Brussels, novembre 2007
Conditions for successful work in the field - civilian peace services
Key findings of observed outcomesin developing CPS
Generally it is difficult to judge whether the region (former Yugoslavia) in which CPS predominantly works or a particular approach used by the project organisations is responsible for the observed outcomes.
1. There are only very few projects that give the overall goals of conflict transformation and civil society building as reasons for their presence in the field. Rather, access to the field is sought and gained by means of more tangible projects, be it youth work, work with refugees, reconstruction, psycho-social help, or by stepping into the role of supporting members of local groups (like Austrian Peace Services usually do). In some conflict situations that approach might be necessary in order to obtain acceptance by local players.
2. Bringing people together in dialogue about the conflict requires clear-cut and professed identities, and the readiness of people to meet on the basis of these identities to talk about their conflict.(1) In the former Yugoslavia - perhaps with the exception of Kosovo - this approach seems to be rarely advisable, because it might strengthen rather than weaken the conflict lines. There, approaches like bringing people together regardless of their identity to pursue other common goals (what Korschat has called multi-communal social work, and which can also be found in training and other initiatives) seem to work better. The reason is probably that alignment along ethnic identities happened very recently and was very much connected to the experience of war itself, and many people, especially those more likely to participate in multi-ethnic enterprises, would much prefer to push these identities into the background once more.
3. While some CPSs place their volunteers with partner organisations, others prefer to set up independent teams with only a loose connection to a formal local partner if the funders required such a connection. There are no indicators that one approach is better or more likely to succeed. It seems to be more a question of the conflict situation in the particular area, of the presence of partners that aim at working over the conflict lines, and whether having a steady local partner organisation would make crossing the lines more difficult or impossible.
4. Building up good field relationships with both local authorities and international players already present seems to be very important in order to fulfil the functions of protection and opening doors to other agencies and authorities.
5. The range of people in regard to both age and qualifications seems to be rather broad, and the length of training attended before going to the field varies between a few weeks and several months. There is no clear indication that field projects were more successful or had more impact because of certain kinds of training or skills, other than a general emphasis on personal maturity and the ability to communicate with and to adapt to another culture. Sometimes it seems to have been the other way around: The broad and open character of most CPS projects has allowed many volunteers to make use of their specific skills and knowledge (such as being a psychologist or suffering from a rare chronic sickness) in order to start matching projects in the field (trauma therapy or a self-help group for people with that sickness).
(1) : See for example Philipps-Heck (1991) on the experiences of the peace school Neve Shalom(Wahat al-Salam in Israel.