Since the 1990s, crisis prevention has become well-established in state and civil society organisations in Germany and at international level. It focuses on the development of mechanisms which provide early warning of escalating violence and prevent or limit any worsening of conflicts. New databases have been established at universities and other research institutions to collate and evaluate information about conflicts throughout the world on a regular basis and draw attention to potential risks. Nonetheless, real-world developments continually highlight the limits to these efforts. The challenges that social change and political reforms pose to society are often still underestimated.
Until the end of the 1990s, there was an increasing hope that the promotion of good governance and the establishment of rule-of-law institutions and democratic processes could have a stabilising effect during phases of transition. However, the most recent evidence from Burundi, Kenya and Sudan, for example, shows that historical experience and complex lines of conflict have a lasting effect on the value system and the patterns of political behaviour of social groups. This raises numerous questions of relevance to development and peace work:
- How does this affect the acceptance and implementation of peace and reform processes in specific countries?
- How do the various dimensions of institutional and social reform interact?
- To what extent do new institutions and processes, such as democratic elections, need to be embedded within society first of all before they can have a stabilising effect?
- Which benchmarks can be applied to determine whether the transition process is successful? How long might it take until initial successes are feasible? And which form(s) of support can be offered by external actors?
Against this background, FriEnt’s activities focus on identifying the challenges associated with political transition at an earlier stage. With this aim in mind, FriEnt is currently monitoring the reform processes on the agenda in the East African countries. The exchange of experience between academics and state and civil society actors in Germany is intended to identify the long-term challenges facing the various stakeholder groups in these countries and develop strategies for development-oriented peace work, with a view to promoting a more stable environment for political and institutional Reform.