Peace can be planned. In most cases escalation of violent conflicts can be prevented. Countries at risk of instability and civil war need mechanisms and structures for cooperation amongst all relevant stakeholders in peacebuilding. Institutional structures for peace create a forum for all peace actors for dialogue and cooperation. Peace Infrastructures at all levels have the preference, but if governments are weak or fragile or not interested in such structures, Local Peace Committees may have an impact as well.

At the end of the Cold War, there were many positive signs of a more peaceful world. The overall trend since then has been positive and the number of armed conflicts has decreased. However, in the period between 2003 and 2008, the number of active conflicts involving state actors rose again from 29 to 37. Even interstate conflicts, once deemed practically extinct, have reemerged in the shape of US-led unilateralism in the fight against terrorism and the forceful implementation of democracy. In 2009 and 2010 there was a decrease in active conflicts, reported by the Uppsala Conflict Database Program (UCDP), followed in the first half of 2011 by the Arab spring and new related conflicts.

Increase in violent conflicts

Some 1.5 billion people live in fragile and conflict affected contexts in some 90 countries. Conflicts are about many topics, such as land use, resources, ethnicity, exclusion and the results of the economic and financial crisis or climate change. Experts expect an increase in violent conflicts. We need a strategy on the national, regional and global level how to deal with these developments. ‘Infrastructures for Peace’ can be an important tool to counter these developments or reduce their impact.

Promising approach

I4P is a comprehensive, inclusive approach in peacebuilding, involving the main stakeholders, at all levels: national-, district- and local level. It is a problem-solving approach to conflict, based on dialogue and non-violence. It allows societies and their governments to resolve conflicts internally, developing institutional mechanisms, structures and capacities that promote this approach. It is promising as well because it has worked already several times.

When Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990, South Africa was deeply divided, resulting in an escalation of violence. Then all main stakeholders: the government, political parties, liberation movements, churches, business, came together and signed the National Peace Accord (NPA) in 1991. In this accord a Peace Infrastructure was designed including

  • - a National Peace Committe with representatives of all 27 signatories of NPA
  • - Regional Peace Committees in all 11 regions of the country
  • - Local Peace Committees in all affected areas, 260 in total
  • - a National Peace Secretariat to establish and coordinate regional and local peace committees.

Several studies have assessed that the Peace Infrastructure, and especially the LPCs, contributed towards containing the violence and having relatively peaceful elections.

Components of Peace Infrastructures

The concept of I4P is relatively new. There is no agreed definition of I4P yet, or agreement on the key components. There is a general agreement that such peace structures should be developed locally and not imported from other countries or imposed. That being said, it is helpful to get an idea how some countries are pioneering with such peace structures. Ghana and Kenya have extensive experiences with these peace structures; Kenya even over twenty years. In both countries, extensive consultations have taken place of main stakeholders and at all levels. In Kenya this has led to a Final version of National Policy on Peacebuilding and Conflict Management (december 2011) from the Steering Committe on Peacebuilding and Conflict Management.

In Ghana, the Peace Architecture was institutionalised in the National Peace Council Act from 2011. In both documents, several key components were identified:

  • - Peace Committees at local, district and national level, with main stakeholders involved, especially key respected civil society leaders
  • - a National Peacebuilding Platform or Forum for consultation and coordination
  • - a Conflict Analysis and Early Warning & Response System
  • - a Peacebuilding Support Unit within the government
  • - Building national capacities for peace: increased capacity of peacebuilding institutions of government, Peace Committees and CSOs
  • - Traditional perspectives on conflict resolution to draw upon
  • - Promotion of a shared vision of society and a culture of peace
  • - Peace Education
  • - Budget I4P cannot simply be ‘copied, cut and pasted’ from one country to another, but these components of the I4P in Ghana and Kenya help to give you an idea about an Infrastructure for Peace. (2)

Ghana

Dozens of violent conflicts were recorded in the three northern regions of Ghana between 1980 and 2002. In 2002 another eruption of violence took place within the Dagombas and led to the slaying of the King of Dagbon and many of his elders; this threatened to destabilise the whole region. A Northern Region Peace Advisory Council was established. When it worked, the peace council concept was extended to the rest of the country. In 2008, chieftancy-related conflicts in part of the country, led to new tensions before the elections, with a very narrow margin between the winner and the loser. With tensions rising, the National Peace Council helped mediate a peaceful political transition.

Kenya

During the early 1990s a highly destructive cycle of violent conflict raged in the district of Wajir in the Northeast region between different clans of Kenyan Somalis, leading to more than 1.200 deaths in four years. The roots of the conflict were livestock raiding by pastoralist groups. The situation escalated, but the government failed to regulate the conflict and provide security. A group of women started discussions and engaged the elders of the different clans and set up a mediation process. After several meetings, the elders agreed to sign a code of conduct, which effectively stopped the violence. This development led to the establishment of the Wajir Peace and Development Committee, with the District Commissioner as chairperson. When this model proved to be successful, such Committees were also established in other districts.

During the post-election violence in late 2007/early 2008 in Kenya, Far less violence took place in many districts where District Peace Committes were operating, than in districts without such Committees. The government then decided to establish DPCs in all districts. In all these cases, the existence and well-functioning of Peace Committes, reduced or prevented violence. (1)

Peaceful Elections

Elections may be a good entry point for starting a process towards establishing an I4P. Nearly all countries have regularly elections for president, parliament and local government. Elections become more contested and violent because underlying grievances are often not addressed. An I4P substantially increases the chances of peaceful elections by having a structured peace community/network, an early warning and response system, capacities for conflict prevention and mediation, while different sectors and levels are linked.

Some 90 countries are conflict affected and nearly all of them have elections and most of them have not addressed all grievances and roots for conflicts well. Elections tend to become triggers for violence. Elections are planned in advance. We should gradually plan in advance as well the capacities and structures that are needed for peaceful elections.

Semi-independent Peace Infrastructure

An Infrastructure for Peace involves the government and other stakeholders at all levels; this is crucial.

A government can easily steer and dominate the process of establishing an Infrastructure for Peace. It has the capacities, power and resources to do so. The process may become top-down and less inclusive and participatory.

Governments and political parties have often less legitimacy and are sometimes perceived as corrupt and not delivering justice, security and development. In such cases, the government can gain from a Peace Infrastructure, with the involvement of respected civil society leaders. In polarized and violent situations, a government may be paralyzed.

A semi-independent Peace Infrastucture is a preferable option, with a balance between the role of the government and the role of civil society and other stakeholders.

Local Peace Committees

Quite a lot of countries have weak, fragile or collapsing governments. They may also be ruled by authoritarian regimes, which are not interested in such peace structures. What can people do at the local level when conflict and violence are escalating in their neighborhood and the government is failing to give protection ? The answer, in many countries, has been to create informal Local Peace Committees, without a national mandate from the government.

Most LPCs were established locally because the local community felt threatened, violence increased, justice and development failed.Then people took matters into their own hands.

In many conflict-affected countries, LPCs have an impact on local communities by keeping the violence down, solving community problems and empowering local actors to become peacebuilders. It is remarkable to see that in several countries such as DRC, Colombia and Afghanistan, hundreds of LPCs exist.

The biggest challenge is that LPCs are very dependent on the broader, political or conflict environment. If that environment becomes very polarized or violent, they will be gravely affected. (3)

Cost and funding

I4P and LPCs are very cost-effective. The establishment of I4P in some countries, has cost the UNDP Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR) no more than a few million US dollars. BCPR has been involved in the establishment of I4P and similar programmes in some thirty countries.

These cost have to be compared with the cost of conflict and civil war. In Kenya, the leading business association put economic losses from post-election violence in 2008 at US $ 3.6 billion. Two years later, prior to the 2010 constitutional referendum, a UNDP-supported violence prevention effort identified and pre-empted nearly 150 incidents of violence and helped political parties reach consensus on the draft constitution before the vote. There was no violence and by contrast the exercise cost only US $ 5 million. (4)

Growing interest

There is growing interest in I4P. Countries such as Ghana and Kenya are well underway. Other Countries such as Kyrgyzstan, Uganda, Nepal and several others, are pioneering with I4P. There is also growing interest of governments and civil society organisations in I4P and what contribution it may give towards sustainable peace. (5)

International Civil Society Network on Infrastructures for Peace

In the Fall 2012 an ‘International Civil Society Network on Infrastructures for Peace’ was established, to exchange experiences and best practices of local peacebuilders on I4P and LPCs; to make I4P more known; to facilitate dialogues on the value of I4P with different stakeholders internationally and to enhance the position of LPCs and NGOs within I4P. (6)

Bio

Paul van Tongeren established the European Centre for Conflict Prevention and convened the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), which organised a conference on the role of civil society in peacebuilding at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in 2005 at the invitation of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Paul is co-founder of the International Civil Society Network on Infrastructures for Peace. paulvtongeren@gmail.com

Notes

1) Paul van Tongeren, (2013), Creating Infrastructures for Peace- Experiences at three continents; Pensamiento Propio, Vol.36-37, p. 91- 128; www.cries.org

2) Both documents can be found on www.I4Pinternational.org

3) Paul van Tongeren, (2013), Potential Cornerstone of Infrastructures for Peace ? How Local Peace Committees can make a Difference; Peacebuilding Journal, Vol.1, No 1, p.1-31; Taylor & Francis.

4) Chetan Kumar, Building National Infrastructures for Peace; UN Assistance for Internally Negotiated Solutions to Violent Conflict; (2012) in: Peacemaking: from Practice to Theory; edit. by Susan Allen Nan, Zacharia Cherian Mampilly, Andrea Bartoli; Praeger, p. 384-399.

5) as 1)

6) www.I4Pinternational.org
Some additional reading
- An Architecture for Building Peace at the Local Level: A Comparative Study of Local Peace Committees; (2011); a Discussion Paper by Andries Odendaal; UNDP – Berghof-Handbook Dialogue Series on Peace Infrastructures (nr. 10). Main articles can be found on www.berghof-foundation.org/DialogueSeries
- Journal on Peacebuilding and Development; V7N3, (2013) on Infrastructures for Peace; forthcoming, www.tandfonline.com/toc/rjpd20/current. – website International Civil Society Network on Infrastructures for Peace: www.I4Pinternational.org

 

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