Development and Peacebuilding: The “Ninth” Millennium Development Goal

John Siebert Defence & Human Security

John Siebert

The Ploughshares Monitor Winter 2009 Volume 30 Issue 4

The International Peace Institute,1 located across the street from United Nations headquarters in New York, hosted the November 12, 2009 launch of Addressing Armed Violence in East Africa: A Report on World Vision Peacebuilding, Development and Humanitarian Assistance Programmes.2 The event was sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations, the International Peace Institute, and World Vision International. The report, co-authored by Ploughshares Executive Director John Siebert and Senior Program Associate Kenneth Epps, was the result of collaboration between Project Ploughshares (PP) and World Vision Canada (WVC), based on field research conducted in East Africa in September 2008. What follows is a version of the remarks made at the launch.

It is a matter of great urgency for all of us to consider that the poor, in addition to suffering from the deprivations inherent in poverty, also disproportionately suffer from violent conflict.

The 2007 Project Ploughshares Armed Conflicts Report indicated that 1.6 per cent of the countries ranked as High Development states by the UN Human Development Index in 2006 experienced one or more armed conflicts during the 10-year period 1997–2006. This figure rises to 30.1 per cent of those ranked as Medium Human Development states. For Low Human Development states, there is again a rise to 38.7 per cent.3

It is also evident that armed violence stops and frequently reverses development processes and opportunities. Yet it remains a point of sensitivity for many development practitioners that hard security and disarmament processes, while necessary, not be confused with the application of official development assistance.

For disarmament practitioners, a focus on hardware has traditionally excluded the intricacies of social relations and the economic conditions that can give rise to the demand for weapons. The dichotomy in the two positions is highlighted by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set out by world leaders in 2000 with a deadline of 2015. Addressing the clear and persistent impact of armed violence on the poor was not included in the eight MDGs.

In 2006, with the exemplary leadership of the Swiss Government and the United Nations Development Programme and the definitive contribution of our colleagues at the Small Arms Survey, the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development4 began to bridge this gap. In effect, addressing the impact of violence on the poor could be seen as an informal ninth MDG.

Project Ploughshares and disarmament

Project Ploughshares is primarily a disarmament organization with a peacebuilding mandate that is inspired by the human security framework. Ploughshares was the host in Canada for the founding meeting of the International Action Network on Small Arms in 1998 and we remain an active member of the coalition in its support of the UN Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW). Currently Ploughshares is managing a one-year program to advance the Arms Trade Treaty on behalf of the Arms Trade Treaty Steering Committee.

These international efforts to support the control of conventional arms, particularly SALW, are vital. But we judge that they aren’t enough. Within the Geneva Declaration (GD) framework Ploughshares has been working with our colleagues in nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) to explore the demand side of SALW—why people feel they need these weapons—in addition to the supply side—stopping the illegitimate or irresponsible transfers of conventional weapons.

Launching the report on armed violence in East Africa in New York on November 12 is done to reinforce the tabling in the UN General Assembly on November 16 of the UN Secretary-General’s report on the GD.

World Vision International and peacebuilding

As one of the largest development NGOs, World Vision International has made a commitment to integrating peacebuilding with development and humanitarian programming to address the impact of armed violence at the grassroots. The joint report with Project Ploughshares provided a public opportunity for World Vision (WV) to reinforce its support for the GD.

Founded in 1950, World Vision has worldwide experience implementing programs in emergency relief, community development, and the promotion of justice in almost 100 countries. WV defines peacebuilding as “programmes and activities that address the causes of conflict and the grievances of the past, that promote long-term stability and justice, and that have peace-enhancing outcomes. Sustained processes of peacebuilding steadily rebuild or restore networks of interpersonal relationships, contribute toward just systems and continually work with the interaction of truth and mercy, justice and peace.”

The cooperation between Ploughshares and the WVC office exemplifies the “crossing of the divide” that is increasingly taking place between disarmament and development practitioners.

Report synopsis

The heart of the PP-WVC report reflects the responses to questionnaires used in the field research conducted over three weeks in communities in the North Rift Valley of Kenya, the Kitgum and Soroti Districts of Uganda, and Tonj East County in Warrap State, Southern Sudan. The people who were interviewed included both victims and perpetrators of violence, as well as police and military personnel, local and regional government officials, and NGO and CSO staff.

The questionnaire was organized around the four-point armed violence (AV) lens of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. At the centre of the AV lens are the people affected by violence, as well as consideration of the agents/perpetrators, the instruments used, and the institutions affecting these communities.

The field research was a collection process rather than an evaluation process. The questionnaire was designed to create a picture for each of the four elements of the AV lens. Then we asked how WV development and peacebuilding programming had affected the level of violence in the past three years.

Both PP and WV were intricately involved in the design and the execution of the research. WV capably handled the complex logistics of the field research. In writing the report, however, there were some disagreements around key questions: How heavily should the report rely on the quotations of those interviewed to convey their meaning? How should quoted material be interpreted? Should recommendations be made? Who should be the primary target of the recommendations?

Compromises were found. Quotations are liberally included in the report but there is a narrative structured around the four elements of the armed violence lens. Observations at the end of each of the country chapters plus concluding observations were written, but we saved explicit recommendations to the policy community for the Joint Statement at the start of the report.


In Kenya we visited three pastoralist communities: Turkana, Pokot, and Marakwet. Gun violence is embedded in a rich cultural web of long-held practices centred on cattle rustling, now distorted by widespread civilian possession and use of automatic weapons, primarily variants of the AK-47.

While the Turkana and Pokot continue to be fierce opponents engaged in raids and counter-raids, with some abatement, the Marakwet have developed a functional peace with the Pokot based on a recipe of factors. These include increased horticulture, peace-promoting national politicians, social control of guns within the community, and training of peace committees on both sides and then connecting them by cell phones. The most important ingredient, however, appears to be a decision by the Marakwet to significantly reduce the role of dowry in marriage, thus eliminating a primary incentive for cattle raiding and greatly increasing inter-marriage and therefore family ties between the two.


In the de facto post-conflict situation in northern and eastern Uganda, violence centred on domestic and sexual assault and land squabbles or “wrangles” as camps for internally displaced persons decongested. Conflict has been mitigated by training peace committees and offering relocation assistance, particularly in finding livelihoods. Fears were still expressed in September 2008 that the Lord’s Resistance Army, effectively gone from the area since 2006, might return. In that event these successful local peacebuilding and development efforts would be insufficient to meet the expected violence.


The pastoralists interviewed in Warrap State, Southern Sudan, provided more pointed lessons about the impact of one-sided disarmament exercises: they made conditions worse. These interviews also suggested that local peace agreements between competing communities were likely unsustainable without substantial development inputs, including infrastructure such as roads.


The interviewees believed that WV peacebuilding and development programs had made a constructive contribution to lowering the level of violence in each of the communities visited. People naturally wanted more of everything in these programs. The Sudanese spoke most forcefully about the need for greater peacebuilding and development efforts.

Clearly, in the three countries we visited, the level of assistance was lowest in Sudan, where WV programming was primarily humanitarian, with elements of longer-term development activity. Sadly, in the year since the research, pastoralist violence in Southern Sudan has increased dramatically, with the UN documenting more than 2,000 deaths related to cattle raiding for the first eight months of 2009 (Sudan Tribune 2009). This is a higher annualized death toll than is currently experienced in Darfur. The PP-WV report indicates why this could reasonably be expected.


Recommendations to policymakers are separated from the main body of the report in a Joint Statement from PP and WVC to stimulate discussion and action by UN, government, and other policymakers. Further research on successful armed violence reduction programming is needed to guide future programming that combines peacebuilding with development.


The research, but more importantly the Geneva Declaration process itself, indirectly poses a very difficult question to both development and disarmament practitioners: Can either development or disarmament be done successfully without the other? If not, what are the implications for programming?


Millennium Development Goals

By 2015:

  • Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
  • Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education.
  • Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women.
  • Goal 4: Reduce child mortality.
  • Goal 5: Improve maternal health.
  • Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.
  • Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability.
  • Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development.

Source: UNDP


  1. Click here for more information about the International Peace Institute.
  2. The report can be found on the Project Ploughshares website.
  3. More information about the Human Development Index can be found here.
  4. Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development.


Sudan Tribune. 2009. SPLM Pagan Amum says North Sudan arming tribal militias. August 23.

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