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Investing in peacemaking: financial, definitional and gender issues

My previous blog post for Ripplezoo gave an introduction to the level of financial investment in peace compared to war, and how war spending was by far the higher of the two. I also mentioned the three concepts of 1) peacebuilding 2) peacemaking and 3) peacekeeping. This post focuses specifically on the peacemaking aspect. It expands slightly more on the lack of financial investment, but also broadens the focus to the investment in the right personnel for peacemaking, and investing time to add more women to an area that like many has been male dominated for too long.

Financial Investment in Peacemaking

As I mentioned in my previous post, the UN budget in total is around 50 billion dollars which is far lower compared to what individual countries are spending on their military budgets. In relation to peacemaking, the relative lack of investment means less quality individuals with expertise can be appointed to assist with peacemaking operations.

Much of the time, the UN secretary general (Antonio Guterres) is responsible for the majority of the mediation that is done as there are a lack of suitable mediators and envoys to lead mediation efforts. The UN is sometimes unable to appoint local people with specific knowledge of certain conflicts who could be extremely useful due to these individuals having jobs to support themselves and their families and the UN cannot offer a suitable salary.

Photo Credit António Guterres
“The UN secretary general has been busy helping to deal with the current pandemic,
but he has been previously busy with attempts at mediation of conflicts” 

The UN may then have to seek assistance from individuals with previous careers in politics who may take on a peacemaking role for little or no money, but are outside the specific conflict seeking to be solved and are not the best individuals for the job. This can be resolved if greater finance was available to the UN so suitable individuals could be given paid jobs on a full time basis. Resolving conflicts is correctly not seen as an area that should be unduly profited from, but a certain level of finance is needed to get the best personnel to create the conditions for peacemaking.

Defining who the best Personnel are for Peacemaking

Having adequate finance for peacemaking will only work however if it is clear who the best staff to employ really are, and this is where I believe the UN can make some adjustments. Any attempt at peacemaking is preferable to the current paradigm that is based on militarism and war instead of peace, but significant improvements can be made. To do this, it is important to understand the three tracks of peace mediation.

Track 1 involves those directly involved in a conflict or directly negotiating to resolve it, such as governments, militia groups and the UN secretary general. Track 2 involves indirect people or groups of influence such as academics, NGOS, religious leaders, etc. Track 3 is focused on grassroots leadership, such as individuals affected by conflict, local communities and local groups comprising people from both sides of a conflict attempting to foster a movement for peace. The UN has an issue of too much of the focus being the first two tracks, particularly track 1, with too few individuals and groups from track 3 being involved in peacemaking negotiations.  Indeed, the UN uses a pyramid on its website that reinforces the hierarchy of the three tracks, as seen in the photo below.

Rather than viewing each track in order of descending importance, members from all three tracks should work together. Conflicts are complex, and cannot be fully understood without drawing directly on the experiences of those who have been affected by conflict. Government members in track 1 or academics in track 2 can read as much as possible about a conflict, but an understanding of the context of a given conflict is impossible without hearing the feelings of those who have been directly involved. It is why the UN as the principal body for creating world peace needs to invest more time engaging with local individuals and groups with a view to including them in peacemaking. All three tracks working together to try and build a consensus is the best approach, and investing time to make peace more effective reduces the temptation to invest in war out of a feeling of hopelessness.

UN 3 tracks pyramid
“The UN can improve its peacemaking efforts by rethinking its approach to the 3 tracks of mediation”

Investing in Female Participation in Peacemaking

The consistent lack of women involved in peacemaking is not just wrong on a moral level, but has been shown to actually be detrimental to peacemaking efforts, meaning changing this is an investment worth making.

UN Security Council Resolution 1325 contained a commitment to increasing female participation in peacemaking as well as peacebuilding and peacekeeping, but very limited progress has been made. This is detrimental to peacemaking efforts as research has been carried out to show that agreement implementation has been positively correlated with the increased participation of women. Various theories have been offered for this such as women having an equal level of knowledge to men but having greater empathy than some men involved in peacemaking, helping to build coalitions.

Others theorize that women have a greater understanding and give a fuller focus to the often disproportionate effect that conflicts have on women and girls in conflict, which makes agreements more likely to come into force. Regardless of what the true reason is, the evidence demonstrates that more female involvement can help bring peace, and possibly help change the mindset globally from one preoccupied by war and militarism to one that believes in consistently pursuing peace as the primary objective. Investing time in increasing female participation for peacemaking reinforces the point I made about the three tracks needing to work closer together for optimal results.

This is because a higher percentage of women are active in track 3 than the other two tracks due to women being especially active at a local level in communities. Since the UN does not put the same focus on track 3 activity compared to tracks 1 and 2, fewer women are naturally involved in peacemaking activities. I also believe more women should be selected in the first two tracks as well to create equality in all three areas, but using the approach I recommended above of including more individuals and groups from track 3 in peacemaking should bring an increase in the number of women involved in peacemaking. It has been seen in countries such as Cote D’Ivoire and Rwanada among other countries that grassroots movements predominantly lead by women can have an extremely positive impact for ending conflict.

Greater participation from women can be beneficial for peacemaking
From left: Tawakkol Karman of Yemen, Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia receive the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. Harrywad/CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikipedia

Final Thoughts

The general message that should be taken from this piece is that peacemaking is not a simple act of opposing sides meeting with a mediator, it is a complex process. It is why time and finance needs to be invested in getting the right personnel for peacemaking, including more people and groups at a grassroots level and bringing more women into peacemaking. Doing this can make the difficult task of peacemaking a little easier and prevent wars escalating or ever coming into existence.

Peace Over War