Summary of "Peace-Building: A Field Guide"

Summary of

Peace-Building: A Field Guide

By Luc Reychler and Thania Paffenholz

Summary written by Conflict Research Consortium Staff

Citation: Luc Reychler and Thania Paffenholz. Peace-Building: A Field Guide. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2001.

Peace-Building is a practical field guide designed to orient conflict resolution practitioners to the core themes, findings, and ideas in contemporary peace fieldwork. Edited by professor Luc Reychler and senior researcher Thania Paffenholz, this book compiles articles and contributions by the peace-building field's leading figures and thinkers and "draws on the lessons of peacemaking and conflict management in some of the most troubled regions of the world" (p. xi).

The book is divided into three main sections, each of which is designed to orient the peace practitioner to the often messy and murky realm of conflict resolution practice: preparing for, working in, and surviving in the field. "Part I: Preparing for the Field" offers tools, concepts, and practical advice for those planning or preparing for their entry into the field for peacebuilding efforts. This section starts from the very beginning, focusing on the definition and explanation of key terms and concepts with which every peace worker must familiarize himself or herself.

From this staring point, Luc Reychler outlines two core concepts underlying the entire handbook: Conflict Impact Assessment Systems (CIAS) and sustainable peacebuilding. CIAS are designed to assess the positive and negative impacts of conflict intervention, to develop a more coherent peacebuilding policy, to help policy shapers and policymakers identify potential weaknesses in their approach, and to further the economy of peacebuilding efforts (p.8). A related term, sustainable peacebuilding, refers to "a situation characterized by the absence of physical violence; the elimination of unacceptable political, economic and cultural forms of discrimination; a high level of internal and external legitimacy or support; self sustainability; and a propensity to enhance the constructive transformation of conflicts" (p.12). Taken together, these core concepts provide the theoretical and conceptual foundation upon which the rest of the guide is built.

The remainder of Part I deals with the more practical side of preparing for the actual conflict site, including the selection of the right staff and practitioners for your peacebuilding projects (including the particular values, attitudes, skills, and qualifications applicants must have), training peacebuilders and humanitarian aid workers for the unique challenges of the field (including some logistical and organizational advice), and creating awareness for a multi-cultural conflict resolution environment (including the potential challenges of communicating across cultures and genders).

In Part II, the book turns toward the practice of peacebuilding and conflict resolution as it takes place at the site of conflict. This part gets down to the nuts and bolts of negotiating solutions to complex social conflicts. Drawing on examples from among the most conflict-ridden regions of the world, including Cameroon and Burundi, the Middle East, Northern Ireland, Mozambique, Rwanda, Congo, and Somaliland, Chapter Five introduces the reader to competing perspectives on international mediation practice. Comparing Western approaches to mediation to more traditional approaches, the authors allow the reader to determine the appropriate mediation and negotiation techniques for their particular scene and setting. Chapter Six explains the various key players one is likely to encounter within the conflict setting (for example, military, political, or religious leaders with high visibility; ethnic/racial group leaders, academics, and humanitarian relief leaders; and local leaders -- including leaders of local NGO's, community developers, and local health officials.) Additionally, this chapter offers approaches to contacting, interacting and communicating with individuals from multiple levels of power and authority and from multiple perspectives and stations in society. Chapter Seven offers tips and principles on which to base a solid mediation strategy and provides a comprehensive outline for effective process design, including some of the key characteristics of proficient mediators and mediation practices. In Chapter Eight, the authors focus on several types of conflict monitoring including human rights monitoring, monitoring democratic transitions, elections, and minority group conflicts. These articles discuss how to best evaluate and assess the conflict situation and the various steps and stages involved in assessing the effectiveness of a particular mandate or conflict resolution strategy.

Chapter Nine discusses the issues of relief aid and development cooperation. Since conflicts are taking place increasingly in developing countries, this chapter focuses on both the ethical, practical, and logistical aspects of relief aid when tied to peacebuilding efforts. Additionally, the authors describe how to implement relief aid and cooperative efforts at the local level through community mobilization and local capacity building. These articles focus on meeting the communities' needs and interests by tapping into local knowledge and resources and building structures and systems of involvement for residents living in the conflict region. These principles and practices are presented in such a way as to minimize direct, outsider control over the community building efforts, thus insuring no harm is done to the local community culture. The final article focuses on development and humanitarian aid in war-torn societies. Keeping their focus on the local culture, in Chapter Ten the authors turn their attention toward the training of peacebuilders at the local level. They discuss the special challenges one must consider when implementing a training program within the conflict region itself and provide a series of guiding principles for the design and maintenance of an effective peacebuilding training system.

Chapter Eleven considers the role of the media in peacebuilding missions. The authors discuss the competing aims, functions, purposes, and agendas of media agencies and their representatives. They discuss the media's role in not only truthfully representing and reporting on the conflict area, but their potential to create harmful, hateful speech through shoddy or inaccurate journalistic practices. Although often overlooked, the authors also consider the potential of journalists to assist in the peacebuilding process by acting as mediators and creating dialogue between and across conflict groups. Chapter Twelve deals with the realities of transition between different governments, economies, and social structures experienced by those living in conflict areas by discussing the role of historical or cultural memory and future visions. In particular, the various articles in this section detail several conflict resolution practices and judicial options central to making a harmonious transition to a just and more peaceful society including amnesty, prosecution, restorative justice, reconciliation, violence prevention and victim protection. This chapter concludes by detailing practitioner experiences in dealing with the past while imagining a positive future for the conflict-torn region by drawing from experiences in Latin America and South Africa. Chapter Thirteen concludes Part II with an all too important discussion of security issues field workers are likely to face when implementing a transition to more peaceful forms of government. This diverse selection of articles covers and reports the experiences of multiple experts who have experienced first-hand the dangers of building peace in a delicate, often war-torn region. Specific attention is drawn toward issues of disarmament and demobilization of former combatants and policing areas to ensure no future outbreaks of violence occur within the conflict region.

In Part III, Reychler and Paffenholz bring the focus to the care of the individual practitioner when working through potentially difficult situations in the field. Whereas the other sections focus on the conflict site itself, this section equips the peacebuilder with the strategies necessary to go into and emerge from the field experience with minimal physical, mental, or emotional harm. Chapter Fourteen focuses on the task of managing stress while out in the field, describes different types of stress practitioners may encounter, and provides tips and techniques for dealing with potentially stressful situations. Chapter Fifteen outlines the essential interpersonal communication skills of dialogue and listening. To facilite mutual respect and understanding, the authors provide principles and techniques for facilitating greater communication between colleagues, fellow peacebuilders, disputants, and others. They also provide tips for minimizing rumors and stereotyping, and discuss the role and function of humor in the conflict setting.

Once on site, it is likely that individuals will be faced with having to behave in ways or having to view others' behavior that run counter to their deeply held values and ideals. Chapter Sixteen provides strategies for discovering, defining, and working through these and other moral dilemmas. Chapter Seventeen concludes this section with a discussion of improving communicative networks and coordination among organizations, groups, and parties involved in the conflict. The chapter also addresses the role of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the peacebuilding process.

In Part IV, Thania Paffenholtz offers a motivational concluding article that not only summarizes the main themes of this comprehensive text, but offers a reminder of the core principles and practices that peacebuilders must keep in mind before, during, and after their work in the field. Paffenholtz concludes that peacebuilding is a comprehensive learning process that requires constant attention to the "big picture" and a reminder that our efforts, however large or small, fit into the larger coordinated effort to build a more just and peaceful world.

This information packed book is a necessity for any peacebuilder or conflict resolution practitioner interested in or planning to embark into the field to help resolve an ongoing social conflict. Although all of the articles may not apply uniformly to all individuals interested in peacebuilding field work, each chapter contains a wealth of information that individuals will need to consider before embarking onto and while working in the conflict site.