Philanthropy for peace-building

Philanthropy organisations working in peace-building must recognise that the solutions are context-specific and require talking to local people and organisations, rather than simply referencing academic and external assessments, says Avila Kilmurray of The Social Change Initiative (SCI).

According to the SCI’s 2016 report, Funding in Conflict-Affected Environments, “there is good evidence for the important role of independent philanthropy in addressing aspects of peace-building”.

The report offers advice for grant-makers in awarding small grants. Grant-makers who do their research and understand the conditions of the community can deter the escalation of conflict and violence.

The need for philanthropic support for peace-building also varies depending on the relevant stages of conflict.

“Something done afterwards would be more extensive than what can be done during conflict,” notes Kilmurray, adding funders might also be more concerned about the reputational impact of the work during a period of conflict.

Providing the right support in times of conflict hinges on basic research and talking to “people locally so that funders can identify organisations and individual activists in whom they can have confidence to help or support victims of violence, provide support for the families of prisoners and internees, and support for work within local communities”.

Kilmurray points to work currently done in southern Thailand as well as in Colombia, South Africa and even Northern Ireland as examples of how philanthropy can support peace-building.

“Transition from conflict to peace-abiding communities is not a linear progression … this requires long-term commitment. This might not always be possible for donors but they can seek to work together with local partners who have long-term programmes,” says Kilmurray.

According to the World Bank, 2-billion people live in countries affected by fragility, conflict and violence (FCV). That translates to a quarter of the world’s population with a correlation between people living in such countries and poverty. The World Bank predicts that almost 50% of the extremely poor will live in these countries by 2030.

And experts expect further conflicts as the impacts of climate change become apparent.

Even if conflict is manifest and violence has broken out in a community, small grants given to the right community-based organisations and interventions can help. There are appropriate interventions that philanthropists may fund at different points in the cycle of conflict that will quell tensions and prevent conflict from spreading.  Some of the interventions may include safeguarding human rights as well as building community capacity and resilience.

The report goes so far as to include some rules for philanthropy in support of peace. This is one of the many resources curated by the Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace (PSJP), which is a network of philanthropy organisations.

The extreme poverty in FCV societies renders the people residing there least capable of improving their own lives. As an extremely vulnerable group, they are reliant on others. Often, they rely on outside assistance, such as remittances from family members who have fled to another region or humanitarian aid. In fact, 80% of humanitarian aid goes to contexts marked by FCV. There is little hope for those who live in such countries, and the longer the conflict lasts, the more the economy suffers.  A conflict-ridden country loses two points of their GDP a year, according to the World Bank. In 2014, the UN secretary-general’s report noted that this resulted in an annual loss of US$14.3-trillion, or 13.4% of the global economy.

The SCI report warns of the difficulty inherent in working in conflict-ridden environments. Uncommonly high levels of distrust and suspicion may exist. It may take longer to get the much-needed responses that will inform community maps and intervention design.

“What is required is thoughtful and committed philanthropy with the motivation and courage to fund in difficult circumstances,” says the report. This points to specific interventions such as helping to empower beleaguered communities; strengthening civil society initiatives; building partnerships/platforms for change; offering new insights and paradigms; and creating spaces to encourage reflection, exchanges and strategy building in areas of conflict.

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