Civil Society and Government Cooperation on Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding

TitleCivil Society and Government Cooperation on Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding
Publication TypeBook
Subtitle / Series TitleGPPAC Issue Paper on Joint Action for Prevention
Year of Publication2007
Authorsvan Tongeren, P, van Empel, C, Barnes, C
VolumeNo. 4
Number of Pages102 pp.
PublisherEuropean Centre for Conflict Prevention (ECCP) / Global Secretariat of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC)
Accession Number1032

There is growing recognition of the role civil society organizations (CSOs) can play in responding, managing and preventing conflict as well as in post-conflict peacebuilding. Equally, recognition is spreading that governments and CSOs can be useful if not indispensable partners to each other in any of the activities just mentioned. This paper explores the various ways in which state institutions, governments, international bodies and CSOs can work at various levels (local, national, international) in the interest of peacebuilding and responding to conflict. States are a diverse group. They range from effectively functioning bodies that operate in a legally defined and enforceable framework and have a well-established democratic tradition to non-functioning entities where democracy and the rule of law are virtually absent. CSOs tend to thrive in the former and be under severe pressure in the latter. There is also a great diversity of CSOs worldwide. They may range from spontaneous (community-based) initiatives and churches to major international NGOs with agencies around the world.
Conflicts tend to move in stages and CSOs can play different but valuable roles in each phase of a conflict: from early warning at the start to mediation when a conflict is already going on and awareness-raising in a post-conflict situation, to prevent the same from happening again. Precisely which roles CSOs assume depend not only on the nature and the severity of the conflict itself but also - even more important - on the kind of relationship a CSO has with the government. These can vary widely, from the cooperation and even cooptation on one side of the spectrum to confrontation and even hostility on the other. The general assumption remains that states 'own' conflicts, in the sense that they bear primary responsibility for initiating and ending conflicts. By extension, it is also thought that conflict prevention, peacebuilding and related activities fall within the remit of the state. Hence, they mistrust nonstate initiatives in this arena. But there is a growing body of evidence that challenges this consensus (perhaps in parallel with the undeniable fact that many initiators of conflict today also tend to be non-state actors). This paper highlights a number of them.

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