How can peacebuilding adapt to the realities and dilemmas posed by contemporary conflicts? This United States Institute of Peace Press publication argues that building peace requires a comprehensive approach. It provides strategic and practical suggestions to help establish an infrastructure for sustainable transformation and address the immediate and deep-rooted needs of divided societies.
Peacebuilding faces systemic issues of how to deal with the production, transfer, and ready availability of weapons, which fuel and make possible an extraordinary level of armed violence. Most conflicts are internal, built around identity groups and characterised as ethnic and/or religious in nature. These are deep-rooted conflicts which pose two central questions: What conceptual framework is most useful for dealing with the structural and psychological nature of contemporary conflict? What practical approaches and activities have the greatest potential for moving these conflicts towards peaceful outcomes? Answers might be found in a comprehensive, integrative, and strategic approach to the transformation of conflict.
The author proposes a conceptual framework of structure, process, reconciliation, resources and coordination:
- Structure is concerned with the systemic elements of how to address a setting of protracted conflict
- Process brings into focus the long-term nature of the progression of conflict
- Reconciliation stresses that relationship, in its full range of psychological dimensions, is central to transformation
- Resources focuses on the fact that although financial support is necessary, developing new ways of thinking about categories, responsibilities, and strategic commitment to peacebuilding are more important
- Coordination emphasises the need for specific mechanisms enabling the above four components to intersect, interact and cross-fertilise
Proposals at the heart of the framework are that:
- The nature of contemporary conflict requires the development of theories and praxis of the ‘middle ranges’. Middle-range actors have the capacity to impact processes and people at both the top and the grassroots levels. If mobilised strategically for peacebuilding, middle-range leaders could lay the foundation for long-term, sustainable conflict transformation.
- There is a need for ‘subsystem’ strategies that link immediate issues within the setting to the broader systemic dynamics within which the particular conflict unfolds. The systemic issues must not be ignored but we cannot tackle these macro issues from the sanctuary of intellectual discussion and broad international policy statements.
- Reconciliation is a central component of dealing with contemporary conflict and reconstructing divided societies. Reconciliation provides a focus and a locus appropriate to every stage of peacebuilding and is instrumental in reframing the energies driving the conflict.
- Innovation is needed in approaching the core nature of deep-rooted conflict in divided societies. To rebuild relationships, we must develop innovative ways of providing space within which the emotional and psychological aspects of the conflict can be addressed.
- Coordination must be a central component in the effective implementation of a comprehensive peacebuilding strategy and in the building of an infrastructure for peace. This calls for not only an understanding of the larger challenge but also an acknowledgement of the need for a multiplicity of roles, for multiple levels of activity, and for diverse strategies and approaches.