Effective local action: from early warning to peacebuilding


This report captures the main experiences and findings of the Capacities for Peace project. Implemented by Conciliation Resources and Saferworld, the project worked with local actors to enhance the effectiveness of early warning and early action in 32 conflict-affected countries.


Violent conflict is the result of the complex inter-relations of a range of social, economic, political and environmental factors. Specific events or changes in the context may result in an upsurge in violence, but this usually only happens if the underlying conditions are ripe for that violence to emerge. Addressing these factors is an inherently long-term endeavour, and one that must ultimately be driven by domestic actors. It is, however, likely to require sustained political and economic support, as well as ongoing analysis and a willingness to adapt strategies as the context changes and evolves. Such long-term conflict prevention processes can also generate further tension, since they involve challenging existing power structures and interests. The key challenge from a developmental and peacebuilding perspective is how to support the management and transformation of these complex social changes without recourse to violence.

‘Early warning’ systems designed and operated by international and national actors have been considered an important conflict prevention tool since the 1990s, when violence and mass atrocities were affecting the Great Lakes region of Africa, South Eastern Europe, Latin America and parts of Asia. They are intended to identify the potential for an imminent upsurge in violent conflict and catalyse effective responses by local, national and international actors. In practice, by-and-large, they are focused towards supplying information to national and international level decision makers in order to direct resources to ‘conflict hotspots’. The responses such systems generate catalyse immediate actions that aim to prevent or limit the scale and impact of violence in the short-term, and as such do not address the underlying factors that contribute to instability and tension.