Development cooperation is increasingly being conducted in conflict-affected states. As violent conflicts grow and spread, so does the expectation that development cooperation will constructively contribute to their resolution. At the same time, current conflict dynamics put decades of development progress at risk.
The development-peace nexus is not only of central importance for the Global South, but also for countries in the Global North. The latter contribute substantially to shaping the link between development and peace and are increasingly affected by the reciprocal cycle of violent conflict and development setbacks. However, insights on the exact interplay between development and peace dynamics remain limited. Similarly, recent practical experiences that target the development-peace nexus are yet to be systematically evaluated and assessed.
Against this backdrop, this report reviews and summarizes the state of the art on the development-peace nexus. In doing so, it analyzes contemporary trends, experiences, and challenges and derives practice-oriented recommendations for German and international development cooperation. This report was commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). It is based on 30 interviews with experts from different world regions and complemented by a comprehensive review of current policy documents and academic research.
Three ongoing global trends shape the relation between peace (building) and development (cooperation): First, many of the interviewed experts emphasize a worldwide wave of domestic transformation featuring authoritarian backlash and novel protest dynamics. Second, environmental and climate change, and the related resource conflicts, are identified as a critical contemporary challenge. Third, shifts in the global power structure point towards an alleged decline of the “West” and an ascent of nonwestern actors. All three of these trends in turn affect the general conditions under which work on the development-peace nexus is conducted.
This report’s analysis generally confirms the positive empirical relationship between development and peace while specifying that inclusion is the central bridge between the two elements. Nonetheless, the processes of development and peace are complex, may even be at odds under certain circumstances, and do not follow a linear logic. These complexities are inadequately reflected in the ongoing political debate, which reduces the development-peace nexus to a simple reactive stabilization of social and political order. This oversimplification has problematic implications for a nexus-oriented peace and development policy.
The recommendations set forth in this report relate to two overarching themes:
- Understanding the development-peace nexus necessitates an understanding of peace development as a transformational project. Nexus-oriented development cooperation should therefore be aimed at supporting long-term transformations in a flexible manner. This demands both soundly assessing and willingly tackling the inherent risks of such an approach, which in turn requires sophisticated, context-specific analytical skills and capacities
- Established goals and strategies must be consistently put into practice. Generally speaking, the key challenge of international development aid in conflict zones is primarily one of implementation, rather than a problem of lacking of knowledge and expertise. First, this concerns the primacy of prevention, which continues to lack strategic direction, concrete and achievable aims, and adequate financial backing. A second challenge concerns an age-old, central tenet of development cooperation: coherence. Coherence must be pursued and established at all levels – in the donor country itself, internationally, and “on the ground” in conflict-affected contexts. Taking the truism of coherence seriously and putting it into practice requires novel organizational designs and institutional change.
The complexity of the link between development and peace processes does not lend itself to simple and short-term solutions. In conflict-affected contexts in particular, development cooperation needs sustainable and long-term approaches while also requiring more flexibility.
Wolff, Jonas/Witt, Antonia/Stappenbeck, Jens/Schnabel, Simone/Peez, Anton/Junk, Julian/Coni-Zimmer, Melanie/Christian, Ben/Birchinger, Sophia/Bethke, Felix S. (2020): Peace and Development 2020. An Analysis of Recent Experiences and Findings.