Stabilising the North Rift: Lessons learned from the peacebuilding experience of NCIC and Interpeace

The recent insecurity in Kenya’s North Rift is a multifaceted issue with complex and interconnected underlying drivers. The region has a long history of marginalisation and violence, which has led to a deep-seated mistrust of the government, intercommunal animosity, and a belief that communities must provide for their own security. Jointly with NCIC, Interpeace has been active in the North Rift since 2019, amongst others conducting extensive participatory research and facilitating community dialogues that have resulted in several peace agreements. Based on these experiences, and Interpeace’s work worldwide, this policy brief identifies lessons learned and develops recommendations that are aimed at assisting decision-makers to sustainably address the complex and interconnected drivers of cyclical conflict in the region.

Partnership beyond projects: the importance of local ownership and trust

Interpeace and the Centre of Studies for Peace and Development (CEPAD) have worked together since 2007, supporting peacebuilding processes in Timor-Leste. Our partnership began in response to the violent political crisis of 2006, which revealed the challenges of a young nation adopting a new system of state structures. Throughout the years, we used Participatory Action Research (PAR) and piloted innovative approaches to assessing local resilience (Frameworks for Assessing Resilience) to help break cycles of violence and create a safe environment for the Timorese. This work enabled bottom up and locally owned solutions to be formulated, to identify and address local grievances in a non-violent and sustainable manner. CEPAD is now considered a “go-to” organization for peace and development challenges, and is recognized for promoting inclusive democracy by providing safe spaces for community dialogue.

In 2019, a case study of Interpeace’s long-standing partnership with CEPAD was developed as part of the Stopping As Success (SAS) initiative – a collaborative learning project that aims to study and provide guidelines on how to ensure locally led development and peacebuilding. The SAS initiative touches on many of the core principles Interpeace was founded on – local ownership, long term commitment, process-oriented work and the primacy of trust as a keystone to peace. ‘Success’ in locally led peacebuilding work can be defined in many ways, and an organizational or programmatic exit of an INGO or International Organization in lieu of successful and sustainable local organizations is one important indicator. However, a larger understanding of ‘success’ in locally owned peacebuilding ought to ultimately be about whether the broader social contract is moving towards peace. As peacebuilders, Interpeace and our partners always aim toward that ultimate goal.

In order to achieve sustainable peacebuilding processes that reinforce a peaceful social contract we have long known local ownership and not internationally driven approaches is key. While this has long been recognized, operationalizing local ownership of peacebuilding remains an ongoing challenge. That is why the SAS case study ,“Centre of Studies for Peace and Development (CEPAD) and Interpeace: A partnership transition in Timor-Leste, is an instructive example of the practical steps international actors can take to support the  efforts of a locally led organization developing locally owned and inclusive peacebuilding solutions.


CEPAD Timor-Leste. Photo credit: Steve Tickner 2009

CEPAD Timor-Leste. Photo credit: Steve Tickner 2009


Fostering local ownership through sustainable partnerships  

For over 25 years, Interpeace’s approach has made sure that local people are at the heart of building peace. We believe that peace must be built from within societies and not imposed from the outside. Therefore, from the outset of our partnership with CEPAD, we put our trust in our partners local teams  to lead the strategic management and implementation of project activities. Interpeace provided ongoing technical , financial and capacity-building support to CEPAD, since its creation in 2007. However, in 2015, Interpeace began a process to phase out its financial support to remain engaged with CEPAD solely in an advisory capacity.  While Interpeace provided financial and technical support as well as supported the development, implementation and evaluation of projects, delivered ongoing training to CEPAD staff, CEPAD was in the driver’s seat.

A CEPAD staff member mentioned, “Interpeace stopped the funds in 2016 but the relationship continued. Whenever we have any difficulties, we contact Interpeace and get their ideas and comments on our work and situations that we are facing.”

The case study developed by SAS captures how Interpeace’s approach – working with local partners and committing to long-term engagement – is critical to ensure sustainable peacebuilding efforts. It highlights that the trust that was built during almost a decade between Interpeace-CEPAD, helped both organizations as Interpeace transitioned away from providing financial support.

A number of key lessons were also mentioned by the case study: a.) strong leadership is an important factor when creating and sustaining an NGO that can operate successfully when financial support from an INGO partner ends; b.) adopting bottom-up, locally led models from the outset – as opposed to time-bound, top-down projects – contributes to a more sustainable transition process; and c.) it is possible for INGOs to find creative ways of continuing to support locally led organizations and initiatives after transitions have concluded.

CEPAD Timor Leste. Photo credit: Steve Tickner 2009

CEPAD Timor-Leste. Photo credit: Steve Tickner 2009

Read the full case study or 2-page summary

Read here for more on why local ownership is important for peace and for brief examples of tools and approaches to enable local leadership and ownership.

NGO Consortium members vote Interpeace to chair Somalia peacebuilding group

Members of national and international civil society organizations operating in Somalia have voted Interpeace as the chair of a multi-agency peacebuilding working group. The Somalia NGO Consortium made the announcement on 27 January 2020.

Somalia NGO Consortium (SNC) is a voluntary coordination mechanism of national and international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) working in Somalia and operates in Somaliland. The Consortium was established in 1999.

Interpeace will lead the Peacebuilding Working Group for a period of one year, together with Saferworld as co-chair. The peacebuilding group is one of 6 thematic working groups established by the Consortium to effectively coordinate and conduct development and humanitarian support in Somalia.

NGO Consortium members in session. Photo credit: NGO Consortium.

Our team in Somalia and Somaliland has welcomed the news with delight and expressed their commitment to work closely with many other organizations to improve social cohesion, community safety interventions and effectively build sustainable peace in Somalia.

“We are indeed excited and pleased to be coordinating and working in a cohesive way with our peer organisations,” said Ahmed Abdullahi, Interpeace’s Somalia Country Coordinator.

“This platform gives us the opportunity to shape and advance innovative approaches to address the root causes of violence and work on restoring trust between communities,” said Mr Abdullahi.

We can only build a more peaceful future through collaboration. Working together as a group within the consortium strengthens our work as a peacebuilding community to effectively contribute to Somalia’s vision for change.

The Somalia Peacebuilding Working Group is an opportunity to consolidate partnerships, build a stronger peacebuilding community in Somalia and demonstrate to the world that we are more efficient when we work together.

NGO Consortium members in session. Photo credit: NGO Consortium.

The limited value-for-money of international technical cooperation, capacity-development and institutional reform support - Effective advising in statebuilding and peacebuilding contexts

This document is a background course on effective advising in statebuilding and peacebuilding contexts. ‘Technical Cooperation’ or ‘Technical Assistance’, mostly in the form of international experts and advisors, and loans and grants for ‘institutional reform’ constitute a huge share of official development assistance. Yet a growing body of comparative and cumulative evaluations, further bolstered by academic research, show that its overall effectiveness in terms of better functioning governments, is limited at best.

Thinking and working politically - Effective advising in statebuilding and peacebuilding contexts

This document is a background course on effective advising in statebuilding and peacebuilding contexts. Social and economic development, organizational development and institutional reform, statebuilding and peacebuilding, the delivery of social services and other public goods etc. are not solely ‘technical’ challenges. Around each of these and related issues we find competing interests, power asymmetries, perceptions about who benefits and loses from the status quo and from possible or proposed changes. This makes the issues ‘political’ in the broad sense of the word.

The 5 capabilities framework - Effective advising in statebuilding and peacebuilding contexts

This document is a background course on effective advising in statebuilding and peacebuilding contexts. Capacities can exist at different levels: that of an individual (which we then will call ‘competencies’), a team, a unit within an organization, an organization as a whole. We are looking here at ‘capacity’ for an organization as a whole.