Civil society is widely assumed to be an important actor for peacebuilding. As such, substantive focus has been given towards building and strengthening civil society, especially in countries experiencing or emerging from situations of armed conflict. In such environments, civil society is understood as playing an important role in reducing violence, and in facilitating the conditions necessary for building a sustainable peace. However, despite this ever-growing emphasis on the role of civil society in peacebuilding, little systematic research has been undertaken to empirically support this assumption.
As an effort to systematically examine the role of civil society in peacebuilding processes, the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding (CCDP) has conducted a three-year comparative research project under the direction of Thania Paffenholz entitled “Civil Society and Peacebuilding.” This report provides an overview of the findings thus far, and focuses explicitly on their policy implications.
The project began by developing a comprehensive framework through which the relevance and effectiveness of the role of civil society in peacebuilding could be more fully analyzed. This framework, derived from democracy, development and peacebuilding theory, outlined seven possible functions to be played by civil society within various stages of conflict. These functions are: protection, monitoring, advocacy, socialization, social cohesion, facilitation, and service delivery.
Through the comparative study of thirteen case studies, this project analyzed the performance of civil society in regards to the above functions within situations of both war and armed conflict. It also looked at the potential and actual role of civil society when a window of opportunity appears for peace negotiations, and when large-scale violence has ended.