Section 3 looks to social and community networks and relations. In an introductory article to the section, Kristian Herbolzheimer notes that borders can be much less relevant to peoples than to states, and that understanding the social and cultural conditions of borderland communities is key to tackling cross-border conflicts. Social and cultural ties can span state borders. State presence may be weak in remote borderlands where local people are left to provide for their own needs. This can mean looking outwards across borders to other communities, rather than inwards to administrative capitals. Herbolzheimer asserts that borderland communities have the insight and capability to respond to cross-border conflicts, and he shows how international support can help to strengthen this capacity and link it to formal peacebuilding processes.
In conversation with Accord, John Baptist Odama, Archbishop of Gulu, northern Uganda, describes the efforts of a Regional Civil Society Task Force to respond to the Lord’s Resistance Army’s (LRA) conflict. Now that violence related to the LRA conflict extends into four separate states across East and Central Africa, traditional, religious and civil leaders from affected countries have joined together to share learning, assist affected communities and advocate for a regional non-violent response. Archbishop Odama asserts that the regional military offensive, Operation Lightening Thunder, was like “throwing stones at bees; the swarm scattered and bees are now stinging people everywhere”. He explains how civil leaders from northern Uganda are using their long experience of dealing with the LRA to empower newly affected communities in Sudan, DRC and CAR to transform themselves from LRA victims into ‘anchors of resilience’ to the violence.
Socorro Ramírez shows how the spread of violence across Colombia’s borders has tested diplomatic relations with neighbouring countries. She describes how the impact of cross-border violence is felt most keenly among local communities living in borderlands in Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador. Civil society has developed links across national boundaries between all three countries to respond directly to peacebuilding priorities in borderlands and to promote better relations between capitals.
Kamarulzaman Askandar explains that long-standing cultural links and affinity between Aceh and Penang in Malaysia made Penang a natural home for Acehnese refugee peacebuilders who were displaced by the war in Aceh. The Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Research and Education for Peace (REPUSM) unit helped set up the Aceh Peace Programme (APP) as the base for peace activity. Together, REPUSM and APP were able to contribute to the resolution of the conflict in Aceh through advocacy, capacity building, networking, institution building, and local (Acehnese) ownership of the activities.
Peter Albrecht and Elizabeth Drew describe how poor border management has undermined legitimate cross-border movement and commerce in the Mano River Union (MRU), where informal cross-border trade in livestock or manufactured goods underpins many local livelihoods. Women are especially vulnerable to sexual assault and harassment by corrupt security services. Empowering local communities can increase collective oversight of security services and promote border security governance, but borderland communities need more information about their rights and responsibilities and greater access to security sectors.
Rachel Clogg and Jenny Norton state that the south Caucasus has been in a state of ‘no peace, no war’ since the early 1990s, interlaced by closed borders, front lines, and abandoned roads and railways. Contact between ordinary people has been severely restricted, but Clogg and Norton stress how the media has been helping to reconnect people and to rebuild ties severed by violence.
Mossi Raz describes the All for Peace radio station, currently the only fully independent, Israeli-Palestinian collaborative communications venture operating in the Middle East. It promotes cross-border dialogue, human rights and collaborative civil society peacebuilding initiatives in order to break down misperceptions and strengthen democracy in the region.