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Community-based Approach for Sustainable Peacebuilding

The impact of violent conflicts on any country and its society is inevitably destructive and devastating. The effects on the state and civilians can be multifaceted from tangible injuries, killing, and damage to intangible pervasive fears and psychological traumas. Sadly, more than 1.4 billion people, including half of the world’s extremely poor people, are bound to live in fragile and conflict-affected settings with more than 65 million being forcibly displaced. These dynamics are only set to grow and are expected to cross the line of 82% growth by the end of 2030 unless the world takes appropriate measures to prevent it.

Reconciling conflicts and achieving sustainable peace have been the subjects of focus throughout the recent decade, with a number of development agencies and countries investing in them. Sustainable peace is a concept endorsed by the UN general assembly that stresses the importance of having a long-term, comprehensive vision in all responses to violent conflicts to end vicious cycles of lapse and relapse. Historical evidence and experience suggest that communities remain relatively resilient in conflict settings, providing coping mechanisms for insecurity and fragility. Thus, growing attention is being paid to the adoption of community-based approaches while dealing with conflicts.

What is a community-based approach to peacebuilding?

The community-based approach seeks to empower local community groups and institutions by expanding their direct controls over investment decisions, project planning, monitoring, and evaluation. The key to the approach is inclusive participation that creates a sense of community ownership and lays the ground for the sustainability of development interventions.

A community-based approach is a constructive tool that complements the weaknesses of public institutions, strengthens local governance, and reconnects the state with its citizens. The community-based approach facilitates the accumulation of social capital in divided societies and fosters a safe space for interaction between different groups. It can be applied in various contexts and circumstances from conflict prevention to peacekeeping and reconciliation.

Key Challenges with Community-based Approach

A community-based approach does not always result in conflict resolution or mitigation

Although the community-based approach has a great potential to contribute to sustainable peacebuilding, in practice it usually seeks to transform the relationships, facilitates collaboration between different actors, and links to broader peace strategies. Inclusive processes can promote community solidarity and the creation of social capital. However, since the dominant groups often feel threatened by a participatory approach that challenges traditional decision-making structure, they shall be resistant to changes and broader reforms in order to preserve the authority. Therefore, the community-based approach has the potential to either diffuse or exacerbate the existing conflicts.

A community-based approach does not necessarily mean greater inclusion or participation

Frequently, the community-based approach simply mirrors pre-existing social and cultural patterns resulting in further marginalization of e.g., women, poor, and other socially excluded groups as they refrain or are restricted from participation in forums. In such cases, traditionally dominant groups manage to even enhance their influence and power resulting in greater gap and inequitable societies.

A community-based approach may give rise to the risk of power concentration in the hands of the elite

Elites might be able to exercise greater control over community groups and manipulate the structure for their own benefit or political purposes. In this case, transparency can get compromised and result in power abuse from dominant groups.

Inclusive Peace Talks – The Case of Columbia

Despite being one of the more stable democracies in Latin America, Columbia has suffered protracted armed conflict. The country demonstrates the highest inequality rates in the region after Honduras with gross historical injustices and impunity. Columbia is navigating a sea of paradoxes with a blossoming culture of peace despite deep-rooted beliefs and attitudes that foster violence.

The peace agreement between the Government of Columbia and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Columbia (FARC) was reached in 2016, becoming the first peace pact to put an end to the armed conflict since the Nepalese Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006. It became a sign of hope and humanity and made the world believe in the power of dialogue and peace negotiations.

Innovations around Participation and Social Inclusion in Peace Talks

The peace processes in Columbia have been thought of as the acts of strengthening democracy where negotiations were directed towards transforming the power dynamics of the country. During 4 years of Negotiations, the Government and the FARC were able to design an agreement that responded to the claims of each party. Throughout the peace talks, Columbia developed remarkable mechanisms for participation and social inclusion. The negotiations involved all the affected groups from private and security sectors and consultants to victims to peace talks, women, and LGBTI organizations as well as ethnic minorities.
The Government and the FARC set up a number of new bodies and designated institutional mechanisms to foster public participation, identify the needs of the societies, and draft related development plans.

What could go wrong when everything goes right?

Although the peace agreement was a huge step forward for the stability of the country, Columbian society inside was left divided and polarized full of mistrust, skepticism, and opposition. In 2016, the government encountered an unexpected setback when the peace agreement got narrowly rejected in a plebiscite. Although at that time it was almost impossible to believe that anyone would campaign a ‘NO’ vote, many did. In fact, the peace supporters polled 60’000 votes less than the opposition.

As paradoxical as it sounds, the agreement that was designed with the best of intentions turned out to be a mere reflection of citizens’ fears. Those, who were directly affected by conflicts voted in favor of the pact yet others went against it. Regardless of the innovations in public participation, the society remained unconvinced. It’s worth noting that the UK Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump as a president played their role in exacerbating social division.

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The Exodus: Drivers of Migration & Its Implications for International Development and Sustainability

Contemporary Migration is a highly complex phenomenon that is shaped by a convoluted set of factors. It has existed for centuries and has become a part of mankind’s shared history. Both the origins and the reverberations of migration are multifaceted and tangled, taking numerous forms from voluntary to forcible. The decision to migrate, be it on international or internal levels, tends to be heavily influenced by many circumstances such as economic conditions, employment or development opportunities, poverty, hunger, conflicts, environmental threats, or climate shocks. Although the list is not fully exhaustive, it gives a clear idea of how diversified the migration drivers can be.
The Patterns and the Continuum of Migration Decisions
Internal VS International Migration
Although there is no specific data that accurately measures the rate of internal migration, it is deemed that the vast majority of migrants move within the boundaries of their own countries. According to the Human Development Report (2009), more than 10% of the world’s population has been migrating internally, compared to the rate of 3,1% of international migrants. This pattern may be due to relative simplicity, language and cultural assimilation, and the cost-effectiveness of internal movement. The majority of expatriate journeys are complex and fragmented and rarely come with ease. Sometimes, taking the stepwise approach, the migrants change several locations, and eventually relocate internationally. They might even change several countries until they make up their mind on choice.
Rural-to-Rural VS Rural-to-Urban
The rate of the global population living in urban areas has increased from 43% to 54% between 2000-2014. Although the structural transformation and urbanization patterns differ across countries and regions, many nations have faced the challenge of diminishing rural settlements. Massive Agglomerations in cities have negatively affected agricultural production and the share of agriculture in countries’ GDP. However, in some countries, rural-to-rural migration is not uncommon owing to the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of such movements.
Seasonal, Circular or Short-Term Migration
The majority of first-generation migrants tend to retain strong links with their home countries, frequently engaging in circular migration. The circularity itself might well be associated with seasonally changeable needs between rural and urban areas.
Voluntary VS Forced Migration
The migration that is intentionally planned and aims to bring livelihood development opportunities is considered to be voluntary. On the contrary, forced migration is the movement of the last resort that threatens the safety and the security of the individual. Such displacement may be triggered by conflicts, wars, environmental hazards, disasters, or similar events that are not under the control of the migrant. Forced displacement is usually a stepwise process. E.g. 8 out of 10 migrants from Syria have been displaced within the country at least once, and 65% at least twice before crossing international borders. (FAO, IFAD, IOM, WFP, 2018). These 2 types can be considered as two ends of migration continuum decisions.
The Drivers of Migration
Over the last few decades, many scholars have placed an emphasis on the determinants of migration. Although several theories provide explanations for the rise in movements, the empirical evidence suggests the following as the key drivers for migration:
  • Income Differences
  • Poverty, Food Security, and Famines
  • Education, Family Reunification and Social Networks
  • High Population Density, Demographic Asymmetries, and Gender Inequality
  • Environmental Factors, Agriculture Incomes, and Climate Change
  • Conflicts, Wars, and Political Instability.
The Impact of Migration: It is exactly what you make it 
Amid the global refugee crisis, the debate over migration policy and border controls has become intensified. Many of these debates go over and over across fruitless circles that lead nowhere, but where they have started. There are both supporters and opponents with reasonable arguments about what migration can bring for their societies. E.g. Migration can adversely affect employment for specific groups, namely natives with comparable skills, experience, and job preferences, as ex-pats will be able to fill those positions. However, elevated competition can as well become a foundation for better employment, where labor is more qualified, competent, and productive. In fact, the effects of migration might vary from country to country depending on the policy and controls exercised by governments.
Could Migration Support International Development and Sustainability? 
Migration is definitely not a pre-requisite for development. There are a number of countries with different migration patterns but similar development levels. Yet, migration can bring a wide array of benefits, if and when managed properly.
Remittances sent by migrants to developing countries represent more than three times the global flows of development assistance. According to World Bank Estimates, recorded annual remittance flows to low- and middle-income countries reached $529 billion in 2018. Such a source of financing can help reduce poverty, incentivize consumption, foster business formation, and entrepreneurship, and increase household investments. Diasporas do not limit themselves only to financial support, but social remittances as well. They are able to transfer the values and the behaviors of the host countries when traveling back home. Such value transfer can result in Women Empowerment and Gender equality. Furthermore, host countries can benefit from “brain gain” once they get tertiary-level educated migrants. These expatriates get employed and contribute to countries’ overall development. Moreover, as Legal Migrants pay taxes they assist in strengthening the host’s fiscal profile.
Many opposers of uncontrolled migration might argue that the rise in international movements is a threat to host countries and their citizens. They share their worries regarding cultural conflicts, security issues, and similar concerns. Besides, many of them suggest that poorer countries compromise their development opportunities by “losing” the expertise of qualified citizens and might become the victims of “brain drain”.
Making the Right Choice: Control VS Manage
In the contemporary world, where globalization is part of our daily life and where borders start to bear only symbolic value, Migration should be strategically managed, not controlled. The mechanisms we have been employing so far have proved to be controversial and ineffective. Many receiving countries that sharply increased personnel and expenditures to prevent irregular migration have witnessed the number of irregular migrants rising faster than ever. The restrictive and unilateral migration policies have not been working properly. How about free movement without restrictions? Regardless of how appealing it might sound at first sight unfettered migration would not do much better than current policies and could even bring more damage. Instead, we should strive for a regime that is based on the concept of regulated openness and sustained by close inter-state co-operation. (Bimal Ghosh, UNESCO, 2005).
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