New ways to end old wars
In the last few years we have seen new forms of diplomacy emerging with local people playing prominent roles, and a new commitment to talk to groups previously seen as ‘beyond the pale’. The ‘Arab Spring’ has re-awakened the world to the potential of non-violent strategies and people’s power. Our growing field of peacebuilding is contributing to these changes, showing real determination and innovation.
Conciliation Resources’ approach to affecting change in hugely complex conflict systems is built on a solid understanding of the changing contexts – informed by the insights of local people. We need to have the right relationships with partners where we have earned their trust and where we talk to the conflict parties.
Andy Carl, Executive Director, Conciliation Resources
To maximise our influence we need to stay focused on the important fault-lines and stress-points, helping people make connections with others across conflict divides, and with those with decision-making power.
We have come to realise that we work on conflict systems that frequently pay no heed to geographical boundaries. Together with our local partners we are finding creative ways of working across borders, and we are working with our donor and governmental colleagues to encourage them to adapt their bureaucracies to these realities.
We have always played a role in providing mediation support – with resources such as our Accord series designed to be a practical and easy to access source of information, essential to all those involved in a peace process.
In the last two years we have more actively pursued opportunities to support official processes of mediation. Our role in support of the Malaysian mediation in the Philippines between the Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is an important example of a trend towards new relationships between governments and non-governmental groups working together to support peace processes.
Learning from the insight of local people
All conflicts are local so we continue to centre our work on cooperating with partners who are responding to their specific challenges. For most international responses, the missing piece remains engagement with local activists and mediators, and the development of a locally informed understanding.
Conflicts across the world are posing governments and multilateral agencies huge challenges of how to support locally owned and led processes of change.
Most governments find it hard enough to consult with their own citizens let alone with those active in other countries. I remember one official saying:
We are like a giant holding a delicate flower, we can hardly touch it without crushing it.
International NGOs have long played essential roles in bridging these relationships, and this is something that is central to the work of Conciliation Resources.
Our review of 2010 and 2011 describes how we have helped champion the idea that governments need to get better at hearing local voices. This means doing diplomacy differently – listening not only to embassies, security services, businessmen and journalists but also to the communities themselves.
Our approach to peacebuilding is not about taking the soft option. More often than not, alongside local partners, we pursue difficult, sometimes dangerous, and often unpopular strategies. Probably the toughest of these is in making the case for the primacy of engagement and dialogue.
Perservering to create a just and lasting peace
Working against the global currents that favour military responses is a big part of what conflict prevention means in practice. Making a difference in these contexts is about pursuing strategies that mitigate what might otherwise be a worsening conflict as well as stimulating ideas and debate towards political solutions.
What are our measures of success? A donor-sponsored evaluation of our last decade of work found evidence that we are playing important roles in creating environments where partners are able to do work that they would not have been able to do, improving and protecting peoples’ lives.
We are working in many contexts where the conflicts seem intractable, where there is no peace process, and limited prospects of political settlements that are negotiated around the table between governments and those opposing them.
Yet we are not seeing hopelessness. Instead, our partners are drawing on their own insights and ideas to define new paths to peace – citizens’ paths – leading to inclusive processes of change that offer more than elite and exclusive negotiations.
Thanks to the trust invested in us by our international donor partners who continue to support us in these austere times, we are happy to share with you some of the highlights of our last two years of work.