Interpeace and Mirabaud: finance for peace

Interpeace aims to create the conditions for lasting peace in war-torn areas. As part of its partnership signed in 2011, Mirabaud offers its investors a way to take socially responsible action by donating part of the commission earned by one of its funds to Interpeace.

Director General of Interpeace, Scott M. Weber, has managed the activities of the organisation since 2005. Here, he discusses the concept of peace, practical initiatives on the ground and the association’s unique partnership with Mirabaud.

Is it really possible to build peace, especially lasting peace?

After a war or conflict, it is easy to rebuild roads and houses, but rebuilding relationships between people is much harder. Interpeace focuses on these intangible aspects. You can only build peace by working on trust – trust that needs to be re-established among all those involved: warring factions, the general population and authorities alike. After all, just like trust, peace cannot be imposed but must instead be created. This is why it is essential to build it from within, involving both the governing and the governed parties in jointly reconstructing it. Finding solutions together is the best means of ensuring that peace will last.

What does your activity look like on the ground?

When trying to understand the reasons for a disagreement, it is often the case that the opposing parties involved in conflict do not share the same view of the problem. One group may be fighting for grazing land, while another wants to safeguard its water supply. So when we help people to resolve conflicts, they first have to lay out their problems on the table so that they can better understand them. The first step is meeting together and listening to each other. Secondly, they need to agree on the kind of society that they want to create together and choose where they want to go from here. Finally, they need to define an agenda. If there are too many areas of friction, the people have to be encouraged to create a vision of the future. What kind of country do you really want to give your children? Asking this question in particular seems to unblock some situations.

You help the parties to rebuild peace together. But how legitimate is your remit for doing so?

As I said before, you cannot impose peace. Until now, the tools used have been inter-state ones, such as UN resolutions or peace agreements. But I don’t know anyone who likes having their behaviour dictated to them from the outside. That is basic human nature. That is why the UN set up Interpeace: to create peace by other means. And these efforts are all the more effective given that the type of conflicts we are seeing has changed. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, wars between states have diminished. Instead, conflict now tends to break out within domestic borders. When this happens, we do not invite ourselves into a country to impose ready-made solutions on the combatants. Our aim is to identify the spokespeople who seem the most credible – and as such the most legitimate in the eyes of their compatriots – to communicate their messages, defend their views and align their interests with those of their adversaries. Sometimes they are easy to identify, but on other occasions it can take months of talks to find the right people. Ultimately, this approach allows those involved to take ownership of the process. When the Malians launch their “national dialogue” or Northern Somalis organise elections to achieve the first democratic transition in the region for 20 years, they can legitimately say, “We did it”. Our legitimacy derives from their own.

After more than 20 years in this field, what successes are you most proud of?

Our biggest success is our track record. Most nations or regions that we have helped to become stable have not relapsed into conflict: Rwanda, Mozambique, East Timor, Aceh, Somaliland, Liberia and Guatemala. 

Who decides whether to intervene in one particular region over another?

We constantly observe what is happening in the world, including places where we think we could act preventively, because future disputes often arise from the ashes of previous conflicts. But peacebuilding is only possible if the parties present want peace. If one side still thinks that it can win the war, as in Syria, the situation is not yet ripe for discussions to begin. We therefore take our decisions based on the impact we could have on the ground.

Which person best symbolises peace for you?

Peace-makers and confidence-builders, working on a daily basis towards their goals like tiny ants are often the most emblematic people in my mind. I’m thinking, for example, of the late Dr Naasson Munyandamutsa, the former manager of our office in Rwanda. After losing 22 members of his family to genocide and fleeing to Switzerland, where he had the prospect of a brilliant career as head of a psychiatric clinic, what did he do? He returned home to use his skills to serve his country and people to help treat the wounds caused by trauma, day after day. He was most definitely an example to follow.

What are the advantages for Interpeace of having your headquarters in Geneva?

Although it is an independent association, Interpeace originated from the UN, so it makes sense to have our headquarters in Geneva, which is the city of peace par excellence. It is no coincidence either as Geneva plays host to dialogues, negotiations and research centres. Switzerland is also the host country of our initiative, and for Interpeace the Swiss label is a huge asset, especially when we operate in countries that don’t want to hear any mention of the UN or countries with excessively partisan interests.

You have been organising the Peace Talks since 2013. What is their aim?

The first Peace Talks event was organised in 2013 by Interpeace, in partnership with the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform and the Office of the United Nations in Geneva. It was also supported by the Swiss government. The aim of the event was to present inspiring stories of people who have made an outstanding contribution to peace. As the nature of violent conflicts changes and becomes increasingly complex, discussions about potential solutions have become more technical and limited to the areas of politics and security. As a result, many individuals don’t always know how they can make a practical contribution to conflict resolution. The Peace Talks highlight the fact that the peace consolidation process is not just a technical endeavour for experts. Everyone has a role to play, at any level, and everyone can take part in building the future of their country.

Bertrand Bricheux (Mirabaud Asset Management), Yves Evard (Mirabaud), Georges Paulez (Mirabaud), Sylvain Racine (Mirabaud), Emmanuel Jal (former child soldier in southern Sudan), Scott Weber (Interpeace)

Interpeace is supported by governments and institutions, but it also receives backing from just two private institutions, one being Mirabaud. Is this sector not interested in humanitarian action?

The private sector primarily seeks to make a profit, whereas short-term profitability is not what we are about. The peacebuilding sector is also a very specific area, which is why we remain very careful and very selective, particular towards those who are trying to buy themselves a reputation. But things are changing, and private stakeholders are now approaching us more often. In this vein, the partnership with Mirabaud is a pioneering, innovative move.

Why should the financial world be interested in peacebuilding?

The connection is fairly easy to understand. As Lionel Aeschlimann, a Managing Partner of Mirabaud, has said: “There is no economic growth without peace. But there is no peace without economic growth.” I think that speaks for itself. We all stand to gain in this area – the parties involved in the conflict, the general population and the economy as a whole.

How would you sum up the success of your partnership with Mirabaud?

This partnership was launched five years ago now, and I am still amazed on a daily basis at how good our collaboration is. It goes far beyond just a financial contribution, although it must be said that the financial structure is remarkable in enabling investors to participate in the stabilisation of emerging economies. This partnership also gives us access to a world of individuals that would be out of our reach without Mirabaud. But, above all we share common community values between us. I’m thinking in particular of humility and the spirit of dialogue. Our exchange is genuinely fruitful because it pushes us to think in depth about the best ways of aligning business with the public interest.

What is a shared return fund?

Shared return funds are investment funds that donate part of their annual income to a predefined association, organisation or foundation. They play a role in responsible investment policy.


Scott M. Weber, Director-General of Interpeace

Scott M. Weber was appointed Director-General in 2005 by the then Chairman of the Interpeace Governing Council, Martti Ahtisaari, who is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former president of Finland. In 2009, he was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, which each year recognises “the 200 most distinguished young leaders below the age of 40 from around the world”.

Scott began his career in the United Nations, first in disaster reduction and then in political affairs. He is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organisation (YPO), Chatham House (United Kingdom) and the Steering Committee of the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform. He is also a member of the Advisory Boards of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) and the Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF).