The international community can play a crucial role in preventing violent conflict. Governments and international organisations can influence the likelihood of peace or conflict in other countries through their security policies, their approaches to development co-operation and their diplomatic efforts. Getting the international community to understand, anticipate and reduce the risk and occurrence of violent conflict is a key challenge as well as a substantial opportunity.
Our work in this area has focused on three priority institutions: the European Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
As the largest international donor and single market as well as a region which contains a number of the largest arms exporters, the European Union has always had the ability to influence the conditions for stability elsewhere. Recently, however, it has gone beyond this, developing its own External Action Service and policies to respond to security threats outside as well as within its borders, increasing funding to conflict prevention and crisis management activities, and even responding directly to crises, as in the case of the Horn of Africa.
The US plays a key conflict prevention role within the international community through its economic, foreign, development and security policies, its direct support to conflict prevention initiatives, and also as an influential member of international organisations. The release of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review in 2010 moved the issue of conflict prevention further into the centre of the stage in US policy discussions. Work to implement these and other commitments continues to present opportunities to improve the effectiveness of the role of the US in conflict prevention.
The UK has played a leading role internationally in its work to prevent violent conflicts. With the agreement of the Building Stability Overseas Strategy in July 2011, the UK set out a new cross-government approach for addressing conflict abroad. Attention is now focused on ensuring effective implementation of these commitments as well as encouraging the UK to play an active and progressive role within relevant international fora.
Saferworld uses evidence of success from our country programmes to advocate for improved action on conflict prevention by the international community. We work with parliamentarians, the media, and partner organisations to create pressure on governments and international institutions. This can help ensure that their policies and actions support conflict prevention efforts, and minimise the negative impact of their policies.
We are in the process of expanding our work in the US, bringing our research and analysis to relevant expert audiences. We will be working with partner organisations to ensure that policy makers in Washington have access to information and opinion from communities affected by conflict and fragility and are increasingly taking policy decisions that have a positive impact on those people and their communities.
Our work in Brussels will have three priority focus areas:
- continuing to engage with the new EU institutional structures and relevant policies and processes
- promoting effective approaches to security and justice with a particular focus on community security
- ensuring EU development assistance is effective in supporting peacebuilding and statebuilding.
In the UK we are focusing on supporting the UK government to elaborate its vision for upstream conflict prevention and to implement that vision. We are engaging with UK and EU NGO networks working on development, human rights and other international issues to build a stronger coalition of support for better conflict prevention. Lastly, we are working to ensure UK support for a robust Arms Trade Treaty and effective UK arms transfer controls.