Through consultation with other peace practitioners, a modular design has been created which aims to learn from communities by focusing on four critical aspects of peace. These four aspects are a) the historical context for community peace, b) social context of peace, c) community organs in peace; and d) community peace duty bearers, peace actors and peace stakeholders.
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By Kisuke Ndiku
Concerned by the impact of frequently broken peace agreements, continued violence and the rise of radicalized extremist violence, there is a need to find innovative approaches to address peace work at its roots; grounded in practical experiences in South Sudan and Kenya.
Through consultation with other peace practitioners, including explorative learning at MPI Philippines, and social research techniques, a modular design has been created which aims to learn from communities by focusing on four critical aspects of peace. These four aspects are a) the historical context for community peace, b) social context of peace, c) community organs in peace; and d) community peace duty bearers, peace actors and peace stakeholders.
Three sites were identified in Kenya to conduct trial data and information collection. This targeted ordinary households, key informants drawn locally, peace duty bearers, peace actors, government officials in administration, security organs, local organizations and institutions, religious and traditional structures, including women, youth and persons with disability. A deliberate effort was made to be as sensitively inclusive and representative as possible during the process.
Learning from the peace analysis-community peace pillars
The fact that the learning process was entitled peace analysis-community peace pillars was somewhat provocative, especially to many individuals who’ve engaged in peacebuilding, conflict analysis and conflict management. An immediate question was why only peace; what about conflict? Are you isolating peace when really the problem is conflict? If so, then what will you do when conflict occurs? These questions continue to linger
The study did not exclude conflict. Instead its places conflict in perspective (a historical perspective and actors in peace) with respect to to community peace; peace benefits and how peace can be maintained (social context dimensions and peace duty bearers, peace actors) wholly by community-driven energies (community organs in peace work). The intention is to elucidate community-bred avenues, options and interventions for effective peace work.
A social study was chosen as the best option to guide the process because the peace continuum as a dynamic takes place based on social spaces of how individuals in a community interact. Assumptions of the innovation were that if the manner of social engagement was better understood by respondents, and if these were directly related to how peace was gained and maintained, then this would illuminate about peace itself in the community context.
Second, the innovation on peace analysis-community peace pillars explored duty bearers, peace actors and peace stakeholders from the perspective of individuals, organs of society, the role of other communities, highlighting the functions, roles, and leader behaviour. It sought to identify and expose interactions among these entities to show what causes peace and peace benefits to be realized in the community context.
At the community level, the majority of respondents readily remarked on what one would term “a wow moment”; declaring that “actually I have not thought about peace that way before!” This contributed to a sense of freshness when exploring the concept of peace from within the community. Communities were visibly energized. The approaches provide space and direct roles for community members to define how they would want to proceed on peace work in their respective context. The study innovation, though new, was conducted in a realistic context where communities have experienced conflict.
Diversity in context setting
In one location, traditional cattle raiding was a common phenomenon. In addition, traditional contention over borders between three main communities and one minority community were inherent factors of community identities. In another locality, access to land and land tenure were core issues in a cosmopolitan community setting, particularly highlighting a clash between formal and traditional cultural land tenure at the community level. Access to land and formal land titles was an issue as the government had elected to resettle landless community members in what used to be a large commercial estate that had been bought by the government. The government had not completed the formal processing to issue land titles other than allotment letters that community members had. But these are temporary.
The third locality had similar characteristics with the second but four dominant communities laid claim to what was regarded government land. Moreover, the communities comprised members from every corner and communities of Kenya, as well as a local minority community. The locality also had a new government decree for land conservation to restore a forested water catchment area. It is within this basic background of diversity that the social study on peace analysis-community peace pillars was conducted. It sought to search and identify what communities considered to be the pillars for peace and peace benefits, how peace was gained and maintained; and who made peace viable in the context.
Challenges in terms and terminology
The innovation on peace analysis-community peace pillars was designed using basic English as the working language. Some of the terms and terminologies which were assumed to be simple proved to be difficult to explain to local practitioners to ensure they knew how they were to be used during the data and information gathering. At the community level, the teams gathering data struggled to understand the English version of the tool for themselves. The process allowed that they could conduct data gathering in local languages or Kiswahili, the national language; then record responses in English. Finally, the data collected was transcribed, analyzed and the interpretation conducted in English for documenting the findings. These challenges were not fully appreciated during the design process.
The challenge occurred because all the field persons involved had never undertaken such work before. They were used to other types of data and information gathering, mainly looking at conflict only and with tools that had definite prescribed optional responses. The peace analysis-community peace pillars innovation study had used open ended questions with no prescribed responses as options. Lessons from this are that the key terms and terminologies have to be researched prior to another study so as to understand how best to collect data within the local context.
Learning from the outcomes
The peace analysis-community peace pillars innovation provided very insightful lessons about the process. As indicated, the terms, terminology, tools and measures for collecting data and information provide immediate on-the-spot-learning. The aspects of scoping the sample size and spatial coverage in relation to patterns of human settlement were found to also influence outcomes due to the manner of relations between different community groups. In addition, where communities are sparsely populated or migratory, or living in a traditional way, more time and resources are required. Where communities are not sparsely populated, rigorous sampling would be needed for inclusion of diversities drawn from community strata due to diversities in gender, culture, age, practices, ethnic mix, etc.
An important lesson was that irrespective of the diversities, social interaction among communities had common aspects of value that drives peace at the local level. The innovative study process sought to derive evidence-based expressions of community peace pillars which, if amplified, would increase the scope and experience of peace among communities. Lessons showed that community peace pillars exist and are supported by a range of attributes applicable at four key levels. The attributes comprise some range of norms, expected practices, behaviour, conduct, principles and ethics among those engaged in peace work, including those acting for peace to be gained, maintained and benefits to be realized.
The most immediate of the community peace pillars has to do with the local level in engagement of individuals (i.e. the engagement of community members with each other and communities). The second has to do with the faith and spirituality of the communities and its place in the peace space, plus the benefits that reinforce harmony as uniters. The third is concerned with local level governance and how this particular pillar interacts with community engagement (Pillar One). The fourth pillar has to do with main governance structures and how they interact with the local governance (Pillar Three) and community engagement (Pillar One).
A number of aspects in the study process were appreciated by varying degrees at the community level. First, the enquiry on who holds key peace functions and roles on peace. This included who could be called upon when peace was at risk, which comprised identifying those who hold such peace functions and roles in the community. This had to do with identifying individuals, specific community elders as an institution (male and female), individual leaders, plus individual local administrative leaders (Chiefs). A second appreciated aspect was identifying the key peace functions and roles in peace held by local community organs, community organizations (formal and informal), local religious leaders and religious institutions (in the context it was churches and indigenous spiritual elders), and the immediate local administration structures (chief’s elders and chiefs).
The functions and roles of other communities (external to those contacted during the study), local governance units, and the local security organs came third in the list. The fourth most appreciated had to do with the how aspects; namely what constitutes the premise for maintaining and strengthening peace. The clarification by the community respondents on the processes, mechanisms and practices based on which the functions and roles of peace work and how these aspects work together.
It was interesting to note that the national governance structures were fifth in the list of who works for peace and how do they affect and influence peace at the community level. However, political parties, politicians and political elite (non-elected aspirants and party representatives) were clearly singled out as being anti-peace and respondents often asked that they should be given warning not to interfere in community peace.
Peace benefits raised indicated that they are factors and aspects of community life that act as part of the contributors and promoters of peace. These were found to be essential in the facilitation of the development of local community contacts, exchanges, associations, relations, interactions, and transactions that strengthen harmony understanding personal individual liberty and freedoms and unity. Moreover, they contribute to working at livelihoods, local social security, surveillance and monitoring of local peace.
Refining the Innovation
The experience and lessons gained from the process undertaken so far are being used to refine the data and information gathering, guides, in order to better orientate how the peace analysis-community peace pillars approach as an innovation works. The lessons will also provide inputs for refining the guides for reporting and documenting new knowledge in community-driven peace work. The tools and terminology (vocabulary on peace analysis) are also being refined so as to make them usable in different language groups and among community peace workers.
Kisuke Ndiku is a peace practitioner at PRECISE.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of TransConflict.