Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding in Asia: Lessons in South-South Cooperation

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Asia’s remarkable growth has substantially improved the economic and social well-being of people in the region. At the same time, Asia has hosted some of the world’s most violent interstate and subnational conflicts. The latter count among the world’s longest running, averaging 40 years (Parks et al., 2013), and most intractable, often fueled by uneven resource distribution, ethnic and religious tensions, violent extremism, and/or urban crime. When such conflicts spill across national borders, they affect neighboring societies, economies, and politics in devastating ways.

Aid and development-cooperation actors — governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), United Nations agencies, and others — have recognized the nexus between conflict and development, leading many Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC) donors to fund programs that address the underlying causes of conflict while building the necessary conditions for peace. However, the actors of South-South cooperation (SSC) have not historically addressed conflicts in the Global South, preferring to respect national sovereignty and not interfere in a country’s domestic affairs. As SSC and particularly Asian-led development cooperation expands, its actors can no longer ignore intra-Asian conflicts because they create challenges that impede sustainable development and prevent shared prosperity in the region. Therefore, developed and less-developed Asian countries increasingly support or participate in various peacebuilding activities, ranging from economic development projects to conflict mediation and humanitarian assistance, often acting in concert with or alongside international and Asian NGOs and regional bodies, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Since late 2010, the Asian Approaches to Development Cooperation (AADC) series — jointly hosted by the Korea Development Institute (KDI) and The Asia Foundation (TAF) — has provided a forum for Asian officials, experts, policymakers, and practitioners of development and South-South cooperation to explore and debate ways of confronting the challenges and opportunities that the region faces. In annual dialogues and resulting publications, participants from Asia and beyond have shared their experiences, strategies, and actions in addressing contemporary concerns, ranging from gender-inclusive growth to climate change mitigation. In 2018, the series focused on how Asian development cooperation is addressing conflict challenges in the region.

Despite the complexities of Asian conflicts, Asian actors demonstrate some exemplary conflict-prevention and peacebuilding practices. During the 2018 AADC dialogue in Kathmandu, participants from Afghanistan, ASEAN, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, and the United Nations shared experiences of navigating, mediating, and programming in conflict-affected partner countries. This volume captures these rich and varied experiences and offers lessons in conflict prevention and peacebuilding for policy-makers and practitioners.

The collaboration between KDI and TAF rests largely on the vision and leadership of KDI’s Director Cheonsik Woo and Professor Wonhyuk Lim, and of TAF representatives, Senior Vice President Dr. Gordon Hein and Senior Director of International Development Cooperation Ms. Anthea Mulakala, the volume’s editor. We acknowledge their ongoing support and commitment to the partnership. We also extend thanks to The Asia Foundation office in Nepal for hosting the 2018 dialogue. We would also like to thank individuals working at KDI and TAF who provided invaluable assistance: Ms. Hyemin Yoon from KDI, and Mr. Kwang Kim, Ms. Kyung-sook Lee, and Ms. Kyoungsun Lee of TAF for providing their skills in coordination, research, editing, and logistics in support of the dialogue participants, authors, and editors. Finally, from BlueSky International, we thank Ms. Laura Pierson and Ms. Leila Whittemore for their meticulous editorial work and Ms. Suzan Nolan for her patient yet persistent project management.

Jeong Pyo Choi

Korea Development Institute

David D. Arnold

The Asia Foundation