Peace, the Dollar Value Attached

“Life is not scripted. Conversations with our donors should not be either.”
– Lauren Semple

A recent trip to Kenya showed me the depth of the work involved in peacemaking. On the surface peacebuilding appears to be a simple conversation, the story in fact tells itself. Yet, further interrogations indicate that peacemaking is more than building communal understandings and facilitating dialogues.

Building peace is an ongoing project that requires financial resources. The work done to build peace is a collection of efforts that include human resources, institutional resources, and the constant support from the community or context one is working in. Without these elements, even strategic efforts taken to make peace have a long way to go.

 

The concrete trigger for the Network’s involvement in Kenya was the vulnerable disposition of communities in the fragile state of Somalia and northeastern Kenya. The continued threat of conflicts, including terrorism acts, demanded action. Action in turn called for understanding of both the underlying causes of the conflict as well as the motivations of the grassroots actors involved in the conflict.

One of the first publications of the Network Secretariat was Radicalisation and al-Shabaab Recruitment in Somalia, which provided an insight to violent extremism. Aside from providing an investigation on the recruitment patterns and motivations behind al-Shabaab members, the study highlighted a clear need for innovative solutions to address the causes of radicalization primarily highlighted to be financial in nature.

 

Just to put peace and conflict in a visual monetary perspective: in 2015, global spending on violence stooped high and mighty at 13.6 trillion dollars, while that of development aid stood at 131.6 billion. The ratio being more than ten to one.

This disparity made the activities of research dissemination and fundraising ever more real for me, no less so, as a Kenyan returning home to pitch an agenda for peace with and to our local and international donors. Furthermore, the recent call for innovative solutions to the challenges faced in both this region as well as other parts of the world encourages bold moves for development, peace and security actors worldwide.

The fact is, when looking for sustainable, far-reaching solutions, NGOs alone are not the strongest players. The private sector is one of the new kids on the block. New partners and modes of co-operation are key for making use of new trends and providing new solutions all with the aim of one day securing a long-lasting the right to peace. A right that for many, including my own countrymen, is not guaranteed.

The thought of the private sector as a diverse group of constituents, whose influence to peace is unrivaled and untapped, called fundraising expert Lauren Semples’ quote to my mind. To diversify conversations with donors and increase the participation space to accommodate other players is crucial as working to strengthen the process of peace. A lesson emphasized throughout conversations on conflict transformation during my trip.

 

To raise the dollar value for peace to its rightful space is to acknowledge the nuances of peace, and adjust accordingly. For me, the number of youth the world is losing to radicalization and violent extremism is unacceptable. The lack of policy and indepth evidence based research on grass root situations is a call to action for all. So is the challenge to not only engage with track one conversations, but with all layers, and especially the bottom most affected actors.

It is paramount that conversations with donors are reflective of on ground situations. Diversity in funding and partners is a reflection of the modern world. As the nature of conflicts becomes more diverse, so should our responses.

As I reflect on recent achievements, I am encouraged by responses from new actors and funders. I am encouraged by the fact, that we have a space to discuss impactful solutions, that the private sector has indeed invested in the prevention of violent extremism, that religious and traditional leaders are willing to take up the role of a mediator and negotiator, that women in Somalia are participating in the conversation for peace, that the newly elected Somalia president has the backing and support of his people, that consolidated peace building efforts in rural Kenya have proven to be effective, and that more youth are involved in the quest of a lasting solution.

What’s left is for us is to raise the dollar value for peace in support of our peacemakers and our peace projects.

 

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Njoki Githieya
Network Intern
Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers