Who is contributing to peacebuilding?

War and conflict are an omnipresent part of our history and present.  But today, there are many organisations working to find peaceful solutions and make lasting peace possible.

Peacebuilding is a process that, according to the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), includes the transformation of social and political causes of conflict, as well as conflict mediation and reconciliation. It is also a community of practice, a "community" of organisations that are either explicitly engaged in peacebuilding, or work on related issues such as conflict resolution, development policy, governance, human rights and many more. In times when conflict is flaring up again in many places, it is all the more important to know which organisations are advancing peace and what their network looks like.

FASresearch has mapped these organisations in a global study conducted from 2019 to 2020.

This research was sponsored by Porticus, an international organization that develops the philanthropic programs of the Brenninkmeijer family of entrepreneurs and aims to contribute to human dignity, social justice, and sustainability. In doing so, Porticus wanted to provide a current snapshot of the landscape of peacebuilding and inform its experts on opportunities for strengthening their work and the field in general.

For this study, therefore, 140 interviews were conducted with experts and researchers in peacebuilding, and 432 organizations from around the world were thus identified in the context of peacebuilding.

What are the geographic areas of focus?

While organizations with headquarters in the United States and the United Kingdom dominate the network, target countries are mostly in Africa: South Sudan, Kenya and Uganda top the list of countries that peacebuilding organizations in the network engage in and with.

Does peacebuilding have a gender?

565 individuals who are active in these 432 organizations were nominated and recommended by the expert community as influencers and change agents in the field of peacebuilding. Generally, our experience with interview-based network studies is these networks are male-dominated since interviewees tend to nominate men rather than women. It is therefore noteworthy that in this network,a narrow majority of the change agents recommended in peacebuilding – 51% – are female.

Who is at the centre of peacebuilding?

The network has a densely populated core of similar organizations. The top 5 key influencers in the field are gathered at the centre: The Alliance for Peacebuilding, Peace Direct, the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), Conciliation Resources and Humanity United. They are large international NGOs, foundations or alliances of organizations that act and work globally and have their headquarters in the US or the UK (with the exception of GPPAC, which is based in the Netherlands).

Peacebuilding scholar John Paul Lederach differentiates three levels of peacebuilding actors and according activities in a pyramid diagram: On the bottom level is the grassroots leadership such as local communities, members of indigenous NGOs, health officials etc. They are connected to the largest part of the population, namely those directly affected by conflict. The middle part of the pyramid represents the middle-range leadership and organizations such as NGOs and governmental institutions who have the ability to forge connections between the top and grassroots leadership. The top leadership level encompasses highly visible key political, military, and religious leaders.

Applying this scheme to the organizations in the network, a different picture emerges as the top level and grassroots level are underrepresented (12,3% and 8,3% respectively), and the middle-range encompasses the majority of organizations (79,4%). The network by and large consists of a strong peer community of like-minded organizations and initiatives, while local organizations are underrepresented. This is remarkable because peacebuilding sees itself as an activity that is particularly concerned with the local level - where conflicts can be fought and resolved by its actors.

Not "more of the same"!

The "like-minded" are well aware of the relevance of heterogeneity: Among possible interventions with the greatest impact on peacebuilding, respondents pointed, for example, to the importance of local ownership (instead of external intervention) and the establishment of flexible funding mechanisms for local actors. Another way to avoid "more of the same" is to close ranks with so-called bridge builders, e.g., thematically oriented grassroots movements (women, ecology) or academics. There is a high motivation among peacebuilders to engage and cooperate with others (average willingness to engage: 4.5 out of 5), which could be used to create space for discussions between the different levels of Lederarch's pyramid.