Marking Peace Day

September 19, 2013

Every year, the world marks Peace Day on the 21 September. Peace Day was created as an annual day of non-violence and cease-fire. Interpeace is celebrating Peace Day around the world.

Every day, Interpeace is supporting people in more than 20 countries affected by conflict to build peace in their countries and societies. We work to make peace sustainable.

Did you know that more than 40% of countries that have experienced conflict slip back into civil war within five years? Why does this happen? We believe it is largely because solutions are not broadly accepted or owned by important groups in society. Solutions to conflict are often imposed from the outside. Even though the importance of local ownership has become increasingly recognized by the international community, there is limited experience in translating this into concrete action on the ground.

This Peace Day we want to highlight 5 core principles that guide our work in building sustainable peace over the past 19 years.

1. Local ownership: Local people need to be put at the heart of building peace
We believe that peace cannot be imported from the outside. Local ownership ensures that local concerns are at the centre of peacebuilding. Local ownership decreases the likelihood of a return to conflict. When people are able to participate in shaping their own future and are able to voice their concerns, they develop an interest in ensuring that peace lasts.

2. Trust is at the heart of peace
Trust is the glue that holds relationships, societies, and economies together. Conflict tears apart the fabric of societies. Mistrust colours all relationships, including between people and their leaders. In such contexts, even small problems can escalate into wide-scale violence. Restoring constructive relationships and building trust is at the core of building sustainable peace. Current policies often put a priority on the ‘hardware’ of rebuilding countries after conflict: infrastructure, government buildings, demobilized soldiers, the timing of elections and police stations built. Very often, these efforts fail to also focus on the crucial ‘software’: reconciliation between former antagonists, trust in public institutions, and traditional practices of dispute resolution.

3. Building peace involves everyone
The exclusion of key groups of society can contribute to violence. Including all relevant groups in the process of building peace, such as women, youth, minorities and the diaspora, ensures the legitimacy and ownership of the results. Inclusion begins to build bridges of understanding and engages all parties in a process of change. This, in time, enables the society to move collectively towards moderation and compromise. Involving all groups in the peacebuilding process, the identification of issues and the design and implementation of solutions, helps to build a relationship between governments and their constituencies. For engagement to be meaningful it is essential for participation to be taken seriously and that local voices are heard and taken into consideration. Excluding groups from the peacebuilding process can deepen their resentment and give them an opportunity to undermine the process.

4. Long term commitment
Building lasting peace is a long-term commitment. Transforming the way a society deals with conflict cannot be achieved instantly. Building lasting peace takes time. The road to peace is long, bumpy, unpredictable, and anything but straight. Support of local efforts must be patient and consistent. External engagement must be predictable and ensure long-term financial commitments. Otherwise sustaining peacebuilding processes becomes impossible. There are no short-cuts or quick-fixes.

5. Putting principles into practice
There is a need not only to focus on the end goal of building peace, but also on making sure that the process leading to it is managed in a way that allows for inclusion, constructive dialogue and consensus-building ‚Äď rather than confrontation and power games. This is the only way to build sustainable peace.

Strengthening the foundations of a society that is divided is not business as usual. Mistrust tends to be deeply engrained. Every major issue is explosive, political and urgent. Because of this urgency, the tendency is to propose technical solutions rather than to seek holistic solutions to complex problems. How the process is managed and how the engagement of all sides is carried out will determine, in large part, the success of an initiative.

In post-conflict countries, everything is urgent, everything is controversial and resources are scarce. It is precisely in such situations that broad consensus building is needed to root compromise in a wider dialogue and trust building process.