University of Notre Dame
Kroc Institutde for International Peace Studies

Kristen Wall

War is not inevitable or a condition of human nature. Many of the factors and policies that affect prospects for peace are determined by the interrelated governance systems of states, civil society, and international bodies that regulate power and allocate societal resources.

In recent decades, scholars and practitioners have forged an evidence-based framework for understanding the policies, institutions, and cultural norms — that is, particular governance arrangements — that are most likely to foster armed violence or to advance peace. As Conor Seyle elucidates in his post, a synthesis of empirical findings in the social sciences paints an increasingly clear picture of the conditions that reduce conflict and provides a path forward for developing governance systems that foster peace. This research finds that components of good governance are both highly interconnected and mutually reinforcing.


Aspects of governance that empirical research suggests promote peace — inclusive political and economic institutions, multilateral ties, and broad participation of all sectors of society — work in concert to create inclusive, participatory societies accountable to those affected by decision-making.

Accountable, inclusive economic development supports the provision of public goods such as education and healthcare, which in turn reinforce productivity. Participatory governing institutions and power-sharing among ethnic groups support more equitable resource access. When countries form multilateral ties, they support new trading relationships that foster economic development and can reinforce institutional norms that support more democratic and open societies. Development programs that ensure equal access to resources across diverse social groups and between women and men advance economic development and social inclusiveness simultaneously. In the case of governance reform, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Just as the conditions that foster peace are complex and interrelated, international efforts to support peace must be multidimensional and mutually reinforcing. This is especially the case in countries most affected by conflict. The United Nations Development Programme Governance for Peace report acknowledges the challenge of improving governance in such settings: “The promotion of governance and the restoration of the social contract between states and societies in fragile and conflict-affected settings is a balancing act. There are no simple recipes for success.”[i]

Good governance reform requires assessing the interests and activities of multiple sectors and balancing the interests of all elements of society. Coordination is needed among various agencies and constituencies in donor states and between donors and multiple levels of government and society in recipient communities. Without an awareness of the interconnected and complex nature of the relationships between state and society, change initiatives will be less effective or even counterproductive.


A growing international consensus is recognizing that multidimensional governance reform and peace are foundational to successful development efforts. At the High Level Panel on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, in December 2011, a group of conflict-affected countries, donor states, and civil society actors signed an agreement to establish a new governance-based framework for addressing complex problems of peace and development. The resulting “New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States” recognizes the interconnections between governance, security, economic development, and statebuilding. It calls for inclusive political dialogue marked by participatory international processes that allow for “country-owned, country-led” transitions out of fragility.

As a new global governance mechanism, the New Deal promotes inclusivity, participation of “recipient” states as joint leaders in peacebuilding processes, and accountability of these processes to local and transnational civil society. At the heart of the New Deal are five Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals (PSGs) that address many of the governance factors that promote peace: inclusive political settlements, adequate security, justice, economic soundness, and service delivery.

While still in the pilot phase, the New Deal demonstrates a growing international awareness of the need for multidimensional approaches to governance reform that address the complex sources of conflict. It represents a significant global effort to build networks linking donors, fragile countries, and civil society in a common effort to build peace. The development of such networks is necessarily slow and challenging, but the process represents the emergence of new, multidimensional governance frameworks necessary to promote conditions for peace.

Kristen Wall is a Senior Program Officer at the National Democratic Institute in Washington, D.C., where her work focuses on Central and Eastern Europe.

[i] United Nations Development Programme, Governance for Peace: Securing the Social Contract (New York: United Nations Development Programme and Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, 2012), 113.