The All Party Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues

The House of Commons, Tuesday 24th February 2009

Dr Scilla Elworthy, Chair, Peace Direct.


Sixty per cent of the world’s children who die before their fifth birthday are in conflict-affected areas.


We all know that conflict costs lives, threatens regional and global stability. So what can we do about it? And how can we act more effectively in this difficult financial climate?


Quite simply, we believe that using ‘Insider Power’ and diverting some development funding to secure local peace building will prove to be a wise investment – for saving lives, for saving money, and most importantly for those children who can then grow up and flourish in peace and stability.


What does ‘Insider Power’ mean?


A host of international organisations including the UN, the European Centre for Conflict Prevention, numerous NGOs, charities and national governments - including the UK - have long recognised the need for a “ joined up” approach to conflict prevention and peace building.


What’s more, we’ve seen the results.

Since the early 1990s more wars have ended by negotiated settlement than by military victory – in fact almost twice as many -

However the chances of conflicts reigniting are still almost 50%. That is most likely to happen where there is no systematic ‘insider’ effort to match the ‘outsider’ negotiations — where local people – local peace builders  - are insufficiently mobilised to enable the population to engage in the peace process, to feel part of the agreement, and to help carry out its terms.


Let’s be more specific about how ‘Insider Power’ works

1.     Pre-conflict insider power. Effective, local, peace building organizations are often accurate providers of early warning of potential conflicts, and early action to prevent escalation.  Example: Kenya January 2008 - how grassroots peace-builders provided the vital ‘bottom up’ link to Kofi Annan’s ‘top down’ mediation mission early in 2008, that allowed the violence that had erupted all over Kenya to subside, and a durable peace to prevail.

2.     Hot conflict insider power. The greater inclusion of local people, during a conflict, encourages independence and responsibility for solving their own problems, which over the longer term reduces aid dependency and the ‘victim’ culture. One example here would be Nepal.

3.     Post conflict insider power. A shift in funding to local organizations – particularly in the “ window of opportunity” once a peace deal has been agreed - ensures a faster, more flexible and inclusive peace building effort. Example:  El Salvador – the Patriotic Movement Against Crime 1995-99 – where after a 12-year civil war, businessmen whose trucks were being high-jacked at gunpoint organized to collect thousands of weapons in exchange for food vouchers.

Our perspective at Peace Direct comes from working over the last five years to raise funding and profile for locally led peace building initiatives. This work has given us an ‘insider’ perspective, albeit one limited in terms of our short operating history. We have come to recognise the wealth of talent for peace building and conflict resolution within countries at risk of conflict, and the power of effective collaboration, on equal terms, between ‘outsiders’ and ‘insiders’.


The main point that we want to make is that, even more important than ‘what’ is funded (peace building, state-building, or Millennium Development Goals) is ‘how’ programmes are implemented.  (“It ain’t what you do but the way that you do it.”)   Aid and conflict programmes can be delivered in ways that strengthen a country’s ability to move out of conflict into sustainable development, or the reverse. Programmes that maximise the use of local people and organisations, and aim to strengthen government and civil society in parallel will, quite simply, be more effective than those that concentrate only on government.



Latent capacity


Peace Direct firmly believes we should 


Š      Never do anything for people that they can do for themselves.

Š      Never give people for free something that they are able to buy.

Š      Never employ outsiders to provide anything that can be provided by insiders.


A capable, accountable and responsive state  - at both central and local level - requires that people are able to act on their own initiative.


Self-sufficiency is the goal, so that a country can provide its peace building services from within its own resources. Even if the time scale for achieving this is in the far distance, the way that state-building strategies are implemented will move a country closer to, or further away from, this goal.


In order to move towards the goal of self-sufficiency, it is essential to identify and tap the capacity of people to do things for themselves and for their communities; in other words, make use of latent capacity:


Š      Latent capacity in community development

is revealed in programmes like the National Solidarity Programme in Afghanistan, which, while not perfect, uncovered the ability within villages to make decisions and implement programmes that had not previously been recognised. 


Š      Latent capacity in peace building

has been demonstrated through the Collaborative for Peace in Sudan.  They have initiated the Sudan Oil and Human Security Initiative bringing together oil company representatives with community leaders and MPs of the South Sudan Government to work in partnership on environmental and security issues, and conducted twelve meetings in 4 locations across Blue Nile State, to bring together women, young people and office holders to talk about strategies for maintaining peace in the State.


Š      Latent capacity in the power of civil society

is revealed by the spread of mobile phones, and their widespread use even by those who cannot afford to own their own phone.  (For instance, in South Africa, extra free minutes have been offered to young people willing to transmit basic health education texts to their friends, helping to reduce the spread of HIV/Aids. Brazilian coffee growers have been able to check current wholesale prices, thus obtaining fairer prices for their crops and eliminating middlemen. SMS messages were widely used in Kenya in January 2008 to obtain accurate information on ‘hot spots’ in the escalating conflict.)


It is time to take a long hard look at the way we, the international community, operate in conflict areas. That means a long hard look at how kindness kills - sometimes literally - but more often fails because it stifles rather than supports local initiative.



How do we fund latent capacity and Insider Power?


For every dollar spent on peace building around the world, nearly two thousand times as much is spent on defence and the military.



Global financial downturn means that there now is less money to go round, so all governments need to spend less on defence. It’s financial common sense to use limited resources to prevent conflicts, not for mopping up afterwards. We believe that redirecting some development funding for supporting Insider Power will prove to be financially sound. Pre conflict peace building, early warnings and intervention by local peace builders are likely to be more cost effective than the emergency funding poured into humanitarian disasters once a conflict has escalated.  


With growing unwillingness among taxpayers around the world to foot the bill for projects “over there”, particularly those that apparently have no effect other than emergency aid, it is vital to demonstrate the cost effectiveness of preventing conflict in order to win the argument that money from the defence budget would be better spent on peace building.


Conflict prevention using local people not only saves lives, it saves money 

Š      The cost of civil society networking that complemented Kofi Annan’s efforts to end the post-election crisis in Kenya cost around £100,000.

Š      During 1998-2000, the Otpor[1] student campaign to monitor elections in Serbia cost just  £3 per student trained and deployed, of whom there were an estimated 20,000.[2] This prevented the election results being distorted and led to the expulsion of Milosevic.

Š      The weapons collection scheme in El Salvador that ended the high-jacking of trucks after the civil war cost approximately £900,000.

Many more such examples are waiting to be documented – all of which could be contrasted with the January 2008 peace conference in the Congo, backed by the EU, US and UN, which brought together leading politicians to find a solution to the violence in Eastern DR Congo. The conference cost three million pounds.  No local people were invited.


We all know what’s happened in DRC since then.

Here are the sums:

Prevention costs less than reconstruction: 

In Rwanda, International relief and reconstruction efforts over the three years following the Rwanda genocide cost the international community more than $2 billion. The Carnegie Commission, reporting in 1997, estimated the costs of a preventive intervention would have been one third of that amount and would have saved the lives of thousands of people.


Rapid Response Funds produce results:

Based on experience over the past 5 years, Peace Direct has found that if a trusted local peace builder in a community can receive a Rapid Response Fund (RRF) of as little as £10,000 to use at their discretion in the event of crisis, they can deploy this strategically to prevent escalation of disputes.  In Kenya in January 2008, Dekha Ibrahim Abdi – a Kenyan Muslim with a network of trained peace-builders across the coutry - was able to use her RRF to take the simple necessary steps of hiring rooms for meetings, providing transport money for civilian peace builders, and paying cell phone bills.


Just  £10,000 a year in DRC funds  Henri Bura Ladyi, a peace-builder based in eastern DRC, who runs the Centre de Resolution Conflits:


Henri used some of that money to put fuel in his motorbike, to go into the jungle to negotiate with the Mai Mai militia who have been kidnapping children to use as child soldiers and demanding a goat as ransom from the families.   A goat costs £3 - way beyond their reach.

Henri secured the release of scores of children and has opened up a constructive dialogue with the Mai Mai.


In this case, less really is more.



Recommendations for the consideration of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues


1.     Support local capacity in peace-building

In creating programmes to prevent conflict and build or rebuild peace, we need to tap into the knowledge and skills of local individuals and organisations. There are very few programmes that genuinely use the skills and knowhow of local peace-building organisations in setting priorities and designing programmes.


There are valid reasons why this happens, for example the fact that genuinely competent and committed local peace organisations are not distributed in a uniform fashion across a country. The website Insight on Conflict is redressing this with a database that has already detailed up to 44 initiatives in nine conflict areas: the organisation is raising funds to document a further 6 conflict areas.


The APPGCI could encourage the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and DfID to use the Insight on Conflict database, and to invest in the knowledge and skills of local individuals and organisations.



2.     Pre conflict Regional Rapid Response Funds


Regional networks of experienced peace-builders now exist in West and East Africa, and are in development in the Middle East and Asia. These networks need long term financial  support,  as lack of resources  means they can’t act early to prevent conflict (which most of them are well placed to do as they are an accurate source of early warning).


Such networks would be ideally placed to manage Regional Rapid Response Funds – initially small amounts of money under their jurisdiction to be used to monitor conflict indicators and mobilise local networks for prevention initiatives. UNDP and the UN Inter-agency Framework for co-ordination on Preventive Action are already moving in this direction. Swisspeace and the Alliance for Peace-building (AfP) currently propose global  and regional mechanisms for initiating effective direct action to address the causes of mass violence in countries at risk.[3]


 The APPGCI could encourage the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and DfID to examine these options.



3.     Post conflict - commit funds to strengthen the capacity of ‘insiders’ to promote and reinforce peace and peace agreements.

Where a conflict is heading towards a significant turning point – either the ending of a repressive regime, as in Zimbabwe, or a peace agreement – funds need to be committed well in advance, in order to enable a strategy to be developed for immediate implementation when the turning point comes.

There is usually a period of opportunity - the first 18 months to 2 years after a peace agreement is signed. Momentum needs to be built in order for real progress to be made on the ground within 3-5 years. Our proposal is that a sum be allocated to a locally led peace-building strategy, in the region of 10% of the likely allocation to the UN Mission to the country concerned, over the first five years. This sum would be for the implementation of a peace-building strategy, the first stages of which would have been worked out in parallel with the timetable of the peace talks. Further details are available from Peace Direct. 0845 4569714 or Carolyn@peacedirect.org


4. Comprehensive research


The APPGCI could call for a full study on the efficacy and cost effectiveness of local and regional ‘insider’ peace building initiatives led by Whitehall, with input from academic, charity, NGO and civil society input.


[1] Otpor is Serbian for ‘Resistance’.

[2] Mathews, War Prevention Works: 50 Stories of People Resolving Conflict, p 16. This publication contains many such examples.

[3] See Global Crisis Prevention Mechanism, Swisspeace and the Alliance for Peacebuilding, January 2008.