One of the newest members of our team, Tom Balemesa, was fortunate enough to attend the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) second annual conference on Preventing Violent Conflict. This is his report.
The field of peacebuilding has evolved over time and the USIP conference examined where it is now and where it must go in the future; three goals of this effort were to:
• Spotlight the importance of conflict prevention
• Address specific challenges facing conflict prevention efforts
• Identify priority areas for USIP’s future work on conflict prevention.
Panelists shared the challenges that peacebuilders currently face in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Northeast Asia, most commonly citing the difficulty of engaging with all stakeholders, sharing knowledge, and building capacity for regional action. Breakout sessions covered the prevention of violent conflicts, women and conflict, making the case for prevention, and the conflict prevention tool box.
This last point is most relevant to the Sentinel Project. The tool box is regarded as an inventory of different methods that can be used to prevent violence, including early warning systems, but it was highlighted that this still needs much analysis. It was also pointed out that the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the US Department of State, and the UN must cooperate with USIP to develop conflict prevention tools and encourage the inclusion of women in prevention.
The final panel was comprised of officials from USAID, UN, the Department of State, and NGOs, all of whom emphasized engagement with local actors in preventive efforts. This approach is naturally very similar to what the Sentinel Project aims to do in both our early warning and preventive efforts, since we consider engaging threatened communities to be a key part of our work. It is heartening to see local engagement for conflict prevention being promoted by government officials and leading NGOs in the field.