Taking Stock of the Evidence: What Works to Reduce Violence and Prevent Atrocities?

On October 18–20, 2017, experts and policymakers gathered at the Airlie Center outside Washington, DC, to participate in the Stanley Foundation’s 58th annual Strategy for Peace Conference.This policy memo captures the major discussion points and policy recommendations from the roundtable on mass violence and atrocities cochaired by Dr. Dafna Rand, vice president for policy and research at Mercy Corps, and Dr. Rebecca Wolfe, director of evidence and influence for peace and conflict at Mercy Corps; it was organized by Stanley Foundation program officer Jai-Ayla Quest. 

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), for the first time since the Cold War, violence and violent conflict are increasing worldwide, and today we face the largest displacement crisis the world has ever seen, predominantly as a result of violent conflict. A new report from the Institute for Economics and Peace found that violence containment costs the global economy $14.3 trillion per year. Yet a 2016 analysis by Mercy Corps and Search for Common Ground of annual overseas development assistance (ODA) spending, as defined by the OECD, found that governments spend just 1 percent of ODA on conflict mitigation and peacebuilding and only 8 percent of ODA on politics, security, justice, and rule of law. This means that less than 10 percent of global ODA is spent on the very things we know can counter humanitarian suffering, mass violence and atrocities, and chronic underdevelopment. When asked why not a higher proportion of overseas development spending is going toward violence reduction and conflict or atrocity prevention, policymakers routinely cite a lack of sound evidence for solutions that work. To address this, roundtable participants discussed what works to guide successful policy and programmatic investments and to help communities and whole societies find ways to break the cycle of violence, build resilience, and promote sustainable peaceful change. A more detailed policy dialogue brief is forthcoming.

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