Historical archive

Historical archive

Keynote address at Seminar on Strategic frameworks for peace-building

Historical archive

Published under: Bondevik's 2nd Government

Publisher: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Ms. Hilde F. Johnson, Minister of International Development,
Leangkollen Hotel, Norway
1 December 2003

As delivered

Keynote address at Seminar on Strategic frameworks for peace-building

Ladies and gentlemen,

"Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence and justice".

This is what Benedict Spinoza said, and we might add:

Peace is a precondition for development.

It is a great pleasure for me to take part in this event, focusing on the policy, evaluation and research agendas of peace-building. Your deliberations at this seminar will be an important contribution to the debate on how to build lasting peace around the world.

I know I am speaking to a highly qualified audience, so please bear with me if what I say sounds self-evident.

The conclusions and recommendations in the Utstein countries’ peace-building synthesis report tell me that we may need to go back to basics in order to deal with the problems of conceptual confusion and the strategic deficit. There is an urgent need to deal with these problems and we must take them seriously.

The Utstein peace-building study has identified a major strategic deficit in the peace-building efforts of the four Utstein countries: Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK. The problem is illustrated by the fact that more than 55 per cent of the surveyed projects do not show any link with a broader strategy for the country in which they are implemented. Some projects are not linked to a broader strategy because there is no such strategy for them to be linked to. In other cases, the broader strategy does exist but the link is lacking. Some projects appear to be "strategy resistant", as if they need no strategic justification because their value is self-evident. The study also found that planning is being based on relatively little analysis. And that there are important conceptual confusions and uncertainties.

Our peace-building efforts will not have the desired impact if this is a correct description of the current state of affairs.

If we seriously want to promote peace and development, we have to improve our performance. Foreign policy and development co-operation must go hand in hand in order to maximise the impact of our involvement in promoting lasting and sustainable peace.

First, we need to overcome the conceptual confusions and uncertainties.
Second, we must develop national strategic frameworks for peace-building.
Third, we must formulate peace-building intervention strategies in specific countries and regions when the need arises.

And we must do these things together.

  1. We need to overcome conceptual confusions and uncertainties

The concept of peace-building was introduced by the UN Secretary-General in his report An Agenda for Peace in 1992. It was launched as a supplement to preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peacekeeping. An Agenda for Peace and its supplement of 1995 are the main documents that define our conflict management concepts.

In his address to the Security Council on 5 February 2001, Secretary-General Kofi Annan summed up peace-building in the following way: "Peace-building is about the resumption of economic activity, the rejuvenation of institutions, the restoration of basic services, the reconstruction of clinics and schools, the revamping of public administration, and the resolution of differences through dialogue, not violence. The over-arching challenge is to move societies towards sustainable peace".

In the Statement by the President of the Security Council at the end of the most recent debate in the UN on peace-building, in 2001 – a document I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who is interested in peace-building – peace-building is clarified as follows:

"The Security Council reaffirms that the quest for peace requires a comprehensive, concerted and determined approach that addresses the root causes of conflicts, including their economic and social dimensions."

The concept of peace-building has been further elaborated in the OECD/DAC guidelines of 1997 and 2001 on Helping Prevent Violent Conflict and is widely discussed in the academic literature.

The overall objective of peace-building is lasting and sustainable peace. And the principal tools available to us are the various forms of development assistance.

Peace-building is a critical supplement to preventive diplomacy, peace-making and peace-keeping. These are separate concepts, but they are often closely linked in the field. Peace-building can

  1. help prevent violent conflict from breaking out,
  2. pave the way for and support peace-making processes,
  3. help rebuild post-conflict societies.

In other words, peace-building is relevant in emerging, current and post-conflict situations.

Peace-building does not include negotiation processes, whether or not third parties are involved, but peace-building can support such negotiation processes. Peace-building does not encompass peace-keeping operations, but peace-building can be an important part of the mandate of peace-keeping forces.

Peace-building is not a defined set of activities. Peace-building is whatever needs to be done in the context of emerging, current or post-conflict situations with the explicit purpose of promoting lasting and sustainable peace. That is to say that peace-building is defined by its context and purpose.

We cannot reasonably claim that whatever development co-operation activities we carry out in a conflict-prone society will qualify as peace-building. Traditionally, development actors have worked around conflicts rather than in or on conflicts. At times our interventions may actually exacerbate conflict. This is unacceptable. At the very least our efforts must have no harmful effects. But normally we should have more ambitious goals than that. Our development co-operation must help prevent violent conflicts and promote peace as a basis for further development.

Peace-building differs from conventional development cooperation in that it is explicitly guided and motivated by a primary commitment to the prevention of violent conflict and the promotion of lasting and sustainable peace.

  1. We must develop national peace-building strategic frameworks

I suggest that we extract the most important elements from the UN and OECD documents and create a strategic framework which can structure our thinking as well as our operations. Peace-building interventions must be comprehensive, coherent and co-ordinated, but we need to simplify and clarify in order to arrive at a framework which is helpful in practical situations.

Peace-building is not only reconstruction of infrastructure. It is not only disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of ex-combatants. It is not only repatriation of refugees and reintegration of internally displaced persons. Peace-building is all that and more.

The way I see it, peace-building has three dimensions:

1. security,

2. political development, and

3. socio-economic development.

I am aware that the Utstein study synthesis report has a fourth dimension called "reconciliation and justice". I prefer to include this in "political development".

The elements of each dimension resemble to a large extent - but not completely - the survey categories in the Utstein study.

The security dimension

The security dimension encompasses security for the country and the personal security of its inhabitants. The four elements to be considered are:

  1. Disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration of ex-combatants into the local community. This may include special programmes for women and children.
  1. Humanitarian mine action includes mine clearing, stockpile destruction, support to victims of landmines, and awareness programmes.
  2. Improving control of small arms and light weapons includes measures to prevent misuse and illegal trade, providing incentives to hand in weapons, and dealing with the underlying causes of the demand for such weapons.
  3. Security system reform emphasises the importance of civilian control, transparency and accountability as regards the military, the police, the justice sector and the penal services. This is necessary in order to adapt the military and civilian security forces to peace rather than war.

Security is a precondition for development. We see this very clearly in many countries, not least in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The political dimension

Some of the underlying or triggering causes of violent conflict are illegitimate or weak institutions, corruption, insufficient respect for human rights, a democratic deficit, and the perception that the administrative and political channels are not adequate or that they are unavailable.

In order to promote peace, we have to address these underlying or triggering causes of conflict.

  1. Support for political and administrative authorities and structures may be necessary in a transitional period in order to help strengthen the position of regimes that are pro peace and development. This may also include support for the transformation of guerrilla movements into political parties. Such support can help build competence and capacity for national ownership of peace-building.
  2. Lasting and sustainable peace depends not only on commitment on the part of political leaders, but also on social acceptance of peace in the population. Peace-building requires reconciliation and the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution at all levels of society: the military, political, religious and business leadership, the middle level and the grass roots level. Reconciliation can be promoted through dialogue and targeted projects, but it must also be an integral part of all elements of peace-building. Reconciliation aims at healing the physical, psychological and psychosocial wounds caused by armed conflict.
  3. Equally important is help to build up institutions and processes that promote good governance, democracy and human rights. Activities may include support for election processes, constitutional bodies, legal reform and monitoring of the human rights situation. Key objectives are accountability, transparency, equality, and the abolition of corruption and discrimination, which in turn will increase the government’s credibility, legitimacy and stability. And in these efforts we must be particularly alert to the needs, interests and rights of women and children.
  4. Support to governments must be balanced by support for the peace-oriented elements of civil society, including the media. NGOs in the North can help foster a vibrant civil society in the South which can assist in service delivery, engage in advocacy, help promote reconciliation, act as a watchdog and help empower the relevant groups so that they can make effective use of democratic, non-violent conflict resolution mechanisms.
  5. The issue of legal action and truth commissions must be addressed. This is an extremely sensitive issue. An appropriate balance needs to be found between truth, justice, reconciliation, punishment and impunity. How likely is a peaceful solution to a conflict if the negotiating parties face the threat of punishment for atrocities? On the other hand, how legitimate and stable is a peaceful solution to a conflict if the perpetrators of atrocities go free?

The social and economic dimension

Some of the underlying causes or triggers of conflict are increasing socio-economic differences, unequal distribution of benefits, marginalisation of vulnerable groups or geographical regions, and relative deprivation. Others are competition for limited natural resources, such as water and arable land, and environmental degradation. In addition, conflicts may be fuelled by competition for valuable and easily tradable natural resources, such as diamonds, oil and metals. Efforts to build peace must address these causes of conflict.

  1. A pressing challenge in post-conflict situations is the repatriation and reintegration of refugees and internally displaced persons. It is important that lasting solutions are found, and that refugees and internally displaced persons are given legal, physical and material support so that they can be reintegrated into society as productive citizens.
  2. In post-conflict situations infrastructure and important government functions may have to be built or rebuilt. The population will recognise and appreciate the initial peace dividend when roads and buildings are repaired, when electricity and telecommunications are restored, when shelters are provided, and when schools and health clinics are available to all.
  3. However, efforts to promote lasting and sustainable peace must encompass not only quick impact projects, but also long-term development programmes for high-quality and accessible education and health services for everyone. It is particularly important to reach out to children and youth - the leaders of the future.
  4. Last, but not least, peace-building also includes measures to stimulate productive sector development, employment, trade and investment. This can be achieved by legal and economic reforms, institutional co-operation and technical co-operation on resource management. Important initiatives have been taken to make extractive industries more transparent and accountable, and to promote corporate social responsibility.

I see this comprehensive framework with three dimensions, each with four or five elements, as a useful approach to peace-building. We in Norway are interested in drawing on the discussions at the seminar when we finalise our own strategic framework.

Good donor practices in peace-building

There is, of course, no one-size-fits-all in peace-building. I like the image presented in the synthesis report: like a painter’s colours, the elements of peace-building can be mixed in many different ways. The mix will vary, but in most cases virtually every element has to be included. The elements complement and strengthen each other. The selection of elements, the sequencing, the timing and the magnitude will differ, but all three dimensions and all thirteen elements have to be considered in order to make a coherent whole. If not, peace is likely to be short-lived.

The primary responsibility for peace rests with the conflicting parties. But the international community has a critical role to play in building competence, capacity, institutions and processes for non-violent conflict resolution and sustainable development.

National ownership and co-ordination of international interventions are important for delivering in peace-building. Peace-building interventions by the international community – beyond humanitarian assistance – should be based on a common platform. If we do not have this platform, we risk being left, again and again, with a plethora of uncoordinated ad hoc projects with less than optimal effect and efficiency. A platform like this can be built on a poverty reduction strategy paper and other planning documents of the countries concerned, if the country has been able to develop such planning documents. Whatever is the case, it will require donors to submit to the co-ordination of interventions and harmonisation of procedures. Responsibility should be divided according to the comparative advantages of the various multilateral organisations, bilateral donors, civil society and the private sector.

As a basis for the common platform we need a conflict analysis and a needs assessment. We need to understand the actors, structures, objectives, dynamics, causes and consequences of the conflict. Unless the real nature of the problem is understood, the efforts to find a solution are likely to end in failure. This applies to both bilateral and multilateral development co-operation. Norway needs more knowledge and better capacity for conflict analysis as a basis for our involvement in efforts to promote peace.

The UN Security Council highlighted the importance of gender perspectives in conflict prevention and resolution, peacekeeping, and peace-building in resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.

We need to find better ways of involving women. They are often the strongest advocates of peaceful solutions. We know that it is often women and children who suffer most during conflicts. But women are still scarce around negotiating tables, in constitution-making bodies, and in political councils. Efforts to build peace are less likely to succeed if women do not play their part. Gender perspectives must be addressed at all stages and at all levels: during conflict analysis, in needs assessments and in the formulation of the common platform, in planning, implementation and evaluation, in conflict prevention, and at every rung of the ladder to peace. Much more needs to be done here.

Clearly, promoting lasting and sustainable peace calls for considerable energy, ingenuity and financial resources.

A UN estimate has shown that official development assistance has to increase from USD 57 billion to USD 100 billion a year in order to reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. This is only a small fraction of the current global military spending every year. I believe we should reconsider our priorities, both in the North and in the South. Fortunately, we have seen an increase in official development assistance recently, and I very much hope this trend will continue. But it is far from enough.

The World Bank report Breaking the Conflict Trap says that "war retards development, and conversely, development retards war". Violent conflicts have negative spill-over effects locally, nationally, regionally and globally.

Poor donor performance is expensive, too. We may try hard, but our efforts may not yield the desired results. According to the World Bank, too often too much assistance comes in too fast in post-conflict situations. This is often followed by a rapid decline in funds and a vacuum before long-term assistance is initiated. And it may come in the wrong way, fuelling warring parties rather than promoting stability for peace.

This vacuum is too often filled with violence. Assistance is often negligible during the most critical period. And the critical period is not the first year, it is the first ten years after conflict, with the greatest challenges surfacing 3-5 years after initial peace. Insufficient and inappropriate follow-up in post-conflict situations increases the likelihood that violence will recur, and this does indeed happen in approximately 50 per cent of the cases. This is a problem that we have to take much more seriously.

In Norway most of the funds earmarked for peace-building come from the allocation for transitional assistance. This was established in 2002, and is intended to bridge the gap between humanitarian assistance and long-term development co-operation. But certainly, country specific and regional allocations as well as other global allocations are being used for peace-building, too.

Norway wants to be a competent and reliable partner: impatient for results, but patient during the time it takes to reach a sustainable peace. We can act quickly and flexibly, but we maintain a long-term perspective. But to be efficient, we must be more strategic - together with the entire donor community.

  1. We must formulate peace-building intervention strategies in specific countries and regions when the need arises

Millions of Africans live in conditions of extreme poverty and insecurity. Norway and many other countries have a shared commitment to supporting African leaders in their efforts to obtain peace.

We should explore how we can expand our co-operation on conflict prevention and peace-building in Africa. The new African Union needs help with capacity building. The Union has ambitious plans to become an influential player in conflict prevention and resolution, and in good governance and human rights. Some of the sub-regional organisations like ECOWAS and SADC also have such plans. They need our support and co-operation.

After nearly 40 years of violent conflict in Angola, peace has been restored. Both parties emphasise the importance of consolidating the peace and of national reconciliation. We have recently formulated a strategic framework for Norway's involvement in Angola during the post-conflict period. The overriding goal is to contribute to lasting and stable peace and poverty reduction. To this end, the strategy addresses security, and political, social and economic development. The Angola strategy is an example of how to adapt the draft general strategic framework to a country-specific situation

In the case of Sudan, the IGAD-led peace talks have gone hand-in-hand with international preparations for broad-based post-conflict support. The IGAD Partners Forum, co-chaired by Italy and Norway, has initiated the Planning for Peace process in order to demonstrate international support for the peace talks and to prepare for international assistance once there is a peace agreement. Key issues have been a comprehensive and coherent approach, national ownership, and co-ordination between all donors. The prospects of international assistance and debt rescheduling have probably motivated the parties. Although humanitarian assistance to Sudan will continue, no large-scale international assistance efforts will begin unless the parties agree to make peace.

At the same time, we know that the peace agreement could well be the easy part. The real test will come during the six-year interim period when the agreement will be implemented. Rebuilding a country torn by conflicts over so many years is an enormous challenge to both the parties and the international community. In less than six years there must be tangible results and the fabric of Sudanese society must be sufficiently restored for the people of Sudan to see that peace pays and unity works.

As an observer to the peace talks, Norway, together with Italy, the USA, the UK, the UN and the African Union, has offered support and advice to the IGAD-led efforts headed by Kenya. Talks resumed yesterday and will continue until 20 December. Hopefully, we will then see that the parties are ready to honour their commitment to securing an agreement before the end of the year. In that case, peace-building efforts will be initiated. To enhance international awareness of the prospects for an imminent peace deal in Sudan, Norway has invited the group of IGAD Partners Forum nations, international institutions and others to meet in Nairobi to review the steps we need to take in the period leading up to the signing of a peace agreement. Here, a strategic approach will be critical.

I think it would be useful if a joint conflict assessment were to be carried out as a basis for a joint strategic framework for peace-building in Sudan. Norway has offered to host a donor conference as soon as there is a peace agreement. We are discussing the timing of this event with the parties, the IGAD chair and other observer nations.

Our engagement in Sri Lanka started with humanitarian assistance which quickly evolved into development co-operation. In 1998 we revised our guidelines for development co-operation with Sri Lanka to focus on paving the way for and supporting a negotiated solution to the conflict. For some time Norway has been assisting the parties in their efforts to reach a political solution.

It is important that all donors co-operate with the parties in supporting rehabilitation, reconstruction and development, especially in the north and east. The parties have turned to the international community for advice and assistance in order to show the population a tangible peace dividend and bolster support for the peace process. This illustrates how important it is to create close links between peace processes and peace-building, and between foreign policy and development co-operation.

A key principle for success in Afghanistan is Afghan ownership and leadership. The people of Afghanistan and the international community cannot afford to fail. We must work together for a lasting and sustainable peace in that war-torn country. This implies delivering on all three dimensions: On security, on the political process (Loya Jirga), and on development. This is the responsibility of the Afghan government - as well as the international community.

If peace and stability are to be established and maintained, it is absolutely imperative that the international community delivers on their promises and makes a long-term commitment to assisting Afghanistan. Subject to parliamentary approval, Afghanistan will from 2004 be on our list of partner countries, which means that Norway has a long-term commitment to development co-operation with Afghanistan.

We cannot discuss peace-building without mentioning Iraq. The UN should play a central role in rebuilding Iraq. The organisation will lend legitimacy to all aspects of the reconstruction efforts. The international community must join forces to ensure that Iraq can take its rightful place among the community of democratic nations.

  1. Some items on the peace-building agenda

Eleven years after the term "peace-building" was launched by the UN Secretary-General Boutros-Boutros Ghali, we still have much work to do, conceptually, strategically, politically and operationally.

I hope this seminar will help clear up any remaining confusions about terminology and pave the way for national strategic frameworks for peace-building. It could be useful to consider the need for joint competence building programmes as regards these issues.

In country or regional peace-building interventions, I believe we would benefit from joint conflict analyses and maybe also joint strategic frameworks. Perhaps Sudan would be a good place to start? And we could add a monitoring evaluation?

Policy issues can be further elaborated in the OECD/DAC Network for Conflict, Peace and Development Co-operation. We could also raise them in the UN, the World Bank and regional organisations. I will be happy to promote the peace-building agenda in the Utstein group and elsewhere.

Evaluations, preferably joint evaluations, can help increase our knowledge of the best approaches to thematic and crosscutting issues in peace-building, and of the relative effectiveness of the various strategic options. At the next meeting of the OECD/DAC Network on Evaluations, the evaluation agenda of peace-building will be considered in more depth, drawing on the studies and conclusions of this seminar.

As for the research agenda, I encourage you to come up with recommendations for research on the relationships between peace and development, rather than on conflict. I have been rather puzzled by the fact that peace research often seems to focus much more on conflicts than on peace. I believe we need to understand how and why peaceful changes take place, how non-violent conflict resolution mechanisms can prevail, and how peace can be sustained. There are numerous cases to be analyzed.

We may want to study how and why serious political crises have been resolved in relatively peaceful ways in Madagascar. We may want to look into the peaceful revolutions in Eastern and Central Europe in the recent past. And we may want to analyse why others have failed. On a more humorous note: We may even want to analyse why Norway gained its independence from Sweden so peacefully.

In Norway we are currently studying a proposal from two research institutions for a long-term research programme on conflict, peace and development. This seminar could provide some very useful input in this regard.


The quest for peace involves us all. In this quest, we need alliances and partners. No country is strong enough to bring about peace alone. By working together we can be stronger, more persuasive and more successful. Thus, there is no alternative to strengthening multilateralism. The UN is the only truly global forum where overarching common visions can be realised. We must continue to strengthen the UN’s ability to function as a focal point for peace-keeping, peace-building and conflict prevention.

In the words of Kofi Annan,

"Let us make this endeavour a testament to future generations that our generation had the political vision and will to transform our perception of a just international order from a vision of the absence of war to a vision of sustainable peace and development for all."

Let us make his words ours. Let us work for what we believe in. Let us do our utmost to make this vision come true.

Thank you.