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Preventing Conflicts or Preventing Relapse – Understanding the entry-point of emerging peacebuilding actors

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Preventing Conflicts or Preventing Relapse – Understanding the entry-point of emerging peacebuilding actors

15th May 2017

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Following reports from the World Health Organisation (WHO) which approximate the number of humans killed in violent conflict to 700 000 per annum, and a further hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes and exposed to degradable inhumane conditions from which they die, the material and human cost of conflict and post-conflict reconstruction or relapse prevention are alarmingly and disproportionately higher than conflict prevention.

Put simply, conflicts strain and reverse economic growth at an average of 2.2% per annum and the cost of reconstruction is estimated to be between US $4- and $54-billion which is dwarfed by an estimated $1204-billion per annum for worldwide military spending.

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Against this background, it seems conflict prevention couched in the form of preventive diplomacy is figuratively different from preventing relapse. The former though emphasises the need for sustained dialogue and investment in institutional strengthening, job creation and provision of social amenities which deters participation in criminal activity, rebellions and war. It is a framework primarily applicable to states whose governments are experiencing domestic challenges impairing their ability meet these most basic citizenry needs. Like in Political Science theory, prevention in this sense is synonymous to state-building which is a phrase used in state theory to describes the construction of a functioning state.

By contrast, prevention in the sense of conflict relapse relates to post-conflict institution and infrastructural reconfiguration erstwhile called post-conflict reconstruction. The salience of this distinction seems to be the entry point of some actors in the peacebuilding corridor. It cannot therefore be discarded that this is the dividing line between some emerging actors of peacebuilding and the traditional actors. The former thrive on the pledge that prevention is better than the unavoidable cost of war and that, preventing post-conflict relapse which has become common place in peace circles is a model needing review.

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This conceptual distinction could not have been captured any better than in the images below which point to similar trends between the rise of military expenditure and the rise of promised aid, but a stark disproportionality on how much of such aid eventually gets to the nations most in need. This means that, the demand for military action is proportionately similar to the cost of rebuilding. And it can thus be inferred that the lesser the usage of military action, the lesser the cost of post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding.

Report by the Institute for Global Dialogue

  • Preventing Conflicts or Preventing Relapse – Understanding the entry-point of emerging peacebuilding actors
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