Building peace by focusing on people’s resilience to conflict

Amid conflict and war, the people most affected by these circumstances have time and time again, risen from misfortune, because of their capacities to organize and transform conflict into opportunities for peace. Strengthening these already existing local capacities must therefore be a strategic priority to peacebuilding, as it ensures sustainability.

The mainstream approach to peacebuilding is for the most part premised on finding solutions to fragility. As such, conflict analysis is the primary tool used to inform programmes and policies. Though an understanding of conflict dynamics, including root causes is necessary in order to develop an appropriate response, the fragility focus tends to overshadow the capacities and processes which are present, even in fragile contexts. Because even in the most challenging situations, there are individuals and communities acting to counter the effects and causes of conflict. Failure to take stock of these efforts can, and often does, undermine the effectiveness of peacebuilding interventions, warranting criticism that programmes and policies are too generic and not sufficiently context specific.

Based on Interpeace’s experience with its Frameworks for Assessing Resilience programme (FAR) in Liberia, Guatemala and Timor-Leste, we propose that using resilience assessments alongside conflict analyses can make peacebuilding initiatives more context-specific, more locally-owned and therefore more impactful. A resilience orientation offers an operational strategy for making peacebuilding more assertive about building peace via transformative processes as opposed to being solely a response to fragility.

Liberia. Photo credit: Interpeace

What does resilience mean in the context of peacebuilding? 

Resilience is about transformation. This “transformative” dimension resonates particularly with peacebuilders who argue that positive peace is not just about the absence of violence, but constructive social change that replaces exclusionary, unjust and inequitable structures, for those that are inclusive, participatory and equitable.

A resilience approach to peacebuilding gives particular importance to processes by which societies collectively and peacefully transform relationships to address the factors which enabled conflict to emerge in the first place. This transformative dimension evolves traditional interpretations of resilience where the emphasis is on bouncing back from an external shock.

Resilience assessments seek to identify the already existing capacities and strengths in society, including individual personality traits, solidarity networks of communities and alternative livelihood strategies. Identifying these capacities provides context-specific information and fosters nationally-owned peacebuilding processes.

Frameworks for Assessing Resilience (FAR).

In 2014, Interpeace launched the Frameworks for Assessing Resilience (FAR) project to explore resilience as a key tool for advancing peacebuilding processes and to develop methods for assessing this. Rather than focusing on obstacles to peace, FAR seeks to identify resilience to conflict by looking for existing strengths, assets, capacities, strategies, processes and structures that allow individuals, communities and societies to overcome the legacy of past violent conflict, address current violence and threats to peace, and ultimately prevent future violent conflict.

As countries with fragile peace environments, Timor-Leste, Liberia et un Guatemala were chosen to deploy pilot FAR programmes. Under the FAR programme, country-level research was driven and implemented by local stakeholders engaged in deepening their understanding of existing resilience capacities in their societies, and invested in promoting peacebuilding processes. In Liberia and Timor-Leste, research was led by Interpeace’s local partners, the Platform for Dialogue and Peace (P4DP) and the Centre of Studies for Peace and Development (CEPAD), respectively. In Guatemala, a team from Interpeace’s regional Latin America Office implemented the programme.

In all three countries, research teams conducted nationwide consultations through focus group discussions and interviews in order to define context-specific resilience and map the different national strategies and resources. The findings of this exploratory phase provided the basis for multi-sector dialogues among key national stakeholders in the respective countries. These Participatory Action Research dialogues have resulted in concrete policy recommendations and action plans for strengthening peace and resilience.

Guatemala. Photo credit: Interpeace

The convening power of the resilience approach

A resilience-orientation seeks to ascertain the existing resources that people tap into and the strategies, strengths, assets and capacities available to them, to cope with or transform conditions that threaten peace and provoke new patterns of violence.

Reorienting focus group discussions or interviews away from fragility to discuss the strengths, capacities or skills to cope can have a transformative impact on the persons engaged. The experiences of the three pilot programmes revealed that national actors have greater confidence and are more willing to take ownership of dialogue processes that are organized around resilience and their ability to effect change. “Resilience” as opposed to “fragility” has a converging and convening power. Discussing the resilience of a country rather than its fractures makes convening opposing parties easier.

Resilience does not automatically translate to peace

Recognizing that resilience is not unequivocally good but a neutral concept with the potential of bringing about both positive and negative outcomes has important implications for the design of peacebuilding strategies. Thus, the careful analysis of which capacities have the potential to bring about peace, and which need to be mitigated should be an integral part of any resilience assessment. Identifying negative manifestations of resilience - such as violent youth gangs – can inform peacebuilding strategies in particular ways. Whereas a fragility-informed intervention would likely seek to stop such violent practices and dismantle these groups altogether, peacebuilding interventions informed by a resilience orientation will explore how to build on these existing capacities and solidarity networks while focusing on mitigating or eliminating the violent tactics employed.

Resilience as a common basis for humanitarian response

Peace cannot be built without interventions that include positive economic models, security provision, political participation, social services, environmental protection, rule of law and humanitarian protection. Resilience has the potential to link these parallel interventions by integrating peacebuilding processes more effectively.

Conflict is an incremental stressor that undermines the strength and cohesion that is needed to deal with external shocks such as natural disasters. A resilience-orientation can help societies detect and strengthen existing assets before violence occurs. Resilience promotes a preventive, rather than a remedial approach to peacebuilding.

Timor Leste. Photo credit: Steve Tickner

For a better understanding of the resilience approach:

Lire le note d'orientation afin d'évaluer la résilience pour la paix.

Lire une bref exposé qui reflète ce que l'expérience du FAR nous a appris sur les spécificités de la résilience en relation avec les conflits et la valeur ajoutée de l'utilisation d'une approche de résilience pour la consolidation de la paix

Lire une note d'information sur la pertinence de la résilience pour la paix dans la poursuite des Objectifs de développement durable de l'Agenda 2030.

En savoir plus sur les études de cas spécifiques :

Lire le rapport sur le Liberia.

Lire le rapport sur le Timor oriental.

Lire le rapport d'enquête sur le Timor oriental.

Lire le rapport sur le Guatemala.

Lire le rapport d'enquête sur le Guatemala.

Can resilience for peace enhance the sustainability of international interventions?

A key factor in building sustainable peace is local ownership. This is often inadequately attended to - or even undermined - by international actors in the process of humanitarian action, development assistance, disaster recovery, and peacebuilding efforts. This is compounded by the fact that frequently external actors focus only on the fault-lines of conflict in a country, and fail to notice, invest in, or prioritize the sources of resilience of the people in the most difficult circumstances. Therefore, working closely with local actors to truly understand the conflict perspective and context-specific characteristics of a given region, as well as the people’s strengths, assets and strategies in the face of violence, will help identify and strengthen the capacities for resilience, which are crucial in the development of peace and the transformation of conflict.

This understanding has underpinned Interpeace’s Frameworks for Assessing Resilience (FAR) Programme, which was undertaken with the support of the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and was piloted in three very different country contexts: Liberia, Guatemala et un Timor-Leste. Through a comprehensive engagement with the local people and their authorities in these three contexts, including qualitative consultations, quantitative surveys, and multi-sectoral dialogue processes, a guidance note was developed on resilience for peace, to help practitioners and policy makers  integrate a resilience approach into their work. The guidance note includes guidance on the conceptual and strategic tenets of resilience for peace, on how to conduct a resilience assessment, as well as reflections on the policy implications and entry points offered by the FAR Programme.

On June 9, 2016 this Guidance Note for Assessing Resilience for Peace was launched in Stockholm, Sweden. The most important findings were highlighted in this event, drawing attention to the added value of using a resilience approach to peacebuilding. Interpeace representatives emphasized the embedded or ‘endogenous’ nature of these capacities for peace that exist at different levels in communities and societies, and noted how these have a powerful convening effect in the development of locally-owned, driven and led peacebuilding practices. Speaking at the Stockholm launch, Patrick Vinck, Director of the Program of Peace and Human Rights Data  at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) – one of Interpeace’s partners on FAR –  said: “Engaging communities must be more than a tag line for peacebuilding. FAR offers a way to systematically consult and create a dialogue with communities to leverage their own strength and resources to build a lasting peace.” A resilience approach therefore offers a crucial tool to analyze and design policies and programming, which will be tailored to the specific needs of the local people. Vinck also added that the international community is spending millions on peacebuilding programs, “but not on the information and FAR-like methods that would give us the data needed to design the right interventions.” The importance of building upon and supporting these endogenous capacities and attributes in conflict affected and fragile societies, demands that international actors steer a more modest course, searching for and supporting initiatives and plans of action that are developed within societies and led by local actors, rather than imposed from the outside by external actors.


Launch of Guidance Note on Assessing Resilience for Peace: Scott M. Weber, Director-General of Interpeace; Hugh Macleman, Senior Risk and Resilience Advisor, OECD; Ewa Werner Dahlin, Director of Asia, Middle East and Hummanitarian Assistance, Sida; Henrik Hammargren, Executive Director, Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation. Photo Credit: Oskar Kullander

But a resilience approach does not only enhance peacebuilding practice. It can also help break the siloes that exist between humanitarian action, development and peacebuilding. This was noted by Hugh MacLeman, Policy Advisor, Conflict, Fragility & Resilience of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development – OECD who was another panelist. MacLeman stressed that: “People don’t live their lives in sectors. FAR helps to see the multidimensional aspects of resilience and to look for entry points for intervention at all levels”. He added that: “This positive and forward-looking resilience agenda helps highlight where different actors from the humanitarian aid, development and peacebuilding sectors have a comparative advantage and how they can work in the same space at the same time.”

The methods and approach proposed by the FAR Programme can therefore make peacebuilding more effective and sustainable by drawing on the attributes and assets of conflict-affected societies and communities themselves. Because the Programme  relied on systematic consultations, dialogue and comprehensive engagement with the communities and decision-makers in the three pilot countries, FAR fostered local ownership and leadership. A resilience approach can also enhance the conflict-sensitivity of humanitarian and development strategies. This added value was praised by Ewa Werner Dahlin, Director of Asia, Middle East and Humanitarian Assistance at SIDA, who recognized that Sida needed to integrate a conflict perspective in all its activities.


Launch of Guidance Note on Assessing Resilience for Peace in Stockholm. Photo credit: Oskar Kullander


Patrick Vinck, Director, Program of Peace and Human Rights Data, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. Photo credit: Oskar Kullander

For a better understanding of the resilience approach:

Lire le Guidance Note for Assessing Resilience for Peace.

Lire une bref exposé qui reflète ce que l'expérience du FAR nous a appris sur les spécificités de la résilience en relation avec les conflits et la valeur ajoutée de l'utilisation d'une approche de résilience pour la consolidation de la paix

Lire une note d'information sur la pertinence de la résilience pour la paix dans la poursuite des Objectifs de développement durable de l'Agenda 2030.

En savoir plus sur les études de cas spécifiques :


Lire le rapport sur le Liberia.


Lire le rapport sur le Timor oriental.

Lire le rapport d'enquête sur le Timor oriental.


Lire le rapport sur le Guatemala.

Lire le rapport d'enquête sur le Guatemala.


Scott M. Weber, Director-General of Interpeace. Photo credit: Oskar Kullander


Graeme Simpson, Senior Advisor to the Frameworks for Assessing Resilience Programme and Director of Interpeace, USA; Otto Argueta, Learning and Policy Officer, Interpeace Office for Latin America; Patrick Vinck, Director, Program of Peace and Human Rights Data, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative; Anupah Makoond, Programme Officer, Interpeace. Photo credit: Oskar Kullander

Understanding and Strengthening Resilience for Peace in Timor-Leste

Understanding the resilient capacities of local actors during and after violent conflicts, has been one of Interpeace’s main objectives in the past two years. Determining how these existing capacities for resilience can be strengthened to contribute to sustainable peace, has been at the heart of  our programme Frameworks for Assessing Resilience (FAR), implemented in three contexts: Guatemala, Liberiaet Timor-Leste.

During two years, Interpeace and the Centre d'études pour la paix et le développement (CEPAD) led a multi-stakeholder process that sought to identify and promote resilient capacities of the people in Timor-Leste. The research encompassed an inclusive and participatory process that engaged communities at the grassroots, as well as representatives of civil society organizations and government institutions. The project generated rich qualitative and quantitative data and analysis, through in-depth interviews and focus groups, forums, dialogue processes, and a nationwide survey polling close to 3,000 respondents.

On June 15 2016, CEPAD organized the launch of the Frameworks for Assessing Resilience final reports and the Deputy Director General of Interpeace, Renée Larivière, participated in the event by discussing the work of Interpeace and CEPAD, and the importance of a resilience lens in peacebuilding contexts.

Timor-Leste launch 1

Speakers at the launch of FAR final report in Timor-Leste on June 15, 2016: Mr. Joao Boavida, Executive Director - CEPAD; Ministry of Social Solidarity; Mr. Claudio Providas, Country Director - UNDP; Ms. Renée Larivière, Deputy Director General of Interpeace; Mr. Eiji Yamamoto, Japan Ambassador for Timor-Leste; Member of National Working Group.

Through the findings of this research, recommendations and plans of action were developed to understand what resilience for peace looks like and how it can be strengthened in Timor-Leste. According to the results of this research, the key to resilience lays in the strengthening of the relations between the state and its citizens, which relies on trust, inclusion, justice and active participation. A national working group was created during the validation of the findings and will be focusing on  promoting good quality leadership at all local and national levels as a positive contribution to strengthening the resilient capacities of Timorese.


Timor-Leste launch of the FAR final reports.


Timorese receive FAR final reports.

To learn more about the findings and results of the FAR programme in Timor-Leste read the final report: Understanding and Strengthening Resilience for Peace.

For additional information:

Read report published by CEPAD in April 2015: Understanding Resilience from a Local Perspective.

Read survey report published by HHI in April 2016: Population-Based Survey on Attitudes and Perceptions About Resilience and Peace.

Event organized by CEPAD to launch FAR final reports in Timor-Leste

Interpeace Launches a Guidance Note on Assessing Resilience for Peace

Over 80% of humanitarian emergencies around the world today are conflict-related. More than half of all these crises are protracted conflicts of 8 years or more. Whereas immediate needs of vulnerable and suffering populations are only increasing, the trend will not abate unless we focus greater attention on preventing these conflicts in the first place and resolving existing ones more sustainably.

The brave people working to build peace in such contexts tend to focus their attention on the fault-lines of a country, the nature of broken relationships and mistrust that are at the heart of a society’s fragility. Those efforts often overlook deep sources of resilience that exist even in the most difficult circumstances. When identified and enhanced, those factors of positive resilience provide a powerful basis upon which to build a more durable peace.

It is with this vision that Interpeace initiated the Frameworks for Assessing Resilience Programme in order to identify, analyze and strengthen sources of resilience for peace. With case studies in Liberia, Guatemala et un Timor-Leste, local people and their authorities were engaged through qualitative consultations, quantitative surveys and multi-sectoral dialogue processes in order to articulate - in their own voice - the endogenous capacities for resilience for peace that they possess.

The experience of assessing resilience for peace in three pilot countries, combined with an expert-practitioner dialogue on resilience as well as an extensive literature and practice review has fed into the development of a framework and guidance note on assessing resilience for peace. This Guidance Note will enable practitioners and policy makers working in the peacebuilding and related fields to integrate a resilience approach and indeed resilience assessments into their work

For practitioners, resilience assessments can complement conflict analyses in the design of conflict-sensitive and context-specific policy and programming, whilst also drawing attention to the endogenous capacities that exist at different levels of society. It can also offer a crucial tool, for national and international actors alike, to assess what progress is being made (or not) over time towards the strengthening of sources of resilience for peace, the reduction of risks of conflict and, crucially, the prevention of factors of fragility.

For policy-makers, a resilience approach has a strategic value in seeking to provide a common language – resilience – upon which greater synergies can be nurtured between the fields of peacebuilding on one hand, and humanitarian action, development assistance and disaster recovery, on the other.

The Guidance Note will be launched during a panel discussion hosted by Interpeace in Stockholm on June 9th.

Agenda Stockholm FAR Launch

Agenda for the Stockholm FAR Launch event






















Lire le Guidance Note for Assessing Resilience for Peace.

Lire une bref exposé qui reflète ce que l'expérience du FAR nous a appris sur les spécificités de la résilience en relation avec les conflits et la valeur ajoutée de l'utilisation d'une approche de résilience pour la consolidation de la paix

Lire une note d'information sur la pertinence de la résilience pour la paix dans la poursuite des Objectifs de développement durable de l'Agenda 2030.

En savoir plus sur les études de cas spécifiques :


Lire le rapport sur le Liberia.


Lire le rapport sur le Timor oriental.

Lire le Survey Report for TimorLeste.


Lire le rapport sur le Guatemala.

Lire le rapport d'enquête sur le Guatemala.


Stockholm FAR Launch


Strengthening peace through 'resilience' in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

L' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is based on extensive work of states, multilateral organizations and civil society organizations, that will guide international development policies of the next fifteen years. The attention now shifts to the design and implementation of national level development plans and policies that will enable countries to meet these goals.

The inclusion of Goal 16, as well as the upholding of peace as a cross-cutting theme in the SDG framework, in principle represents the long awaited mainstream of peace into the development discourse. Goal 16 seeks to: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” However, there is still little clarity on how this might be operationalized.

This brief proposes that a resilience orientation to peacebuilding can help countries meet the “peace goal” of the SDGs, as well as providing a vehicle for integrating this universal aspiration with the other Goals of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. It draws on evidence collected over the course of Interpeace’s Framework for Assessing Resilience (FAR) Programme including pilot research in Timor-Leste, Guatemala et un Liberia.

Peace among us - A population-based study about resilience for peace in Guatemala

Twenty years after the signing of the peace accords between the State of Guatemala and the National Revolutionary Unity of Guatemala (URNG) in 1996, Guatemala remains confronted to poverty, exclusion, violence and other conflicts and social issues. These are both roots and consequences of social and political polarization, lack of confidence in and legitimacy of public institutions and political leadership, and weakening of the social fabric. After twenty years of peacebuilding efforts, the need remains to better understand, assess and ultimately leverage the positive assets and attributes of individuals, communities, and institutions in the country.

This report represents the findings from a nationwide survey on resilience for peace that the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI), in collaboration with Interpeace’s Guatemala Regional Office, have undertaken in the context of Frameworks for Assessing Resilience (FAR). Programme. It seeks to contribute to the understanding of what makes Guatemalans able to anticipate risk, resolve conflicts collaboratively, and respond creatively to crisis – what we call resilience for peace.

The report has been authored by Phuong N. Pham and Patrick T. Vinck of HHI.

The results of the survey can also be viewed through an interactive map.