Civil Society and Peacebuilding

Supporting Peacemaking and Peacebuilding with Research Knowledge Transfer

Project Director: Thania Paffenholz

Since the 1990s, civil society has been assumed to be an important actor in peace processes, enjoying generous support from donors and international NGOs. However, civil society is not a uniform actor and can take up different roles in different phases of peace processes. These roles can be in support of, but also against, peace processes. For example, the civil society mass movement in Nepal pushed for the end of the war; civil society groups in Kenya, Guatemala and Afghanistan managed to put important issues onto the negotiation agenda. However, civil society mirrors divergent views in society, and may not necessarily be in support of a given peace process as seen in Sri Lanka where Buddhist Monks demonstrated against the peace negotiations, and in Cyprus where many civil society groups opposed Kofi Annan’s proposed peace plan.

In order to create better awareness of when, how and under what conditions civil society groups can effectively support peace processes, a new project has been started in 2011 by the CCDP under direction of Dr. Thania Paffenholz.

The project’s main approach is to transfer international research knowledge into policy and practice, and to supplement such transfer with further research. It aims at supporting political actors in their negotiation strategies for peace processes, donors and international NGOs to reach more effective support strategies and local civil societies in their peace process efforts. This support can take the form of:

1. Direct advice to policy makers including mediators and their advisors
2. Client/Needs-oriented policy events, workshop or informal gatherings
3. Capacity Building for policy makers, donors, international NGOs and local civil society groups
4. Research on specific themes

This project is the continuation of a three-year international research project already undertaken at the CCDP from 2006 and 2010. The project looked specifically at the constructive role that civil society can play in peacebuilding processes as well as the main obstacles that may hinder the fulfilment of this role. The approach taken by the project consisted of a common theory-based analytical framework in 13 country case studies. Involving 30 researchers from 16 universities and research institutions worldwide, the project produced groundbreaking results. These demonstrate that civil society’s role in peace processes can be decisive, but is dependent on the role that different groups play in particular phases of the peace processes, on the way initiatives are conducted, as well as on the context of engagement. Overall, the research demonstrated that the potential of civil society to affect constructive political change has been largely under-used for peacemaking and peacebuilding. The conclusions of the project can be found in a working paper published in 2009. The detailed project results, including the case studies, are published in an edited volume entitled Civil Society & Peacebuilding: A Critical Assessment (Lynne Rienner, 2010).