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Modus Operandi


A Relational Approach to Peace Initiatives in Conflict situations

The proposed tool allows for a critical revision and ongoing assessment of the context of conflict (the what), the capacity to strategically address conflict (the how: mechanisms and actions) and monitor the scope of actions according to the desired structural changes (indicators) .

To accomplish this, the following four questions are proposed:

  • 1. What do you want to change?
  • 2. How to activate the change?
  • 3. Which indicators would demonstrate this change?
  • 4. What are the limits and challenges of such possibilities for change?

The theoretical foundation of the proposed tool points to the complexity of conflicts, characterized by the coexistence of the different phases involving the construction of peace (peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding). The challenge is to develop a complex strategy which simultaneously can “hold” the negative effects of conflict while seeking to “make” peace by contributing to the negotiation process required for this to be possible, and “build” peace after reaching an agreement between the opponents in a way that will maintain the achievements and prevent the recurrence of violence.

In other words, it is necessary to account for the different time frames of conflict and peace and at the same time establishing the connections between them. It is necessary to distinguish not only between the structural, long term dynamics, but also to pay attention to the different phases of conflict that coexist in different ways in the different areas of a given context: that is to say, situations where conflict is latent; situations where conflict has escalated and reached serious levels of violence; situations where people are seeking for ways to decrease conflict or advance humanitarian agreements, or the beginnings of peace negotiations; and post-conflict situations, involving the rebuilding and reconciliation of society, which should be handled by a process of sustainable peacebuilding which in turn prevents the rise of new violent relationships.

From an understanding of the different temporalities of conflict follows the need for diversified actions of peacebuilding: prevention, containment of the conflict, negotiation, and post-conflict actions.

The analysis of peace initiatives and the conflictive contexts in which they take place has to take into account the changes in the relationships between different actors that have generated conflict and those that have enabled non-violent ways of transforming it.

In order to understand the relationships between the different actors in conflict it is necessary to interpret the visions of peace and the theories of change that underlay these initiatives. As demonstrated by Jean Paul Lederach (1983: 24), “the concept of peace is formed and influenced by context, culture and the dominant politics from where it arises”.

In short, the recommended steps to advance in the analysis of peace initiatives within the context of conflict are as follows:

  • Step 1: Description of the moments of conflict and the types of violence.

Compile and describe the multiple existing conflicts, explaining the phases in which they are, the actors involved and the interests or tensions that are at stake. Define the intersections between the different manifestations of conflict and what the effects are on the different actors in a given context.

  • Step 2: Identification of actors and key ‘relational episodes’ regarding peace efforts.

Describe and explain the variations in the conditions of the sub-regions or regions of a given context by accounting for the facts or events that have changed the relationships between the different actors. Examine how and why the relationships changed and what conflict or violent situation was generated by those changes. Identify, for example, resources or interests at stake, the types and fields of dispute between the contenders, etc.

  • Step 3: Account of the main results.

Identify amongst the actors implied in conflict those who promote peace initiatives (See ‘Context’ for an explanation of the broad conception of “peace initiatives” used by CINEP). Determine the types of initiatives promoted and pertinence vis à vis the phases of conflict in which they are taking place.

  • Step 4: Analysis of the pertinence, comprehensiveness, and limitations.

Discern the different visions of peace and theories of change that underlie each peace initiative and establish the degree of conflict between these different concepts. Inquire about the advances of each initiative in the transformation of conflict.

  • Step 5: Engage in dialogue

Engage in dialogue with the actors in favor of peace in order to analyze the dynamics of conflict and the pertinence and comprehensiveness of peace efforts in the given context, as well as, provide recommendations that will strengthen their initiatives and their ability to overcome violent conflict through a vision of comprehensive peace.