Authors: Amanda Lucey and Liezelle Kumalo
Site of publication: Institute for Security Studies
Type de publication: Policy Brief
Date de publication: February, 2018
What is sustaining peace?
Sustaining peace is defined as a ‘goal and a process to build a common vision of society’. In April 2016 the UN General Assembly and Security Council adopted parallel resolutions on sustaining peace, which emphasized the need to support national efforts to build an inclusive and people-centered vision of peace – one that addresses the root causes of violence and promotes rule of law, good governance and human rights. Sustaining peace activities include ‘preventing the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict, addressing root causes, assisting parties to conflict to end hostilities, ensuring national reconciliation and moving towards recovery, reconstruction and development’. Sustaining peace therefore has a temporal dimension, operating across different phases of a conflict and being either delayed or enhanced by critical junctures such as elections. It also has a structural dimension, spanning across (thematic) sectors from economic development to governance. Its social dimension includes class dynamics, empowerment and social cohesion.
Sierra Leone and Liberia have demonstrated resilience to challenges but still need support to build a sustainable peace. In January 2017 UN Secretary General António Guterres put conflict prevention for sustaining peace at the heart of the UN. The UN and World Bank carried out research to advance this agenda, using, as a starting point, the activities outlined in the General Assembly and Security Council resolutions on sustaining peace. The report advocates a holistic and non-linear view of conflict where prevention works with institutions, structures and actors. Here the state is the primary actor driving efforts. However, since the state itself can be an instigator of violence, there is a need to engage all actors in a society, including women and youth, to build pathways to peace.
Liberia and Sierra Leone’s transitions
After 13 failed peace agreements and a destructive civil war, a Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2003. Following this, Liberia had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), but never held anyone accountable for atrocities committed during the war. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) led the peace talks and has continued to play a significant role in the country. The ECOWAS Ceasefire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) mission deployed the first peacekeepers on the ground, joined by the UN Observer Mission in Liberia, which created the conditions for UN peacekeeping to take over. If Liberia is to sustain peace, a greater effort in engaging all national, regional and international actors is required The UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), which began in 2003, will draw to a close in March 2018. The UN has worked hard to ensure a smooth transition, but has seen this as a shift from the peacekeeping mission to the UN Country Team (UNCT) rather than from war to sustainable peace. It has developed a peacebuilding plan that has been adopted by the government and the international community as the focus for continued intervention.
Sierra Leone and Liberia have demonstrated resilience to challenges but still need support to build a sustainable peace. In January 2017 UN Secretary General António Guterres put conflict prevention for sustaining peace at the heart of the UN
Major ongoing concerns: were the root causes addressed?
The sustaining peace resolutions emphasize addressing the root causes of a conflict to prevent a resumption of violence. The examples of Liberia and Sierra Leone demonstrate that the failure to address root causes can remain a cause of concern in terms of sustaining peace.
To what extent have these root causes been addressed? The Liberian Peacebuilding Plan indicates some major concerns. The short-term priorities are:
- Access to justice – Liberia’s outdated legal framework lacks capacity, and the government needs to harmonize statutory and customary court systems.
- Security sector reform (SSR) – while significant progress has been made in police reform, resourcing remains a challenge, as does cross-border security.
- Reconciliation – most of the TRC’s recommendations, such as prosecutions, remain unimplemented.
- Inclusive economic diversification and reduction of donor dependency – the government is busy costing the new Agenda for Transformation and will establish a macroeconomic research and policy unit, but it must stop relying mainly on exports of primary commodities.
- Governance – the constitutional review process has to be concluded. In addition, the Local Government Bill and Land Rights Bill must be passed as soon as possible. Decentralization is another major issue. It must go beyond service delivery to local governance and allow decision-making at local levels.
After 13 failed peace agreements and a destructive civil war, a Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in 2003. Following this, Liberia had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), but never held anyone accountable for atrocities committed during the war
- Cross-cutting issues – there is a need to further promote human rights instruments, youth employment and education. The National Youth Bill is still underway. Women’s participation is critical. Concessions exploit fragile ecosystems. In the long term, the plan stresses accountability and anti-corruption. Yet ISS research reveals that the government has not been transparent regarding its budget, most of which is spent on recurring costs, especially the salaries of legislature members. The peacebuilding plan notes that inclusive dialogues will be at the heart of agreements with international partners. It also specifies the following longterm areas of focus, which build upon short-term achievements and require the approval of the incoming government:
- Justice and SSR – there is a need to focus on legislative and policy changes, decentralize justice and security, carry out a public expenditure review, and focus on traditional mechanisms of justice and security. • Governance – constitutional reform remains a concern. Decentralization, land reform and focus on corruption are also necessary.
- Economic reform – there is a need to develop a national development framework and domestic resource mobilization strategy.
- Ongoing cross-cutting issues – these include addressing human rights instruments and laws, transitional issues addressed in the TRC report, youth employment, civic education, psychosocial counseling, gender affirmative action and the climate-sensitive management of resources. ECOWAS could help to introduce more cost effective and context-specific experiences from neighboring countries The Liberian Peacebuilding Plan is a best practice for UN transitions, as it presents a coherent and strategic examination of what is required to sustain peace. It also demonstrates a consensus-based approach to conflict sensitivity involving a wide range of stakeholders, including political parties, civil society and international partners, that allows for timely and predictable use of aid. In addition, the sequencing of actions was determined by the following useful criteria: focus on impact, pro-poor policies, realistic implementation and national ownership. Yet delays or lack of achievement in the short term will delay long-term goals. ISS research showed that there is a need for a strong focus on capacity development in various areas, including civil society and political parties, as well as development within sectors such as agriculture, business and human rights relating to concessions.20 The research found that the plan has merit in terms of outlining engagements with partners such as ECOWAS, with a focus on engaging civil society on.