A woman collects water in Rajastan, India. Cordaid's core mission is build flourishing communities and continue to provide strong support to the overarching goal of transforming conflict-ridden areas to stable and sustainable societies. Photo by: AusAID / CC BY

“Without peace, there can be no development. Without development, there can be no enduring peace. Peace and justice are prerequisites for progress. We must acknowledge a principal lesson of the MDGs: that peace and access to justice are not only fundamental human aspirations but cornerstones of sustainable development.”

With these words, the U.N. High-Level Panel on Post-2015 Development Agenda introduced stable and peaceful societies as a goal in its own right.

And it’s about time, too.

In 2008, the International Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor estimated that as many as 4 billion people live outside the protection of the law. By 2015, more than 50 percent of the total population in extreme poverty will live in places affected by conflict and chronic violence. And according to the World Bank, fragile and conflict-affected states account for two-thirds of the world’s undernourished and impoverished. Despite the progress that has been made on the Millennium Development Goals, these countries are still seriously behind.

When policymakers gather next week in Brussels for the European Development Days, they should keep these facts in mind. It is unlikely that we will ever succeed in eradicating poverty if we do not first address conflict, fragility and inequality.

The question is, how?

Restoring trust

A lot of excellent work has been done already.

In his communication “A decent life for all,” Andris Piebalgs rightly describes equality, equity and justice as fundamental to sustainable development. The EU development commissioner also recognizes the need to tackle insecurity and state fragility, which impede sustainable development.

This very good starting point is further operationalized in the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding. IDPS brings together governments of conflict-affected and fragile countries, international partners and civil society. The overarching goal is to successfully transform war-torn areas to stable societies.

Civil society contributes to this dialogue through the Civil Society Platform for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding, a South-North coalition of nongovernmental peace-building organizations that helps coordinate civil society participation in international policy processes, coordinated by Cordaid.

Two years ago, with the aid of civil society, IDPS agreed on the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States, a program for change which emphasizes peace building and state building and functions as a foundation for progress on the MDGs. In practice, the New Deal focuses on restoring trust and social cohesion, both at community level and between communities and the state.

It’s not business-as-usual, as it it places the relationship between citizens and their governments at the core. Full attention now needs to be given to the actual and full implementation of commitments made. Within the context of a country-led process, governments need to ensure and safeguard inclusivity and right sequencing of this same process. In their participation to the IDPS and New Deal processes, CSOs found they too often had to advocate for their input and participation to key meetings to be considered by government stakeholders, rather than this contribution being sought for its intended role in what should be an inclusive process.

From fragile to flourishing

Restoring trust is also at the core of Cordaid’s mission: building flourishing communities.

These are communities that can provide security, good governance, the possibility for people to speak out and to participate in the decision-making processes that shape their society. Such communities provide access to basic services, economic improvement and the right to earn a decent living.

We strongly believe that breaking the cycle of violence starts with local civil society organizations, which are rooted in their communities and know what they need. If we help them to increase measures of security, good governance, empowerment and opportunity at all social levels, we will be contributing to more peaceful, safe and stable societies.

More stability and less conflict means social contracts and covenants that benefit people equally; this in turn increases trust and makes a renewed relapse into conflict less likely. Communities can then begin to transform from fragile to flourishing. At that point, sharing our global common goods more fairly and sustainably can come within reach.   

Transition Monitor

An example of how civil society contributes to a more sustainable peace is the Transition Monitor, a survey into the security situation of Afghan women in the transition period. A second edition of this unique survey was published recently by Cordaid, the Afghan Women’s Network and the Afghanistan Public Policy Research Organization.

The survey provides Afghan women with an important lobbying tool. So far, policymakers could only fall back almost exclusively on figures from international organizations. It also offers valuable insights into the real lives of Afghan women. NATO used the results of the baseline study in its review of the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution No. 1325. Cordaid and AWN are currently engaged in a dialogue with NATO and member states on the implementation of the recommendations of this second monitoring report.

I believe that it is these kinds of initiatives that will, in the end, contribute to a more sustainable peace in Afghanistan.

AWN’s Lida Nadery will be in Brussels during the EDD13 and I am honored to be on the same panel with her. We will discuss how to deal with fragility. To me, there can only be one answer: We deal with it together. Policymakers need to take into account the expertise, knowledge and networks of civil society organizations. Ongoing and meaningful civil society engagement with their respective governments guarantees that the views and concerns of people in places affected by conflict and fragility are properly taken into account.

These organizations need to be at the table when policymakers and politicians discuss development. The post-2015 agenda will only be relevant if their voices are heard.

Simone Filippini  is a confirmed speaker at the European Development Days 2013 to be held on Nov. 26-27 in Brussels. Live web-streaming of 20 high-level sessions will be available on the EDD13 website during the two days of the forum. For in-depth analysis and exclusive interviews with decision makers and thought leaders, stay tuned to Devex, an official EDD13 media partner.

The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect Devex's editorial views.

About the author

  • Simone Filippini

    Simone Filippini is the president of Leadership4SDGs. She is a former Dutch ambassador and former executive director of Cordaid and NIMD.