Peacebuilding and Statebuilding in the Horn of Africa

A Conversation with the Finnish Minister of International Development

Apr 16, 2014
On 10 April 2014, the Woodrow Wilson Center's Africa and Global Europe Programs hosted Finland’s Minister of International Development, H.E. Pekka Haavisto, in a roundtable that examined challenges, analyzed lessons learned, and offered recommendations on the way forward on peacebuilding and state-building in the Horn of Africa.
 
Minister Haavisto offered the keynote remarks and was joined by Dr. Sharon L. Morris of the United States Institute of Peace; Ms. Kate Almquist Knopf, Independent Consultant and former USAID Deputy Administrator for Africa; and Dr. Terrence Lyons of George Mason University who served as panelists.
 
Contextualizing Peacebuilding in the Horn of Africa
 
For many years, the Horn of Africa has been characterized by conflict, instability, poverty, and underdevelopment. Despite remarkable progress in recent years, the region still faces many critical challenges. After a long and bitter struggle, South Sudan was born and welcomed as the world’s newest state in 2011. Just two years later, the optimism that surrounded South Sudan’s birth has dimmed as the country is now engulfed in conflict. Classified as a failed state for nearly two decades, Somalia has recently witnessed notable progress, with a new president inaugurated in 2012 after democratic elections and reintegration into the international community of nations. However, the situation in Somalia, South Sudan, Eritrea, and the region at large, remains fragile in regards to governance, security, and development.  Eritrea, in particular, stands at a crossroads.
 
In his keynote remarks, Minister Haavisto highlighted the work of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (IDPS) for which he serves as co-chair.  He noted that the IDPS is the first forum for political dialogue that brings together 19 conflict-affected and fragile countries with international partners and civil society to catalyze successful transitions from conflict and fragility.  Drawing on his extensive experience with the United Nations in Iraq and the Horn of Africa in particular, the Minister highlighted several key points that are critical for successful post-conflict peacebuilding and state-building. Local ownership of the peacebuilding and state-building process is instrumental.  Countries and their citizens, rather than external partners and agencies, must take the lead on and have ownership of the process. In addition, he noted the important body of experience that African countries and organizations have accumulated in the peacebuilding and state-building realms.  The Minister applauded the work of the African Union and its regional economic communities (e.g., the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the Economic Community of West African States, etc.) which he noted had undertaken many peacebuilding and state-building initiatives on the continent, while simultaneously working to guarantee security. In this regard, he highlighted the case of AMISOM in Somalia as an example. Given this body of work, Minister Haavisto lamented the persistent focus on building African capacity; he suggested that it might be more productive to draw lessons learned and best practices from this commendable African experience with issues related to peacebuilding and state-building.
 
Key Considerations in Formulating Policy
 
In addressing the way forward for post-conflict peacebuilding and state-building, the speakers highlighted several key points, including:
 
1) International strategies and frameworks for post-conflict intervention in Africa and elsewhere (Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, and Sudan etc.) have all followed the same formula.  Yet these traditional peacebuilding processes and post-conflict development approaches have yielded little success.  Reconciliation experts must learn from these experiences and bridge the wide gap between traditional peacebuilding strategies and the realities on the ground. In most post-conflict contexts, what most affected citizens require is assistance with ameliorating extreme poverty, reducing violent competition for national resources, and rebuilding trust within individual communities and with the government, among other processes. Thus, a favorable atmosphere for development is pertinent.
 
2) Inclusiveness and local ownership are critical to the success of any peacebuilding process.  Traditional clan and religious leaders as well as members of the military, youth, women, and government officials should be brought together to engage in meaningful political dialogue in order to define for themselves their goals, programs, and cooperative strategies. It was noted that such programs were initially successful when conducted at the local levels in Somalia and Sudan.
 
3) In the past, there has been a tendency for peacebuilding, governance, development, and humanitarian efforts to run parallel to or sequentially of one another. It was suggested that chances for successful post-conflict peacebuilding and state-building efforts could be enhanced through more effective blending of peacebuilding, governance, development, and humanitarian assistance into one comprehensive approach and package.
 
4) There is a crisis of state legitimacy in several countries in the Horn of Africa, and broken trust is at the root of this crisis. It manifests itself at several levels, including a lack of trust between the state and its citizens as well as a lack of trust among and between citizens. The key question for peacebuilding and state-building must center on how best to restore trust, build confidence, and assure a more binding social contract between the state and its citizens.
 
5) While constitutions are important, the process by which they are derived is critical to peacebuilding and state-building. If the process is neither inclusive nor locally owned, the resulting constitution will not be accepted by the people. The situation in Somalia is a case in point.
 
6) In Somalia, security is also often favored over political and other elements of peacebuilding and state-building. In order to increase the chances of success, more attention needs to be paid to better integration of the political and security elements.
 
7) While the international community has often looked to neighboring countries to provide security in Somalia, there needs to be better and stronger recognition that these countries also have their own interests in Somalia, and that these interests impact Somalia’s peacebuilding and state-building.
 
8) Peacebuilding and state-building in Somalia must take into account the role of the diaspora, who play a key role in influencing political and economic developments in the country. Efforts must consider how to build peace and the state within this transnational space.
 
9) Encouraging states to invest in their peacebuilding efforts and strengthening and encouraging legitimate state revenue gathering can also be building blocks for future development.
 
10) In many African countries, including those in the Horn of Africa, formal and informal institutions exist side by side. Peacebuilding and state-building processes must recognize the articulation between these two types of institutions, as well as the fact that sometimes real power resides within the informal, rather than the formal institutions.
 
In conclusion, Minister Haavisto stressed the importance of international institutions, neighboring countries, the diaspora, and local communities working together to achieve sustainable peace. 

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