Peacebuilding operations in conflict and post-conflict societies often undermine local capacity, ownership, and sustainability. The acknowledged remedy is to empower local actors to take the lead in planning and implementing programs, but few empowerment strategies that work in practice have been documented and explained.

Summary

Problem Identified

  • Peacebuilding operations in conflict and post-conflict societies often undermine local capacity, ownership, and sustainability. The acknowledged remedy is to empower local actors to take the lead in planning and implementing programs, but few empowerment strategies that work in practice have been documented and explained.

Action Taken

  • Several organizations have reconfigured empowerment techniques traditionally used for peacetime development to work in societies emerging from conflict.
  • Local actors have seized the chance presented by these new approaches to develop and implement their own creative solutions to conflict. Local ownership has in turn enabled the integration of other sectors of society and government into peacebuilding activities.

Lessons Learned

  • Focus on facilitating processes instead of trying to achieve specific outcomes. Successful interventions help participants open channels to defend their own interests, with the participants determining the final decisions and outcomes.
  • Design programs to promote learning rather than to yield specific results. Effective programs create opportunities for participants to seek out and absorb knowledge critical to good decision making.
  • Don’t be deflected by political pressures. Even well-known empowerment principles (such as respecting local counterparts) can be sidelined if interveners do not prioritize them above the kinds of political pressures typically encountered in conflict zones.

About the Report

The Building Peace series reports on innovative work by USIP that has practical applications for peacemakers and peacebuilders. The goal is to get useful knowledge into the hands of practitioners promptly. Some of the work reported in Building Peace is recent, some is ongoing. All of it has been tested, usually in the field, but this is work in progress and feedback is warmly welcomed. Please send all comments on this report to Nadia Gerspacher, a senior program officer in USIP’s Academy of International Conflict Management and Peacemaking.

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