Peacebuilding Manual/Key Principles for Building Peace

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Key Principles for Building Peace

Peacebuilding requires all people to be aware of their power and create non-violent forms of power to meet their human needs in collaboration with others. It strengthens and builds on local efforts and empowers others to act. People involved in peacebuilding need to both identify their existing sources of power as well as create new ones. For example, building a coalition of women increases each woman’s individual power. While building peace amongst rural communities, it is recommended that the aid practioneers keep the following key principles in consideration:

Comprehensive vision. Lasting peace comes from addressing multiple sources of conflict at multiple levels of society. A key stepping stone to success in building peace is to understand the dynamics of conflicts and resolve them peacefully. For this to happen, we need to identify the needs of those we are working with, a vision of what we are working towards, actions that can get us there, and a design or plan that we can use as a guide. To do this, we must be able to step back from the swirl of day-to-day crises around us and situate our actions and daily events within a broader vision and purpose.

Interdependent Peacebuilding. No one person, activity, or level of society is capable of designing and delivering peace on its own. It involves a system of interconnected people, roles, and activities, linked together and affecting each other. With people at the core, peacebuilding is intimately connected to the nature and quality of relationships. Peacebuilding builds and supports interdependent relationships necessary for pursuing and sustaining desired changes. This implies that we must develop processes that also forge relationships between people that are not like-minded.

Sustainable peacebuilding. Peacebuilding is a long-term prospect. Violent conflicts occur over generations and peacebuilding too take no less time. Sustainable peacebuilding seeks to discover and strengthen the resources rooted in the context of the protracted conflict. For peacebuilding to be sustainable, we need to pay attention to where our activities and energies are leading us rather than thinking only about the immediate and then coming up with effective responses to issues and crises. Sustainability requires that we think about what creates an on-going capacity within the identified context for responding to and transforming recurring cycles of conflict and crises.

Strategic. While peacebuilding needs to have a comprehensive overview, specific programmatic actions also need to be strategic. This means learning to respond proactively to emerging, dynamic social situations and conflicts as well as meeting immediate concerns and needs, while at the same time reinforcing a larger, longer-term change process. Peacebuilding actions need to link immediate needs to the desired vision of change.

Dialogue. The openness, willingness and space for dialogue are key principles of peacebuilding. Dialogue is an inclusive process and brings together a diverse set of voices. To bring about sustainable change, people have to develop a sense of joint ownership of the process and become stakeholders in identifying new approaches to address common challenges. Dialogue requires self-reflection, spirit of inquiry and personal change to be present. Participants must be willing to address the root causes of a crisis, not just the symptoms on the surface. Dialogue recognizes the other’s humanity. Participants of a peace process must be willing to show empathy towards one another, recognize differences as well as areas of common ground, and demonstrate willingness for building peace. To find sustainable solutions requires time and patience. One-off interventions very often do not work to address deeply-rooted causes of conflict or to fully deal with complex issues.

Cooperation. Peacebuilding requires cooperation that reflects responsibility, accountability and participation by diverse actors. Sharing crucial resources such as grazing land, water, forests, etc. creates an enormous opportunity and incentive to cooperate, and brings stakeholders to the negotiating table.

Social Infrastructure. The necessary platforms for supporting the process of change and long-term vision of peace are the social spaces, logistics mechanisms, and institutions of the community. And the foundations for peacebuilding include the people, their relationships and the social spaces that they need for supporting the process of transforming division and violence to respect and interdependence, and their increased involvement in and responsibility for building peace. The platforms and foundations of peacebuilding are the social infrastructure that provides the basic support to enable people and peacebuilding processes to weather the immediate crises while patiently pursuing the slow, long-term desired change within a context of relationships.

Definitions of Power. Power exists in all relationships and determines our ability to affect the world around us. Everyone needs and uses power to make decisions about their own life. Some people have access to more sources of power than others. They are able to dominate over other people and control other people’s lives. Power can either refer to a situation in which one person or group dominates and controls others or to a situation in which people use power together with others to achieve an agreed-upon goal. It also refers to the power within each of us that we use to make decisions about our own lives. Power is usually considered related to money, military, or physical strength but there are other sources of power including information, knowledge or wisdom; moral or spiritual beliefs, people power, or the power that a group of people have together when they decide they want to change their lives. Even beauty and charisma can affect how “powerful” a person is in shaping her/his environment.

Good Governance. Governance refers to a number of levels of power. Society with high levels of agreement on structures and processes, and that govern legitimately, are societies with mechanisms for dealing with conflicts as they arise and with a social fabric strong enough to encourage disagreement and withstand dispute. Societies in which people disagree on the structures and processes of decision-making also tend to have a high level of conflict, often expressed through violence. In other words, well-governed society needs to be able to deal constructively with conflicts so that its underlying causes are addressed without recourse to violence. UNDP recognizes that for governance to be effective, it must be aligned with peacebuilding and state-building aspirations forged by conflict affected governments and people themselves. Supporting governance to consolidate peace is about assisting national stakeholders to gain control of the recovery process in the immediate aftermath of a crisis in order to lay the foundations for long-term transitions from fragility. According to the UNDP report on Governance for Peace, good governance reconstructs responsive institutions, promotes inclusive political processes, fosters resilient societies and strengthens partnerships. UNDP believes that achieving governance results in fragile environments requires focus on capacity building guided by the principle of national ownership, and that this focus must be adaptable to the complex and dynamic context of fragility and conflict. Furthermore, these efforts must be targeted at a wide range of actors including vulnerable and marginalized groups (e.g., women and youth) to bring them into the dialogue for peacebuilding and statebuilding in the early stages.

Role of Civil Society. Civil society is considered as the “sphere of institutions, organisations, and individuals located between family, the state and the market in which people associate". Civil society is distinct from government, but is seen as essential for the good functioning of any society. There is a general consensus that the level of social and political stability in any society depends on the strength of its civic structures. Where civic organisations and groups are active and effective, the likelihood of social disintegration and public violence as a response to conflict is lower than where there is not a thriving civil society. Unfortunately, one of the effects of violent conflict is to disrupt and destroy those parts of civil society that are functioning well, and to undermine the values that underpin social initiatives and development work in general. In Afghanistan, for example, the role of community elders has historically been instrumental in developing and maintaining community-based governance structures. For generations, individual communities lived in peaceful coexistence – not because the central governments were effective, but because the local mechanisms were. However, as a result of the war, the role of elders and respect for fundamental values, have been weakened, and local structures have repeatedly failed to forge solutions.