Rebuilding trust through dialogue and access to independent information

In conflict-affected countries, access to independent information and news can be threatened by political and economic elites. In these contexts, manipulation of the media and stigmatization can create more division and mistrust between communities.  To envision sustainable development and the possibility of lasting peace in these vulnerable contexts, support to free and professional media that enables democratic dialogue is a priority. Fostering an environment of trust through dialogue is a core objective of both Interpeace and Fondation Hirondelle, who have over forty years of combined experience promoting conflict resolution in fragile countries around the world.

On May 4, 2017 Interpeace signed a partnership with Fondation Hirondelle, to strengthen our collaboration working in societies affected by conflict. This partnership will create new and stronger alliances between journalists, researchers, peacebuilders and local communities, to jointly foster open dialogue and access to independent information, in order to help build more democratic and peaceful societies.

Caroline Vuillemin, Director-General of Fondation Hirondelle and Scott M. Weber, Director-General of Interpeace. Photo credit: ©Fondation Hirondelle/Fabian Jobin

As stated by Scott M. Weber, Director-General of Interpeace: “One of the key aspects of a more peaceful society is one where there is greater transparency and accountability of the authorities and of the information that is available.”

Fondation Hirondelle is a Swiss organization of journalists and humanitarian aid professionals, that creates and supports independent media in contexts facing crises, enabling citizens to hold their leaders and institutions accountable, as well as providing an open space to discuss and reflect on pressing issues. Meanwhile, Interpeace works to facilitate dialogue processes that allows all members of society to participate in transforming conflict. Therefore, by combining our experience and expertise, Interpeace and Fondation Hirondelle will seek to enhance the way people in vulnerable contexts generate and receive information.

Studio Tamani in Mali. Photo credit: Fondation Hirondelle

Interpeace began working with Fondation Hirondelle in 2013 during the Malian crisis, to support the development of a national scale citizen dialogue. Together with our local partner the Malian Institute of Action Research for Peace (IMRAP), Interpeace launched a participatory and inclusive research process that involved almost 10,000 people across the country. This research was published in a reportage et un film called “Self-Portrait of Mali on the Obstacles to Peace.”

The results and lessons learned from this research were presented and discussed on the radio program Studio Tamani, which was created by Fondation Hirondelle, in partnership with Interpeace and supported by the European Union. Through this independent radio program, a culture of democratic debate began to emerge in Mali, where journalists, researchers and local actors exposed and informed the population of the major causes of crisis in the region and the possible solutions to build peace in the country.

Due to the success of this collaboration in Mali, Interpeace and Fondation Hirondelle will continue to work together, supporting regions in conflict build more democratic and inclusive societies. Caroline Vuillemin, Director-General of Fondation Hirondelle, describes: “With Interpeace working from the ground, bringing up solutions from the people and Hirondelle’s media in the country giving these messages a national reach and a wider audience, we can together act to promote and build lasting peace.”

A message from Caroline Vuillemin, Director-General of Fondation Hirondelle and Scott M. Weber, Director-General of Interpeace:


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.

La réponse humanitaire et la résilience aux conflits violents

La réponse humanitaire peut soit contribuer à ou affaiblir les capacités locales de résilience aux conflits violents.

Ceci est une considération particulièrement importante étant donné que 80% de l'aide humanitaire répond aux besoins découlant des situations de conflit, où les tensions et la méfiance sont élevés.

Dans cette vidéo les acteurs locaux des trois contextes différents discutent de leurs expériences de la réponse humanitaire, et examinent comment la collaboration entre les acteurs locaux et internationaux pourrait contribuer aux capacités locales de résilience.


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

Can women and youth make a difference in the prevention of violent extremism?

Understanding the structural causes of violence and learning how violence mutates is a key factor to preventing and mitigating violent extremism. As defined by USAID, violent extremism involves: “advocating, engaging in, preparing, or otherwise supporting ideologically motivated or justified violence to further social, economic or political objectives.” These acts  threaten the life of millions of people and have caused countless damage and suffering in the most fragile contexts around the world, as well as in developed nations.

According to the UN Secretary-General’s Plan of Action on Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE), societies with lower gender equality indicators are more vulnerable to violent extremism. Therefore, women’s empowerment must be included as one of the strategies to mitigate and prevent these acts of extreme violence. In the discussion “The Power of Gender in Preventing Violent Extremism,” which was organized by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy et Australian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, panelists argued that women are vital agents of change who have the power to influence vulnerable groups in their communities. Australia's Ambassador for Women and Girls, Natasha Stott Despoja, indicated, “women influence and shape the coping skills of young people and in doing so they actually shape the community’s resilience to violent extremism.”

Speakers at the discussion: “The Power of Gender in Preventing Violent Extremism:” Maud Roure, Head of Learning and Policy of Interpeace; Ambassador Suraya Dalil, Permanent Representative of the Government of the Islamimc Republic of Afghanistan to the UN; Ambassador Christian Dussey; Ambassador Natasha Stott, Australia's Ambassador for Women and Girls; and Dr. Khalid Koser, Executive Director, Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund. Photo credit: GSCP

Maud Roure, Head of Learning and Policy of Interpeace, provided her insights based on the organizations experience in over 20 fragile contexts and therefore focused on operational considerations on how this strategy should be put into practice: “this approach needs to be highly context-specific, the role that women can play in preventing violent extremism will vary depending on a number of factors, such as the level of acceptance of violence in their society, societal norms, women’s status in their society, their literacy rates, etc. Our approach needs to adapt to these realities. From our work we see that for instance in Ivory Coast and in Mali, women play a crucial role in the education of the children and they are recognized as such by the wider community. Whereas in Libya, especially since the revolution, the society has become more conservative, and women’s opinions are often despised by men, so their role in influencing the young generation is different, therefore our approach needs to be different.”

In this regard, Ms. Roure expressed how in nations like Mali and Ivory Coast, the PVE strategy would need to focus on strengthening the ability of mothers promoting counter narratives to violence, while in places like Libya, the focus must be set on changing the perceptions that men have towards women, which would then transform societal norms in the country. She also expressed how external actors must understand – as a starting point for their intervention - the capacities and strategies that are already practiced by women in the face of violent extremism. Otherwise international PVE initiatives risk undermining those existing efforts.

Maud Roure, Head of Learning and Policy of Interpeace. Photo credit: Interpeace

During the 2016 edition of the European Development Days, which took place in Brussels, Interpeace, World Vision Brussels et un Search for Common Ground, organized a discussion entitled “Promoting Young People as Peacebuilders”. It was argued that education and direct access to youth are also pertinent in the prevention of violent extremism. Radical ideologies in different parts of the world have the power to manipulate vulnerable youth “by appealing to their desire for dignity.” Research has shown that extremist groups are growing in number, because they have the capacity to capture the minds and hearts of young people who have suffered from marginalization and disengagement and are therefore exposed to becoming part of radicalization. Understanding the causes of radicalization requires an in-depth analysis of the political, social and religious dynamics of diverse countries, and more so, true engagement with the youth of a specific context.

In Ivory Coast, Interpeace and its partner organization Indigo Côte d’Ivoire are working with youth and actively recognizing their voices as a crucial part of PVE.  Séverin Yao Kouamé, Coordinator of Indigo Côte d’Ivoire, was one of the panelists at the EDD16 event. He described how young people need recognition from society, and a space to express what they feel in order to build trust in a sustainable way. He added, “The first job we did in this community was with the young people. Actually, it was about getting them involved in a process of reflection which allowed them to draw a map of the violence among young people […]. (This) allowed us to know who the right agents of transformation were, based on the understanding that young people had of their own dynamics.” Engaging youth and building strategies from their perspective and initiative will be more effective in the process of mitigating violent extremism.

Speakers at the discussion: "Promoting Young People as Peacebuilders:" Séverin Yao Kouamé, Director of Interpeace’s partner organization Indigo Côte d'Ivoire; Sonya Reines-Djivanides; Theresa, Young Peacebuilder World Vision in Lebanon. Photo credit: Interpeace

Both women and youth can be vulnerable in fragile contexts, but they can also be powerful agents of change who make the difference in the most difficult circumstances.  Peacebuilders and policy makers must therefore work closely with these local actors and truly understand the local context and specific societal dynamics, in order to create more sustainable approaches for the prevention of violent extremism in a comprehensive way.

For further information:

Watch the discussion on the power of gender in preventing violent extremism in the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.

Read synopsis on the debate about how youth can help prevent violent extremism in the European Development Days.

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