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Signpost for the Costa Azul humanitarian Zone. Christian Aid partner Justice and Peace help support set up humanitarian zones across Colombia to protect communities still affected by the conflict

Why Local Actors Matter in Peacebuilding

This year’s Christian Aid Christmas Appeal focuses on the strength of individual peacemakers in in Lebanon, South Sudan, and Colombia. We take a more in-depth look at our approaches to peace-building in Colombia and South Sudan.

Around two billion people live in countries affected by fragility, conflict, and violence. Poverty rates are 20% higher in countries affected by repeated cycles of violence. By 2030, an estimated 46% of the world’s poor will live in areas characterised as fragile or conflict-affected.  

One in every 122 people is now a refugee. There were 31.1 million new internal displacements by conflict, violence and disasters in 2016.* This is the equivalent of one person forced to flee every second. 

Countries affected by conflict typically have the highest poverty rates and are often seemingly trapped in endless cycles of violence. People who do not have a safe place to call home, reliable access to food and an income because of violence.  

This means that people cannot plan for the future. Human development cannot be achieved without tackling violence and building peace.  

That is why our Christmas Appeal focuses on our peace-making partners in Lebanon, South Sudan and Colombia, showing how local actors matter and visionary voices for peace are needed now more than ever. 

31.1m

new internal displacements by conflict, violence and disasters in 2016.

South Sudan in focus

Women walk through a camp for more than 12,000 internally displaced persons in Wau, South Sudan.

Women walk through a camp for more than 12,000 internally displaced persons in Wau, South Sudan, where families were displaced in 2016, when armed conflict engulfed the area.

The eruption of violent conflict on 15 December 2013 plunged South Sudan into deep crisis.  

Violent conflict since December 2013 has led to the deaths of thousands of people – there is no ‘official’ number to capture the extent of this, but it has likely led to nearly 400,000 excess deaths.  

Over 4 million people have been uprooted from their homes and become displaced internally or refugees outside of the country. 

South Sudan experiences recurrent violence, often due to the failure to deal with the consequences of previous conflicts.  

In It For The Long Haul? Lessons on peacebuilding in South Sudan, explores the vital importance of sub-national and local peacebuilding. 

It states: ‘Peace is made and broken every day in South Sudan by chiefs, youth, women and commanders, under trees, in offices, in person or by mobile phone. It is occasionally still facilitated by letter, carried across a boundary by willing hands’. 
 
Despite this, peacemakers at the local level are obscured and international and higher-level actors often remain at the centre of analysis. As a result, chances are missed to resolve some of the problems caused by competition for power at national level. 

The report explores five advantages to sub-national and local peacebuilding, it argues: 

  • It can help mitigate the divisive effects of competition between elites 

  • It can improve people’s lives in the short term and build relationships which reduce opportunities for violence in the future 

  • It can forge positive accountability between communities and leaders and help connect disparate communities with one another 

  • It can reduce the military options available to elites and promote the economic benefits of peace 

  • It can help inform national-level processes with customary and cultural values and practices, so that they also reflect, for example, truth-telling, cultural ritual and performance and public dissemination into their design. This could add meaning for both high-level participants and the wider population. 

Find out more about our work in South Sudan 

Colombia in focus

Members of Cacarica community, violently displaced in 1997

Members of Cacarica community, violently displaced in 1997, are still seeking compensation. Christian Aid partner Justice and Peace help support communities affected by the conflict.

November 24th marked the second anniversary of the signing of the Final Peace Agreement in Colombia, ending over 50 years of brutal and deadly armed conflict.   

The need to sustain peace in Colombia has never been greater – with worrying reports of the murders of 226 social leaders and human rights defenders in 2018 alone.** 

Our new report, Engaging with the peace process in Colombia calls for sustained peace and respect for human rights in Colombia – including economic and social rights – as well as the inclusion of the voices of women and minority groups in the peacebuilding process. 

It considers the important role of civil society in peace and how it is too often overlooked. 

Independent civil society organisations played a key role in influencing the transitional justice system and in facilitating the voice and participation of conflict-affected communities and victims in the peace talks, particularly for indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.  

Within civil society, women’s organisations played a significant role in pursuing gender equality in the context of peace and a prominent focus on gender in the Peace Agreement. 

The assumption that just because you provide development relief in a conflict setting that you will reduce violence has been proven to fail. 

It needs to be the right type of investment, assessed to mitigate against harm, targeted at excluded groups and complemented with an explicit peacebuilding focus. 

Find out more about our work in Colombia and our programmes around the world on moving from Violence to Peace

 

*Source - IDMC
**Source - Indepaz.org.co