What's New in 2023
This year we’re looking forward to continuing our core work on Conflict Resolution; Preventing Violent Extremism; Women, Peace, and Security; and Intra and Interfaith Dialogue. We are happy to resume work in these areas and to continue our partnerships with IOM Morocco, IOM Iraq, and FBA. TP spent the month of January supporting and elevating the work of civil society in Morocco and Iraq, focusing on capacity building within the domain of peacebuilding and developing a community of practice around preventative approaches to violent extremism. TP believes civil society plays an important role in peacebuilding and looks forward to continuing its support to empower that sector.
Preventative approaches work best when they are led by local communities and grassroots leaders, and supported by partnerships among stakeholders at the national and international levels.
Why is Civil Society Important?
The main actors in civil society typically consist of non-governmental organizations, professional associations, clubs, unions, faith-based organizations, and traditional and clan groups, etc. These groups make up the civil society eco-system which can design, implement, and otherwise influence peacebuilding processes. Effective and sustainable peacebuilding depends on cooperation between diverse actors within civil society, the local community, and the state.
There is now a greater acknowledgement of the importance of civil society in peacebuilding. Legitimacy and trust are critical elements of constructive and sustainable peacebuilding. It is crucial to properly utilize and cooperate with civil society in all areas of peacebuilding, because civil society organizations and community leaders bring unique traits and capacities to the table that make their inclusion indispensable. Civil society organizations (CSO)s can facilitate peacebuilding through the following ways:
What Makes Civil Society Organizations Unique?
Civil society organizations and their local representatives generally have extensive knowledge of local dynamics and their position within local communities generally means they enjoy more credibility, connections, and trust than other actors. Because of this, the social relationships Civil society organizations and community leaders have are generally more productive than those between state actors and local community members. Civil society can use these relationships and their knowledge of local context, to educate governments, influence policy, and take the lead in local design and implementation. They can also utilize it to help link government to local communities by improving state outreach, media, and strategic communication.
A key determinant of whether or not a community can manage and/or respond to significant threats and challenges is their degree of social capital. Social capital is a collective asset derived from "shared norms, values, beliefs, trust, networks, social relations, and institutions that facilitate cooperation and collective action for mutual benefits." Linking capital is a specific form of social capital, referring to the capital generated through interactions between local communities or civil society, and the government. Linking capital is essential to the resilience of communities, and research has highlighted its importance in crisis scenarios including the effectiveness by which communities responded to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Peacebuilding success is no different, with initiatives largely depending on the space for and degree of cooperation between government, civil society, and local communities, as well as the character of that cooperation. Civil society organizations generate linking capital by acting as an essential bridge between government and local communities, raising awareness, generating local buy-in, providing local insights, and facilitating, designing, and/or implementing interventions among other important and indispensable functions. Civil society organizations are well suited for this role, because they have greater access and capacities than governments in local communities, along with a higher degree of trust within local communities.
A human rights approach to peacebuilding is critical for building community resilience and sustainable preventative action. Civil society is uniquely positioned to play a key role in rooting peacebuilding processes in an egalitarian and human rights based framework. Through their varied roles, civil society actors can help assure that the anti-terrorism and anti-extremism measures of the state respect human rights. When they do not, civil society actors generate awareness of violations and make recommendations and/or demands to improve respect for human rights.
For more information on the role of civil society in peacebuilding, read our previous newsletter on civil society here: "The Critical Role of Civil Society in Peacebuilding."