In many societies, individuals, informal groups or self-organised associations contribute to peacebuilding from below, e.g. in everyday conflicts such as inter-ethnic disputes, disputes over resources or in the face of local ecological threats such as the construction of a dam. This also applies to the Caucasus or Central Asia, regions that have so far been viewed in Europe predominantly from state- and security-oriented perspectives. In multi-ethnic communities in Georgia, for example, members of different ethnic groups support each other in the neighbourhood or at the workplace, even though their states, as in the case of Armenia and Azerbaijan, have repeatedly gone to war over the disputed territory of Nagorny Karabakh. Similar to the Caucasus, Kyrgyz communities have a long tradition of mutual aid and joint work in the agricultural sector, e.g. in resource conflicts over water or border disputes over land. Local clergy, elders, but also respected older women often take the initiative to settle disputes here in accordance with customary law traditions and try to strengthen social cohesion. Without romanticising such practices of conflict resolution, many regional scholars point to the importance of such local peace strategies.
In its research on conflict prevention and peacebuilding through international interventions, peace research in recent years has certainly emphasised the necessary involvement of local actors. However, it still lacks in-depth knowledge and understanding of local worldviews, everyday practices and institutions. All too often it shies away from better understanding non-Western perspectives, experiences and actions of the people on the ground and from researching conflict solutions together with the local population.
The new IFSH research project Local Peace in Central Eurasia: Studying Peace Formation in Customary and Patronal Contexts is dedicated to the possibilities and limits of peace formation from below in the Caucasus and Central Asia. It will examine local peace strategies in different conflict constellations at two rural and two urban sites in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. The team, led by Dr. Anna Kreikemeyer, is pursuing an interregional collaborative approach. It integrates two junior researchers who speak local languages and can conduct ethnographic field research on site. Through elements of participatory research, the local population is also involved in the research. The results are to be made accessible to local and policy-oriented practitioners (teachers, members of non-governmental organisations, etc.). On the other hand, the researchers are planning several academic papers on the capacity of local peace agency. In this way, the project seeks to overcome persistent imbalances in knowledge production on peace between Europe, the Caucasus and Central Eurasia and to stimulate international debates on diversity in peacebuilding.