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Next steps for CSO engagement on conflict and fragility post-Busan

30 January 2012 - Larry Attree

With the High Level Forum over and the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States endorsed where should civil society organisations focus their energies in the year ahead, and how can we organise to encourage progress on development effectiveness and peacebuilding in fragile contexts, asks Larry Attree?

The Busan forum on aid effectiveness put a set of peacebuilding and statebuilding goals (PSGs) onto the mainstream development agenda, marking a positive shift in development policy for fragile and conflict-affected states. But a lot still remains to be done to ensure there is action on commitments and coherence with other initiatives, principles and guidelines.  

Looking ahead, three priority areas for CSOs related to conflict and fragility stand out: continuing to engage in ongoing global policy processes; supporting implementation of New Deal commitments; and addressing gaps in current debates and processes.

Currently 40 governments and international organisations have endorsed the New Deal, so a key priority for CSOs is to encourage more governments to endorse the deal. The more that do, the stronger the commitments become. We also need to make sure that appropriate indicators are developed to judge meaningful progress on the PSGs. These should include public perceptions of progress. As debates on what will follow on from the Millennium Development Goals take shape, joint advocacy will be crucial to ensure that peace, security, justice and governance-related goals are included in discussions and reflected in the mainstream framework for development post-2015. We also need to continue to push for more inclusion and participation of CSOs and people from conflict-affected states in international policy dialogues more widely – with adequate resources to make this possible.

CSOs can support the implementation of New Deal commitments in a number of ways – not least by raising awareness of what the commitments are, and the right way to interpret them, in donor and fragile states. We also need to build understanding and share expertise on conflict analysis, conflict sensitivity and participatory methods for planning, implementing and monitoring initiatives to take forward the PSGs. Outreach and support may be needed to build the capacity of CSOs’ in-country, encouraging them to engage in planning and delivering New Deal commitments at national and local level. Civil society can also play a key role in monitoring the commitments made to peacebuilding across the Busan Partnership document, New Deal, and Fragile States Principles – at country level, particularly in pilot countries, and at the global level. This should involve ensuring donors and recipient governments live up to their commitments set out in the New Deal, and testing whether these commitments ‘add up’ to more peace and development in each focus country.  

Finally, we need to continue to address the gaps that exist in and between current debates and processes. This means jointly advocating for greater coherence between aid, diplomacy, military/security, financial, and commercial agendas (including the uptake of conflict sensitive approaches by private sector actors), to achieve a greater contribution to peace and conflict prevention. We also need to push for greater coherence between the plethora of commitments, initiatives, policies, principles and guidelines on conflict prevention, development and humanitarian assistance. The International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding and the Busan Forum didn’t manage to get to grips with the need for a preventative agenda for States that aren’t already fragile. The question of how to support stateless peoples and disenfranchised sections of society to claim their rights likewise looms large. A further area of work would be CSOs working on their own conflict sensitivity to ensure they maximise their positive impact on peace and conflict dynamics in their own right.

So how can we best organise ourselves to take forward these joint actions and agendas? BetterAid and Open Forum provide one possible platform, especially if they are willing to increase their focus on conflict and fragility within their overall advocacy programme and relevant thematic areas, and deepen policy expertise on these issues. The urgency of tackling very poor development progress in conflict-affected contexts suggests that the time is right for them to integrate the theme of conflict into their broader agenda for development as social justice. At the same time, better links could be forged with existing or new networks of CSOs directly advocating on conflict and fragility, or new structures could be created to uphold progress on the New Deal and in other areas. Now is the time for anyone who wants to be part of the conversation to share their views and get involved.

This blog was prepared by Larry Attree of Saferworld (lattree@saferworld.org.uk) and was first published on the Open Forum for CSO Development Effectiveness. To share views on this issue with the CSOs who joined the open group advocating on conflict and fragility in Busan write to conflict-fragility-hlf4@googlegroups.com.


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Civil society can also play a key role in monitoring the commitments made to peacebuilding across the Busan Partnership document, New Deal, and Fragile States Principles

Larry Attree, Saferworld