Building for Peace: A New Approach to Break Cycle of Violence and Conflict

New World Bank report urges focus on building – not rebuilding – after conflict.

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2020 – Tragic levels of death, destruction, displacement and disorder from ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen require a new approach focused on building – not rebuilding – to support transitions to sustainable peace. This is the key message of the new World Bank report, Building for Peace: Reconstruction for Security, Sustainable Peace, and Equity in MENA (B4P), funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Examining nearly a decade of reconstruction and peacebuilding approaches that have mostly been centered on top-down state-building, experts from the World Bank and BMZ joined efforts to take a fresh look at reconstruction, development and the transformation process to sustainable peace in the Middle East and North Africa region and beyond.

The resulting report, Building for Peace: Reconstruction for Security, Sustainable Peace, and Equity in MENA, utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to develop a thorough understanding of how conflict is embedded within complex national, local and regional dynamics and political and economic power structures. This approach helps map a long-term vision for sustainable and inclusive peace, recognizing the tradeoffs and risks that policymakers and practitioners face to build after conflict.

“After a decade of conflict that has inflicted severe and senseless suffering, we need a paradigm shift from ‘building back better’ to building sustainable peace,” said Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa. “Building for Peace shows, in grave detail, the importance of addressing past grievances; rethinks the entire approach to building after conflict; and gives us a roadmap for helping create sustainable economic opportunities for all.”

Building for Peace urges policymakers and development practitioners to focus on bottom-up, inclusive engagement to build stronger physical infrastructure and central government institutions. It suggests supporting legitimate and inclusive institutions at all levels, restarting local economies to create sustainable economic opportunities, and leveraging resilient assets. This approach ensures that interventions are anchored in the priorities and assets of the communities affected by conflict to promote social cohesion and build social capital.

The report makes the case for broadening our knowledge and creating a long-term vision based on more comprehensive and dynamic assessments to lay the foundation for interventions in these complex environments. These assessments should identify local, subnational and regional dynamics, institutions, and structural factors and how they interact with political and economic dynamics over time. The assessment should go beyond a snapshot of conditions at one point in time and should be a living narrative – an ongoing, multidimensional process of analysis.

“A comprehensive understanding of the situation on the ground can help prevent ‘blinders in policy design’ and ill-conceived interventions that could undermine the future of peace,” said Francesca Recanatini, a member of the core team behind the report. “Developing such an understanding requires much broader outreach to a wide range of stakeholders and informants and the creative use of new technologies and innovations.”

The report benefited from the inputs and collective thinking of more than 15 think-tanks and policy institutions; academic researchers; policymakers; government officials; practitioners on the ground; and colleagues from other international organizations and NGOs, from the MENA region and globally, which worked collaboratively over a period of two years. It has also benefited from the views and collective feedback of citizens, experts, and practitioners through a series of consultative workshops and online surveys conducted anonymously in Iraq, Libya and Yemen.

“This regional and cross-sectoral project has shown the importance of pursuing a multi-dimensional, collaborative approach that brings together a variety of stakeholders with a range of different perspectives and backgrounds. This is exactly what is needed in crisis contexts, and we should apply it in other regions beyond MENA,” said Volker Oel, Commissioner for the Middle East, Southeastern and Eastern Europe, and Latin America at Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). “Meeting the challenges of protracted conflict and violence requires more effective partnerships between different actors and informed interventions driven by international commitment and backed by predictable resources. We are looking forward to establishing a platform for further learning and the operationalization of the Building for Peace approach together with the World Bank.”

Building for Peace links to the new World Bank Group Strategy for Fragility, Conflict, and Violence 2020-2025, and it is anchored on its pillars II and III by offering approaches to remaining engaged in situations of active conflict and violence and helping countries escape the fragility trap. The report also resonates strongly with the new Transitional Development Assistance strategy of BMZ, which has just been released.

The report will officially launch on July 15, 2020 as part of the virtual Fragility Forum 2020.

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