By Teniola Ayoola and Safiya Songhai
In a rare moment of bipartisan solidarity, the Global Fragility Act (HR 2116 and S 727) passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in June and is now slated to go to the Senate floor. For the peacebuilding community, it could be a game-changer.
The U.S. spends close to $700 billion on defense annually, and has poured a total of nearly six trillion dollars into fighting violent extremism. Leaders on both sides of the U.S. political divide have questioned whether this investment has actually led to more security and peace.
“Today there are more people displaced, there are more instances of terrorism and violence, there is less stability in the world,” says U.S. Senator Chris Coons.
Coons argues that a military-led, counter-terrorism strategy is disconnected from U.S. diplomacy and development strategies, and has not been successful.
“We are frankly playing whack-a-mole,” says Coons. “And there are more moles than we can whack.”
Th GFA, however, represents a shift in strategy towards conflict prevention and has been supported at a bipartisan level. The Act has been championed on both sides of the aisle, with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas sponsoring this legislation.
“The Global Fragility Act is a major step forward in what we see as an absolute imperative to re-orient U.S. national security toward prevention as the tool of first resort in addressing state fragility,” says Alliance for Peacebuilding CEO Urza Zeya.
Zeya points to work she has witnessed in Somalia as an example of conflict prevention in action.
“I think for many Americans, they might only have the memories of Black Hawk Down and consider Somalia to be a country racked by conflict,” Zeya says.
“In fact, we have seen peacebuilding efforts focused on youth education, on civil engagement, on participation in governance, and dialogue with the government reduce young Somalis’ propensity to take part in political violence by 50 percent.”