Civil Society

This sub-section aims to present an overview of the role of civil society in peacebuilding. In order to detail this topic, five areas of concern are elaborated upon. First, a review of definitions and conceptual issues is presented, followed by discussion of the role civil society may play in various facets of peacebuilding. Further, main actors and capacity-building activities are reviewed and major debates and challenges are detailed regarding these activities. Finally, a number of case studies are suggested.

The sub-section begins by delimiting key notions and concepts. Differences between concepts are highlighted, including how this sector is seen to relate to states and markets, and how the historical roots of the concept attach normative values to its significance. Contemporary approaches are noted. Also presented are disparate models of understanding civil society and forms civil society often takes. The emerging concept of global civil society is also touched upon.

Civil society is conceived of as a critical sector in peacebuilding. The sub-section proceeds by explaining these functions, providing first an overview of the capacities in which civil society is involved in peacebuilding in a broader sense. In addition, civil society is a pillar of democratic systems and as such plays important roles in democracy and good governance for pre- and post-conflict societies. Further, civil society contributes in a number of other areas of the peacebuilding agenda, including facets of economic and psycho-social recovery, justice and the rule of law, and security and public order. Finally, through its involvement across sectors, civil society serves a number of important functions that span different peacebuilding themes and institutions. This part also addresses the relationship civil society organizations have with the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission.

Noting that a number of key actors are involved, the sub-section reviews the central activities involved in capacity building for civil society. These activities include funding assistance, training, technical support, provision of platforms and consortiums, and provision of increased access to a number of international forums.

Thus, civil society clearly permeates a range of sectors in peacebuilding. However, perhaps as a result of it importance, there are many debates around its utility and challenges to how programs bolstering its capacity should be implemented. Stakeholders must address issues of (re)constructing civil society after conflict (specific circumstances require a specific attention); distinguishing normative versus realistic visions of civil society, including its relationship to the state; the extent to which civil society can actually contribute to democratization; and competing interests of international and local organizations in this field.
In order to illustrate these realities, the sub-section presents a number of case studies. These include problems with politicization of civil society in El Salvador; the successes of the Igman Initiative in the former Yugoslavia; support to shuras in Afghanistan; community-based structures utilized in Cambodia; and the development of civil society after genocide in Rwanda. These case studies are to be developed further.

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