New Paradigms for Peacebuilding

When we survey the wreckage of struggling states across large swathes of the world, it is hard  to be otimistic about the fruits of ‘Peacebuilding’. Which begs the question: is it time for another approach with a  more holistic focus? Not just big bucks high level initiatives to strengthen security forces or the justice system, but less glamorous, from the ground-up initiatives like nurseries, schools, community projects…?

That was the theme of a fascinating Symposium jointly hosted by UNICEF and the Club de Madrid which I was invited to moderate at in Brussels last month. A day of wide-ranging debate was loosely divided into three parts: Do we need fresh thinking and fresh initiatives in the Peacebuilding space? What works and what doesn’t – what does the evidence show? And finally, how to promote the idea that social services have an integral role to place in promoting stable, peaceful societies? The discussion often moved like quick-silver, hard to pin down, and therefore all the more important to do just that!

So I’m writing this blog to capture my takeaways from the Symposium and invite those who attended to contribute your ideas to the comments section on the blog, so that UNICEF and the Club de Madrid can  build a community of committed participants and create an agenda for further action. And of course anyone else who’d like to join in the discussion would be most welcome to do so.

Here goes,  my five top takeaways from the Brussels Symposium were:

  • HE Maker MWANGU FAMBA,  Minister for Education for DRC, describing schools as ‘sacred spaces’ even in the most war-ravaged areas of his vast country, and his plea for UNICEF to ‘sell Education like Coca Cola’.
  • Saji Prelis, from Search for Common Ground arguing that it isn’t enough to provide conflict-sensitive education programmes, they have to made sexy too, to lure teenagers away from the dark attraction of guns and gangs (I am paraphrasing a bit here, Saji!)
  • The delightful Mari Malek’s (@DJStiletto) personal testimony about how her mother’s determination to give her girls a decent education propelled them from the chaos of South Sudan towards an educational lifeline in the US. (If only we could all speak as eloquently as Mari.)
  • Former President of Kyrgyzstan, HE Madame Roza Isakovna Otunbayeva’s passionate advocacy that nurseries don’t just help children but also heal communities  by bringing mothers together across the ethnic divide. In the case of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbeks and Kyrgyzs women found a safe space to meet and understand each other’s lives.
  • And finally Olav Seim, from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, electrified the Symposium with his announcement that the Norwegian government had pledged to double its investment in education, as a means to build more stable societies less likely to slide back into conflict.

Those are my five takeaways – possibly idiosyncratic! – what were your takeaways ? Please add your comments below, and let us know what you think the next steps should be.


UNICEF’s Learning for Peace Website:

Club de Madrid’s Shared Society project: