pdf Measuring peacebuilding: challenges, tools, actions

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Author: Svein Erik Stave
Publication Date: May 2011
Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Center
Keywords: Peacebuilding, Monitoring and Evaluation


The United Nations alone currently spends more than $7billion every year on international peacekeeping and peacebuilding activities.  Donors and other actors are increasingly pushing for increased documentation of its effects, especially given growing awareness of the gaps between ambitions and results in various places and broader questions about the overall effectiveness of peacebuilding activity.  This policy brief identifies some of the challenges and proposes some principles and approaches that could improve measurement of peacebuilding.

Key Issues

A number of civilian and military actors are developing new tools, guidelines and handbooks to improve monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of peacebuilding, including the UN’s ‘Peace Consolidation Benchmarking’ handbook. This policy brief warns, however, that such guidelines still risk falling into a number of traps which reduce their effectiveness.

Firstly, there is a risk that the data collected will reinforce, rather than challenge, existing assumptions about what ‘peace’ entails in a particular society and thus whether the international community is doing the right things to support peace.  The brief suggests that many measurement frameworks are based on normative assumptions which are then rarely contested as data is collected – and as such, only minor modifications are ever made to programmes.  Context-specific indicators are less likely to have such problems than universal indicators.  The brief also highlights concerns around optimism bias, data constraints and the selection of indicators that are easier to measure, rather than what is most important.

The brief makes three recommendations.  Firstly, monitoring and evaluation capacity must be increased within organisations such as the UN – there is currently a gap between formal ambitions and field missions’ capacity to collect the right data.  Secondly, the brief calls for the promotion of a monitoring culture which takes diversity, uncertainty and risk into account, rather than drawing information from a single perspective which produces consensus and average outcomes whilst omitting inconsistencies and uncertainties in the data.  Thirdly, more data should be collected for the specific purpose of monitoring peacebuilding activities, i.e. qualitative data which is peacebuilding-focused and contextually relevant.

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