Civil Society: Case Studies
Go to Introducing Peacebuilding: Actors - a new international actor: the UN Peacebuilding Commission
At UN headquarters, CSOs are encouraged to attend meetings of the Commission and may informally contribute to the PBC's work by providing written submissions to PBC members and to the Peacebuilding Support Office. CSOs may also participate in certain meetings of the PBCs country-specific configurations, often called NGO informal briefings. In countries receiving advice from the Commission, national and local CSOs are encouraged to engage in national consultations on peacebuilding frameworks. Civil society representatives may also periodically participate in meetings of the PBC and serve as members of the Joint Steering Committees, which oversee the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF). In June 2007, the PBC published provisional guidelines for the inclusion of civil society in its activities. Participation is limited to engagement in formal meetings, informal meetings, and written statements, in particular in New York. These guidelines are considered by some to be too restrictive.1
A number of critical assessments of the first two years of PBC work have been published. Some of them focus more specifically on the degree of civil society engagement. External evaluations stress the many benefits that the greater involvement of local CSOs would have for peacebuilding processes. First, their involvement is generally perceived as a key condition of ensuring local ownership of the peacebuilding process. It would also improve the accountability of the work of the PBC. Additionally, CSOs may be able to provide a valuable link between the PBC and local populations, both in identifying local priorities in peacebuilding and in transmitting information about the coordinated peacebuilding strategy. CSOs can also be important resources on local knowledge and expertise in various sectors related to rebuilding societies after conflict. Finally, such organizations are engaged in different crucial components of the peacebuilding agenda.2
During evaluations conducted in the countries receiving assistance from the PBC (mainly Sierra Leone and Burundi), national and international civil society members fairly consistently claim to be poorly informed about the work of the PBC and the PBF. This has been even truer of organizations outside of capital cities and grassroots community-based organizations that are not necessarily the best organized but may be the most representative.3 It is argued that participants must have access to the information, as well as the time and resources, necessary to organize national consultations and regular two-way communications with grassroots partners. These seem to be important conditions for a constructive contribution to dialogue on the process. Many CSOs in post-conflict societies may also lack the capacity, human and financial, to engage easily in processes such as the PBC and PBF.
Another frequent obstacle is lack of trust on the part of local governments toward CSOs.4 To that end, some believe "the PBC should create opportunities and incentives for civil society and government to work together, for example, by institutionalising regular policy dialogue or promoting joint government-CSO implementation of PBF projects. The PBC can generate professional and personal relations between stakeholders who are often separated."5
The Burundi case seems to be an interesting exception. As stressed by a report put forth by ActionAid, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, and CARE International, "Civil society in Burundi has invested considerable time and energy in reaching consensus on priorities for the PBF, with high peace dividends. Early in the process, a series of meetings involving a broad cross-section of organisations culminated in defining the following priorities: promotion of good governance, reinforcement of the rule of law and the security sector, as well as what they called 'normalisation of community life.' These were presented in New York in late October 2006, and were subsequently included in the final report. From this point onwards, it was evident that a major overlap between the nascent government programme and the civil society one was emerging. By all accounts, the supportive attitude of the civil society representative towards the government plan helped create the first relationship of trust between government and civil society in a PBC/PBF process"an important example of the value added by the Peacebuilding Commission in Burundi. Furthermore the convergence between the proposals of civil society and the final government policy indicates that civil society was successful in collaborating with, if not indeed influencing, government."6
Even as an indirect output of the work of the PBC, and with all the limitations of the small number of individual participants in the process, this experience shows that it is possible to develop further the involvement of CSOs in PBC work.
For more information:
ActionAid, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), and CARE International. Consolidating Peace? Views from Sierra Leone and Burundi on the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission. Johannesburg: ActionAid/CAFOD/CARE International, 2007.
Heemskerk, Renske. "The UN Peacebuilding Commission and Civil Society Engagement." Disarmament Forum 2 (May 2007): 17-26.
New York University Center on International Cooperation (CIC) and the International Peace Institute (IPI). Taking Stock, Looking Forward: A Strategic Review of the Peacebuilding Commission. New York: CIC/IPI, 2008.
Sonner, Heather. "Effective Civil Society Engagement with the Peacebuilding Commission: Principles and Mechanisms." Discussion Paper, World Federalist Movement, Institute for Global Policy, 2006.
United Nations Peacebuilding Commission: "Civil Society Engagement"
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Following the 1992 peace agreement that ended the El Salvador civil war, national and international initiatives focused on developing civil society in order to facilitate reconciliation and development. However, the conflict has been cited as leaving a legacy of repression, as during the war the state apparatus often repressed community-based civil society organizations (CSOs). As a result, at the conclusion of hostilities, donors primarily funded those politically affiliated non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that had either been protected by the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Frontor had been allowed to stand by the government.
Other international initiatives, such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) project, Fundación Salvadoreña Para el Desarrollo Económico y Social (FUSADES), focused on strengthening the economic sector by funding projects that developed private business ventures directed by the elite business class. Most of these initiatives failed to promote peacebuilding because the business organizations involved, which dominated funds for civil society, were riddled with corruption scandals, thereby undermining the capability of community-based civil society initiatives. Given the limited options for civil society capacity building, disputes over the best approach arose among international organizations, primarily dividing European and United States initiatives. These arguments centered on which organizations to fund, based on political affiliation and foreign policy priorities. They resulted in disparate and contradictory aid projects that inhibited rather than promoted reconciliation and the emergence of a politically autonomous civil society sector.
For more information:Documents
Foley, Michael W. "Laying the Groundwork: The Struggle for Civil Society in El Salvador." Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs 38, no. 1 (1996): 67-104.
This article discusses the role of the international community in strengthening Salvadorian civil society post-1992. Its roles vary from promoting to polarizing local initiatives.
Koonings, Kees. "Civil Society, Transitions, and Post-War Reconstruction in Latin America: A Comparison of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Peru." Paper for the conference, "The Role of Civil Society in Conflict Resolution," Maynooth, Ireland, February 16-17, 2002.
In the section concerning El Salvador, the author discusses the impact of international NGOs and donor agencies on civil society in El Salvador after 1992, focusing on the export of western models that focus on aid to elite or middle-class civic structures and the problems that arose from this practice.
Pouligny, Béatrice. "Indigenous 'Civil Societies.'" In Peace Operations Seen from Below: UN Missions and Local People. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press, 2006.
In the section addressing civil society in El Salvador, the author discusses the polarized nature of Salvadorian society and how this polarization was reflected in indigenous CSOs established during the war period.
Provides information about and links to NGOs throughout El Salvador.
Instituto de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Centroamericana "José Simeón Cañas"
The institute is devoted to human rights protection, the promotion of fundamental freedoms in El Salvador, and assessing the situation of human rights violations. It was involved in the peace process in El Salvador. It has issued a number of reports critiquing the United Nations Observer Mission in El Salvador.
Library of Congress: Country study
This site provides a comprehensive overview of El Salvador's history, including an analysis of the United States role in the Salvadoran peace process.
United States Agency for International Development (USAID), El Salvador
Provides information about USAIDs past and present programs in El Salvador.
[Back to Top] The Igman Initiative is considered by some to be a successful case of civil society engagement in the Balkans. An indigenous, regional initiative, it comprises over 100 local NGOs working to promote regional cooperation and peace in the Balkans. The Igman Initiative was inspired by the 1995 meeting of 35 anti-war activists and intellectuals from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) in Sarajevo, who attended the Serbia Civic Council and demonstrated their solidarity with the besieged people of Bosnia.
Today, the initiative focuses on developing a demilitarized and economic zone among the Dayton Peace Accord signatories to facilitate economic development and normalize relations. The initiative is directed by three NGOs in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), and Croatia, respectively: the Center for Regionalism, the Forum of the Democratic Alternative BiH, and the Civic Committee for Human Rights. The initiative focuses on drafting and passing legislation to facilitate the flow of goods and services, as well as information, across borders, with the goal of increasing regional cooperation and tolerance. Proposals begin at the municipal level of each state with the aim of moving toward national and then regional implementation.
Although hailed by many international organizations as an effective demonstration of a bottom-up, regional civil society initiative, assessments by initiative members note slow progress in promoting transboundary cooperation, given insufficient political will and interstate political tension. As the international conferences hosted by the Igman Initiative are directed by heads of state from Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia, political disagreements over state and interregional legislation can result in ineffectual meetings that undermine the efforts of local proposals and initiatives. Outside criticism highlights the elite membership of the organization, suggesting that the initiative is not necessarily representative of local needs and priorities.
For more information:
Belloni, Roberto. "The Limits and Virtues of Civil Society." In State Building and International Intervention in Bosnia. London: Routledge, 2007.
This chapter discusses successful and unsuccessful civil society initiatives designed to promote peace and reconciliation after the Bosnian War. Belloni highlights the Igman Initiative as one of the few successful civil society programs in the Balkans.
Civic Dialogue. "Igman Initiative."
This page describes how Civic Dialogue was founded on the basis and in the successful wake of the Igman Initiative.
Garcevic, Vesko. "On the 14th Session of the Igman Initiative Held in Montenegro." Statement Delivered at Permanent Council Meeting No. 639, November 23, 2006.
This document stresses the importance of the Igman Initiative and highlights critical issues (such as refugee return) that need to be addressed via improved cooperation through the initiative.
Igman Initiative. "Igman Initiative - 'Most European' and Most Successful Project in 2007."
This press clipping briefly details the award the Igman Initiative received, which might be helpful for demonstrating the support the initiative enjoys in the region.
Kovacevic, Zivorad. "The Igman Initiative." Paper presented for Theme 4 - Troubled Waters: Reclaiming a Common Space? at the Adriatic Sea Symposium, June 2002.
This paper discusses the foundation, projects, and successes of the Igman Initiative.
Office of the President of the Republic of Croatia. "Igman Initiative: Good Neighbourly Relations Important for Euro-Atlantic Integration Process (HINA)." Press Release, November 16, 2006.
This article summarizes the Igman Initiatives directors statements concerning their support for refugee repatriation and European integration.
OneWorld Southeast Europe. "11th Session of the Igman Initiative Held in Belgrade." November 12, 2007.
This brief online article discusses the Igman Initiatives conclusion that Bosnia was dangerously unstable in 2007 and overviews the sessions recommendations for stabilization in the region.
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. "Citizens Lead Regional Co-operation on Tolerance." September 2, 2004
This news detail discusses the creation and current status of the Igman Initiative.
United States Agency for International Development. "Cultural Cooperation in the Dayton Triangle." Press Release, July 3, 2008.
This article describes the Igman Initiatives work to date.
Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
This organization provides the majority of funds for the Igman Initiative.
This organization is modeled on the Igman Initiative.
This is the main website of the Igman Initiative. It provides information about the initiatives projects, activities, and meetings.
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
OSCE is a key supporter of the Igman Initiative and sends representatives to most of the initiatives conferences.
United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
USAID provides information about the Igman Initiatives activities.
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Shuras, or community councils, are recognized by both national and international agencies as such a form of civil society. Shuras are reactive, local conflict resolution systems in which afflicted parties meet with shura leaders, elected on the basis of religious competence, age, and/or economic status, to resolve disputes. Many donors consider these traditional forms of civil society as a more effective, legitimate structures through which to channel funds and implement reconstruction projects.
While some of these institutions highlight the shuras' strength in ensuring credibility and legitimacy within local contexts, others point to problems that arise from international support of these groups. First, international agencies in some instances develop "new" shuras that reflect the ideas and needs of the peacebuilding community, rather than local dynamics and systems of beliefs. Such practice not only results in hesitancy by the local population to engage with the new shuras but also undermines the reputation and legitimacy of traditional shuras. Furthermore, questions have arisen as to how representative these systems actually are of their communities. Shuras are traditionally adult male organizations, which results in the exclusion of women and young people.
For more information:
DocumentsAfghan Civil Society Forum (ACSF). The Development of Civil Society in Afghanistan. Kabul: ACSF, 2006.
This document addresses the importance of civil society to a strong state, the status of civil society in Afghanistan, and what is needed to strengthen civil society in that country. It provides information about traditional governance systems, or shuras, which are now being engaged to promote local governance and civil society structures.
Afghans for Civil Society. "Women's Programs: Kandahar Women's Shura: Developing Democracy at the Grassroots Level."
This program description discusses how women are developing shuras to adopt leadership roles and advocate for their rights.
Caan, Christina, and Scott Worden. Rebuilding Civil Society in Afghanistan: Fragile Progress and Formidable Obstacles. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2007.
This policy briefing discusses how traditional shuras have started supporting and embracing western civil society notions.
Counterpart International. Afghan Civil Society Assessment and How Afghans View Civil Society. Arlington, VA: Counterpart International, 2005.
This report discusses the proliferation of new NGOs in Afghanistan that lack maturity and credibility. The report then discusses how local structures such as shuras can be more successful than new NGOs in implementing projects because of their credibility within their local communities.
Harpviken, Kristian Berg, Arne Strand, and Karin Ask. Afghanistan and Civil Society. Peshawar/Bergen: Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2002.
This paper focuses on the diverse types of civil society in Afghanistan, including an examination of shuras. In this respect, the report focuses on the differences between the traditional role of shuras and the new conception of shuras as adapted by aid and international agencies. Difficulties arising from this adaptation are discussed.
Harpviken, Kristian Berg, and Kjell Erling Kjellman. Beyond Blueprints: Civil Society and Peacebuilding. Oslo: International Peace Research Institute, 2004.
This paper includes a box that discusses how shuras are a form of civil society in Afghanistan, as well as how the National Solidarity Program used shuras to administer aid to communities throughout Afghanistan in post-9/11 recovery projects.
Nawabi, Kanishka. "Civil Society's Role in Reconciliation and Conflict Resolution." Paper presented at the Paris Civil Society Conference, May 24, 2008.
This paper focuses on the different types of civil society participating in conflict resolution and peacebuilding in Afghanistan. It includes an analysis of traditional and new shura structures used to facilitate peace.
Wieland-Karimi, Almu. Afghanistan: No Peace Without the Majority of the Population. Berlin: Friedrich Ebert Foundation, 2001.
This paper discusses how German organizations should use civilian-based groups, such as shuras, to ensure that a broad base of the population becomes involved in the peace process"something the author sees as key to stability in Afghanistan.
WebsitesAfghan Civil Society Forum
This website provides resources and publications for CSOs.
Afghans for Civil Society
This website describes Afghans for Civil Society's projects and programs, which are designed to build the civil society sector, including the development of a womens shura.
This website describes the various sustainable civil projects that Counterpart International supports in Afghanistan.
Friedrich Ebert Foundation
This site provides links to publications and resources concerning civil society in Afghanistan.
United States Institute of Peace
This site provides links to documents and resources concerning Afghan civil society, including links to documents on shuras.
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For instance, after the 1991 peace agreement, community chiefs met with representatives from the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) to discuss the electoral process, aid distribution, and local complaints. Furthermore, Buddhist community centers, or wats, were rebuilt and served as rural meeting places, in which local chiefs met with UNTAC officials to facilitate voter registration and discuss human rights and peacebuilding initiatives. Buddhist spiritual leaders reemerged to broker peace, organize rural development and health projects, facilitate reconciliation, and enhance spiritual healing. In addition, traditional healers, or kruu, facilitated community healing and reconciliation through their public spiritual healing and purification rituals for traumatized people, refugees, and former combatants. Despite political turmoil, which continued with the 1997 coup by the Cambodian Peoples Party, community-based organizations have remained a point of contact for international initiatives.
For more information:
Collins, William A. "Grassroots Civil Society in Cambodia." Final report of a discussion paper prepared for a workshop organized by Forum Syd and Diakonia, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, September 1998.
This article discusses the various types of civil society in Cambodia and how community structures such as wats serve as building blocks for civil society.
Doyle, Michael W. "Peacebuilding in Cambodia: The Continuing Quest for Power and Legitimacy." In Cambodia and the International Community, edited by Frederick Z. Brown and David G. Timberman. New York: Asia Society, 1998.
In the section focusing on civil society, this article discusses the state as well as needs of civil society after the 1997 coup.
Eisenbruch, Maurice, Chea Bunnary, Heng Kimvan, and Mech Samphors. "Re-imagining Peace: Field Research in Cambodia (2004-2005): Field Material and Investigation Results." Interim Report, Center for International Studies and Research, 2005.
This report discusses local resources available for facilitating peace and reconciliation in post-conflict Cambodia, focusing in part upon traditional healers roles in psycho-social recovery efforts.
Pouligny, Béatrice. "Indigenous Civil Societies." In Peace Operations Seen from Below: UN Missions and Local People. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press, 2006.
This article discusses the complexity and resilience of Cambodian community structures and attempts by local peoples to reorganize themselves after the wars. In addition, the article discusses how community structures served as meeting points with international mission representatives from UNTAC.
International Conflict Research: Cambodia
This website provides links to online resources concerning conflict and reconstruction in Cambodia.
Peacemakers Trust: Peacebuilding in Cambodia
This website provides information for as well as links to documents concerning peacebuilding efforts in Cambodia.
Re-Imagining Peace After Massacres, Cambodia
This website discusses a research project on local resources available to help Cambodians recover from trauma after the Cambodian conflict.
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This program is not exempt from criticism, but it is interesting because it contrasts with other initiatives in which aid is channeled through NGOs that some analysts claim do little to build civil society capacity within the state. Among the negative effects of this funding is the emergence of top-down, client-based CSOs. Some analyses of the Rwanda case have shown what it would mean to support a system of collective action in which all people can demand access to rights and services on the basis of their citizenship. Development of such a system would necessitate both predictable, long-term funding that passes through decentralization structures and action that supports capacity building of both state and civic structures.
The Rwanda case also provides an interesting illustration of the kind of challenges that might obstruct the construction of a vital civil society in that kind of environment: poverty, collective trauma and pain, mutual distrust among people and between the state and society, dearth of political space, and acceptance of vertical, authoritarian governance.
For more information:
Brown, Gillian, Sarah Cliffe, Scott Guggenheim, Markus Kostner, and Susan Opper. "A Tale of Two Projects: Community-Based Reconstruction in East Timor and Rwanda." Social Funds Innovation Update 2, no. 4 (2002).
This article discusses two community-based, government-supported reconstruction programs that followed violent conflict in Rwanda and East Timor. In the Rwandan context, the Community Reintegration and Development Project (CRDP) is analyzed, with the conclusion that sustainable, community-driven projects facilitate post-conflict reconstruction while fostering social cohesion and a positive state-society relationship.
Clarke, Miranda. "Silent Discourse in Rwanda: What Role for Civil Society in a Fear-Based State?" Paper presented at the International Society for Third-Sector Research (ISTR) Sixth International Conference, Toronto, Canada, July 11-14, 2004.
This paper discusses that state of civil society after the Rwandan genocide, as well as difficulties in promoting civil society given the legacy of violence in Rwanda.
Colletta, Nat J., and Michelle L. Cullen. "Rwanda: Hate, Fear and the Decay of Social Relations." In Violent Conflict and the Transformation of Social Capital: Lessons from Cambodia, Rwanda, Guatemala, and Somalia. Washington, DC: World Bank Publications, 2000.
This chapter discusses the causes and consequences of the breakdown in social relations leading up to and following the Rwandan genocide.
Dunbar, Judith. Ubudehe and the Kecamatan Development Projects: Case Study and Comparative Analysis. MA thesis, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, 2004.
This report discusses the challenges and successes of the ubudehe process, a state decentralization program designed to both build local governance and community capacity and participation.
National Poverty Reduction Programme and the Ministry of Local Government and Social Affairs. Ubudehe mu kurwanya ubukene - Ubudehe to Fight Poverty. Rwanda: Republic of Rwanda, 2003.
This report discusses the ubudehe concept, the traditional Rwandan value and practice of community gatherings to solve problems, and its utilization as a government program to build community participation. Specifically, this report discusses how the ubudehe initiative facilitates the reduction of poverty through its inclusive methodology whereby local communities participate in the budgeting processes of formal government structures.
Unsworth, Sue, and Peter Uvin. "A New Look at Civil Society Support in Rwanda?" Draft paper for the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, October 7, 2002.
This paper addresses the opportunities for civil society development in Rwanda. Specifically, it highlights the longer-term, structural developments needed for the emergence of an entrenched civil society that represents diverse stakeholders, especially the poor. In addressing these issues, the paper examines significant barriers to this process, such as poverty, ethnic division, and mutual distrust among people and between the state and society. The authors recommend supporting citizenship-based initiatives organized around livelihood interests so that a space for collective action will develop.
Uvin, Peter. "Building Civil Society in Post-Conflict Environments: From the Micro to the Macro." PowerPoint summary presented to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, February 1, 2008.
This PowerPoint presentation provides a summary of Peter Uvins paper on civil society development in Rwanda and Burundi.
Uvin, Peter. "Fostering Citizen Collective Action in Post-Conflict Societies." In "What Really Works in Preventing and Rebuilding Failed States: Building Civil Society in Post-Conflict Environments: From the Micro to the Macro." Occasional Paper Series, Issue 1, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Project on Leadership and Building State Capacity, November 2006.
This discussion paper considers problems with civil society practices in post-conflict societies that focus on NGO development in funding, or clientelism. Uvin stresses that in post-conflict contexts such as Rwanda, clientelism leads to institutional destruction as a result of the individualized focus of programs, competition between NGOs vying for funds, and animosity from the state toward NGO programs. Uvin suggests focusing support upon citizen-based initiatives in which collective action structures are used to build a space to communicate with and demand rights from the state. He discusses the use of the traditional ubudehe concept in Rwanda to support community participation. Supported by the Rwandan government, the ubudehe initiative provides grants to the base administrations of communities, or cells, in which local citizens are brought together to discuss priorities and make decisions concerning the use and allocation of funds.
1. New York University Center on International Cooperation (CIC) and the International Peace Institute (IPI), Taking Stock, Looking Forward: A Strategic Review of the Peacebuilding Commission (New York: CIC/IPI, 2008), 31.
2. On these points, see, in particular, Heather Sonner, "Effective Civil Society Engagement with the Peacebuilding Commission: Principles and Mechanisms," Discussion Paper, World Federalist Movement, Institute for Global Policy, 2006.
3. ActionAid, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), and CARE International, Consolidating Peace? Views from Sierra Leone and Burundi on the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission (Johannesburg: ActionAid/CAFOD/CARE International, 2007), 16; NYU CIC and IPI, Taking Stock, 31.
4. ActionAid, CAFOD, and CARE, Consolidating Peace, 16.
6. Ibid, 35. See also, NYU CIC and IPI, Taking Stock, 14.