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The Prevention Up Front Alliance: Strengthening civil society capacity to prevent armed conflict (December 2017)

by Jelena Pia-Comella, Deputy Executive Director, World Federalist Movement – Institute for Global Policy

At the United Nations the new Secretary-General has identified “preventing conflict and sustaining peace” as an overarching framework that cuts across the three pillars of the UN’s work: peace and security, sustainable development and human rights. In his January 10 inaugural address to the Security Council, he introduced some of the broad contours of this approach: “The United Nations was established to prevent war by binding us in a rules-based international order. Today, that order is under grave threat. We spend far more time and resources responding to crises rather than preventing them. e challenge now is to make corresponding changes to our culture, strategy, structures and operations. Prevention is not merely a priority, but the priority. If we live up to our responsibilities, we will save lives, reduce suffering and give hope to millions.”

When one thinks of the many ways the United Nations system can be improved, the prevention of armed conflict ranks prominently.

The Prevention Up Front (PuF) Alliance brings together three civil society networks in partnership with the Government of the Netherlands: the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), and the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (ICRtoP). The latter two coalitions are coordinated by the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy (WFM-IGP).

One of the 25 partnerships that the Government of the Netherlands has with civil society organizations, the PuF Alliance provides a comprehensive approach to conflict prevention throughout its three strategic goals: strengthening conflict prevention mechanisms and infrastructures; reducing impunity; and increasing access, political space, and opportunities for civil society.

The goal of strengthening conflict prevention mechanisms and infrastructures applies in selected regions on the norms and institutions relevant to the area, as well as linking the national, regional, and global contexts. The Alliance will also strengthen early warning mechanisms to address the risk factors and indicators for violent conflict and mass atrocities and increase the understanding, consensus, and mainstreaming of the Responsibility to Protect within national policies.

Reducing Impunity is about providing access to effective justice and redress at national, regional, and international levels by contributing to a stronger and more effective international justice system, including through encouraging ratification and national implementation of the Rome Statute and calling on the International Criminal Court to comply with the highest standards of fairness, effectiveness, and independence.

The third goal of the Alliance is increasing access, political space and opportunities for civil society to engage the political process at all levels, from national to global. this means supporting civil society organizations in finding ‘politically smart’ ways to strengthen incentives and build up critical momentum for political space and constructive civil society participation. An example would be contributing to the protection of human rights defenders. Specific strategies and capacities depend on the regional context and actors.

These goals are supported by capacity development and inclusivity. Enhancing capacity development for CSOs and mainstreaming inclusivity and gender equality are both crosscutting approaches. The Alliance defines ‘inclusivity’ as engagement with all social and interest groups affected by conflict, particularly women. This approach specifically focuses on the key role of women as agents of change in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. The Alliance will also work to ensure that women have access to justice and participate in conflict prevention and dialogue processes.

The Prevention Up Front Alliance’s theory of change is focused on engaging networks of civil society organizations to become more effective in lobbying and advocacy, and better equipped to open up space for effective civil society engagement in these policy areas with international and regional organizations, national governments, and the general public. This will increase the chances that conflicts will be resolved before violence escalates, that impunity will be reduced and that populations will be better protected, which will lead to a higher likelihood for sustainable peace, justice and human security in conflict and post-conflict societies. In order to lobby and advocate effectively there needs to be sufficient political and institutional space for civil society to engage effectively.

The geographical focus of the Alliance will be on capacity building relevant to the low- and lower-middle income countries in five regions: Europe, Middle East and North Africa (MENA), East and Central Africa, West Africa, and South East Asia.

Additionally, the Prevention Up Front Alliance will implement a Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation (PME) and Learning framework based on an existing system currently used by GPPAC.

The Prevention Up Front Alliance can be viewed in the context of “Human Rights Up Front,” an approach initiated by former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Human Rights Up Front is meant to address concerns that cut across the UN’s three pillars of peace and security, development, and human rights and broker cultural change across the UN system, by encouraging staff to “take a principled stance and to act with moral courage to prevent serious and large-scale violations.”

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