Editor’s Note: This piece is part of a series in collaboration with the SDSN-Y exploring the Sustainable Development Goals. See the introduction to the series here.
Interview with Claudia Abate-Debat, Founder and Executive Director of the Foundation for Post Conflict Development and the Post Conflict Development Association of Monaco. For over 20 years, Ms. Abate-Debat has held positions in inter-governmental, governmental and non-governmental organizations. Ms. Abate-Debat is active in a variety of humanitarian causes, including as Chair of the Board of the Peacejam Foundation. Ms. Abate-Debat is currently serving as the Coordinator of Humanitarian Projects for Their Royal Highness Prince Charles and Princess Camilla of Bourbon Two Sicilies, Duke and Duchess of Castro.
Describe the Foundation for Post-Conflict Development.
Claudia Abate-Debat: The Foundation for Post Conflict Development (FPCD) is a US-based ‘boutique’ non-governmental organisation (with 501(c)(3) status) helping post-conflict countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (recently updated to be the Sustainable Development Goals). Our focus is primarily on helping women and children, and helping to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates through the creation of maternity clinics. We also address youth dissatisfaction by creating youth centres in post-conflict nations. For these centres, the FPCD builds the infrastructure and helps to empower and engage youth by creating recreational spaces that promote inclusion, support education, and encourage positive participation in society. We like to consider all our projects to be a catalyst, so that the beneficiaries actually want it and are very involved in the creation of it. Once the infrastructure is built and management of the centre is made sustainable, we leave them to the community.
In the photo: Construction of the Princess Grace Maternity, completed in Oecussi in 2012. Credit: Foundation for Post-Conflict Development
I think it’s important for me to mention that, in the Foundation for Post Conflict Development, we define ‘conflict’ very broadly. “Post-conflict” could be such a variety of issues, and we do not want to be pigeon-holed into one specific definition. Maybe your country is at peace, but at the same time receiving refugees. Because of your neighbour’s conflict, you are now in a post-conflict situation. So in defining our goals and where we want to work, we stay broad.
Related article: “SDG 16: PEACE, JUSTICE, AND STRONG INSTITUTIONS”
It’s also very important in our work that we do not judge the conflict itself or the way it was resolved. We don’t want to be linked to any one side, and focusing on the SDGs is indisputably good. We let the experts do the conflict resolution. There’s a lot of difference between post-conflict development and post-conflict resolution. When I created this Foundation in 2005, people immediately assumed I was doing post-conflict resolution, because at that time there hadn’t been much work around post-conflict development. Hopefully, they now see that we only focus on the latter.
What has been your involvement with the organisation?
C.A-D.: I am the founder and the Executive Director of the organisation. It’s very personal to me, because I used to work for the UN and was able to go for some post-conflict missions in conflicts countries. I was able to go to Fiji during the elections in 2001 and to Timor-Leste in 2002, for post-conflict rebuilding. I found that the best way that I could do more of that was by setting up my own organisation.
Photo credit: Foundation for Post-Conflict Development
How would you describe your career work in post-conflict countries?
C.A-D.: It has been so rewarding for me. Let me take Timor-Leste as an example. The majority of the people that I met there had lost somebody due to the many years of its pre-independence conflict, and yet they were so hopeful about the future and so inspiring and so happy to move forward, even through all their adversity. I really admired that, and it moved me to do more. I can say the same for Haiti, where I’m also working, where people have lived through natural disasters and conflicts and poverty. The people I’ve had the privilege of working with there have been outstanding.
Regarding safety issues, working in any country comes with risks, post-conflict or not. I can say that in the more than 10 years of working in Timor-Leste, I was never confronted with any gun violence, whereas during my first visit to Haiti last year, I was in a situation that brought me 50 meters away from a life threatening gun exchange.
In my experience working in post-conflict countries, I have seen that the people have so much determination with so much less. They deserve more help that I could ever muster in the world. I find it humbling to work with people in post-conflict countries.
Peace is much more than the absence of war. It is having individual peace. Having that starts with a healthy mind and a healthy body, and being able to take care of your own family. That is where peace begins.
In the photo: Children waiting to see Prince Albert with Monaco and Timor flags. Photo credit: Foundation for Post-Conflict Development
What are the organisation’s current main projects?
C.A-D.: Currently, we are building a women’s health and training centre in St Louis du Sud, Haiti. That’s our main project at the moment. Secondly, we are preparing a midwife capacity training program, that will bring midwives from our projects in Timor-Leste and Haiti to Monaco, to increase their skills, and then to return to their home countries to spread their knowledge. We will then bring in a new batch, and hopefully keep repeating this process.
For a full mindmap behind this article with articles, videos, and documents see #PostConflictDev
My first encounter with midwives was in Timor-Leste. I was so impressed by them and their hard work and determination to learn that I decided to launch this program. Midwives play a vital role in community development and we expect to receive the first group in Monaco in the next 6-8 months.
As well as the FPCD, in 2015 I founded the Post Conflict Development Association of Monaco, under the High Patronage of Prince Albert II. It is complementary to the American organisation, and shares the vision of fulfilling the SDGs in post-conflict countries. It will be responsible for the midwife project, and we aim to then use this branch of the organisation to build more maternity clinics in Timor-Leste.
In the photo: Inside the Prince Rainier Maternity. Photo credit: Foundation for Post-Conflict Development
How do these projects work within the framework of SDG 3: Ensuring health lives and promoting well-being?
C.A-D.: Our work is entirely within the framework of SDG 3. Our maternity clinics help to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates, and are giving people in post-conflict nations access to health facilities which help to ensure their health which in turn contributes to all other aspects of their lives.
What does tangible peace mean for you, and how does this affect health?
C.A-D.: It may sound cliché, but peace is much more than the absence of war. It is having individual peace. Having that starts with a healthy mind and a healthy body, and being able to take care of your own family. That is where peace begins. Then you can think about having an education, getting a job and being a productive member of society. Health is where it starts. In Monaco and the United States we have easy access to medicine, but most post-conflict countries do not. Therefore, providing maternity clinics, and socializing the community men and women about the clinic and how it provides access to clean facilities and health services, is very important. In Timor-Leste, the Prince Rainier III of Monaco Maternity Clinic (inaugurated with Prince Albert in 2008) was the first maternity clinic of this kind. Because it was in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, it was a pilot project. Prior to this clinic, the women rarely used community health centers because the common notion was those centers are for sick people. Together with government representatives, we made sure that it was known that the Clinic was a place for life, a better life. And with success of the pilot project, the model was included in the strategic plan of the government, and they aim to recreate it in 64 regions of the country. I worked with the Ministry of Health through 3 different governments for the project, and it remained very stable because everyone remained focused on the goal.
In the photo: Inauguration of the Prince Rainier III Maternity Clinic Photo credit: Foundation for Post-Conflict Development
How is health intertwined with the rest of the SDGs?
C.A-D.: It is exactly the same response. The SDGs were created to help the world, and for the FPCD many of these goals start with addressing health concerns.
Do you have any closing comments about the Foundation for Post Conflict Development?
C.A-D.: The Foundation has really acted as a bridge between countries with so much capacity (like Monaco) to help countries with little capacity (like Haiti and Timor-Leste). We work to create partnerships that enable those with influence to help those in need in a way that is sustainable and tangibly creates peace. Everybody and anybody can be a catalyst for peace. We have active civil societies around the world, so with determination, anybody can be part of an organization whose mission interests them or create their own.
Recommended reading: “POST-CONFLICT IN COLOMBIA. POST-WAR ON DRUGS“
Featured Image: Children waiting to see Prince Albert with Monaco and Timor flags. Photo credit: Foundation for Post-Conflict Development
This article is part of our series in collaboration with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Youth Division on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – #SDGStories. Follow the stories with #SDGStories and look for the next installment to our weekly series to learn more about achieving the SDGs across the globe. We can achieve them, and we must.