Nov 2018

Peacebuilding in the borderlands

Borderlands are often overlooked or neglected in peace processes. Despite a growing emphasis on inclusion, responses to borderland instability tend to prioritise security, pacifying or sealing off borderlands, or negotiating deals among central or regional powers that do little to empower borderland communities.

But borderlands are not marginal to peacebuilding and statebuilding processes and can provide opportunities for peaceful change. 

Our new Accord Insight publication, which is an ouput of the Political Settlements Research Programme, looks at how peace and transition processes address the interests of borderland communities. It offers new ways of working with borderland communities and conflicts, highlighting how policymakers and peacebuilders can respond more effectively to conflict challenges at the border. 

Accord Insight 4 'Borderlands and peacebuilding', presents seven case studies which demonstrate how war-to-peace transition processes are very different when viewed from the margins.




In north-eastern Kenya bordering Somalia and Ethiopia, localised conflicts between clans have transformed into clashes bound up with elite competition for political power, resources and territorial control. This article looks at how peacebuilding approaches in the region have adapted to overcome these new conflict dynamics. Read more.


In Myanmar, despite the country’s democratic transition and formal peace process, peacebuilding and community development initiatives in the borderland regions of Kachin State and northern Shan State face huge challenges. Statebuilding and development initiated from the centre have in fact provoked new violence in borderland areas where elites have sought to consolidate power. This chapter suggests how international actors can re-orient their engagement with the peace process. Read more.




Based on interviews conducted in Turkey and Syria, this chapter focuses on the slow process of re-establishing the border crossing at Bab al-Hawa, as different armed groups with divergent interests vied for control. While greater regulation has allowed trade to flow, it has been underpinned by increased militarisation as the border has gained strategic importance. Read more.


Nepal’s post-war transition has involved protracted negotiations over the relationship between the capital Kathmandu and the peripheries of the state.  This chapter focuses on the life histories of two ‘borderland brokers’ In the Tarai region – a 500-mile strip of land bordering India. It explores the ways in which such figures can mediate relations between different groups, spaces and interests and how their motivations and networks affect post-war transition processes. Read more.


An exploration of Tunisia’s southern borderlands with Libya reveals a story of continued political marginalisation, securitisation and economic underdevelopment, highlighting the uneven effect of the country’s democratic transition in relation to its interior and border regions. The chapter analyses the impact of changes in border governance on borderland populations, and discusses how bottom-up approaches to strengthening governance can empower historically excluded communities. Read more.


The contested Donbas region bordering Russia broke away from Ukrainian control in 2014 and established two self-governing ‘republics’.  This chapter explores the complex identities of the region and how the border became increasingly significant as tensions rose in Ukraine. It reflects on how national narratives have hardened to further isolate the region, and how international players and local NGOs have tried to build peace at the grassroots level. Read more.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the Brexit vote of 2016 has led to the re-emergence of the borderlands, triggering anxieties among border communities contending with an uncertain future. This chapter explains the significance of European Union membership to the peace process and the challenges related to the border. It looks at how local communities in the central Irish borderland region perceive the potential impact of Brexit on a still-fragile peace. Read more.