South Asia, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, suffers from multiple, protracted conflicts within and across its borders. Some of the factors driving these conflicts are common across the region. International Alert works to better understand the causes of conflict across the region and promote South Asian owned peacebuilding solutions.
Specifically, Alert aims to support the establishment of more fair and inclusive social contracts between states and their citizens for the delivery of basic needs and accountable governance for all in South Asia. We do this by:
- Strengthening social capacity and demand for the key conditions of peace (including among businesses, diaspora, academics and other civil society groups);
- Enhancing the responsiveness of political settlements to the conditions for peace (including inclusive security and justice, equitable economic development and responsive and accountable governance systems).
Alert has been working in support of peace in Sri Lanka for over 20 years and in Nepal for over ten years. We started our regional approach in 2008 by facilitating regional, peacebuilding exchanges and alliances.
Alert in South Asia is:
- An INGO leader in support of inclusive security and justice in Nepal;
- A training and advisory service on conflict-sensitive, post-war economic recovery in Sri Lanka;
- A key agency supporting research and advocacy on youth programming that supports peace and social justice;
- An innovator in facilitating and supporting business for peace constituencies in the region;
- A resource for the promotion of diaspora voices for peace in South Asia;
- A founding partner of the South Asia Network on Security and Climate Change (SANSaC).
The South Asia Programme works at two levels:
In-country: This includes implementing portfolios of work through our country offices in Nepal and Sri Lanka and through planned projects in Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Regionally: This includes building regional understanding and alliances around common peacebuilding issues identified in-country and with peace constituencies across the South Asian region.
South Asia has a number of protracted conflicts within and across its borders. Currently, every nation in the region is suffering from violent, internal conflict, each with its own regional dimension. This is most keenly felt in the poorer and more peripheral areas, both nationally and regionally. Regional instability also continues to be underpinned by the protracted Kashmir conflict between Pakistan and India.
The nexus of conflict in the Ganges Basin (Bangladesh, India and Nepal) is a potential future regional conflict hotspot as climate change takes hold. And future conflict over control of regional markets, resources and military presence between India and China could threaten a new ‘cold war’ in South Asia.
These open and latent conflicts in South Asia are caused by growing inequality (typically along caste, class, ethnic and religious identity lines) and the failure of governance reforms. The capture of state power by elite groups and the failure of democratic governance to protect the needs of citizens is a shared obstacle to peace across the region.
Alert has identified and works to address four common obstacles to peace in the region. These obstacles create and sustain root causes of conflict, such as discrimination and exclusion based on identity politics and socio-economic class differentiations. These common obstacles to peace are:
- The ruling of political dynasties across the continent and their insistence on their right to keep governing;
- The decay of systems and institutions of democratic governance in a number of countries, despite political reform processes;
- Transnational religious and ethnic identity conflicts as a response to regional state expansions into tribal areas and foreign interventions;
- The influence of geo-political power structures impinging on South Asia (with particular emphasis on the role of India and China).
The approach we use
Alert works to establish more fair and inclusive social contracts between states and their citizens in South Asia by:
- Building social capacity and demand for promoting the key conditions for peace,
- Enhancing the responsiveness of political settlements to conditions for peace.
In partnership with a network of local, national and regional partners from different sectors of society, Alert does this through:
Research and advocacy: Alert helps to improve the quality of evidence-based advocacy and research that will strengthen voices from outside key power bases and bring substance to high-level political dialogue.
Strengthening peacebuilding communication: Alert works with the media to promote dissemination of peacebuilding knowledge and advocacy.
Building local capacities for peace: Alert provides the skills required for multi-track peacebuilding through training and learning (e.g. developing civil society and government capacity in conflict sensitivity, security, gender and peacebuilding).
Facilitating multi-stakeholder dialogue: Alert facilitates dialogue between citizens and the state on key issues that affect inclusive political and institutional reforms, such as security, economic development and social policy.
Bringing in new voices to the political (track 1.5) dialogue: Alert works to identify and support new constituencies with the potential for engaging national, political elites in peacebuilding initiatives through mediation and advocacy (e.g. businesses, climate professionals, diaspora and the media).
Our logic for these approaches
Alert South Asia helps build understanding around, and promote alternative peacebuilding approaches for addressing the key causes of conflict in the region. We do this through strengthening the key conditions for peace (such as access to inclusive security and justice, equitable economic development and responsive governance systems) and supporting key peace constituencies who can influence political reform processes (such as the South Asian diaspora, academics, media and business communities). The key cause of conflict that these approaches will address is the weak social contract between states and citizens which prevents the delivery of basic needs for all and hold power brokers to account.
South Asian Network on Security and Climate Change: information and resources available on the website (www.sansac.org)