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We need action to match the historic commitments made in Stockholm

by Kathryn Nwajiaku, head of the International Dialogue On Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Secretariat
Tuesday, 19 April 2016 16:53 GMT

In this 2014 file photo, a Sierra Leonean boy looks out of a doorway in Freetown, Sierra Leone. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Forty nations, non-governmental organisations, multilateral agencies and banks have signed the 'Stockholm Declaration on Addressing Fragility and Building Peace in a Changing World'

As reported on this platform, April 5th was a big day for the world’s peacebuilders. On that day, over 40 nations, non-governmental organisations, multilateral agencies and banks, gathered in Sweden and signed the ‘Stockholm Declaration on Addressing Fragility and Building Peace in a Changing World’. In doing so, they pledged to collectively work to prevent crisis by tackling first its root causes, through the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States framework.

The Stockholm Declaration was the outcome of the High Level Meeting of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding, a unique forum that brings together donors, g7+ governments, and civil society to establish priorities and find lasting solutions to the causes of conflict and fragility and build peace.

The Declaration itself re-commits the members of the International Dialogue to the principles of the New Deal whose peacebuilding and statebuilding goals spell out what needs to be done to make a difference in fragile and conflict affected environments; notably greater investment now in inclusive politics, security, justice, jobs, revenues and services, can be good for peace. This means also changing also changing how international actors deliver, moving beyond incoherent, poorly coordinated international action, towards greater co-ordination rooted in the use of national systems in ways that foster more leadership and ownership. The opposite has often left states affected by fragility worse off, unable to cope with competing multiple international demands, parallel social service delivery systems, and unable to rebuild their legitimacy in the eyes of war weary populations, often already ‘taken care of’ by humanitarian and development actors using their own parallel systems.

Yet despite these lofty ideals, according to the just-published ‘Independent Review of the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States’ by the US-based think tank, the Centre for International Cooperation at NYU, progress on implementing commitments to the New Deal on the ground, has been slow. The relative progress of the New Deal in countries like Somalia, Sierra Leone and Timor Leste, has been the exception rather than the rule. The Somalia example shows just what can be achieved if there is political will and commitment at both country-level and amongst development partners. Although Somalia is not out of the woods yet, after more than twenty years of conflict, the people of Somalia today have more hope for the future than possibly ever before. Equally, the report notes that where political leadership is high, as in Sierra Leone and Timor Leste, progress can be considerable. What chance then for the Stockholm Declaration? Political leadership is clearly vital if the Stockholm Declaration is to be more than just fine words.

As the International Dialogue’s co-chair Minister Isabella Lövin of Sweden said earlier this month, the task before us is urgent. The root causes of the refugee crisis we currently face can be traced back to fragile and conflict affected states. Today fifty fragile and conflict-affected states account for 20% of the world’s population but 43% of the extreme poor (living on less than $1.25 a day). These figures alone, plus the multiplicity of global development frameworks currently competing for space, mean that consistent, concerted and coordinated international action is now more vital than ever.  The International Dialogue is well placed to take a lead in forging such coordination, but must engage seriously with other stakeholders (security, justice and defence sectors across government, the private sector, regional organisations, middle income countries), if it is to make a real difference to the lives of people on the ground. As the UN’s Assistant General Secretary for Peacebuilding Support, Oscar Fernandez Taranco, noted at the Stockholm meeting, the International Dialogue must not duplicate but consolidate the efforts of others, notably of the Peacebuilding Commission, particularly given its focus on g7+ countries too. 

The Stockholm Declaration sets out what it will take to deliver Agenda 2030 in fragile and conflict affected environments. Applying the New Deal principles will be key. With the commitments agreed in Stockholm, the International Dialogue now has renewed levels of support for the New Deal and a new impetus for greater action. The real work must start now to ensure that those commitments are translated into real change on the ground. This means transforming the International Dialogue into a forum capable of working with others to spread the word so that no-one is left behind. The next big opportunity, will be at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May (23-34) where the International Dialogue, in partnership with the humanitarian community will forge new ways of collaborating to deal with the sustainability challenge laid down by Agenda 2030, that confronts us all, and most acutely in fragile and conflict affected environments.