The goal of the consultations was to unpack different perspectives on civil society’s role in building inclusive peace and to identify key barriers and challenges they face in the process.
The result was a robust discussion that demonstrated the broad, dynamic nature of civil society peacebuilders.
The online consultations identified a range of strategies for advancing inclusive peace, and identifying root causes of conflict, such as facilitated dialogue, bridging divides between groups and addressing structural inequalities that contribute to conflict in the first place.
Our "Civil Society & Inclusive Peace" report summarises the key themes.
Groups that operate close to, or within, affected communities bring to the table a deep understanding of those communities’ insecurities, needs, and wants.
Policymakers, donors and other national and international actors would do well to recognise that inclusion of these groups is not simply a tick box exercise, but a prerequisite of sustainable peace.
Themes and issues that emerged during the discussions between participants are included here.
● Creating a shared definition of terms like “civil society,” “peacebuilding” and “inclusion” is not always possible—but being explicit about different actors’ understanding of these terms can help lead to more tangible progress towards inclusive peace.
● For many civil society actors, “inclusion” in peacebuilding is often experienced as a box-ticking exercise. Meaningful inclusion requires robust stakeholder analysis and the conditions to engage and influence a process on fair terms.
● Civil society continues to face barriers to inclusion in formal processes. While civil society often finds opportunities to lead informal mechanisms, space needs to be found for both—and for bridging the two
● The diversity and breadth of civil society is both a challenge and an opportunity for peace processes, giving decision makers access to diverse constituencies whose expectations can be difficult to manage. But civil society dialogues at different levels also make for more tools in the peacebuilding toolbox, as well as options that may be “outside the box.”
● There can be a “lack of capacity” on the part of international actors. The issue of “lack of capacity” is often discussed in relation to civil society, but it is important to recognise that the challenges involved in working with diverse civil society also require capacity on the part of state-led process conveners, international partners and donors.
● The shrinking political space in many countries is a huge barrier to civil society’s work on inclusive peace. What’s more, civil society actors struggle to adapt strategies to this challenge.
● Donor priorities are a common factor driving programmatic change. Funding dependency, restrictive donor requirements, including prescriptive timeframes and approaches, were identified as a key barrier for civil society innovation.
● Civil society faces its own critical internal challenges: fragmentation, elitism, political agendas and more. This points to an urgent need to build spaces for self-reflection and learning.
Drawing on the key insights from these two consultations, Peace Direct developed the following recommendations:
- To secure meaningful inclusion, decision makers should undertake broad stakeholder analyses that respect the interests of all affected groups or communities.
- Civil society should be allowed agency to influence all stages of peace processes.
- Donors should incorporate unrestricted funds that can support grassroots and more informal civil society actors.
- The civil society peacebuilding community needs to address internal barriers by building space for reflection and learning.
- Given the shrinking space for civil society in countries worldwide, international donors and multilateral organisations should, where possible, apply pressure on states that continue to limit free expression by civil society.
- Decision makers and international donors should support accountability mechanisms and promote community mobilisation around peace implementation.
Photo: Greg Funnell, Dania Ali/Stars Foundation/Aware Girls, International Citizen Service, Peace Direct.