Isabella Jean from the “Stopping As Success” consortium, shares her reflections from a recent meeting on local agency and power and discusses the organizational practices that require attention in order to strengthen inclusive and locally driven peacebuilding and development processes.
There were seasoned local and international peacebuilders, systems thinkers, academics, researchers, retired diplomats, senior UN officials and private funders in the room. Not surprisingly conversations frequently veered into the familiar “litany of complaints” describing the current international system of support as one that continues to feature inflexible funding mechanisms and procedures, and that is often driven by externally defined notions of partnership and collaboration limited to project-specific timeframes.
So how do we change this? How do we influence a system made up of multiple actors, dynamics and incentives? Can we even talk about one “system?” We struggled with the boundaries currently drawn around the peacebuilding system and drew our own maps
- Hope remains that change is possible. The people who attended the meeting have come from as far as Rwanda, South Sudan, Liberia, Colombia, Nepal and Sri Lanka, and others joined from UN offices a few streets away. Collectively, we have all seen many changes over the years and described how the contemporary dominant modes of behavior and thinking had emerged and ossified. We also described alternative modes of thinking and operation that can help, yet again, to shift norms, expectations and behaviors.
- Some donors remain committed to funding differently. Donors recognize that a lack of funding flexibility and the way funding relationships and accountability in the system are structured presents immense barriers to local agency, leadership and engagement. There is now mounting evidence with compelling analysis of how funding modalities and partnership choices impact the resilience and sustainability of civil society organizations and local communities. There are private funders and some bilateral donors who continue to provide direct unrestricted and programmatic funding to local organizations.