“After 20 years of peacebuilding experimentation, one of the good signs is that the countries receiving this [peacebuilding] attention…more and more are shaping the process,” said Professor Richard Matthew, director of the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs at the University of California, Irvine.
Peacebuilding is shifting, he said, from internationals going in with pre-existing conceptions of “what you need for stability and development, what will make you attractive to investors, what will make your people secure,” to instead sitting down and talking with stakeholders about “what types of capacity do you need, and how can we support you in acquiring those.”
Along with the shift towards more responsive peacebuilding has come an elevated interested in the environment and natural resources. For people living in the peacebuilding countries themselves, “there was never any doubt that water and forest and access to minerals and so on were critical to their future,” said Matthew, but Western and Northern countries often thought of it as a “second tier issue that you might get to once people were safe, and the government was functioning, and the economy was up and running again.”
Matthew co-authored the 2009 UNEP report, From Conflict to Peacebuilding: The Role of Natural Resources and the Environment, which examined environmental factors all along the conflict continuum – from inception to peacebuilding. Successful peacebuilding, the report argues, requires that “environmental drivers are managed, that tensions are defused, and that natural assets are used sustainably to support stability and development in the long term.”