In this pathbreaking book, Roger Mac Ginty explores everyday peace-or how individuals and small groups can carve out spaces of tolerance and conciliation in conflict-ridden societies. Drawing on original material from the Everyday Peace Indicators project, he blends theory and concept-building together with contemporary and comparative examples. Unusual for the disciplines of peace and conflict studies as well as international relations, Everyday Peace also utilizes personal diaries and memoirs from World Wars One and Two. The book unpacks the core components of everyday peace and argues that it is constructed from a mix of sociality, reciprocity, and solidarity. Mac Ginty applies his evidentiary base of micro-acts that constitute everyday peace to societies that have emerged out of conflict and have not experienced recidivism on a large scale. Unlike most who focus on top-down processes, he demonstrates that what matters is the interaction between top-down and bottom-up peace and how, in an ideal scenario, they can have a symbiotic relationship.
“Between 2016 and 2017, as part of a research project for the U.S. Institute of Peace, we collected data from 1,500 people in 18 predominately rural villages in eastern Afghanistan. In each place, the community was asked to come up with a list of their own indicators of peace as a way to help the researchers better understand how locals think about peace. Each village produced an average of 50 unique indicators, with about 25 percent relating to gender: gender roles, women’s freedom of movement, and access to goods and services. In some places, villagers said that boys being allowed to play cricket on Friday (the holiest day of the week for Muslims) was important. In others, girls playing volleyball in school was. In all cases, though, girls’ access to education and women’s access to training and employment were paramount. In fact, in every single village—whether under Taliban control or not—Afghans prioritized some form of “girls go to school” in their top five indicators of peace.”
“Has the Colombian peace process lost its momentum? President Iván Duque, elected last June, has been openly critical of the peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), which was pushed through by President Juan Manuel Santos in 2016.
Duque was conspicuously absent at November’s formal launch of the Colombian Truth Commission, which has a three-year mandate to answer questions about the atrocities committed during more than five decades of war. This could prove an important impediment to the success of the peace agreement — my research demonstrates that concrete support of the commission’s work is necessary for significant efforts at postwar reconstruction to establish sustainable peace.”
The primary aim of this article is methodological. It proposes circuitry as an analytical device – not a mere metaphor – as a way of connecting the everyday and the hyper-local to the national, international, transnational and all levels in between. Thus, the article is concerned with international relations’ perennial levels of analysis problem. The study is prompted by empirical research from the Everyday Peace Indicators project in which research subjects narrated their own (in)security in terms of the home and the immediate vicinity of the home. The home can be regarded as a key part of everyday and ontological security for many people, but how do we connect this to the international and transnational? The article draws on the literature on engineered and biological circuits in order to propose a novel analytical device with which to emphasise the connectivity between apparently unconnected levels. A life history is used to illustrate how the analytical device might be operationalised.
Bringing armed conflicts to an end is difficult; restoring a lasting peace can be considerably harder. Reclaiming Everyday Peace addresses the effectiveness and impact of local level interventions on communities affected by war. Using an innovative methodology to generate participatory numbers, Pamina Firchow finds that communities saturated with external interventions after war do not have substantive higher levels of peacefulness according to community-defined indicators of peace than those with lower levels of interventions. These findings suggest that current international peacebuilding efforts are not very effective at achieving peace by local standards because disproportionate attention is paid to reconstruction, governance and development assistance with little attention paid to community ties and healing. Firchow argues that a more bottom up approach to measuring the effectiveness of peacebuilding is required. By finding ways to effectively communicate local community needs and priorities to the international community, efforts to create an atmosphere for an enduring peace are possible.
Colombia is groundbreaking in its approach of prioritizing victim involvement and participation in its peace process and including victims in peace agreement discussions in Havana. Colombia started this process with an ambitious reparations law, which aims to individually and collectively compensate almost 8.3 million victims in order to begin a reconciliation process. Yet the link between reparations and reconciliation is inconclusive. This study looks at the impact of reparations on reconciliation through a comparative matched-case research study of two Colombian communities that are demographically similar and have similar histories of violence, but starkly different levels of reparations. The study employs a participatory methodological approach using inductive indicators of peace and reconciliation created by the communities themselves in order to create surveys that measure the impact of reparations on reconciliation. The study finds that both communities display low levels of reconciliation according to community-defined indicators, and that there is little variance between the two villages in the way the community members define peace and reconciliation and in the levels of community-defined peace and reconciliation in each community. Based on these findings, the article concludes with four recommendations for more comprehensive and effective implementation of reparations programs in war-affected communities.
Including Hard to Access Populations Using Mobile Phone Surveys and Participatory Indicators
One of the main obstacles for survey researchers—especially those conducting surveys in difficult contexts such as postconflict areas—is accessing respondents. In order to address this problem, this article draws on an ongoing research project to reflect on the utility of mobile phones to connect with hard-to-access populations in conflict affected, low-income countries. It considers the strengths and weaknesses of a number of different mobile phone survey modes. The article goes a step further and discusses how (potential) survey respondents can be included in the survey design process thereby increasing the relevance of the research to them and hopefully encouraging them to participate. We conclude by considering the issue of “good enough” methodologies, or the need to balance methodological rigor with an understanding of the exigencies of suboptimal research contexts.
This article examines the possibilities of interaction and collaboration between top-down and bottom-up indicators of peace. It is based on the Everyday Peace Indicators project an experimental research project that operated in local communities in four sub-Saharan countries. The article begins by making the case for bottom-up approaches to the study of peace, conflict and security. It goes on to scope out the opportunities and obstacles for comparison between bottom-up and top-down indicator systems and looks at three issues: comparability, commensurability and complementarity. It draws on four well-know measurements of peace, conflict and development: the Human Development Index (HDI), the Global Peace Index, the Uppsala Conflict Data Program’s Georeferenced Event Data (UCDP GED), and the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Program (ACLED). We argue for a plurality of vantage points from which to measure peace and conflict.
PeaceTech: The Liminal Spaces of Digital Technology in Peacebuilding
This collection of articles contributes to the growing body of research on how technology is affecting peacebuilding, peace and conflict studies, and research methodologies in the field. Assumptions about the use of technology for peace are interrogated, such as the purported deepening of inclusivity and widening of participation that technology provides to peacebuilders. It frames the discussion from a peace-focused perspective, providing a response to the work done by others who have focused on the ways technology makes violence more likely. This supports a holistic discussion of the ways that technology can have an impact on contentious social and political processes. By expanding the base of knowledge about how technology can be used for peace and violence, we hope this collection increases the understanding of the circumstances under which technology amplifies peace.
Top-down and Bottom-up Narratives of Peace Conflict
Based on findings from the Everyday Peace Indicators project, the article considers how top-down and bottom-up narratives and understandings of conflict often differ. The article posits that top-down narratives are often the result of a peculiar framing system that imposes imaginaries on conflicts and those experiencing them. The bottom-up narratives, based on research in South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe, show that localised perceptions of peace, safety and security are not only articulated in different ways to top-down narratives but also raise different issues.
Indicators +: A proposal for Everyday Peace Indicators
Many of the approaches to measuring peace favoured by international organisations, INGOs and donor governments are deficient. Their level of analysis is often too broad or too narrow, and their aggregated statistical format often means that they represent the conflict-affected area in ways that are meaningless to local communities. This article takes the form of a proposal for a new generation of locally organised indicators that are based in everyday life. These indicators are inspired by practice from sustainable development in which indicators are crowd sourced. There is the potential for these to become ‘indicators +’ or part of a conflict transformation exercise as communities think about what peace might look like and how it could be realised. The article advocates a form of participatory action research that would be able to pick up the textured ‘hidden transcript’ found in many deeply divided societies and could allow for better targeted peacebuilding and development assistance.
Everyday Peace Indicators partners with communities experiencing or emerging from violent conflict. We work globally with conflict-affected communities to generate bottom-up (“everyday”) indicators for hard-to-define concepts, like peace, conflict, and justice. Our research approach is underpinned by the premise that communities affected by war know best what peace means to them and accordingly should be the primary source of information on peacebuilding effectiveness. The community-derived everyday indicators in turn impact the way peacebuilding and development programs and policies are designed, implemented, and evaluated. Our work strives to influence broader debates about peacebuilding, advocating for greater integration of local, bottom-up measurements of success.
This analysis summarizes and reflects on the following research: Firchow, P., & Urwin, E. (2020). Not just at home or in the grave: (Mis)understanding women’s rights in Afghanistan. Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding. Online.
Since the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan in August 2021, there have been growing calls by many Afghans, along with the international community, to protect the rights of women and girls. Questions remain about how Afghans want to see women’s rights protected. A notorious Afghan proverb often repeated by the Taliban during their prior period of rule states that that ‘women belong either in the home or in the grave.’ Yet our research shows that this sentiment is not shared by men and women in eastern Afghanistan.
Today, the prospect for peace in Colombia is not promising. Violence is surging throughout the country, and armed groups are expanding their territorial control. This stands in stark contrast to the promise of Nov. 24, 2016, when the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, signed one of the most ambitious peace agreements in history.
There are many reasons for this and many causes for pessimism. But our work as peace researchers in Colombia highlights an underrecognized element of peace, both in Colombia and in other conflict-affected countries globally. These are the small-scale, everyday practices and resources that exist at the hyperlocal level, through which people construct meaning out of the harms they have suffered and ultimately build their futures. These local practices provide cause for hope and should guide domestic and international policy choices moving forward.
In daily life, such small-scale peace looks deceptively simple. Examples from our research include an aqueduct in the middle of the desert, the restoration of devastated mangroves, memory exercises in isolated rural areas, restoring a village soccer field, and rebuilding a market. They can be personal and intimate, and they can be social and political. They are often surprising, as in one Colombian village where peace was expressed as improving the local systems for trash management that had been disturbed during the war.
There is little space for these examples of small-scale peace in narratives of armed group resurgence and state dysfunction that dominate news coverage in Colombia and drive policy decisions. Yet it is precisely in these areas of daily life where the prospect of nonrepetition of war is also rooted.
It’s not easy for most people to think about what peace and justice mean to them, or how to express it. But that’s what we ask people in war-torn communities to do, all around the world.
We asked people in two villages, San José de Urama and Las Cruces in the country’s northwest, to think about what they looked for as signs of justice and coexistence in their communities, what we call “everyday peace indicators.”
Through workshops using a research method called “photovoice,” a group of the villagers chose some of these everyday indicators of justice and coexistence to photograph. They then created and displayed personal and group photo stories as part of an open-air community exhibition.
We found that these communities wanted to use photography not only to document the aftermath of war and violence, but also to actively support peace.
In Colombia, the COVID-19 pandemic and national State of Emergency have weakened an already fragile peace process. Armed groups have increased militarization and territorial control, often playing the role of authorities enforcing social isolation. Institutions of the peace process have temporarily suspended activities. The pandemic has reactivated and uncovered multiple dynamics of the conflict and slowed implementation of the 2016 Peace Accord, particularly in regions considered key to its success.
Pamina Firchow - Book Talk Recording
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