Making the opinions of ordinary people count
National and international efforts to prevent and resolve violent conflict and support post-conflict recovery are often poorly informed by the views and experiences of people directly affected by violence and instability.
Our experience has shown that local understandings of the causes and dynamics of a conflict are often overlooked.
Policymakers rarely have access to information from the ground to understand what responses are both necessary and possible and to appreciate the potential contribution of local actors to building peace.
Strengthening local capacity and informing international policy
In many situations local civil society actors lack the skills, confidence and access to engage with complex international organisations. These organisations, in turn, lack opportunities for direct contact with the communities their interventions are designed to help and an understanding of the issues affecting them.
Funded by the European Commission, the People’s Peacemaking Perspectives (PPP) project was an 18-month joint initiative between Conciliation Resources and Saferworld.
"Participation is a core value for Conciliation Resources and Saferworld and it informs our work on policy, programming and advocacy. It's very important that local voices are heard when formulating responses to conflict and instability."
Teresa Dumasy, PPP Project Manager
The project's aim was to provide opportunities for civil society to influence the European Union’s (EU) conflict prevention and peacebuilding initiatives through published analysis and advocacy activities in Brussels and the countries covered by the project.
Between October 2010 and March 2012, 18 analyses of conflict situations around the world were produced, including both country-specific and regional studies.
Amplifying people’s voices now and in the future
Through this project the perspectives of communities affected by conflict and instability were shared with a wide range of decision-makers in the EU and its Member States, as well as national decision-makers in country. The ideas and recommendations were based on evidence and experience gathered from local people who have limited opportunity to make their voice heard.
Working in many cases with long-standing local partner organisations, we also helped to build the capacity of local civil society and their relationships with decision-makers so that they can contribute to decisions and actions affecting them beyond the lifetime of the project.
"Local people would be going and asking for their rights if they knew of the potential to engage in local decision-making."
Paramount Chief, Sierra Leone
Recommendations for EU policy and programmes in each of the conflict areas were drawn from the analyses and the findings were presented to policymakers in the relevant countries and in Brussels, including by representatives from local communities.
We also developed lessons and recommendations about how locally-led analysis can be used more consistently and effectively in the future.
The project culminated in the following outputs, which point to the value of putting civil society at the heart of conflict responses:
Over the course of the 18-month project Conciliation Resources led on the following studies:
Central Africa: The Lord's Resistance Army conflict
Northern Uganda has experienced conflict since the current Ugandan government came to power in 1986. Initially the conflict with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) played out in the Acholi sub-region and neighbouring districts of northern Uganda.
The LRA conflict spread over Uganda’s borders into eastern and central regions of South Sudan in the early 1990s. From around 2006 the LRA further spread into Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and western regions of South Sudan.
Conflict dynamics in the LRA-affected areas are entwined. Peace in one country is not sustainable without peace in the other. Despite this, the LRA is conventionally considered by outsiders as a Ugandan issue, with its cross-border dimension poorly understood and often overlooked.
Conciliation Resources’ study sought to inform understanding of the LRA from a regional point of view. Based on the perspectives of a wide range of people, including former LRA abductees, communities living in border areas of South Sudan, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo, and on the experience and views of civil society leaders from all the countries affected, the report presents a picture of the needs and potential regional responses to the conflict with the LRA.
Read report: 'When will this end and what will it take?’: People’s perspectives on addressing the Lord’s Resistance Army conflict
Read policy brief: The Lord's Resistance Army
Lebanon is a key partner for the EU in the Middle East, within the European Neighbourhood Policy. Tension surrounding the Hariri tribunal highlights the precariousness of peace and stability in Lebanon, as well as its proximity and vulnerability to volatile regional politics and socio-economic currents.
Conciliation Resources led on this study, producing a new publication in its Accord series.
Accord analyses, informs and strengthens peace processes.
The Lebanon Accord publication explored links between internal political dynamics, regional instability and international power politics. It will also examine how national peace efforts and initiatives – state-led and civil – might dovetail more effectively with regional and international partners to promote national reconciliation and reconstruction, in the process developing conclusions for peacebuilding policy and practice.
Read the policy brief: Lebanon
Read Accord 24: Reconciliation, reform & resilience - positive peace for Lebanon
Liberia and Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone and Liberia both experienced brutal civil wars in the 1990s and into the early years of this century. Peace processes leading to the 1999 Lomé (Sierra Leone) and the 2003 Accra (Liberia) agreements marked the official end to the conflicts and the beginning of their long paths towards positive peace. Both countries are making headway, but the underlying causes of conflict persist in both familiar and new forms, with continued scattered incidences of violence and an ongoing risk of increased or renewed violence.
Conciliation Resources led on this study and produced a new issue within its Accord series focusing on a comparative analysis of both countries’ peace processes. Assessing the peace settlements, their implementation and contemporary drivers of conflict, this Accord reflects on key issues including governance, security and justice.
Including the voices of marginalised groups such as women and youth, Accord provides lessons for peacebuilding in the countries and wider region.
Discover local and international perspectives: Consolidating Peace: Liberia and Sierra Leone
Read the policy brief: Liberia and Sierra Leone
South Caucasus: The Georgian/Abkhaz context
More than three years after the August 2008 war, actors on all sides in the Georgian/Abkhaz conflict, including international actors, were struggling to formulate effective policy responses to the changed realities on the ground. Conflicting interpretations of the nature of the conflict abound and polarisation of the views of key stakeholders is greater than ever, creating a hugely challenging environment for policymakers.
Post-2008, the EU has played a key role in relation to international responses to the conflict and, with the establishment of the European External Action Service, is better placed than ever to have consolidated and strategic engagement in the region.
For this study Conciliation Resources drew on a number of participatory analyses relating to the Georgian/Abkhaz context, which:
- explore ways in which the conflict is understood by different parties and how these perceptions affect prospects for conflict transformation
- put forward concrete suggestions for EU policy and engagement on conflict and peacebuilding in the region.
Read the policy brief: The Georgian-Abkhaz conflict
Read about the EU's role in conflict resolution: Georgian and Abkhaz perspectives
Most analyses on this region tend to be country-specific and yet the causes of conflicts are generally cross-border in nature. The complexity and interconnectedness of conflicts in West Africa require strategic responses that take into consideration the regional dynamics. ECOWAS provides the framework for conflict prevention in the region, and draws its mandate and legitimacy from the African Union, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the United Nations (UN). However, its ability to reduce levels of conflict is limited.
Conciliation Resources led on this study involving local communities and civil society voices. It aimed to start a process of reflection on how inter-governmental bodies, such as ECOWAS, can tackle region-wide problems more comprehensively.
The geographic scope of the analyses was:
1. The Mano River Union border region (Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone)
2. Nigeria (Niger Delta and Plateau States)
3. Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and the Gambia (the Casamance conflict system)
In each of these areas the analysis looked at the key themes of youth unemployment, governance issues and the transition from military to democratic rule, cross-border security, citizenship and identity issues.
Read the policy brief: West Africa