Eritrea was the first peacebuilding project begun by Interpeace. It started in June 1995 and ended in October 1997. It was chosen as it represented a particular type of post-conflict situation, namely one resulting from a victorious liberation struggle that brought about a clear political structure and strong legitimate governmental authority.
The aim was to improve relations between the government, made up of former freedom fighters, and the international community. Having fought a long and bitter war for independence, almost in isolation, Eritrea had a strong sense of self-sufficiency and was determined not to become a donor-driven country like many others in Africa.
Interpeace opened up channels of communication between the government and the international aid community, bringing together key actors to discuss national priorities for reconstruction and rehabilitation.
These included developing human resources, tackling the chronic lack of food security, improving road, rail and port infrastructure and developing the energy and telecommunications sectors, and addressing the challenges of good governance. The latter looked at how to reintegrate refugees and former combatants into society as well as how to provide for the elderly and female headed households.
The government recognized the benefits of using Interpeace-facilitated meetings as a channel for communicating its policies to the outside world, while external aid agencies were able to get a better understanding of the government’s policies and positions.
The government used much of Interpeace’s research, particularly on good governance, as a basis for establishing a new political and administrative framework in the country.
The Eritrea experience highlighted the importance of Interpeace acting as a facilitator and venue for dialogue amongst different actors involved in post-conflict reconstruction.