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.

Related Publications

How ‘Teleschool’ Can Revolutionize Pakistan’s Education System

How ‘Teleschool’ Can Revolutionize Pakistan’s Education System

Thursday, April 23, 2020

By: Nadia Naviwala

For decades, children’s media has been curiously absent in Pakistan. That changed last week when state television launched a new channel, Teleschool, in the wake of school closures due to COVID-19. With the Pakistani curriculum now beaming into millions of homes nationwide, the country has a chance to re-think the content of its failed education system and how children’s television media can help fill the gap.

Type: Blog

Education & Training

Pakistan’s Looming Coronavirus Crisis

Pakistan’s Looming Coronavirus Crisis

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

By: Cyril Almeida; Richard Olson

In the weeks since Pakistan’s first confirmed cases of coronavirus, the country’s response has laid bare troubling weaknesses in governance, public health, and economic stability—and raised serious questions about Pakistan’s capacity to weather a large-scale outbreak absent significant international assistance. USIP’s Cyril Almeida and Ambassador Richard Olson look at how friction between the military and federal government poses a risk to Pakistan’s democracy, the possible avenues for medical and economic relief, and what COVID-19 means for the situation in Kashmir and Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance; Fragility & Resilience

How to Handle Pakistan’s Corporal Punishment Problem

How to Handle Pakistan’s Corporal Punishment Problem

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

By: Aleena Khan; Emily Ashbridge

Shameen, a ninth grade teacher in a low-cost private school in Islamabad, frequently turns around from the whiteboard to shout at the children for slouching and making noise. “Why are you smiling? Sit properly!” she calls out to one of the students. Holding a stick wrapped in tape, she asks students to open their hands and then smacks their palms several times whenever they fail to answer her questions correctly. This is an all too common scene from an average school in Pakistan—and sometimes it can be much worse.

Type: Blog

Education & Training

View All Publications