It is a truism that we need partnerships to create change and transformation to build sustainable peace and just development. But what kind of partnerships are needed to create transformative change and enable actors to implement the SDGs in an inclusive manner with inclusive results? The panel debate highlighted the potential of innovative collective action and the necessity of multi-level, sector-crossing collaboration by discussing the following questions: What kind of partnerships for transformation are there and how are they contributing towards peaceful, just and inclusive societies? What can the peacebuilding community learn from other partnerships or schools of thought that also seek change? Do we need to cooperate in partnerships on a common ground of shared visions of the future or development models to transform our societies co-creatively towards peace? And if so, how would we achieve them?
One of the most important reasons for the failure of peace processes tends to be their exclusive character. Inclusive partnerships are therefore key to peacebuilding activities as no single actor is capable of managing the complexity of today’s interconnected problems. “Wide partnerships” that incorporate civil society and international institutions profit from different perspectives and gain a better understanding of the dynamics, issues and challenges at stake. This exchange must be based on inclusive political, economic, social and cultural processes so that the voice of civil society is heard and represented. This multi-actor approach can get to the roots of structural inequalities instead of only addressing the symptoms of conflict and will provide local communities with a sense of belonging. Yet, even if there are few positive examples, we are far from ensuring collective processes and inclusive policy results.
So, what is missing to ensure inclusive partnerships?
Tackling the roots of the problem: When we look at movements calling for climate, social and economic justice, we see a current openness to questioning the system, which is neither working for the people nor for the planet. Consequently, the existing framework for partnerships must develop a similar awareness of the urgency to rethink its system. Thus, the system, including partnerships, should adapt to the changing needs of civil society and provide space for mutual exchange and collective processes in order to get to the roots of inequalities.
Political will: Inclusive policies are not a technical issue, but a political one. We need to recognise that partnerships are not always for the good. Some actors may consider private interests as more important than peaceful communities. The overall political economy and the political will to ensure its orientation towards peace are consequentially central to the issue of inclusion. Collective visions for change and progress towards peaceful communities can solely evolve out of joint critical exchange.
Form follows function: The panellists shared some positive examples of partnerships for transformation, e.g. a multi-stakeholder partnership (MSP) on land, which was an engine for systemic change towards people-centred land governance as well as a MSP, which empowered youth to become part of international agenda setting. These MSPs were unified by their formation process. Public debate and participation are essential to building true democracy from below. MSPs that come from within civil society can therefore establish decision-making, dialogue and grievance mechanisms that listen to all voices. Inclusive and networked multilateralism should thus incorporate actors such as grassroots movements, the private sector, regional organisations, multilateral institutions and indigenous communities to boost the chance for real peacebuilding.