News & events

Saferworld Intervention during Peacebuilding Commission annual session

1 July 2017

The below remarks were delivered by Mr Larry Attree, Head of Policy, at the UN on 30 June 2017

We agree with the distinguished panelists in the importance of developing a shared vision. We agree with Mr Tabsoba, that money is often not the biggest problem. When it comes to huge volumes of international financial flows, the issue in conflict affected contexts is often how much money is being stolen rather than invested in the public interest.

If we increase investment, let us celebrate only if we spend it in the right way. Perhaps investment can empower citizens to challenge those who steal from the public purse.

If our resources incentivise reform - as so often governance and human rights abuses are at the core of the problem when we are talking about peacebuilding - we can celebrate.

But if they reinforce unreformed institutions and empower those who are causing the problem, we cannot celebrate this.

In Syria, the aid system has reinforced the regime while starving its desperate opponents into the arms of fundamentalist groups. How long have we talked about the need for aid to do no harm?

Very importantly, we believe we need a step change in support to vibrant civil society - to community-driven initiatives, young people's and women's movements, and human rights defenders.

Unless the political will to make progress is already there, dealing with the governance and human rights drivers of today's conflicts will not come from acquiescence with the status quo and extra cash for the institutions we have. Change must come from nourishing our societies with the space and the momentum to shape the peaceful states people want and need to live in.

This aspiration is written into the fabric of the SDGs - in particular into Goal 16. We need to see accessible support and political backing to change agents in society, on the ground. But the way donors and banks work does not facilitate this. Where they are allowed to operate, civil society become little more than service providers way down the delivery chain within the aid system.

So this is a call to focus more on how we resource this change, in solidarity with people. My question is to ask the panel how do we do this?

Thank you.