module in the Resilience Index Measurement and Analysis (RIMA) to assess any interrelation between witnessing and/or exposure to violence with key food security and resilience indicators. UNICEF introduced the Social Cohesion and Resilience Measurement Framework, which can be contextualized to ensure local relevance, as well as different tools such as perception surveys. The ILO developed a handbook with the support of the Swiss Government, which introduces an approach for the development of integrated employment for peacebuilding programmes, from the conflict analysis to the design of peacebuilding outcomes, perception indicators and baselines, to achieve complementarity between peacebuilding and decent employment outcomes.

To conclude, Ms. Thomet highlighted the key role of decent employment programmes and the Decent Work Agenda in the humanitarian-development-peace nexus and the importance to simultaneously implementing short and long-term approaches. Ms. Azaryeva Valente recalled that UNICEF works together with key partners to protect children rights in contexts of crisis and fragility and to strengthen their relationship with non-traditional partners. Mr. Jackson affirmed that being conflict-blind is not an option for FAO. Systematic contextual analysis is important to inform conflict‑sensitive programme design. These analyses will help to avoid causing harm and to identify opportunities to address root causes of local conflicts and contribute to conflict prevention.

Finally, Ms. Zapf delivered her closing remarks about the importance to build trust amongst populations, governments and technical agencies. There are numerous challenges that need to be addressed, such as facilitating collaboration among UN agencies with different mandates to reach the Sustaining Peace Agenda. Moreover, it is important that the United Nations agencies work with local institutions to ensure peacebuilding process ownership and inclusion into national planning framework. Only so can “sustaining peace” be achieved as a collective outcome.