Through an agreement with UK-based Alliance magazine, PND is pleased to be able to offer a series of articles about global philanthropy.

In Search of Peaceful Development

In Search of Peaceful Development

Lebanon, Syria, Rwanda, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Vietnam, Kashmir — this is only a short list of the conflicts that have dogged our recent collective history, yet peace-related grantmaking, at less than 1 percent of all grantmaking, seems irresponsibly small. (Source: Peace and Security Funders Group and Candid.) 

The need to find successful interventions to solve this complex issue is urgent. So, too, is the need to reconceptualize what we mean by peace philanthropy. If our goal is durable peace, the solutions and funding cannot be purely security oriented.

Peaceful, stable societies are needed for communities to thrive. From the other side, inclusive and equitable societies with access to education, healthcare, and freedom of expression are absolutely key for sustainable peace. As funders, we need to support grantee efforts to ensure that diverse perspectives are not just heard but truly represented in proposed solutions, and in grantee organizations themselves.

Where philanthropy is not…

Philanthropy is less involved in peace-building than in any other programmatic area in which it works. South Sudan is just one country that is not explicitly discussed in the most recent issue of Alliance magazine, yet it constantly makes the headlines. Over thirteen years, only $7.5 million has gone directly to local recipient organizations there. Of this, a mere half million dollars comes from funders who actually describe their work as contributing to peace-building efforts — the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund, the National Endowment for Democracy, Mensen met een Missie, and the Global Fund for Women. By contrast, funders have provided $13.2 million to peace-building and $97.8 million overall in support of South Sudan to either intermediaries or for research and work related to the country.

It's important to note, however, that the picture is more nuanced and that intermediaries come in different shapes and sizes. Intermediaries here include large multilateral aid organizations, big INGOs, and U.S.-based public charities that specialize in channeling funds directly to grassroots organizations in the Global South. Local intermediaries also play a crucial role.

This highlights two key questions. The first is: Why are funders resistant to grantmaking related to conflicts where their funding could be uniquely helpful in supporting transition from violence to cooperation? And the second is: How do we get more funders to see that their work is vital to peace-building and creating durable peace?

Accessing hard-to-reach places through pooling and partnering

Countries going through a peace-building process need policy solutions and catalytic funding, and philanthropy can be a partner in both. South Sudan has a United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, support from many UN agencies (including UNDP), and a peacekeeping mission. The presence of a peacekeeping mission may deter philanthropy, suggesting a country that is too unstable for the sector to work in, but it also creates a direct opening for philanthropy and a policy platform around which to coalesce.

If the question of when to enter is the challenge, the notion that post-conflict peace-building can be divided into three dimensions — stabilizing the post-conflict zone, restoring state institutions, and dealing with social and economic issues — is one way to characterize it that may be helpful in identifying an intervention point.

Foundations have a role to play at the earliest stage of the post-conflict and peace-building process, acting as convenors and helping to mobilize funds for local NGOs and community philanthropy. Opportunities to pool funds and set up blended finance mechanisms can enable foundations to reach these first responders in harder-to-access places and situations. There are already several global pooled multilateral funds, including the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), to which philanthropy — the Waterloo Foundation in the UK, Al Jisr Foundation in Oman, and the Cmax Foundation in the U.S., among others — has contributed. In addition, peace-building funds such as that of the aforementioned Peacebuilding Fund in South Sudan could be further leveraged by philanthropy.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also have the potential to act as a catalyst for philanthropy, the UN, and the broader ecosystem to work together on peace-building. SDG 16 aims to "promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels." The SDG Philanthropy Platform is another mechanism for bringing philanthropy together around the SDG policy table.

Barriers to funding

Are there other barriers to funding? Are funders unable to get grants across borders? Are they having trouble finding these local organizations or local intermediaries? Are we as funders asking too much of grantees in the name of due diligence — forcing potential grantees into the conventions and boxes we are comfortable with, rather than seeing what is truly needed?

The much-discussed shrinking space for civil society has made itself particularly felt in peace-related philanthropy, among both grantees and funders. Indiana University's Global Philanthropy Environment Index shows that the environment for philanthropy is restricted in 40 percent of the seventy-nine countries and economies it studies.

Beyond government restrictions, civil society is increasingly subject to banking regulations introduced as counter-terrorism measures: research done by the Charity and Security Network found that two-thirds of U.S. nonprofits working abroad are having difficulties sending funds internationally — from wire transfer delays to account closures. It's incumbent on us as funders to advocate for responsible regulations and be understanding of the challenges that grantees are encountering in their operations. It is not enough for us to ask how they are doing in just the substantive work; we also need to be a source of support for their overall operations. Are there alternative ways of getting funds to grantees, particularly those working in conflict and post-conflict situations?

Engaging people and communities directly

So often, approaches to peace focus on military and security interventions and do not engage the people who are directly affected by conflict in creating the solution. They do not take into account, for instance, food sovereignty for the local population, or fair access to water, or strengthening of local economies. These aspects are crucial in ensuring the stability of targeted populations. In fact, some of the programs designed for peace-building unintentionally reinforce the power gap between those involved in conflict, forcing those with less power and resources to "normalize" relationships with the more powerful, which serves neither peace nor justice.

Given its crucial local knowledge and understanding, community philanthropy is part of the ecosystem that needs to be continually supported and nourished. The growth of community foundations around the world attests to increasing awareness that solidarity at the grassroots level ensures sustainability of local resources and that community foundations, in the Global South particularly, tend to engage in participatory grantmaking. In other words, decisions are made by and within the community itself. This also means that there is a sense of ownership in the decisions made by communities and more determination to ensure that the decision is carried out and benefits are distributed among all members of the community. Could all types of foundations/philanthropy provide more funding to community philanthropy to carry out peace-building work?

Responsive grantmaking

As funders, it is important to have strategies through which we approach our funding, but it is essential to remember that these may need to be adapted to developments on the ground and the needs of grantees. This is especially true of those who are working in conflict and post-conflict situations. We need to trust our grantees and let their experiences inform our work as funders.

As well as exercising stewardship of the funds we disburse, we also need to ensure that we are able to steward relationships with grantees in a way that allows for the ups and downs they may encounter. Processes should be kept nimble and grant requirements streamlined. This allows all parties more time to focus on the substantive work at hand and cultivates a deeper sense of trust in the relationship.

Considering the range of issues that grantees face, peace philanthropy funders should opt for flexible funding whenever possible and should also leverage their roles to think about what support beyond the grant would be helpful for grantees.

Constellations of grants

Funders working in this space need to understand that to get to durable peace, we need to engage not just the communities directly affected by the conflict, but also government and other actors more explicitly engaged in it. The solutions will not come from one grant, but rather constellations of grants that are responsive to local context. When trying to understand impact, therefore, it is important for funders to take a long view while acknowledging the contributions that the work of grantees and others make along the way.

The support ecosystem

Ideally, funders should also be partners for organizations doing frontline work, leveraging their networks and contacts to create connections and build helpful relationships that can yield more than financial benefits. Philanthropy can mobilize capital and resources, including human expertise. Community philanthropy understands its people and what they really need and want. The multilateral system understands how to co-create policy. This makes for the underpinnings of an ecosystem that, if it functions effectively and in trust-based relationships, could create a basis for philanthropy to truly partner on peace-building efforts.

Lauren Bradford (@laurenjbradford) is senior director of global projects and partnerships at Candid. Hope Lyons (@hopelyons) is director of program management at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. And Rasha Sansur (@SansurRasha) is communication and resource mobilization officer at the Dalia Association-Palestine.