Transformative Peacebuilding – Crisis Response Journal (March 2020)

transformative peace building

A return to a transformative model of peacebuilding is essential to prevent repeated cycles of violence

In this article on transformative peacebuilding for Crisis Response Journal, we argue for a return to a ‘transformative’ model of peacebuilding and for greater emphasis on what we call the psycho-socio-political aspects of conflict in order to work with it more effectively and prevent repeated cycles of violence.

Peacebuilders struggle to maintain focus on ‘upstream’ conflict prevention work when funding is directed towards crisis response and efforts to mitigate the consequences of violence and deliver ‘visible’ results in relatively short timeframes. This has led to a prevalence of ‘technical’ peacebuilding approaches – i.e. geared towards incremental, positive change, but without necessarily challenging the deeper context or fundamental social & political change. Deeper change also requires paying attention to the ‘human factor’ – how we function as human beings, our thought mechanisms, how we understand the world around us, including how emotions influence our actions. 

Those who seek to sow chaos and conflict understand this all too well, as we observe how easily manipulated people are by fake news, rumour, social media outrage, responding to messaging that manipulates our fears and unconscious prejudices. That’s why we are using an analytical framework that helps us understand the psychological aspects of conflict which interact on different levels – on our psyche as individuals, as social beings belonging to various social groups and as political subjects. Only by understanding all dimensions of a conflict – i.e. its psychological, social, political, economic, ethnic, historical, gendered, cultural and other roots – can we develop a holistic conflict-sensitive strategy.

This in turn requires a high level of reflexivity, both as individuals and on an institutional level – by this we mean an in-depth examination of our own subjectivity and values and how these influence and inform our practice. As mediators we must recognize that we become an actor in the conflict context and that our declarations of neutrality in relation to political positions or our adherence to principles of impartiality are not something we can simply hide behind.

We are all imbued with values from which we make basic assumptions which we must be prepared to challenge. Intellectually, one can recognise how a narrative has been constructed, but still choose to subscribe to it whole-heartedly as the ‘truth’. We believe this individual level transformation of thinking and emotions is a fundamental foundation for all peacebuilding work, essential for influencing broader social, political and structural changes required for positive peace. 

Our approach puts a strong emphasis on regular analysis, reflection, dialogue, fostering self-awareness and mutual understanding, aimed at building public intellectual and emotional capital and capacities for peace.As an organisation Indie Peace is at the beginning of our journey, but if you are interested in our approach, we’d be more than happy to be in touch to exchange ideas and methods. Thank you for reading! 

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