Publication date: 
Nov 2018

6 lessons for peacebuilding in borderlands

Dr Zahbia Yousuf
Senior Adviser Peace and Transition Processes
Conciliation Resources has long supported peacebuilding work in border regions that are deeply affected by conflict and often neglected, securitised or misgoverned.
From east and central Africa to the Caucasus and Kashmir, peacebuilding in borderlands involves going against the grain of official narratives about why violence persists, supporting the agendas of people who have been marginalised, and sustaining relationships across psychological and physical divides. 
In our latest Accord Insight publication, we analyse some of the challenges for building peace and stability in border regions, and explore how peacebuilding initiatives can better respond to these challenges. Accord emphasises the need for interventions that bring the margins into national level peacebuilding processes and that are responsive to cross-border dynamics. 

A market in Medenine, Tunisia in 2005.© Bernard Gagnon/Wikimedia Commons.

Based on Accord research, below are six lessons for peacebuilding in borderlands. You can read more about these key findings in in our new Accord Insight 'Borderlands and Peacebuilding.'

Understanding peace and transition processes in borderlands

  • National transition processes from war to peace that ignore borderlands or attempt to absorb or pacify them risk aggravating violence and exclusion. During peace and transition processes there is often an over-emphasis on short-term stabilisation of border regions, which can remain excluded from commitments to rights or the rule of law.
  • Efforts to support local governance in borderlands risk fragmenting political leadership and exacerbating conflict. Strategies by central governments to transfer key political, administrative or security functions to local non-state institutions have often contributed to the fragmentation of local political leadership – particularly in regions historically excluded by the state.  
  • Peace and transition processes can prompt negative narratives of borderland communities that reinforce their exclusion. Periods of conflict and transition can trigger or amplify negative national narratives or portrayals of borderland communities. These typically focus on cultural, religious and political differences and an assumed lack of commitment to national ideals and identity. 


Goats at a water point near Wajir, Kenya. ©CGIAR/Flickr Creative Commons.

Prospects for peacebuilding in borderlands

  • Ensure conflict and peacebuilding analysis captures borderland dynamics. Analysis should include how different groups in borderlands experience national transition processes, looking out for common pitfalls such as the capture of resources by elites or a failure to build on existing peacebuilding capacities and mechanisms. 
  • Create space for peacebuilding in borderlands. International players can mediate between local organisations in borderlands and national governments. Local brokers can help navigate murky borderland politics and identify who is best placed to advance particular agendas with different powerholders.
  • Connect peacebuilding efforts in borderlands, across borders and at national level. Influencing change at the centre can require alliances with national media, political parties and civil society, and with international NGOs. Supporting local initiatives requires maintaining legitimacy and relevance with different local constituencies amid shifting dynamics and competing agendas.


Explore the full Accord Insight 4 'Borderlands and peacebuilding.'


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