Efforts to promote coexistence and inter-group reconciliation processes have generally been more prominent in peacebuilding. They are equally important in statebuilding; trust is necessary for political and economic development as it facilitates cooperation. Trust and confidence are necessary not only at interpersonal and inter-group levels, but in terms of shared norms and values and trust in the state and its institutions (‘civic trust’). In this view, reconciliation is the condition under which citizens can once again trust one another as citizens; and trust that the ‘other’ will abide by the norms and institutions of society.
Distrust of the ‘other’ and internalised feelings of powerlessness, prevalent in situations of conflict and fragility, is a constraint on collective action. Initiatives designed to facilitate civic action can be aimed not only at restoring societal relationships but at developing active citizenship. Bringing individuals together across divides to discuss shared problems can help to re-establish social relations and networks, promote a collective awareness of prevailing problems and uncover possibilities for collective action.
Such cross-cutting activities and cooperation, often facilitated through local associations and by nongovernmental organisations, are considered effective and legitimate means of restoring trust.
Associational life and other examples of social organisation often survive and persist in situations of conflict and fragility and can be drawn upon. Improvements in daily life through participation in local activities can strengthen people’s understanding of agency and prepare them for opportunities of engagement with state institutions.
It is important to recognise, however, that civic engagement may not be equitable. It involves power relations among citizens, between citizens and the state and other powerful actors, and between varying state levels. Efforts should be made to determine whose voices are heard and to foster inclusive, effective participation.
To date, there have been limited efforts to link coexistence and reconciliation activities and local development initiatives to citizenship. It is important for actors in these areas to consider in which situations they can link their peacebuilding activities to citizenship building. Support to conflict-affected and fragile settings should extend to fostering awareness of citizenship and agency, referring to citizens as members of a wider socio-political community. Strategies and projects that increase a population’s sense of shared interests, mutual obligations and common aspects of identity should be prioritised.
Oosterom, M., 2009, ‘Fragility at the Local Level: Challenges to Building Local State–Citizen Relations in Fragile Settings’, Working paper prepared for ‘Local Governance in Fragile Settings: Strengthening Local Governments, Civic Action or Both?’ workshop, 24 November, the Hague
How does state fragility affect citizen-state relations at the local level? How can development agencies seek to promote citizen participation? This paper outlines the key issues and challenges in building local citizen-state relations in fragile settings. It argues that strengthening citizen voice and agency through support for local civil society institutions is just as important as building the capacity of the state to respond to citizens’ needs. Development agencies should focus more on ‘citizenshipbuilding’ in fragile settings and on fostering a sense of socio-political community.
Pouligny, B., 2010, ‘State-Society Relations and the Intangible Dimensions of State Resilience and Statebuilding: A Bottom Up Perspective’, EUI Working Paper, no. 33, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute (EUI), Florence
Crucial social and cultural elements underpin state institutions and ensure that they function. This is especially important to understand in ‘fragile’ settings. This paper argues that conventional perspectives need to be broadened beyond tangible dimensions of state resilience, institutions and statebuilding to include intangible dimensions. International actors need to gain an understanding of the relationships, structures and belief systems that underpin institutions, and of the multiplicity and diversity of political institutions, cultures, and logics through which statebuilding processes may be supported.
Benequista, N., 2010, ‘Putting Citizens at the Centre: Linking States and Societies for Responsive Governance – A Policy-maker’s Guide to the Research of the Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability’, Prepared for the DFID Conference on ‘The Politics of Poverty, Elites, Citizens and States’ 21-23 June, Sunningdale, UK
How does citizen engagement contribute to responsive governance? This paper summarises ten years of research from the Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation, and Accountability, presenting the key findings of more than 150 case studies of citizen engagement. It argues that existing donor programmes fail to recognise the full potential of citizen engagement, resulting in lack of understanding of the complex relationship between citizens and the state that shapes governance outcomes. Citizens need greater political knowledge and awareness of rights and of agency as a first step to claiming rights and acting for themselves. Involvement in associations has been an effective way of strengthening notions of citizenship and citizen engagement, which can contribute to more responsive states.
Hilker, L. et al., 2010, ‘Broadening Spaces for Citizens in Violent Contexts’, Citizenship DRC Policy Briefing, Institute of Development Studies, Brighton
How can people be directly involved in finding solutions for their security and livelihood needs? Research suggests that, although violence deters citizens from taking action, external actors in violent contexts can help to facilitate citizen action that is non-violent and socially legitimate. To do this, donors need a locally nuanced understanding of the complex relationship between violent and non-violent actors, and between forms of everyday and political violence.
Shabbir Cheema, G. and Popovski, V. (eds.), 2010, ‘Building Trust in Government: Innovations in Governance Reform in Asia’, United Nations University, Tokyo
How have some countries and institutions managed to maintain higher degrees of confidence and what measures have played an important role in strengthening trust once it has faltered? This book seeks to answer many of the questions raised in reference to means of strengthening trust in government within the Asia Pacific region. Through analyses of trends within North-East Asia, South-East Asia, South Asia and the Pacific Islands and specific innovations and reforms at the country level, the contributors have provided various perspectives on the causes of the decline in trust and specific innovations and reform measures that have influenced the process of building trust in government.
Mansuri, G. and Rao, V., 2013, ‘Does Participation Strengthen Civil Society?’ Chapter 6 in Localising Development. Does Participation Work? A World Bank Policy Research Report.
Can projects that attempt to induce participation and build ‘social capital’ help repair civil society failures? The evidence on this important question is weak, for several reasons. Keeping these important caveats in mind, there is some evidence, mainly from self-reports of participants, indicating a higher incidence of trust and cooperative activity in treatment than in control areas. Projects tend to have very limited impact on building social cohesion or rebuilding the state. They tend to exclude the poor and be dominated by elites. However, evidence from Africa suggests people emerging from civic conflict have a strong desire to participate. Repairing civic failures requires reducing social inequalities. One way of doing so is to mandate the inclusion of disadvantaged groups in the participatory process. In particular, when the central and local governments recognize the legitimacy of deliberative forums and are responsive to them, they can transform the nature of civil society and state interactions.
For discussion and resources on the role of civil society in peacebuilding and community-based peacebuilding, see non-state actors and peacebuilding in Chapter 4 (Recovering from Violent Conflict) of the Conflict topic guide.