Research page

Civil Society and Peacebuilding: Supporting Peacemaking and Peacebuilding with Research Knowledge Transfer

project description 

Since the 1990s, civil society has been assumed to be an important actor in peace processes, enjoying generous support from donors and international NGOs. However, civil society is not a uniform actor and can take up different roles in different phases of peace processes. These roles can be in support of, but also against, peace processes. For example, the civil society mass movement in Nepal pushed for the end of the war; civil society groups in Kenya, Guatemala and Afghanistan managed to put important issues onto the negotiation agenda. However, civil society mirrors divergent views in society, and may not necessarily be in support of a given peace process as seen in Sri Lanka where Buddhist Monks demonstrated against the peace negotiations, and in Cyprus where many civil society groups opposed Kofi Annan’s proposed peace plan.

Project Outcomes

The objective of this three-year research project was to contribute to a better understanding of the role of civil society in support of peacebuilding - during and in the aftermath of armed conflict. The project looked specifically at the constructive role that civil society can play in peacebuilding processes as well as the main obstacles that may hinder the fulfilment of this role. The approach taken by the project consisted of a common theory-based analytical framework in 13 country case studies. The research was accompanied by a joint process of reflection and exchange with all involved researchers over a series of workshops.

A working paper was published in 2009, followed by an edited volume published with Lynne Rienner in early 2010.

Follow-Up Project

The project is now completed, but additional funding permitted to kick back with a new follow-up project, "Civil Society and Peacebuilding: Policy and Practice Application". The project served to disseminate the results of the previous research, for policy-relevant practices in peacebuilding.

The main approach was to transfer international research knowledge into policy and practice, and to supplement such transfer with further research. It aimed at supporting political actors in their negotiation strategies for peace processes, donors and international NGOs to reach more effective support strategies and local civil societies in their peace process efforts. This support can take the form of:

  1. Direct advice to policy makers including mediators and their advisors

  2. Client/Needs-oriented policy events, workshop or informal gatherings

  3. Capacity Building for policy makers, donors, international NGOs and local civil society groups

  4. Research on specific themes

Principal Collaborators

  • Maryia Nikolova

  • Natasha Mahendra