The independent resource on global security

6. Sustaining peace and sustainable development in dangerous places


Overview, Marina Caparini and Gary Milante [PDF]

I. Peace and development, Gary Milante [PDF]

II. Sustaining peace: the new overarching United Nations framework, Marina Caparini and Gary Milante [PDF]

III. Delivering as one: other multilateral mechanisms for sustaining peace, Emma Bjertén Günther, Marina Caparini and Yeonju Jung [PDF]

IV. The peace being sustained: operationalizing prevention, Marina Caparini and Gary Milante [PDF]

The United Nations officially launched the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development on 1 January 2016. The aim is to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. This reflects the fact that peace and development are continuous processes that require constant cultivation and may necessitate decades of effort before the benefits are realized. Allied to the sustainable development agenda is the new UN concept of sustaining peace, which calls for better linkages between the UN’s three foundational pillars: peace and security, development and human rights, and humanitarian action. It replaces the sequential approach to conflict that often resulted in silos of prevention, humanitarian action, peacekeeping, peacebuilding and development—and calls for better linkages and sharing of instruments across these different sets of responses.


The context for the development of the UN’s sustaining peace framework included pockets of violence concentrated in the world’s dangerous places; ongoing complex humanitarian emergencies; and limited capacities for preventing, responding to, managing and recovering from conflict. Sustaining peace is also linked to the principles of national ownership and inclusivity, and is consistent with the concept of positive peace. 


Sustaining peace seeks to shift actors away from structural violence and towards collaborative solutions and development, and thus towards positive peace outcomes. It is vital to understand the long-term impact of armed conflict on development and to implementing peace accordingly: while a typical civil war lasts 7 years, it takes 14 years to recover from one economically, the chances of a setback are high and it can take 25 years to rebuild lost state systems and institutions to the level of ‘good enough’ governance. Only in the past 10 years have Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam started to take off economically after decades of conflict followed by decades of recovery. This suggests that the ongoing conflicts and dissolution of the state in Libya, South Sudan and Yemen will each, on average, lead to another 15 to 25 years of lost development.


Several important events took place in 2016 in the fields of preventing violent extremism, humanitarian action, and the women, peace and security agenda. These fields show some of the mechanisms through which the concept of sustaining peace is being integrated into global peace and development practice. The May 2016 World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), for example, resulted in over 3100 individual and joint commitments in core areas such as political leadership to prevent and end conflict, upholding the norms that safeguard humanity, and better targeted funding of humanitarian assistance.


While the concept of conflict prevention remains mostly aspirational, several developments in 2016—such as the WHS, the Sendai Framework, the Global Partnership for Preparedness and the Global Alliance for Urban Crises—can be interpreted as investments in sustaining peace and possible paths for a positive peace.

Dr Gary Milante, Dr Marina Caparini, Emma Bjertén-Günther and Yeonju Jung