Creative Tent International, suppliers to US AID and other international response and development agencies, are very good at putting up tents in emergencies. Their “Technical Representative can direct your crew and equipment in the installation process… Install on concrete, asphalt, ground, or grass – No foundation required.” You can watch the video it’s really pretty impressive.

The organisations, technology and experience of emergency response are the trunk from which peacebuilding eventually and reluctantly branched out from. For a long time getting bogged down in the gritty, political, complicated world of institution building, democratic oversight and conflict resolution did not sit comfortably with many development donors. Only once peacebuilding processes had been wrought down into technical programmes did large scale international peacebuilding really start its now global crusade.

Today cultural and social aspects to conflict resolution are being given more attention within international peacebuilding objectives, toolkits and log frames. Yet the broad approach remains tied to the simpler days of technical and logistical prowess as the underlying method. Furthermore the softer (let’s say 'arts and humanities') aspects to peacebuilding are often the afterthought. The luxuries of developing sports leagues, internationally touring musicians and national theatre companies are seen as reward for successful security and bureaucratic reforms. Peace allows for culture. Or so it has been assumed.

International peacebuilding as yet does not invest enough into social and cultural institutions
My concern is that the reality of peacebuilding is not so sequential. Sustainable peace needs sustainable states, but states are more than the sum of their governing institutions. States also need a strong collective identity around which its members can unite, ideally one incorporating local differences. The problem with an overly technical approach to this process is that the way collective identity is formed cannot be quantified and collated; it is wholly and intrinsically social and cultural. International peacebuilding as yet does not invest enough into social and cultural institutions, yet these remain important for any collective identity, especially those going through dramatic changes.

National unity cannot be assumed to be a positive by-product of institution building. Yet nor can unity be established without institutions in place to articulate it. Neither entirely precedes the other. South Sudan, Afghanistan, Somalia and the DRC may not be cohesive nations for many years, but a broader approach to institution building could support rather than tear apart their cultural unities. Without wide inclusion into cultural institutions, not just state and economic ones, they will be, and have been, used to subjugate rival groups.

Local peacebuilding organisations are an important link in this chain
Local peacebuilding organisations are an important link in this chain between a nation’s infrastructural development and its cultural development. One such example is the newly established South Sudan National Theatre Company which is performing Cymbeline, in Juba Arabic, at Shakespeare’s Globe this summer.

Taking encouragement from this, arts and cultural development projects may start to show people being brought together at each stage of peacebuilding. These are the deeper foundations of comprehensive peacebuilding. Having started out with decades of expertise gained in emergency response and development, international peacebuilding still has much to learn about the full breadth and depth of its ambitions.