When violence broke out between Christian and Muslim militias in the Central African Republic in 2013, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was able to leverage money from the Complex Crises Fund (CCF) to immediately address the violence.
USAID contracted the international NGO Mercy Corps to train 391 community leaders from diverse religious and tribal backgrounds in mediation, conflict analysis, and conflict resolution skills. The project also launched 91 economic projects that benefited both Christian and Muslim communities in the Central African Republic.
Studies have shown that peacebuilding and conflict prevention is not only effective but is also cost-efficient.
At the end of the 18-month program, Mercy Corps reported a 451% increase in community members’ perceptions that conflicts were being resolved peacefully and an 178% increase in the number of people who trusted the ‘other’ group within their community. In December 2014, 220 fighters led by 10 separate commanders voluntarily disarmed to support nonviolent social change.
Projects like this prove that peacebuilding is a critical tool in addressing the seeds of violence at the local level. Peacebuilding is a long-term process that addresses the causes of violent conflict by resolving injustices in nonviolent ways. It transforms cultures and institutions that generate violent conflict to enable sustainable peace to take root.
Studies have shown that peacebuilding and conflict prevention is not only effective but is also cost-efficient. The Institute for Economics and Peace found that every dollar invested in peacebuilding “carries a potential $16 reduction in the cost of armed conflict.” However, U.S. support for this work has been persistently underfunded.
This year FCNL’s Advocacy Teams have been lobbying Congress to invest in peace. Building on their work, participants to the FCNL Annual Meeting and Quaker Public Policy Institute, Nov. 15-19, will lobby for continued investment in international peacebuilding under the theme: Local Power, Lasting Peace. Participants will be lobbying Congress to make strong investments in three core accounts that support conflict prevention and peacebuilding: Complex Crises Fund, Atrocities Prevention, and Reconciliation Programs.
The Complex Crises Fund (CCF), which was used to diffuse the violence in the Central African Republic is the only account of its kind at USAID that fills immediate, short-term gaps during emergent crises.
The CCF was fully authorized in the Global Fragility Act of 2019, (P.L. 116-94) and enables USAID to prevent and respond to early warning signs of violence and escalating conflicts. FCNL advocated for the passage of this bill. Atrocities Prevention is the State Department’s only funding dedicated solely to supporting programs to prevent mass atrocities and genocide. It can also provide critical funding to support the implementation of the Elie Weisel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-441) and the 2022 U.S. Strategy to Anticipate, Prevent, and Respond to Atrocities.
In the Darfur region bordering Sudan and the Central African Republic, Atrocities Prevention funds are being used by Invisible Children. They work with peacebuilders to establish local peace committees to prevent violence. They institutionalize nonviolent conflict resolution tools in local communities.
Invisible Children has documented around 680 incidents in the Darfur region where threats of violence were mitigated through the work of local peace committees. While the outbreak of widescale war in Sudan threatens the progress of peace committees, the program offers a low-cost and low-risk opportunity for communities to engage in nonviolent conflict resolution and violence prevention.
The third peacebuilding account that FCNL is lobbying for is the Reconciliation Programs. They support the peaceful coexistence of different ethnic, religious, and political groups by addressing prejudices, promoting mutual trust and understanding, and facilitating non-violent conflict resolution.
Search for Common Ground is using Reconciliation Programs funds to address climate change and violent conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) Okapi Wildlife Reserve. They are working to address the threat of armed groups involved in natural resource exploitation and the conflict between the reserve’s guards and the surrounding communities.
As a result of the project, the Indigenous communities and the Eco-Guards of the reserve regularly organize and participate in constructive dialogue. They have even successfully organized soccer matches and other social activities to build mutual trust.