War does not respect political or territorial boundaries. It forms part of wider, regional conflict systems through dynamics that cross borders: refugee flows, mobile armed groups, narcotic or criminal networks, blood diamonds, or psychosocial ties. There is a policy gap in this area, however. International conflict responses focus on states as their primary level of analysis and intervention and struggle to deal with cross-border dynamics.
Through our programme work with partners in various regions Conciliation Resources identified the need to analyse, understand and respond regionally rather than through the traditional country-by-country basis of many interventions.
In East and Central Africa, the South Caucasus, the Mano River Union borders, Jammu and Kashmir and Central America the challenges of cross-border peacebuilding have become increasingly pressing and problematic.
Dealing with cross-border dynamics
We support various initiatives that deal with cross-border conflict issues – from exploring the impact of cross-border trade in Kashmir, to our film Talking Borders which looks at challenges facing border communities in West Africa.
As the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) spread from Uganda to South Sudan, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic, we have adapted our peacebuilding response and have transformed our programme into one that covers the whole region of East and Central Africa.
Paix sans frontières: building peace across borders (Accord issue 22, 2011) explores cross-border peacebuilding approaches, and draws on analytical and practical experience from a multitude of contexts, bringing together the perspectives of local and international peacebuilders. It argues that peacebuilding strategies and capacity need to ‘think outside the state’: beyond it, through regional engagement, and below it, through cross-border community or trade networks.
The difference we make
Across our programmes and Accord work, we support civil society to develop innovative approaches to dealing with conflicts that cross borders.
We have used this knowledge to inform thinking on policy and practical responses to conflict. Our Accord on cross-border peacebuilding has been commended within the international community for its ‘groundbreaking’ content. The central message on the need to look at cross-border dynamics has been taken on board by UK and international policymakers and practitioners.
In East and Central Africa, we have been supporting traditional, religious and civil leaders from affected countries to join together in a Regional Civil Society Task Force. Through the Task Force communities are transforming themselves from victims of the LRA to ‘anchors of resilience’ to the violence. Their insight into LRA dynamics makes them uniquely placed to provide essential analysis. By combining and amplifying their voice and capacity regionally, the Task Force is working to connect their efforts with policy decision-makers regionally.