Last week, Kai Brand-Jacobsen (pictured here), director of the Department of Peace Operations at the Peace Action Training and Research Institute of Romania (PATRIR), gave a presentation titled Preventing War, Violence and Genocide: Critical New Approaches to Making Prevention Work. The event was jointly organized by Global Action to Prevent War and Armed Conflict, the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (UNDP), the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung New York, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues of the British Parliament, and PATRIR’s Department of Peace Operations.
Brief introductory remarks were given by Dr. Robert Zuber, Chetan Kumar, and Volker Lehmann. The three spoke of the need for women, indigenous peoples, and other marginalized groups to be included in the capacity for prevention. They emphasized that we need to be attentive to smoke so as to not have to put out as many fires. They went on to discuss how conflict and intervention have changed as a result of boundaries and borders, climate changes, and rapid change. Rapid change requires rapid response, not allowing time for discussion, which can in turn lead to further conflict. Therefore there need to be standing structures and institutions—traditional (such as parliaments and police forces), those designated to manage conflict, such as the Ghana National Peace Council, and those at the national or local level. Inclusive participatory planning is a key aspect of prevention and moving beyond the short term, from intervention to accompaniment.
Brand-Jacobsen opened his presentation by using statistics to discuss why prevention matters. Over the last 40 years, there has been a “decrease” in war but a 45 percent increase in violence—more than 4,000 people per day die as a result of it, over 90 percent of whom live in low- and middle-income countries. Of those 4,000, approximately 2,300 commit suicide and 1,500 die due to injuries inflicted by someone else. Between 1990 and 2005, armed conflicts in Africa cost $284 billion. 740,000 people die every year as a result of armed violence, the majority occurring outside war zones. The average cost of a civil war is $65 to 125 billion and the global cost of homicides is $95 to 160 billion. Africa loses $18 billion per year due to wars, civil wars, and insurgencies.
Armed violence is defined as the intentional, threatened, or actual use of arms to inflict death or injury, and can occur within the contexts of both war and non-war. Armed violence during war can lead to genocide, mass atrocities, and the killing of civilians. But the impact of armed violence is greater than resultant armed conflict, as it also causes large-scale criminal activity, as well as inter-personal and gender-based violence. However, conflict should not be equated with violence, as the former can exist before and/or after the latter. In fact, global processes have made it so factors can be identified before a conflict becomes violent, namely conditions and structural factors for early warning.
The talk then segued into early warning and conflict intelligence. There are various conflict phases and intervention types and a crucial link between warning and response. Brand-Jacobsen stated that political will needs to be created, and emphasized training and learning, and integrated levels of conflict analysis—local, national, regional, and international/global. A key resource in this area is “Preventing Violence, War and State Collapse: The Future of Conflict Early Warning and Response.” Early warning systems should not stand alone, but be incorporated into existing systems.
The next section of the presentation focused on prevention, the “how” of which can be broken down into three categories: primary prevention, structural prevention (measures to ensure that crises do not arise in the first place or, if they do, that they do not recur), and operational prevention (measures applicable in the face of immediate crisis). The “when” is 1) always/standing and 2) operational, which includes the time not only before a crisis, but also during it. Ultimately, peacebuilding + peacemaking + peacebuilding = prevention. In order to develop an infrastructure for peace, reconciliation must be included under the heading of prevention to overcome entrenched ideologies and interests.