Peacebuilding Takes Time
After a brief but bloody war between Israel and Lebanon in the summer of 2006, the international funding floodgates opened. Enormous amounts of relief and development aid poured into Lebanon, which had lost much of its infrastructure during the month-long conflict.
The Development for People and Nature Association (DPNA), a peace and development organization in southern Lebanon directed by Fadlallah Hassouna (SPI ’10), was one beneficiary of this wave of international support. The DPNA’s budget rose to $2.5 million, allowing it to work across Lebanon with a staff of 64 and about 1,500 volunteers.
But attention spans are short, and before long, other countries had risen to the top of international donors’ priority lists. The Arab Spring, in particular, diverted significant funding to Middle Eastern countries that experienced more upheaval and social change than had occurred in Lebanon. By 2012, Hassouna’s DPNA had just 10 staffers and a budget of $500,000.
Similar experiences have proven frustrating for other Lebanese SPI alumni, who have seen projects end and funding shrink in recent years.
“[Peacebuilding] is not something you can see. It’s a long-term process,” said Sonia Nakad (SPI ’09), who coordinates the Peacebuilding Academy for the Permanent Peace Movement, a Beirut-based NGO that promotes peace throughout the Middle East.
Nakad noted that the real work of peacebuilding begins only after overt violence has ended, and requires years of work across a wide spectrum of issues to create conditions for lasting peace. Funding commitments that end after a few short years, she said, leave this work undone and risk negating earlier achievements. Despite this problem, she and her colleagues are carrying on as best they’re able with whatever resources remain.
“Alone, we cannot do everything,” said Nakad. “We’re trying. It’s not easy, but if you believe in peacebuilding, you will be able to achieve something.” — AKJ