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Grounding local peace organisations: a case study of southern Sudan

  • Dorothea Hilhorst (a1) and Mathijs van Leeuwen (a2)

Abstract

Since the early 1990s, building peace during and after conflict has been moving away from the conference tables of diplomats to informal settings created by local NGOs. The vast majority, if not all, of the peacebuilding policy and literature argues for strengthening local organisations as vehicles for peace. This paper starts from the observation that there is a dire lack of organisational perspective to the processes set into motion. Current local peacebuilding policy, we argue, is based on analyses that are far removed from the everyday practices of the actors engaged in peacebuilding. The paper offers instead a qualitative approach that gives central attention to the dynamics of peace organisations and the way conflict is experienced in the everyday life of local people. It analyses the case of one local women's peace organisation: the ‘Sudanese Women's Voice for Peace’. Peacebuilding is done by people, and the dynamics of their organisation are crucial for its success. The paper argues that a process approach to peace organisations will enhance agencies' efforts for local peacebuilding. Such an approach focuses on the question how actors in and around organisations give meaning to an organisation. The paper outlines this approach, presents five central properties of local peace organisations, and discusses what lessons can be learnt from this perspective for the practice of peacebuilding.

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