Over the last two years support has grown in Washington to prioritize peacebuilding and to re-organize the Foreign Affairs bureaucracy to elevate the prominence of peacebuilding within our government. These aren’t a panacea, and no measure may be perfect, but they are important steps toward making peacebuilding a stronger national priority. Below is an overview of some of the encouraging developments.
2010 State Department Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review
In 2010 the State Department released its QDDR. In the Review, the State Department acknowledged the Department’s failure to sufficiently prioritize resources for peacebuilding, and committed to "embracing crisis and (violent) conflict prevention and resolution; the promotion of sustainable, responsible, and effective security and governance in fragile states; and fostering security and reconstruction in the aftermath of (violent) conflict…as a core mission" of the State Department and US Agency for International Development. The Review identified a failure to define and resource peacebuilding as a core mission, leading to challenges in developing adequate operations structures to support U.S. and multi-lateral responses, as well as a tendency to respond to crises without consideration of past lessons learned. To more deeply address peacebuilding as a core function, the Review outlined the formation of a Bureau for Conflict and Stability Operations.
The QDDR also notably highlights the peacebuilding strengths and capacities throughout the government (the Interagency consisting of the Department of State, USAID, the US Institute of Peace, and other federal agencies), NGOs, and foreign governments. The QDDR recognizes peacebuilding as an inherently multi-sectoral, multi-disciplinary practice in which many departments, agencies, and organizations have an essential role to play. Hence the Review highlights the need for the various Departments and Agencies to share the responsibility for peacebuilding, and for a deepened effort at Interagency collaboration.
In the authoritative book on the agencies that advance US international peacebuilding, US Peace Fare, Ambassador Dane Smith writes:
“The principal locus of peace-building in the U.S. government is the State Department. That is because diplomacy is at the heart of conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and most post-conflict reconstruction.”
The Peace Alliance applauds the State Department humbly and honestly outlining past failures in the QDDR, as well as laying out bold internal shifts that will assist the Department in truly embracing conflict prevention and response as a core function of the Department’s mandate.
2011 Formation of the Bureau of Conflict and Stability Operations
To elevate the State Department’s focus on peacebuilding, the Department formed a Bureau of Conflict and Stability Operations, to be led by an Assistant Secretary for Crisis and Conflict Operations. The Bureau describes its work as advancing “U.S. national security by driving integrated, civilian-led efforts to prevent, respond to, and stabilize crises in priority states, setting conditions for long-term peace. The bureau emphasizes sustainable solutions guided by local dynamics and actors, and promotes unity of effort, the strategic use of scarce resources, and burden-sharing with international partners. This comprehensive approach will help the State Department anticipate and adapt to 21st century security challenges, while supporting America’s leadership in emerging crises.”
The Peace Alliance also applauds the State Department on forming this new Bureau. Formation of the Bureau is particularly significant as it raises the profile of the former State Department Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS), an office that was side-lined through both Congressional under-funding as well as marginalization by others in the Department. With its newly elevated status, the Bureau will have much stronger authority, capacity, and support than S/CRS.
2011 The White House Establishes an Atrocity Prevention Board at the National Security Council
In August, 2011 the White House formed the Atrocity Prevention Board through Presidential Study Directive-10 (PSD-10). The proposal seeks to “institutionalize” atrocity prevention at the National Security Council, the President's principal forum for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his senior national security advisors and cabinet officials. Several leading authorities in the peacebuilding field have called for the formation of enhanced peacebuilding. 3P Human Security, lead by Prof. Lisa Schirch, highlighted in their report Peacebuilding in Foreign Assistance. “The National Security Council should be empowered to provide interagency national security planning and coordination directly related to Peacebuilding, including Prevention, Mitigation, and Stabilization.” The importance of National Security leadership was also emphasized by Ambassador Dane Smith in U.S. Peacefare, highlighting that it “should be the driver of the bureaucratic process and ensure interagency coordination, drawing on presidential authority.”
PSD-10 declares the formation of an Atrocities Prevention Board mandated to “coordinate a whole of government approach to preventing mass atrocities and genocide. By institutionalizing the coordination of atrocity prevention, we can ensure: (1) that our national security apparatus recognizes and is responsive to early indicators of potential atrocities; (2) that departments and agencies develop and implement comprehensive atrocity prevention and response strategies in a manner that allows "red flags" and dissent to be raised to decision makers; (3) that we increase the capacity and develop doctrine for our foreign service, armed services, development professionals, and other actors to engage in the full spectrum of smart prevention activities; and (4) that we are optimally positioned to work with our allies in order to ensure that the burdens of atrocity prevention and response are appropriately shared.”