Contributed by Steve Riskin, Director, Funders Initiative, U.S. Institute of Peace-
Organizations seeking to fund meaningful work in unstable regions can face daunting obstacles. How can a foundation or other philanthropist connect with effective, local peacebuilding organizations in an Iraq, an Afghanistan or a South Sudan? Amid uncertain and fluid dynamics in these settings, how can donors best engage and contribute to long-term peace and resiliency? How even to navigate and overcome growing barriers to cross-border funding?
To meet the needs of peacebuilders in less accessible conflict areas, the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) is launching a Funders Initiative to enhance collaboration among donors already active in zones of conflict and to help interested donors engage in such work by connecting them with effective, locally-based institutions that are making a difference on the ground. Since 1984, USIP has worked to prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflict around the world. Over the past decade, the Institute has increasingly engaged directly in conflict zones, partnering with and funding locally-based organizations that are advancing peace.
Matching donors’ priorities to local NGOs.
Complex and ever-shifting conflict situations seldom lend themselves to cooperation and thoughtful communication. USIP began the Funders Initiative in an effort to enhance donor collaboration and information sharing. The Initiative is open to all grantmakers based in the U.S. and abroad. Drawing on USIP’s expertise and extensive network of relationships in zones of conflict, the Funders Initiative matches the programmatic focus and values of funders with local NGOs working to advance peacebuilding. USIP will provide donors with information about the specific conflict contexts and about effective or promising on-the-ground peacebuilding programs and the local groups implementing them.
Solving technical and regulatory issues.
While each donor participating in the Funders Initiative will be responsible for its own grantmaking process and oversight, USIP can offer guidance on technical matters associated with grantmaking in difficult conflict settings. This might include, for example, international financial transfers: navigating the restrictive rules surrounding foreign funding becomes increasingly complex when you add conflict and instability into the mix. For U.S.-based donors, USIP can also advise on compliance with OFAC regulations and other U.S. Government vetting guidelines.
Targeting the tough cases.
USIP is focusing the Funders Initiative on high-priority areas where the Institute has deep expertise and an on-the-ground presence or close contacts with local peacebuilding organizations. Examples include Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Nigeria, Pakistan, and South Sudan. The Initiative draws on USIP experience in the arts, education, training, and other approaches to advance the rule of law and government accountability; strengthen protections for women and youth, and their participation in peacebuilding; help prevent violent extremism; facilitate security sector reform; and promote inter-ethnic and inter-religious understanding and reconciliation.
For example, a USIP-supported ecumenical women’s peacebuilding group in Colombia is working to advance the current peace process by training women about key aspects of the peace and reconciliation processes and creating a safe space to engage community members affected by violence—both victims and perpetrators—in several re gions of Colombia particularly hard hit by the conflict. The group is also collaborating with an array of women’s organizations around the country to deepen communities’ commitments to end violence and create the conditions for peace. In Iraq, a popular USIP-funded reality TV program and related social media platforms are engaging youth and addressing such themes as respect for diversity across ethnic, religious gender and geographical lines, citizenship and rights, and nonviolent approaches to social change.
If you are interested in deepening collaboration or exploring new grantmaking opportunities in challenging conflict contexts, please contact Steve Riskin at the U.S. Institute of Peace.