From Rhetoric to Policy: Making Conflict Prevention Work at the
         Regional and Global Level



The workshop summary and report can be found at:

http://www.carleton.ca/csds/papers/NPSIA-23.PDF

OVERALL SUMMARY
In summary, the workshop produced several findings and recommendations.
Above all, conflict prevention research and training needs to focus on:
- thorough analysis;
- multilateral and multi-track application;
- strategy convergence and harmonisation;
- lessons learned between the UN and regional organisations;
- stimulation of donor activity;
- impact assessment and ‘sales strategy’ of conflict prevention as
investment in a safe future; and,
- ownership and self management.
More generally, the following issues need to be seriously considered:
- analysis needs to be complex, multilevel, strategic and individual;
- actors need to be involved multilaterally through multi-track,
sustainable initiatives;
- the vital importance of capacity building;
- joint initiatives and information exchange are required for convergence;
and,
- the political economy of conflict and conflict prevention need to be
better understood.
Harmonisation and mainstreaming could take place through policy co-ordination
that is both formal and informal, including expert groups or
standing contact groups. Sustainability could be best achieved through self-ownership
and the development of an indigenous capability. Donors could
act as catalysts for these processes. Harmonisation requires identification of
key stakeholders and an inventory of needs and security providers. An
engaged civil society may be the best route to achieve grassroots multi-track
conflict prevention at the local level.
A number of challenges also need to be met:
- entry and exit strategies for regional organisations in conflict situations;
- problems of capacity building;
- the development of proper impact assessment and evaluation;
- measuring effectiveness;
- the development of a critical mass of interest in local issues (among
local and external actors);
- recognition of, and work in the context of, a power politics framework;
- mainstreaming of conflict prevention training;
- identification of key tools for the end user;
- finding proper entry points and partners for conflict prevention action;
- securing appropriate timing and agents of change.
There are also several short-term and long-term issues of immediate concern:
1. Working relationships between regional organisations and the UN;
regional organisations and other regional organisations; organs,
departments and institutions of the UN need to be improved
dramatically.
2. Conflict prevention has to move closer to the local level; or, at the very
least, national and international efforts have to be well-tuned to local
needs and invest in local capacity-building.
3. Conflict prevention, at all levels, has to be sustainable and sustained to
assure meaningful results.
4. Regional organisations and the UN should have at their disposal
readily-available expert groups with theoretical, practical and regional
expertise on conflict prevention for urgent advice on early warning and
preventive measures.
5. Academics and policymakers alike need to develop successful
approaches to sell conflict prevention to decision-makers and opinion-makers.
6. Lessons-learned exercises undertaken by various regional organisations
and UN institutions need to be thoroughly evaluated by all actors
involved in conflict prevention activities.
7. Although difficult to measure, efforts need to be undertaken to
determine, evaluate and explain successful preventive action.
8. Beyond the rhetoric of co-operation between the UN, regional
organisations and civil society actors, the relationship(s) between them
needs to be understood and pragmatically assessed.
Too much rhetoric and too many good ideas that have not been followed up
have made conflict prevention a meaningless concept and exercise in the eyes
of many stakeholders. Smaller steps, based on pragmatic assessments of
what can and cannot be done, along with honest efforts to engage in long-term
human development, conflict avoidance and peace management, can go
a long way in re-instilling confidence in the ability of intergovernmental, state
and non-state actors to prevent or minimise violent conflict and human
suffering.

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Last update:  17 Oct 2000