New US Policy Initiatives Recognize the Importance of Local Peacebuilding

AU-UN IST Stuart Price

The inclusion of local civil society in peacebuilding initiatives is vital to building sustainable peace. The U.S. Congress is considering a new policy initiative which will take local voices into consideration. The U.S. House of Representative and U.S. Senate have introduced the Global Fragility Act of 2019 earlier this year. It demonstrates significant progress towards international recognition of the critical role played by local people. The initiative brings the United States closer to a more focused, high-level policy response to address violence and instability in the world’s toughest places; one that places locally-led peacebuilding at the forefront.

1.“New report from Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States”

 

What is “Preventing Extremism in Fragile States: A New Approach”?

On February 26, a high-level Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States released a new report calling for a major overhaul of the U.S. government’s approach to addressing extremist violence and fragile states. The Task Force is urging the development of more coherent, coordinated efforts that include both national and local stakeholders to design and lead preventive approaches to address the root causes of extremism.

Peace Direct’s U.S. Senior Representative and Head of Advocacy Bridget Moix served on the senior advisory group for the task force and notes, “It has become clear to leaders on both sides of the aisle that endless war is not the way to address today’s global problems and ensure a safer world.  The Task Force is rightly urging a new focus for U.S. foreign policy on prevention and addressing root causes of violence.  It also lifts up the vital role of local leadership, including local civil society, in designing solutions and building sustainable peace.”

“It has become clear to leaders on both sides of the aisle that endless war is not the way to address today’s global problems and ensure a safer world.  The Task Force is rightly urging a new focus for U.S. foreign policy on prevention and addressing root causes of violence.  It also lifts up the vital role of local leadership, including local civil society, in designing solutions and building sustainable peace.” – Bridget Moix, U.S. Senior Representative and Head of Advocacy

Among its specific policy recommendations, the Task Force is urging the creation of a new Global Fund for Prevention that would support locally-led efforts by facilitating inclusive solutions led by committed national or local leaders. Including civil society and local leaders is essential to effectively and sustainably address the underlying conditions for extremism which require adaptive programs to empower locals due to their inherent understanding of the root causes extremism in their community.

 

2. The Global Fragility Act (GFA)

 

What is the Global Fragility Act (GFA)?

The Global Fragility Act (GFA) is a bipartisan bill requiring the U.S. government to create a coordinated strategy for reducing violence and strengthening resilience in conflict-affected countries. The bill was introduced earlier this year in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. The bill passed the House on May 20, and passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in June where it waits to be voted on by the whole Senate. In addition to requiring coordinated strategies to measurably reduce violence in a number of countries, the bill addresses the fact that effective and sustained efforts to build peace require the participation and leadership of local actors.

The Senate bill also creates a “Partnership Development Fund” which will provide grants to support policies and programs that assist recipient countries in achieving lasting stability, including building capacity in national and local government, civil society, and the private sector. This Fund is in line with the USIP’s Task Force recommendation to create a Global Fund for Prevention.

If passed, how will it reduce violence?

The act underlines the importance of coordinating an inclusive strategy to reduce violence and build peace that strengthens local leadership. The GFA will guide U.S. government efforts to bring down current levels of violence and improve its effectiveness in preventing future violent conflicts.

If passed, the act will require that the U.S identify countries to pursue new investments, funding mechanisms and programming, developed with the aim of reducing violence in line with the act. It will also encourage new partnerships within and between civil society, academia and the private sector; encouraging collaborative research to develop methods and strategies for reducing violence in the U.S and globally. If passed, the bill will also improve the administration’s ability to measure and evaluate efforts to reduce violence and prevent violent conflict, leading to an overall more accurate assessment of the levels of global violence and the root causes of violence.

 

What does this mean for local peacebuilding?

The Senate’s version of the GFA requires the U.S. to develop a strategy to focus on addressing long-term causes of fragility and violence by considering “the causes of fragility and violence at both the local and national levels…; encourage and empower local and national actors to address the concerns of their citizens, including in vulnerable communities, and build community resilience against violence and extremism; address the long-term causes of fragility through participatory, locally led programs, empowering marginalized groups such as youth and women, inclusive dialogues and conflict resolution processes” which also uses approaches that ensure engagement by civil society and local partners in the implementation and monitoring programs.

The House version states that the Global Fragility Initiative, created in pursuant to the bill, will be “developed in consultation with representatives of local civil society and national and local governance entities, as well as relevant international development organizations with experience implementing programs in fragile and violence-affected communities, multilateral organizations and donors, and relevant private, academic, and philanthropic entities, as appropriate.

If passed in each chamber, the bills will then need to be reconciled.

 

How can I support the bill?

Peace Direct is part of a coalition working to ensure full passage of the bill in the 116th Congress. US constituents can take action to support the bill by writing and calling their Members of Congress, or by reaching out to their Member of Congress through the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s Action Alert.

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