How peacebuilding can tackle crime, violence and instability

A peacebuilding approach can greatly enrich efforts to tackle crime, violence and instability around the world.

This is the message that International Alert emphasised to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs during their recent meeting at the United Nations Drugs Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) headquarters in Vienna, Austria. It was the first time a peacebuilding organisation had presented at the UNODC.

Sharing findings from our report on Rethinking drug policy from a peacebuilding perspective, we urged policy makers to take a more holistic approach to countering crime, violence and instability.

This report suggests that current drug policy and its focus on eradication and prohibition, particularly in originating countries such as Afghanistan and Colombia, has failed to take into account the links between instability, fragility and organised crime.

“The multi-disciplinary nature of the peacebuilding sector means we are well placed to look at policies and solutions that are more inclusive and sustainable”, said our Adviser Kimairis Toogood.

Our earlier report on Crime and conflict: The new challenge for peacebuilding explored how three connected peacebuilding methods can broaden – and complement – efforts to respond to these emerging threats.

Firstly, by focusing on grassroots issues that often go overlooked, conflict analysis uncovers both opportunities and obstacles for working with communities on drug reform issues.

Dialogue is at the heart of peacebuilding work. In this context, it can connect people at different levels who have been impacted by drug use and policy issues so they can speak out and be part of a more inclusive conversation.  

Linked to both these methods is greater civic activism. Building coalitions and finding grassroots champions can help to ground these peacebuilding interventions – although this must be done with caution in regard to drug reform, given the blurry distinction between formal and informal economies.

Taking these approaches on board when tackling crime, violence and instability also allows peacebuilders to support other Sustainable Development Goals on good health and wellbeing (Goal 3), reduced inequalities (Goal 10) and building sustainable cities and communities (Goal 11).


Photo description: A group of women smoke opium in Afghanistan. Credit: UN Photo/UNODC/Zalmai (Creative Commons).