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Rethinking Humanitarianism | Does peacebuilding need a rethink?

‘We need to ensure that we put communities in the driver's seat of their peacebuilding efforts. We don't stop and listen. How do they want to do this?’

It’s estimated that 80 percent of humanitarian needs worldwide are driven by conflict. And while conflict prevention and resolution is a top UN priority, big UN-led peace processes – from Syria to Yemen – have seen limited success in recent years.

Is the traditional approach towards peacebuilding well suited to today’s complex, fragmented conflicts, especially those linked to radicalism and extreme ideologies?  

In this episode, host Heba Aly explores whether hyper-local peace deals can be a viable alternative to the “Big Peace” of the past. What can we learn from local peacebuilding efforts? What are the challenges? What does success look like? 

Guests: Danjuma Dawop, local peacebuilder for Mercy Corps in Nigeria; Obi Anyadike, senior Africa editor at The New Humanitarian.

New episodes of Rethinking Humanitarianism are published every two weeks. Make sure you never miss an episode of season two by subscribing on Spotify, Apple, Google, Stitcher, or YouTube, or searching “The New Humanitarian” in your favourite podcast app.

Got a question or feedback? Email [email protected] or have your say on Twitter using the hashtag #RethinkingHumanitarianism.

TRANSCRIPT | Does peacebuilding need a rethink? 

Heba Aly: 1.8 billion people around the world live in fragile and conflict affected areas, and many of them are in urgent need of humanitarian aid. In fact, 80% of humanitarian needs worldwide are driven by conflict. 

Aid budgets are increasingly stretched, and preventing and resolving conflicts is becoming more urgent than ever. The UN Secretary General has made what he calls ‘sustaining peace’ central to his agenda. 

The classic formula is this: the United Nations, Western or regional powers bring all the parties of a conflict together to agree a peace deal and establish elections. That approach successfully ended wars in the 1990s - but it isn’t having as much success in today’s conflicts.  

Take the peace talks in Syria and Yemen or the peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and South Sudan, all of them struggled to end the conflicts. 

In other words, there’s a lot of peacebuilding going on for very little return.

So is the traditional approach towards peacebuilding working? Is it well-suited for today’s conflicts?  And if we're witnessing the end of the ‘big peace’ led by the UN, what will take its place? 

I am Heba Aly in Geneva, Switzerland, and this is Rethinking Humanitarianism. 

Every year, The New Humanitarian publishes a list of 10 crises to watch; and this year, one of the items on our list was peace deals that are fraying.  

And there are a few possible reasons for this: the international community is distracted by COVID, it’s hard to negotiate peace on Zoom. But more fundamentally, contemporary conflicts are so fragmented, they don’t fit the mould of the massive UN peace conferences of the post Cold War period.

So in today's episode, we're asking: What kind of rethink is needed in the world of peacebuilding?  

And we’re going to talk about two types of conflict in particular, that are on one hand, increasingly common, and on the other, difficult to resolve. The first is conflicts involving ideologically-driven jihadists who don’t necessarily want to come to the negotiation table. And the second is conflicts involving local criminals and bandits - that are completely off the radar of international mediation -  but just as devastating for communities on the ground. 

In these kinds of conflicts, can bottom up approaches be a viable alternative to the more formal UN-led peace processes of the past? What can we learn from local peacebuilding efforts? What are the challenges? What does success look like? 

The New Humanitarian senior Africa editor Obi Anyadike has been leading coverage of local peacebuilding efforts for us in a series that we're calling: Beyond the Bang Bang, Reporting from the Frontlines of Peace. And that series looks at how sustainable peace can be built. 

Obi joins us from Johannesburg, South Africa. Hello. 

Obi Anyadike: Hi, it’s good to be here.

Aly: So Obi, our reporting has spanned a range of local peace efforts - from deradicalising Boko Haram fighters to secret peace talks between the government and jihadists in Burkina Faso. But I want to zoom in on a particular story that you reported late last year from your native Nigeria - and specifically a village in northern Nigeria called Doka, where 14 people had been killed by so-called bandits in an attack a few months before you visited, that led to reprisal attacks, and more deaths. And you reported on how members of the communities involved in this violence ultimately brokered their own peace. Tell us a bit about that. 

Anyadike: These are areas where there's been a lot of violence, like in Kaduna south, at least 50,000 people have been killed. Because of the conflict over land and access to land and water. And the bandits [have] kind of fused their criminality onto those real existing conflicts.  

The really scary thing is no one knows really where this is coming from. It's like at night, a village gets attacked, and it's really hard to identify who's doing it. But it takes on a kind of an identity dimension because most of the people who are bandits - it's kind of a catch-all phrase - most of the bandits are Fulani pastoralists. Most of the guys they're attacking are local farmers. 

So basically, what happens is that the farmers will look for revenge. They don't really know who the bandits were, they know they're Fulani. And so any Fulani in the area gets attacked. 

Whole communities get demonized. So that's the background to it. 

So I was interested in how communities are responding. And if there are any local initiatives to try and find a way to resolve this, because it's cyclical. One community gets hurt. There's a revenge and then there's another revenge and so it goes on. 

But what was really interesting is, after there had been so much violence, people recognise that everybody was being hurt by this. And in a sense this came out of a market driven idea that we need to find a way to resolve this. All our livelihoods are being impacted. 

So basically, what happened was in this particular, very tiny town, the farmers went to the Fulani community leader, and said, ‘come back, we want to reopen the market, we can give you security guarantees, come back, bring your livestock. And let's go back to the way it was. It doesn't mean that we love you, you know, there's so much mutual distrust’. But the idea was that you can bridge this really, really deep divide based on mutual interests. 

The Fulani are predominately Muslim, and the farmers predominant Christian. They swept the mosque, invited the Fulani community back and they celebrated Sallah, a Muslim festival in the mosque. The whole community was there as a goodwill, confidence building gesture. 

So talking to the community guys, they're really proud of what they'd achieved. They've been really scientific and how they approached it. So they tried to understand the genesis of the conflicts, they tried to understand what started it. And they tried to find out who the spoilers were. To me it was indicative that where you have strong community organizations who are really working to solve their own local problems, this can really be successful. They didn't want to involve the national level for sure. But even at the state level, they were doing this independently of the state, and their formal Peace Committee. And they were really proud that they had done something that was really working. 

I don't know if it's going to hold up. I hope so. I mean they have joint night patrols. And I think there's an understanding that though the bandits are predominantly Fulani, it doesn't mean that every Fulani man or woman is involved in this. And that's kind of important that you know, you can differentiate, and it's very difficult to do that. 

Aly: How in the reporting across the series and other stories you've done in other parts of Nigeria, how common is this kind of a model? Is it something you've seen elsewhere? Is it happening at scale?

Anyadike: I think the issue it’s not happening at scale. And I think maybe that's a positive, there's also a negative. But that's a positive. These are hyper local deals. And I think we're also seeing that in the Sahel as well, especially in Mali, and to an extent in Burkina Faso. 

So the communities who are confronted with jihadist violence are making local deals with a jihadist, these are typically farming communities. Basically, the idea is, let's find a way that we can live together. We're all Muslim together anyway. So it's not a question of, you know, the lifestyle changes dramatically. In a sense, you're finding common ground. And it's a recognition of traditional authorities as well, and the role they can play. 

Similarly, in Zamfara State in Nigeria, peace deals are being done by the community. To an extent you could argue is extortion. In some communities, they're paying a tax to the bandits to leave us alone. But, the bandits are also providing an element of justice systems, everybody benefits from that agreement.

So these are really hyper local deals. And I think it gets complicated when you try and take it to the national level. They are what they are. And yes, you can say that there's obviously problems with it in northern Nigeria and in the Sahel as well, women are not going to play a role in mediating peace there. These are conservative communities. So we're going to have problems around gender, we're going to have problems around women's rights, as possibly we're seeing in Afghanistan as well. So let's not gloss over some of these issues. But, people would argue that that can be a price to pay for peace.

Aly: When we compare these kinds of hyper local deals that you've been describing, with what we might consider the more traditional approach to peace in a violent context like the Sahel, as complicated as that is. When it is at the UN, Western, international, regional level, what does that usually look like?

Anyadike: We’re seeing the kind of, with the Orthodox peace deal. So there’s a peace agreement. The warlords are rewarded with government posts as part of the agreement. You have a peacekeeping force, demobilization, there's some kind of transition to an election, and then the peacekeepers leave. The core grievances are not resolved; there's probably not going to be any transitional justice mechanism at all; and the communities who are preyed on by these armed men continue to see no justice in the post-conflict situation.

Aly: So if you were to look at the kind of pros and cons, if I can put it that way, of internationally-led peacebuilding efforts and local-led peacebuilding efforts, where have you seen more success?

Anyadike: If, as the international community, you want to end violence, then the model is usually these types of elite peace deals. If you want to build more inclusive, pro-change, progressive peace, and you have the time, then obviously, the bottom-up approach is the way to go. But in all these words like bottom-up and inclusive peace, you know, it all becomes verbiage in a sense. 

The difficulty is that we have to recognize the politics of this. So you have armed men: how do you buy them off, in a sense? And you have powerless communities: how can they engage and be part of the peace process? So it really is a difficult dynamic. There's local authorities that have a role that can be played. In South Sudan, for example, where that was kind of an exemplar of the elite peace pact, you do have a powerful church with a powerful moral authority. In the Sahel, you also have powerful religious leaders as well. 

The argument is that working through these bodies, you can deliver perhaps a more sustainable peace. But it takes time and it's complicated. What drives violence is not always just the fact that it's about making money. Sometimes this is ideological. And that should be recognized.

Aly: Does one sometimes depend on the other? You talked about the international community's role being most effective when it's just about stopping the guns. But can you really do that local level  peacebuilding if you haven't stopped the guns. Or maybe put otherwise, is there a role for security forces even in local peacebuilding contexts?

Anyadike: I think in some conflicts, there’s going to be people that are unreconcilable. Let me take Zamfara for example, in northwest Nigeria. So in Zamfara there is a grievance that the pastoralist community has suffered under the current political dispensation. These guys have been marginalized. Politics has skewed towards the farmers, and they have felt left out. And part of this bandit problem, in inverted commas, was a real desire to basically make themselves known, and their grievances known. 

There's been peace processes that have tried to stop the violence, demobilize the fighters. And that to an extent sometimes has worked. But there are always spoilers, there's always the guys who are just criminals, this is their bread and butter, so to speak. And perhaps those are the people who need to be brought to book. And that's the role for the security forces, the judicial system.

In a lot of parts of Nigeria and a lot of other countries in the world, the state is absent. There is no effective judicial system; the police are outgunned. You know, there's one, two guys in a town with no petrol for their vehicle. What are they going to do? If you can bring on board the genuine people who have a real problem with the state, and you can resolve that problem in an honest manner, that to me seems one step. And the next step is those who don't, and want to continue with their violence, then they have to deal with the consequences.

Aly: So on the topic of people who have a genuine problem with the state, and who are driven by ideological motives, I’m reminded here of a great piece you reported a few years ago - as one of the first journalists to actually speak to active Boko Haram fighters - about the motivations of what had become at the time the deadliest militant or so-called “terrorist” group in the world. Groups like Boko Haram are a great example of the challenge posed to traditional approaches to peacebuilding. To what extent can big agreements at the national or international level work in dealing with a group like that? 

Anyadike: Boko Haram is now kind of disintegrated. Its replacement is the Islamic State in the West Africa province. The difficulty in dealing with these guys is, and I’m going to sound very controversial here, as they're a little bit revolutionary. Yes, it's a very conservative revolution. But their goal is ideological. They don't want anything to do with the Nigerian state. They see it as corrupt, venal, and enslaved by the West, and they want to build an alternative state. That's the political message they sent. That we can provide things that the state has failed to do, we will be accountable, and we will provide systems of justice, which are much faster and less corrupt than the state can provide. And I think a lot of governments fail to understand that there is a real political challenge that they need to respond to. Armed violence is not the way. 

It is an existential battle, in a sense, because the state can't cede territory to Islamic State, and the Islamic State won't accept the state of Nigeria. So that's the real problem. I don't think there's a very simple peace process that gets over that kind of hurdle. But in the Sahel, we're seeing free fire zones, peace areas at the very local level. The question then is what happens at the national level? How do you make this work? 

And you know, for a lot of Western governments who have invested military in the Sahel, France for one, has been very dismissive of these local approaches.

These global forces are worried it'll spread jihadism, you always have that old Cold War domino map, that jihadism will spread across the continent and into Europe, etc. 

Aly: So France is a particular case, given their historical ties to the region and the continued military presence and so on. More broadly, to what extent has the international community been supportive of these kinds of hyperlocal peace deals, or helping to facilitate them or help them thrive?

Anyadike: One problem with his local deals is that when money gets involved, it becomes a problem. We always have these workshop cultures and the per diem culture. When big money comes in, it kind of warps that process. And the peace becomes an arena of conflict in itself. Some cases, they're unaware of what's bubbling at the grassroots level. I think for them, it's easier to plug into the national rather than these local approaches. 

What was interesting in Kaduna South, where I met this like local community initiative, is that they were talking in terms of understanding the roots of the violence, they were talking in terms of understanding the drivers of the violence. So in a sense, they've been exposed to some of the theories around peacebuilding. So I think maybe it's at that level, perhaps. It’s some kind of support that goes to these local guys. And then they do what they can. Peace is never easy, even when you've got billions of dollars, as we've seen in nearly every counterinsurgency conflict, it's even harder at the local level. 

But I think, again, it's that idea that at the local level, if there are shared interests between the conflicts and parties that you can build on, maybe that is a path to some kind of imperfect peace.

Aly: How has all the money that's been poured into counterterrorism, particularly in some of the regions we've been talking about, helped or hurt those local peacebuilding efforts? How does it change the dynamic?

Anyadike: Yeah, there's a lot of money flowing, for sure. But it means a lot of groups get formed, and you're not quite sure what they're doing, on whose playbook they're working off. And some of them seem a bit funny, basically just warmed over development programs that were given a new title. So it kind of crowds the market. And maybe it makes people kind of dismissive of peace approaches. There's always in northeast Nigeria, for sure, there's always this idea, there's a conspiracy, ‘why is the West interested in this conflict? It must be because they're making money out of it. Who are all these guys, local guys in 4x4s? Are they really here for peace? Or is it in their interests to allow this conflict to continue?’ And that's not just in Nigeria, that's around the world, we've seen that. So in a sense, you know, big money can warp the best of intentions.

Aly: I attended the Oslo forum a few years back, and it's the most important convening of mediators around the world convened by the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue and the executive director David Heartland had written back then ‘the world is no longer making peace agreements, the United Nations in particular has almost lost an art that it once mastered’. And the whole theme of the conference was around how, as we mentioned in the introduction, the ‘Big Peace’ is over. And now it's really about local peace deals. That is the future. Would you agree?

Anyadike: I think part of the problem is they do the big peace deals, and then they go away. To rebuild fractured societies, that money has gone along with the peacekeepers, and everybody else. So I'm not sure if there was an art from the UN on these peace deals. I mean, certainly, there's a lot of money. You know, you had big peacekeeping forces and money in the transition and money into the democracy building. Did that democracy building really achieve anything, you know what I mean? 

That simplification of those matrices, and checks and indicators, and then you say, peace is achieved. Whereas on the ground, it might not look like that. There is a problem with how we conceive of the peace. And I don't think we should say it's either or. I think what we need is a rethink of how peace is done, what success looks like. What can reform societies, to heal societies. And more of the same doesn't seem to be the answer.

Aly: Obi, thank you so much. It's been fascinating to hear about this. And your reporting, has been really unique in delving into some of these communities in the way that you have. So I encourage everyone to take a look at that. 

Anyadike: Thanks for having me. 

Aly: So we heard from Obi that despite the importance of local peacebuilding initiatives, especially in complex, violent environments, they come with their own set of challenges. 

And to get an inside view on this and on just where peacebuilding can be and how it can be most effective. I'm pleased to welcome a local peacebuilder to the podcast, Danjuma Dawop. Danjuma runs the Peacebuilding and Early Response Program in Nigeria for Mercy Corps, and he previously worked in Iraq as the head of conflict management and social cohesion. He joins us from Abuja, in Nigeria. Hello Danjuma.

Danjuma Dawop: Hello, how are you?

Aly: Thanks so much for joining us. As I mentioned, you are working at a local level in peacebuilding in Nigeria. Especially on conflicts that are inter-ethnic or inter-religious. And I'd love to just understand when a conflict arises, where you even start as a local peace builder.

Dawop: So in most cases, you discover that as a local peace builder, one of the things that you want to ensure is that this conflict had happened and it maybe caused a lot of loss of lives or properties. And so you want to prevent it from happening. And so you also want to understand what is the underlying cause of the conflict? What are the drivers? Who are the parties? What is the real issue? What are the underlying, what are the surface issues? And how do you think that could be addressed? 

And the other thing is about ownership. We tend to look at communities as if they don't know how to resolve their dispute(s), that is why they have conflict. They do, even before we come, even before the conflict, these communities have peacebuilding mechanisms so to speak, where they resolve their disputes in their own way. So for local peace building, I think where we start is to actually examine what is being done? What is there on the ground? What kind of structures are responding to this conflict?

Aly: You mentioned that many communities already have mechanisms by which they resolve disputes. Could you give us an example of what that looks like in practice?

Dawop: Almost all communities have a community structure - it's kind of a governance structure, so to speak. So you have the head of the community, and he has people who support him. You have traditional rulers - one of the roles that this traditional ruler plays is also resolution of conflict. This is the structure that actually responds to conflict. 

And so the community leader actually listens, people come to them with issues around whatever the cause of the dispute is. Using that old age mechanism, they resolve the dispute. Most times, it works. Peace building actors like us, we know that you have this mechanism for conflict resolution, they will describe it to us. And we will discover within those approaches where there needs to be improvement. Those are more or less our entry point for strengthening the local peace structures. 

Based on the context, you discover that in some communities, the traditional ruler is a traditional ruler because he belongs to a particular ethnic or religious group, which is more or less dominant. But then there are other ethnic groups there, there are other religious groups there, who are not part of the conflict resolution mechanism. So we tend to include those as representatives, as part of that, to help, so that there is no partiality. 

We don't reinvent the wheel, we only just actually build on and expand and strengthen. And for us, the sustainability component is important because when we leave, this continues.

Aly : Obi talked about the need for a rethink in the way in which peacebuilding takes place. And you’ve just described a very different model to the more well-known international approach. And yet the model you've described also has its limitations, because otherwise they wouldn't need you to come in if their local dispute resolution mechanisms were working. Where is the successful model?

Dawop: For me, I think based on my experience, it is a hybrid of models. What I mean here is that one, from bottom-up, meaning that you have to build the structures from the ground up. It’s a combination of having community-led activities, resolving disputes at the community level in a transparent, inclusive and beneficial way to the communities. And then ensuring that when this conflict become[s] a little bit protracted, these communities have a way of reaching out for higher level support. 

What we have and what we have been working on currently, especially in both Iraq and in Nigeria, is to ensure that whatever at the community level that we do [is] connected to higher level initiatives. Meaning that we feed into the top level government peacebuilding initiatives. In some of the states that we work, we are very lucky to have those states having what we call peacebuilding agencies that we can actually link up community level activities to those peacebuilding agencies. Because they're higher level; they have convening power; they can talk to higher level stakeholders, including international NGOs. 

One of the things that I see happening is the fact that more and more of international NGOs are willing to actually have what we call boots on the ground. And I think that is really helping in terms of helping communities not only to have that capacity to address their own conflict, but they also know that there are support systems outside their communities that help to support and resolve some of these protracted conflicts.

Aly: You've talked a lot about the importance of that local ownership. I wonder the extent to which that is commonplace? How often do you see that model at play versus the model where an international peace building apparatus is out of touch with the local community and what happens in those cases?

Dawop: International NGOs, the first thing they do is [say] ‘Oh, we want to go and collect data for our baseline’. And that is where the problem starts. Most of these communities will say, ‘No, we don't want you to come in because that is not the issue we want to discuss. We want to discuss this issue. This is more important to us. Our conflict between farmers and herders is less important to us than the insecurity as a result of kidnapping and banditry’. 

The other one is ownership, we need to more and more ensure that we put communities in the driver's seat of their peacebuilding efforts. We don't stop and listen. How do they want to do this? 

Most donors right now insist that for every international peacebuilding actor who is going to receive funding from them, they have to work with a local organization, local NGO. The reason being that these local NGOs might not have the exposure. They understand the community dynamics, they also have the acceptance and the trust of the communities. And most of these international NGOs without understanding the context, rather than actually helping, do more harm than doing more good. So you see more and more of international NGOs now working with either one or two or three or several local NGOs depending on the location or the context to ensure not only acceptability, but also because they see the need for local ownership

Aly: That's really interesting, because I would have expected the opposite, that, in fact, local peace builders are not getting very much support, and that they're struggling for the kind of attention and financing that bigger organizations may get. And certainly in the humanitarian sector, there's been a similar push for localizing aid, and that has struggled to make a lot of progress. So it's interesting to see that in the peacebuilding world, in fact, you may be further ahead?

Dawop: Because the donors insist that the international NGOs should work with the local NGOs to localize the peace building. And I think it’s the understanding of the donor, I think, it’s the feedback that the donors get about some of the impact of the work that the international NGOs do, actually in exacerbating tensions in communities in which they work. So then they decided, okay, I think the best way to do this is you must have a local NGO working with you.

Aly: How recent was that shift, would you say from an approach in which the international NGO would come in and kind of say, ‘this is what you have to do’, to really listening to the communities?

Dawop: I think as far back as 2015, there has been a little bit of a shift in the localization of peacebuilding activity, especially in regards to the local ownership. More and more of these local NGOs tend to hire people that are actually representatives of the commentaries in which they are going to work. 

Aly: Obi warned about not fetishizing or romanticizing local peacebuilding efforts either and that there are challenges. You know, you talked a lot about the traditional leaders, but they often are male and, you know, elite and come with another set of challenges. So what are the kind of warning signs that as a local peace builder, you try to stay aware of?

Dawop: One of the things that we also tend to try to avoid as we try to engage with these local communities is not to exacerbate tension or create divisions by trying to impose certain rules and norms that we think should. 

For instance, you mentioned that usually the people who are involved in the local peace mechanisms within the communities are usually leaders, male elites. And so it's also a little bit challenging for us, when we engage with them to try as much as possible to get their buy-in into expanding the space to include other people, especially women. We tend to create what we call a women peace building unit, meaning that dependent on the context and then the culture and the dynamics and whatever limitations that doesn't allow some of these groups, especially women and youth, to be part of this process was to create a separate unit for them to actually function within those communities. And so what we do in most of our programs is to ensure that we work with women. 

One other aspect of it is that there are women who are actually powerful within some of these communities: they are very influential, especially in communities where you have women participating in the economic activity. And so they have leadership roles that they play, especially in the markets, where the heads of the market are usually women. So some of these women, we identify them because of the role they play as leaders within those communities. And they also become part of the peacebuilding structures within those communities. 

Aly: Danjuma, I have one last question for you. You have already given a number of examples of what works at the local level. If someone is either a local peacebuilder, an international organization and looking to rethink the way they engage in peacebuilding, especially in some of these more complex environments, what's a first step that they can take; a pragmatic thing that they can do to change and improve the approach to peacebuilding?

Dawop: I think real time context analysis is really, really important. I think most of these international peacebuilding actors actually do a lot more literature review of context, without actually understanding that with peace building in the context always changes, the dynamics are always evolving. A community that you have  visited a month ago, and then you are trying to understand what is going on, you have to go back and change and find out whether things have changed. And I think if that happens, it will go a long way in actually helping with the peacebuilding efforts within those communities. 

And the reason why I said so is that you discover that most times we tend to design a peacebuilding program around certain assumptions that we had probably a year ago, six months ago, and so on and so forth. So using that assumption, we go in to implement our peacebuilding program and things have changed within those times. So we just continue to insist that, ‘Oh, we have already collected money from the donor, we don't want to go back to the donor and say, oh, things have changed, we want to change our approach’. So we tend to force communities towards doing what we have written a year ago. So I think real time context analysis, and updating it, and making sure that you understand what is going on and responding to every emerging conflict context and dynamics is really, really key.

Aly: Danjuma, thank you so much for sharing your insights and for taking the time to come on to the podcast.

Dawop: No problem.

Aly: That’s it for this episode. You can follow our reporting on local peacebuilding on our website: TheNewHumanitarian.org. And thank you to the Stanley Center for Peace and Security, which has supported our reporting on local peace efforts. 

If you’ve got thoughts on this discussion, do get in touch. I’m curious: How can the international community support local peacebuilding initiatives? Is locally-led peacebuilding necessarily more effective than international efforts? Have you  seen successes or failures, and what did you learn from them? Write to us or send us a voice note at [email protected]

Thanks to those who gave feedback on our last episode about the politicisation of aid in Ethiopia. 

Hajer Naili from the humanitarian relief organization Project Hope described the episode on Twitter as: ‘A timely conversation about the current challenges the aid sector is facing in Tigray. We also learn about the history of humanitarian aid in Ethiopia & how past agreements with the Government of Ethiopia [are] haunting the sector today’.

This week, we leave you with a clip from a TedX talk called “To solve mass violence, look to locals”by Columbia University Professor Severine Autesserre. 

This podcast is a production of The New Humanitarian.

This episode was produced and edited by Marthe van der Wolf. 

And I’m your host, Heba Aly.

Thank you for listening to Rethinking Humanitarianism. 

Clip, TedX, Oct, 2014 

International peace efforts have failed to help address local conflicts because of the presence of a dominant peacebuilding culture. So what I mean is that Western and African diplomats, United Nations peacekeepers, donors, the staff of most nongovernmental organizations that work with the resolution of conflict, they all share a specific way of seeing the world. And I was one of these people, and I shared this culture, so I know all too well how powerful it is. Throughout the world, and throughout conflict zones, this common culture shapes the intervener's understanding of the causes of violence as something that is primarily located in the national and international spheres. It shapes our understanding of the path toward peace as something again that requires top-down intervention to address national and international tensions. And it shapes our understanding of the roles of foreign actors as engaging in national and international peace processes. Even more importantly, this common culture enables international peacebuilders to ignore the micro-level tensions that often jeopardize the macro-level settlements.

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