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Principles for peace: Local insights on building lasting peace - March 2021

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Executive Summary

As the number of successful peace processes has decreased in recent decades, many peacebuilders are rethinking fundamental assumptions about what makes a peace process succeed or fail. Current models for international involvement in peace processes have suffered from three major flaws: they typically focus on negotiations to end violence at the expense of finding solutions to root causes of conflict; they rely on traditional, mandate-driven strategies to guide decisions; and they lack real inclusivity and local ownership. While there is broad consensus that inclusivity during peace processes is a prerequisite for sustainable positive peace,1 peace processes in practice rarely include the stakeholders they need to reach.

In similar fashion to the development of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P),2 the Principles for Peace (P4P) Initiative seeks to address these flaws by coordinating a global collective effort to fundamentally reshape approaches to peace and establish new international principles for the successful development and implementation of peace processes. Driven by input from local people in conflict-affected countries, and reviewed by board members states and actors in the UN in a Stakeholder Platform and the International Commission on Inclusive Peace (ICIP), these principles will better enable local, national, and international actors to craft more inclusive approaches that result in lasting peace as all local stakeholders lead all steps toward peace. As part of this initiative, Search for Common Ground (Search) conducted a series of consultations with groups that have been generally excluded from recent, ongoing, and/or attempted peace processes in six countries-Afghanistan, the Central African Republic (CAR), Myanmar, Sierra Leone, Syria, and Yemen. This report details our findings and offers recommendations for international actors to support future peace processes.

Search country teams held 57 total consultation sessions, spanning online and in-person focus group discussions (FGDs) and key informant interviews (KIIs), with 364 total participants between December 2020 and January 2021. In each country, team leads chose different groups who are critical stakeholders in that context, but have not been deeply engaged in peace processes. Participants refle ted on:

  • What peace looks like in the local context

  • Challenges and obstacles to peace

  • What peace should deliver

  • Recommendations to realize peace

Based on these consultations, we have identified four principles that should guide international actors as they support the creation and implementation of inclusive, effective, and sustainable peace processes:

  • Principle I: The international community should ensure inclusivity and fair representation of conflict-affected groups, civil society, and ordinary people in formal peace negotiations. Inclusive representation at the national level allows all groups affected by conflict conditions to jointly determine the future of their country, thus increasing the likelihood of achieving enduring peace as all grievances and hopes for peace are taken into account.

  • Principle II: The international community should cultivate positive peace by committing to invest in sustainable peacebuilding work in the long-term as desired by local populations. Because achieving positive peace is a long-term process that aims to end structural violence by creating conditions necessary for peaceful societies, building positive peace requires a sustained commitment to social cohesion and development in order to fully address root causes of conflict.

  • Principle III: The international community should support efforts to build social peace at all levels of society, rather than focusing predominantly on achieving political peace. As political peace can often seem removed from peoples’ daily lives, building social peace in tandem with political peace offers a way to address community-level drivers of conflict that people experience in their everyday lives and that often scale up to the national level.

  • Principle IV: The international community should center their involvement around the leadership and needs of local peacebuilders and peace architecture at all levels of the peace process. Locally led and owned peacebuilding is both ethical and effective. International actors should place an emphasis on human security rather than solely focusing on national security, and partner with local people, who know their conflict context best, in order to create and carry out effective peacebuilding initiatives.

Key Similarities and Differences:

  • Participants’ conceptualizations of inclusion vary by conflict context. Concepts of inclusion depend on the types of root causes of a conflict, national history, country demographics, societal power structures, parties to conflict, and individuals’ intersecting identities among other factors.

  • Participants from certain countries reflected on what their populations need to learn from past peace processes, while others focused on what peace means going forward. Depending on their countries’ stage in peace processes, some participants analyzed key points of weakness that undermined past peace agreements and described what their nations should do going forward to make a current or forthcoming peace process successful, while others focused on imagining a new foundation for what peace can deliver both in the short-term and long-term.

  • Participants agree that peace comprises more than a political result, but hold nuanced views on what both political peace and social peace entail. Common themes among countries included noncorrupt government and good governance, youth political participation, women’s political participation, transitional justice and rule of law, social cohesion, employment, civil rights, education, development, and peaceful lives.

  • Participants expressed widely varying degrees of openness to international involvement of any form in their countries’ peace processes. Based on many factors, such as their countries’ past experience with international actors, participants’ views ranged from supportive of to indifferent about to against international involvement in formal peace negotiations and implementation of peace processes in their countries.