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Building Peace Together: a practical resource

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The prevalence of violent conflict all over the world in our daily digest of news and media creates a sense that violence – or the threat of violence – is ever-present, when in fact, it is peace that is the norm. Senior officials often ask civil society actors, including QCEA staff, what civilian alternatives there are to military intervention when addressing violent conflict. This report responds to that question. It makes the case for peacebuilding and provides a myriad of non-military tools that can be used by actors across the board. It complements research showing that over the past 35 years, 77% of violent conflicts ended through a peace agreement while only 16.4% ended through a military victory. Recognising the value and effectiveness of civilian peacebuilding, this resource extends beyond traditional methods such as negotiations and mediation to showcase forms of engagement across many sectors and levels of society.

As useful as certain peacebuilding tools may be, it is equally important to consider how, when, and with whom to use them in order to avoid inadvertently worsening the situation or undermining existing pockets of peace. There is no tool or initiative without limits and caveats, and the best intentions can easily be misdirected through a lack of awareness, a lack of contextual understanding, or a lack of reflection on how a response will interact with violent conflict dynamics. Therefore, self-reflection before engaging in a violence-affected context is necessary. Indeed, an adequate understanding of the context, including the root causes of violence and how this manifests itself, is crucial in any engagement. Ensuring due diligence and conflict sensitivity in one’s work is recognised as central to peacebuilding, as are the principles of:

• inclusiveness,
• appropriateness or ownership,
• awareness of socio-political and economic factors,
• addressing power relations,
pursuing accountable governance,
• building on drivers of peace, or “peace dividends,” and
• engaging populations.

The variety of peacebuilding tools identified in this report does not provide a comprehensive picture of all peacebuilding initiatives worldwide, but gives some idea of their diversity and range. The starting point is what we call diplomacy, often referred to as ‘soft power’. This section defines different forms of diplomacy such as dialogue, negotiation, preventive diplomacy and quiet diplomacy. For all processes, a mixture of different initiatives may be key to achieving an effective outcome. These tools are not mutually exclusive and can be used simultaneously or successively. This section goes beyond relations at the international or elite level, and includes initiatives at various levels of society in order to be effective and inclusive, focusing on the interests of conflict parties rather than their positions.

The second section, democracy and politics, includes: 1. Support for election monitoring and electoral frameworks, 2. Political debate and active citizenship initiatives, 3. Political party support, and 4. Human rights monitoring. Democracy here encompasses the concepts underpinning democracy, i.e. placing the emphasis on forms of governance that promote pluralism; peaceful management of the needs, political beliefs and interests of different population groups; along with other key aspects, such as public participation, inclusiveness, peaceful political debate, rule of law, justice and other civil and political rights. When democracy effectively promotes these key aspects, it is most conducive to accountable governance, inclusiveness, and other principles of peacebuilding. Therefore, democracy is relevant to building responsive and conflict-sensitive institutions.

The correlation between justice and peace has long been acknowledged, but knowing how to build on this in practice remains a challenge. The tools featured in the justice section include: 1. Anti-corruption initiatives, 2. Constitutional reform, 3. Initiatives on access to justice, 4. Memorial projects, and 5. Truth Commissions. Rule of law is what provides regularity and consistency in how law is applied to all. Justice, on the other hand, has a much broader meaning, and is what the rule of law should strive to deliver.

Legislation, procedures, systems, technical assistance and training do not automatically deliver justice unless they are designed to curtail corruption, selectivity or discrimination in the way that different population groups access and experience the rule of law.

Security is as much a goal as it is a condition for peacebuilding. Yet the notion that the first priority is to secure the state, and only then to consider the immediate security concerns of the population (and its different sections) is today recognised as no longer being the sole focus of security. The question of whose security is being promoted or protected influences both the design and the definition of success for any type of security engagement, whether through Security Sector Reform (SSR) or other initiatives.
This issue is particularly relevant when working with official state security actors, who may be perceived by population groups as having a problematic or ineffective role in the conflict. Furthermore, a focus on community security adopts a perspective that transcends state borders, as conflicts and their root causes are becoming increasingly regional and not confined within a single state’s borders.

Building peace by transforming the problematic dynamics that are sustaining violence and conflict is more complex, but is ultimately a more sustainable approach than viewing peace as simply the absence or successful suppression of violence. Therefore, the security section suggests new tools to address security such as: 1. Community-based security, 2. Unarmed civilian security initiatives, 3. De-mining projects, 4. Regional cooperation and border management, 5. Control of small arms and light weapons, and 6. Support for former combatants.

Communication and media tools address the flow of information. In violent conflict contexts, restricted access to information, promotion of partial information and the suppression of information or certain perspectives can all contribute to sustaining violent conflict dynamics. At the same time, channels of information offer huge potential to practice conflict sensitivity, or even to create reporting and broadcasting that promotes peace. The media should explain situations in ways that reflect the complexity of violent conflict and its root causes, such as grievances or climate disruption, and to highlight opportunities for nonviolent solutions. This section features two peacebuilding tools: 1. Projects on conflict-sensitive media and media literacy, and 2. Media regulation and ownership initiatives.

Culture and the arts can reflect histories and beliefs across generations, and be sources for self-expression. Therefore, the tools in this section relate to both a sense of collective history and belonging, which create opportunities for dialogue to identify common values or customs, as well as ways to develop spaces for individual expression. Arts and culture offer ways to discuss and listen to one another’s world views and ideas, and can be fundamental for building mutual understanding between populations. If manipulated to create a one-sided story of identity or to foster ideas of the supremacy of one group, arts and culture can also be used to drive violent conflict dynamics. Some culture and arts tools explored here include:

  1. Cultural heritage and exchange projects, 2. Arts and storytelling programmes, and 3. Sports projects.
    A range of programmes and initiatives can be undertaken to promote peace values through education, including the tools listed in this portfolio, such as:

  2. Designing and revising curricula, 2. Civic and peace education, and 3. Inter-faith projects. Emphasising peace values in subjects such as history or geography; removing obstacles and addressing biases; reviews and dialogues around curricula; teacher training programmes, and extracurricular activities which can better equip students and teachers to deal with challenges and transform conflict. As education links to personal aspirations, critical thinking, world-views as well as livelihoods, it can play a significant role in either fostering peace or driving and sustaining negative conflict dynamics.

Links between economics, business, trade, politics, conflict and peace are numerous, from the relative levels of wealth or poverty among population groups, high unemployment, the strength of trade interdependence, to fostering better conditions for small and medium business. There is a danger in oversimplifying the link between poverty and conflict or between economic growth and peace. These factors can both drive and sustain violent conflict, create incentives for peace and contribute to its sustainability, depending on the context. As conflict dynamics are often closely tied to political economy – as well as the interests, degrees of influence and the interdependence those networks create – political economy evaluations, together with conflict and peace analyses, are fundamental to the design of peacebuilding projects. The tools featured in this report include: 1.
Entrepreneurship and small and medium-sized businesses, 2. Promoting business and economic partnerships, 3. Sanctions, embargoes and aid conditionality, 4. Economic diplomacy, and 5. Projects on macro- and microeconomic management.

Infrastructure and planning are not only related to conflict as a consequence of infrastructure damage during conflict, but can also be a driver of violent conflict in the context of rapid urbanisation and/or marginalisation of rural populations, or the displacement of population groups by major infrastructure projects such as the building of dams. A lack of demographically-aligned urban planning or the isolation of certain population groups can trigger violent conflict over resources or access to services.
Absent or decaying infrastructure in rural or urban spaces can undermine development efforts, leading to divergent standards of living for different cross-sections of the population. In post-conflict contexts, rebuilding initiatives need to take into consideration urban planning divides that were at the root of the violent conflict. Furthermore, poorly designed or built infrastructure can magnify environmental impacts. The three peacebuilding tools include: 1. (Re)building infrastructure for essential services, 2. Public spaces and urban planning initiatives, and 3. Major infrastructure projects.

The environment and how it is used are at the heart of a society’s ability to develop, grow, and interact with other communities. It therefore has a direct impact on its stability and ability to maintain peaceful relations. Currently, climate disruption is a cause of insecurity across the globe, as drought and environmental degradation instigate conflicts over resources and serve as the source of migration for economic opportunities elsewhere. Land distribution and natural resource allocation are the cause of numerous violent conflicts around the world. Governments and private sector companies have a strong interest in ensuring land and natural resources are profitable; this has led to discrimination against the marginalised communities who occupy such land, which easily turn into violent conflicts. Armed groups also exploit land and natural resources to fuel their conflicts, giving rise to concepts such as ‘blood diamonds’. In the section on agriculture and environment, two tools are put forward: 1. Management of natural and extractive resources and 2. Land management projects.

Violent conflicts have a direct impact on physical and mental health, from the severe material damage caused by weapons or explosives, to the psychological damage from experiences of violent conflict. In addition, the issues that link health and conflict largely concern the consequences of a lack of healthcare infrastructure and access to health services, due to damage, displacement, and limited resources. Other factors to consider include unequal access to healthcare as a result of cost, language or location.

On a positive note, the trusted role of medical staff and the neutrality often demonstrated by health services during violent conflict can serve as inspirations when linking peacebuilding work and healthcare. The healthcare portfolio describes two tools: 1. Medical diplomacy and 2. Mental health services.

Development programming is interlinked with all eleven sectors of this report, which is why it is located in an annex, rather than in a sectoral portfolio. Development in conflict-affected contexts requires a high level of thoughtfulness and reflection about programming and funding, particularly on the impact such work may have. Development programming therefore merits a series of reflexive questions, necessary resources and/or operational considerations, as well as best practices.