Conflict management, especially when taking into consideration civil war or international violent conflict, can be effective and sustainable only when it is rooted in local social structures. Civil society actors can be agents of peace or, on the contrary, can bring about conflict escalation and violence. Economic and social development should be included in conflict management strategies. However, very often this becomes a dividing factor when development is not inclusive and its benefits are not distributed fairly. Disrespect for human dignity is often what escalates a conflict. On the other hand, education, employment, and prospects for a better life are what motivate people to build peace. Development organizations apply “Do No Harm” principles so as not to contribute to local conflicts by unfair distribution of resources or power. It is crucial to build peace via the action of local people who have already got the trust of their communities (community leaders, mobilizers, teachers, elders, etc.). Such people or organizations, especially if have done any kind of successful community development work before, have the potential to be “the connectors” in resolving the conflict. Peace can be achieved neither from outside nor from above. Nevertheless, conflict may serve as a catalyst to mobilize civil society. The growth of volunteerism and social activism in Ukraine serves as proof. International assistance in conflict management should focus on strengthening the local capacities for building peace.
This article is based on the field experience of the author. Examples are taken from two different countries and conflict contexts – Afghanistan and Ukraine.
Democracy is not just lack of tyranny and peace is not just lack of war.