This blog series describes a core group of ‘good practices’ that Pact implemented in the Horn of Africa. The European Union Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF)-funded Regional Approaches for Sustainable Conflict Management and Integration (RASMI) and Selam Ekisil (SEEK) projects sought to prevent and mitigate the impact of local conflicts in selected areas of the Kenya-Ethiopia-Somalia cross-border region through the promotion of peacebuilding, conflict management and conflict resolution capacities at the community and cross-border levels.
Over the course of three years, implementers advanced programs with objectives to: Improve social capital and cohesion among project participants; strengthen peace and security structures; and influence development actors to be more conflict sensitive. The motivation behind these approaches was to design programs that were more responsive and able to achieve better results. Pact also carefully consulted stakeholders within these practices to verify and refine project teams’ strategies. It is Pact’s hope that other members of the community of practice can apply, leverage and learn from these good practices.
Peace dividends are the returns that communities receive on their investments in peace. Peace dividend projects incentivize and sustain peaceful relations or non-violent behavior in communities that have engaged in peacebuilding or conflict management programming; many dividends take the form of socio-economic opportunities, services, resources or infrastructure projects such as the construction of wells or medical facilities. In a cross-border operating context, peace dividends can also take the form of trading relations between communities or access to a shared resource or service across the border that otherwise would not be accessible.
Peace dividends link social outcomes like peace and community cohesion to tangible changes or improvements that are more commonly associated with projects in other sectors—for example, in projects that create livelihoods opportunities or improve natural resource management. Importantly, collective ownership of peace dividends is sustained through inclusive, participatory management of the peace dividend project. Joint design, implementation and maintenance of the projects by affected communities enhances interaction and fosters reconciliation.
It is important to understand that integrating peace dividends is not synonymous with simply providing tangible resources, infrastructure or equipment to communities after peacebuilding activities end—rather, peace dividend projects are valuable to conflict management objectives because they reinforce core experiences and skills that bolster productive community engagement, participation and visioning. Together with the formative Applied Political Economy Analyses (APEAs), the Conflict Systems Approach and Outcome Mapping (OM), the inclusion of peace dividends enabled SEEK and RASMI to embrace the complexity of the cross-border operating environment and design interventions based on community needs and experiences.
Peace Dividends in Practice
During implementation of the SEEK and RASMI projects, community members shared with the project teams their reflections that, while peace meetings, dialogues and trainings advance community cohesion and reconciliation, these activities could more comprehensively sustain peaceful community relations if they were accompanied by actions or resources that addressed the fundamental issues that led to conflict. To bring together the “software” of dialogues and the “hardware” of resource sharing and socio-economic improvements, SEEK and RASMI first conducted focus group discussions to source the opinions and priorities of leaders from cross-border communities to determine the types of peace dividends that would most meaningfully address the root causes of conflicts. The project teams then responded to these needs by sponsoring peace dividend projects.
The communities in which peace dividends projects took place experienced decreased conflict incidents resulting from competition over scarce resources. For example, along the borders of Lake Turkana, the nomadic Dassenach community from Ethiopia follows the boundaries of the lake that continue to shrink as a result of environmental stressors, which increasingly moves those communities into Kenyan territory. The presence of additional communities strains access to essential equipment; fishermen on both sides of the border frequently resort to stealing supplies like fishing nets from one another, which often leads to violence. To advance peace dividends, the SEEK project first facilitated community dialogues in multiple conflict systems where community members agreed on interventions that could reduce conflict along the lake; in these discussions, participants prioritized the need for an increased supply of equipment like motorboats and fishing nets.
With this information, SEEK supplied nets to coordinating institutions on each side of the border, working with Beach Management Units in Kenya and fishing cooperatives in Ethiopia that distributed this equipment to communities along the lake. Because the community members agreed to task these institutions with the collaborative management of the equipment after the SEEK project’s end, there was a sense of collective ownership and greater sustainability of the increased supply of nets. According to SEEK project data documenting the occurrence of conflict incidents, net distribution contributed to fewer incidents of equipment theft and violent confrontations among fishermen who live near the lake. In a different conflict system, water scarcity often triggered violence between communities along the border; RASMI advanced peace dividends by structuring dialogues where communities identified the need for a well to increase water sharing, and by facilitating local construction of that community resource and enabling local stakeholders to collectively determine and commit to its ownership and maintenance.
Value-Add and Future Considerations
In both examples, peace dividends responded directly to communities’ calls for tangible improvements that addressed the root causes of conflict while simultaneously enabling those communities to consolidate gains, mutual goals and relationships that originally surfaced in earlier peacebuilding and social cohesion activities within SEEK and RASMI. By relying on regular, facilitative dialogues that generated shared interests, priorities and potential solutions, SEEK and RASMI created constructive opportunities for cross-border communities to interact, and the peace dividend projects formed another basis for information sharing and collaboration that further discourages violence.
SEEK and RASMI project teams reflected on the conditions that need to exist to most impactfully replicate peace dividends in similar contexts. First, the timing of peace dividend projects is particularly important. While SEEK and RASMI only sponsored peace dividend projects in the final quarters of the project as a direct response to community focus group discussions, it is more strategic to incorporate the peace dividend processes in the first half of a new project. Doing so enables data collection on the long-term maintenance and sustainability of the peace dividends and analysis that informs future project activities. Second, community participation and engagement to identify, prioritize and design the peace dividend projects is critical to ensure ownership and sustainability. Finally, to ensure that the presence of peace dividend projects does not become a further driver of community conflicts, projects must actively integrate context analysis, stakeholder management, and inclusive, credible consultations into the planning and implementation of peace dividends. When advanced with careful reflection and critical analysis, peace dividends can meaningfully create incentives for non-violent behavior, contribute to reduced social tensions and advance peacebuilding efforts across communities.
– Gedion Juma is a Monitoring and Evaluation Manager at Pact based in Nairobi, Kenya.
– Caroline Brazill is a Governance Officer at Pact based in Washington, DC.