Peacebuilding Manual/Impact of Community Peacebuilding

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Impact of Community Peacebuilding

Community peacebuilding is both a social and structural process. It is a participatory, bottom-up approach, founded on the premise that people are the best resources for building and sustaining peace. It posits that the promotion of peace must be undertaken not only at the international and national levels but also at a local level, with families, tribes, and communities, where disputes can potentially escalate to violent conflict.

Community peacebuilding aims at developing trust, safety, and social cohesion within and between communities; to strengthen social and cultural capacities to resolve disputes and conflict; and to promote inter-ethnic and inter-group interaction and dialogue. It aims to prevent conflict and achieve conditions which reduce community vulnerabilities to violence from internal or external causes; and ultimately, it seeks to influence attitudes and behaviours through promoting values of peace and tolerance.

Community peacebuilding can be achieved through strengthening the capacity of community-based institutions, especially shuras and other newly established and/or mandated groups like the Community Development Councils, Peace Councils, etc., to resolve disputes through mediation, negotiation, and conflict resolution; supporting civil-society involvement in peace and development; and promoting peace education. Community peacebuilding promotes restorative justice, in that it seeks to provide restitution to victims and to restore relationships between offenders and victims.

Peacebuilding is not about imposing solutions, or preconceived ideas or processes. It involves self-analysis and helps support communities to develop their own means of strengthening social cohesion and of building capacities to reach solutions that are peaceful and just. It aims to encourage gradual and progressive change in traditional community institutions, for them to become fairer, more representative, and more constructive.

Community peacebuilding promotes inclusive partnerships between people, institutions, and civil society. It is not a fixed or defined activity, but an ongoing social process that adapts to local circumstances and seeks to incorporate peacebuilding values, skills, and techniques into all aspects of governance and development work.

Community peacebuilding has been carried out with much success by local and international organisations in a range of conflict and post-conflict countries. A number of highly effective community peacebuilding programmes have been undertaken by various organisations in post conflict countries, including Afghanistan. The impact of peacebuilding work depends on where and how the programmes are designed and implemented, the local context, and other factors. However, some key outcomes, which are often interconnected, are highlighted below:

Increased resolution of disputes. The most direct impact of peacebuilding work is an increase in the number of disputes that are resolved. For example, an Afghan peacebuilding organisation, CPAU, has successfully helped to resolve a range of disputes between families, community factions, and commanders. In communities where OHW conducted peacebuilding activities, its staff observed increasingly higher levels of peaceful resolution of conflicts within the life period of its project. The heads of shuras in OHW project areas observed that by first analysing disputes and then using a mediation approach, they had been able to resolve protracted disputes.

Lower levels of violence. Peacebuilding efforts have led to reductions in the incidence of violence, which is partly due to the increased resolution of disputes. Once initial suspicions were overcome, the new peace shuras established by OHW, in the four provinces of Bamyan, Parwan, Kandahar and Helmand, set-up structures, systems and peace-building mechanisms, and are successfully implementing their own conflict resolution and prevention strategies

Lower levels of domestic violence. Peacebuilding activities in OHW project areas have led to improved attitudes amongst and towards women and to decreased levels of domestic violence, impacting on traditions of forced and child marriages; beating of wives and children. Given the extent to which such practices are prevalent in parts of Afghanistan, these achievements are nothing short of extraordinary. The resolution of a small number of individual cases usually has a knock-on effect on the wider community.

Lower levels of violence amongst children. Peacebuilding education in schools potentially helps bring about more peaceful relations between children and adolescents.

Improved social relations. OHW peacebuilding activities in Afghanistan have helped to strengthen community cohesion, and relations within and between communities, improve understanding between different ethnic groups, especially in areas where one group is in a minority. This has reduced tensions and allowed for more positive interaction.

Stronger resilience to external threats or events. The possibility of living in peace through local efforts enables communities to resist or minimise external militant interference that can provoke conflict. Further, peacebuilding also helps communities to respond peacefully to external events which might otherwise have triggered violence.

Expansion of development activity. The resolution of major disputes can help to establish an environment in which development can take place. Successful reintegration of returnees. Local peacebuilding groups help facilitate the reintegration of returnees, by providing the platform for resolving disputes of land ownership, providing space for building new homes, etc.

Mitigation of oppression. In OHW project areas, peacebuilding has enhanced community capacities to mitigate the impact of oppression. For example, in the Jaghori district in Hazarajat, strong and inclusive community institutions, with shared values and strategies to preserve peace, had considerable success in mitigating the impact of Taliban occupation, protecting women, retaining basic education for girls, and preserving community cohesion.