Insights and Analysis

Conflict Experts Agree New Approaches Needed to Move Peacebuilding Forward

March 9, 2016

By Anna Bantug-Herrera

ToolkitreportLast week, Asia Foundation country representatives George Varughese from Nepal, Steven Rood from the Philippines, and Patrick Barron, regional director of conflict and development, based in Thailand, spoke on a new report, “Beyond the Toolkit: Supporting Peace Processes in Asia,” to a diverse audience at the World Bank Group’s Fragility, Conflict and Violence Forum 2016. This year’s program included over 70 sessions which built on the momentum of the Sustainable Development Goals, and took a hard look at how to implement this ambitious agenda in fragile environments.

On March 3, The Asia Foundation held a separate panel discussion in Washington, D.C., for a more in-depth analysis of the report, the fourth in the Foundation’s Working Politically in Practice series. The findings argue that existing peace process support models do not reflect what is known about the nature of conflict, how it ends, and how peace processes are sustained and peace consolidated. This is true everywhere but especially so in the context of conflict in non-fragile settings, said panelist Patrick Barron.

“Each country context is different, and that requires much more contextual knowledge and ability to adapt to the problems on the ground. You can’t just export something from one country to another; rather, you need to adapt approaches as you go along. We need to find flexible, iterative ways to work with domestic actors – both government and civil society – in peacebuilding,” he explained.

DFAT’s fragility specialist and former Asia Foundation expert, Thomas Parks, moderated the discussion which attracted more than 65 participants representing international donors, development practitioners, think tanks, and embassies in D.C. The discussion included a close look at the Foundation’s peace support activities in the Philippines and Nepal.

Rood, who observed negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as the Foundation’s representative on the International Contact Group, and since 2013 serves as a member of the Third Party Monitoring Team overseeing the implementation of agreements, updated the audience on the peace process environment, the stalled Bangsamoro Law, the role of women, and more. Rood recommended that international experts help to “build local coalitions, then be willing to disappear” in order to support a locally owned peace process. Read Rood’s ongoing coverage of the peace process here.

Varughese detailed the role of the insurgency in shaping sociopolitical discourse in Nepal and the long exercise of writing a new constitution, warning that “absent the violent expressions, all the underlying elements that created that insurgency remain in Nepal, including the blockade in Terai which is symptomatic of the anger over the new constitution.” He spoke about how continued political marginalization risks sowing the seeds for future conflict, and described the Foundation’s 15-year mediation program that is helping to build social harmony at the local level. Varughese is currently serving as 2015-16 Excellence Chair and Visiting Senior Scholar & Professor in Global and Area Studies, at the University of Wyoming.

Watch the panel video below, and download the full report here.

Anna Bantug-Herrera is The Asia Foundation’s associate director in the Washington, D.C., office, and can be reached at [email protected]. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and not those of The Asia Foundation or its funders.


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