Working paper

Donor support to peace processes: a Lessons for Peace literature review

Diplomacy Foreign aid International relations Peace-building Afghanistan

The Lessons for Peace project aims to help development, security, political and humanitarian practitioners embed practical, evidence-based insights into current planning and policy-making processes in Afghanistan and in international capitals.

The international peace support landscape is undergoing necessary adjustment. The consensus of multilateral peace-building is that peace needs inclusive political and economic settlements, broad popular legitimacy, reduced incentives to engage in violent conflict and effective response to new challenges. However, emerging frameworks have made unsatisfactory progress beyond rhetorical commitments to cooperation and coordination.

Peacemaking is today more multipolar involving a range of international or state actors who have complex and sometimes irreconcilable interests over regional hegemony, security, border definition, market access and score-settling. The growing multipolarity of peace-building has opened up avenues for factions within conflicts to find rival international patrons; this is particularly significant since some of the bloodiest recent conflicts have been highly internationalised.

Key lessons:

  • Multipolarity matters: Process design should acknowledge multiple vested interests across the full range of locally, regionally and internationally involved actors. Without doing so, it risks fomenting resurgent instability and undermining the legitimacy of post-accord states. International mediators must cooperate to prevent ‘forum shopping’.
  • Processes must consider sequencing, flexibility and inclusivity: Trade-offs are necessary in establishing which issues will be brought to the negotiating table, the order in which key issues are considered during negotiations and the extent to which donors are willing to support effective compromise. Whilst ensuring that armed groups are represented in dispute resolution mechanisms, criteria for invitation must be sensitive to the need for outcomes to bear legitimacy.
  • Continued support in implementation: Donor support is crucial in the time following the agreement of a peace accord. The first five years post-accord are definitive; a lack of international support to weaker states can strip away state capacity to uphold an accord, and policy positions agreed through compromise risk being weakened and non-productive. Whilst donors and international financial institutions are shifting to more conflict-sensitive approaches, finance flows in support of peace-building remain proportionally small worldwide.


Publication Details
ODI Working Paper 571
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