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Rising powers and peacebuilding

Rising powers like China and India are increasingly engaged in conflict-affected states. This inevitably affects local peace and security. Promoting dialogue and more coherent approaches between rising powers and other international actors will help ensure that changing global dynamics support peace rather than fuelling conflict.

The rise of new global actors - such as China, India and Brazil - is changing the dynamics of global power. The challenges this presents for peace and security at a geo-strategic level have generated much analysis and debate, but the impact of rising powers on peace and security within conflict-affected states has received less attention.

The economic growth of rising powers depends in large part on access to overseas markets and resources, so their commercial ties with the developing world - including conflict-affected states - are fast-growing. External engagement in countries such as South Sudan or Myanmar/Burma presents challenges for peace and security. The risk is that rising powers will aggravate conflict dynamics, for instance by reinforcing patterns of economic and political exclusion that fuel conflict. But the increasing leverage of rising powers over host governments can be harnessed to support the peaceful resolution of conflicts. So the changing dynamics of global power also present opportunities to promote peace.

Building consensus between rising powers and other international actors about how to promote peace and security in conflict-affected states is a key part of this process. We need to understand how the growing engagement of rising powers in these contexts is affecting conflict dynamics - and what does this mean for policy makers. This is essential both to inform strategies towards conflict-affected states and as a basis for dialogue between rising powers and other international actors about how to support peace and security. 

The international community is changing as rising powers play a bigger role. Saferworld is researching the impact that rising powers have in conflict-affected states, and using the evidence to inform policy debate in the West and in rising powers themselves in order to promote more coherent and conflict-sensitive approaches.

We have been engaging with the foremost rising power, China, since 2006. We have raised awareness about the impact of China’s presence in conflict-affected states, based on field-research in various countries, including South Sudan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Saferworld has enabled stakeholders from conflict-affected states, such as South Sudan, to discuss these issues with Chinese policy makers, exploring how to mitigate the conflict risks.  We provide technical advice and are developing guidance materials to enable Chinese actors (both state and corporate) to adopt more conflict-sensitive approaches. At the same time, we have promoted dialogue between Western policy actors and their Chinese counterparts regarding peace and security issues.

In 2011 Saferworld initiated a broader programme of work focusing on other rising powers, drawing upon its experience in China. We have produced analyses of the policy contexts in India, Turkey, South Africa and Brazil as they relate to foreign policy, investment, development cooperation and peacebuilding; and have begun to explore how these countries engage in conflict-affected states. Working with highly-regarded national policy institutes we have initiated dialogue on these issues within the policy communities in India and Turkey. In addition, we are collaborating with a group of British universities on a project that examines how China, India, Turkey and Russia’s policies and practices affect conflict management in Central Asia.

International efforts to prevent conflict and support peace must be informed by an understanding of changing global dynamics and their impacts on the ground. Equally, international debates on these issues should involve the full range of global actors. However, countries such as China, India and Brazil remain for the most part relatively disengaged from global debates and processes on development and peacebuilding, such as the post-2015 development framework or the international dialogue on peacebuilding and statebuilding.

Saferworld’s work on the rising powers thus feeds into its parallel programme on the development framework that will replace the Millenium Development Goals after 2015. Rising powers will be central to shaping the new framework. In 2013 we began a new project; ‘Rising Powers and post-2015’, on Brazil, China, India, South Africa and Turkey which will entail in-depth research and analysis how their policy perspectives and experiences of engaging in conflict-affected contexts might shape responses to the peace and security aspects of the post-2015 debate. Saferworld's briefings ‘Promoting peace in the post-2015 framework: Brazil’ and  'Conflict and the post-2015 development agenda: Perspectives from South Africa' explore the role of two Rising Powers in relation to including peace within the post-2015 development agenda. Further briefings are to follow.

Saferworld has presented the findings and recommendations of its research into China’s role in conflict-affected states in various policy centres, including Beijing, Shanghai, Washington, Brussels and London, as well as in Nairobi and South Sudan. The research has been widely commended by UK and EU policy makers and has informed their approaches to China. The research and follow-up work in South Sudan has also been well-received in China. It has informed Chinese policy on African peace and security, and has generated interest among Chinese actors in developing more conflict sensitive approaches.

This list of resources will be expanded. Items listed here do not necessarily represent the views of Saferworld.


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