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Assessing Resilience for Peace: A Guidance Note

Manual and Guideline
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What makes societies resilient as opposed to fragile and vulnerable to violent conflict? What is it that helps them anticipate risk, resolve conflicts collaboratively, respond creatively to crisis, and steer social change in ways that foster shared benefits for peace and development? These fundamental questions persist as a major challenge for peacebuilders despite growing attention given to better understanding and addressing the key sources of fragility in conflict-affected societies. As peacebuilding aspires to being transformative, it is essential to understand the endogenous assets, attributes, qualities, resources and ultimately actions, which enable that kind of positive transformation, which we call ‘resilience for peace’.

The Framework for Assessing Resilience (FAR) programme was conceived to address these questions through an iterative process of inter-disciplinary desk-review; consultation with key informants, scholars, and policy specialists; participatory research; dialogue; and perception surveys. The project was implemented between 2014 and 2016 in three very different countries – Guatemala, Liberia, and Timor-Leste. It was intentionally designed as an inclusive and participatory process with a strong emphasis on local perspectives, ownership and leadership, as well as reciprocal learning processes fostered through exchanges between researchers and practitioners from the three pilot countries.

The project generated a series of publications and related documents, including a global desk review, country notes on assessing resilience, survey reports, and country analyses of resilience for peace. This report presents the analytical and operational lessons learned though this project. It introduces the Resilience for Peace Framework developed through practice and reflection on what was found to be highly specific to each context and what was genuinely generic and cross-cutting.

The Resilience for Peace Framework can be approached both as a lens – or a way of seeing, analyzing and understanding peace and conflict in any society – and as a vehicle which serves as an operational guide in programming. This guidance note identifies avenues to engage in assessing resilience for peace among communities, societies, and institutional structures, through locally owned and driven processes which are themselves powerfully animated by the endogenous nature of resilience. It also seeks to inform policy and practice on integrating resilience into peacebuilding and conflict prevention strategies.

The term ‘resilience for peace’ was coined to reflect the positive orientation around capacities for peace – and the resources, capacities and actions of ordinary people that contribute to the promise of durable peace. It is, however, rooted in the understanding, analysis and experiences of conflict and even violence. Indeed, the sources of resilience manifest themselves in relation to conflicts and the risks or hazards associated with real or potential violence. We therefore often refer to ‘resilience for peace’ or ‘resilience in relation to conflict’. These notions of risk and resilience are not indistinguishable or simply interchangeable, but are inextricably intertwined in practice – and this reality is reflected through the dual usage throughout this guidance note.

An assessment of resilience for peace is not unlike an assessment of resilience to violent conflict, or even a conflict analysis, in how it treats risks. But it is precisely in its emphasis on process and endogenous assets, attributes, qualities, resources and ultimately transformative actions at multiple levels (individual, household, community, society) that the Resilience for Peace Framework provides unique value to inform national-level peace and conflict assessments.

Resilience to violent conflict suggests capacities and strategies for preventing, recovering from and transforming violent conflict. Resilience for Peace is more assertive in that it posits processes aimed at sustaining and enhancing peace. The capacities and strategies for both may be similar, if not occasionally identical, but whereas resilience to violent conflict will find its applications principally in fragile and conflict-affected societies, resilience for peace may be relevant to all societies, regardless of the level of violence they experience.

Although the guidance and the framework provided draw heavily on peacebuilding principles and practice, the relevance is considerably broader than just to the peacebuilding field (hence it is not called ‘resilience for peacebuilding’). Thus, the framework should be of value to anyone looking to integrate conflict sensitivity across diverse sectors and practice areas, including sustainable human development and humanitarian action.

The present report was written to facilitate the use of the Resilience for Peace Framework in both the policy and practitioner worlds. Its adoption in these areas of thought and practice can serve to guide future response to challenges, threats or stressors. However, the guidance and framework for assessing resilience is the product of a particular set of processes that are documented and outlined here. Whilst these demarcate some important principles and targets, they are intended to be flexible and to foster innovation and discretion rather than be merely prescriptive. This is a reflective ‘guidance note’ and not an operational blueprint, and should be used as such.

Assessing Resilience for Peace: A Guidance Note has three main components and objectives corresponding to its structure:

1 . Conceptual and Strategic Guidance: To provide a conceptual and strategic framework for examining and, analysing how resilience informs and contributes to peacebuilding and the understanding of risks and conflict dynamics, as well as what is universally relevant about resilience for peace and its relation to conflict.

2 . Process Guidance: The guidance is intended to guide practitioners on the process of carrying out an assessment of resilience for peace within particular contexts. This framework has been derived from deep research and programmatic engagements in three pilot countries, each with its own distinctive context, legacies of conflict, and enduring conflict-drivers or risks. The guidance therefore offers reflections and lessons from the process as well – premised on a recognition that the voices and perspectives of ordinary people in these conflict-affected societies need to be heard and respected, and situated at the heart of the exercise. How this is done is inevitably as important as what it reveals.

3 . Programme and Policy Guidance Finally, the guidance also seeks to offer reflections on the policy implications, opportunities and agenda offered by this work, including a particular concern for deepening the understanding of and engagement with resilience, and its relevance for a more integrated and holistic approach to peace, development and humanitarian action. It aims to offer recommendations and guidance on linking the assessment of resilience for peace with programmes and policies.