New IFSH Policy Brief: Advancing Peacebuilding from the Ground up

Karolina Kluczewska, Anna Kreikemeyer

International peacebuilding has struggled for years with problems in implementing local ownership. Despite claims of prioritizing local ownership in peacebuilding, top-down approaches still dominate in practice, i.e. strategies designed primarily within international organizations. However, ethnographic research has shown that without the substantial participation of local actors and recourse to their experiences in conflict resolution, such strategies are often doomed to failure.

The authors of the new IFSH Policy Brief, Dr. Karolina Kluczewska and Dr. Anna Kreikemeyer, therefore argue for greater integration of locals’ conventional wisdom on peace into the peacebuilding work of international organizations. According to the two authors, local communities are not peaceful per se, but they do have social practices at their disposal that can help resolve everyday tensions without resorting to violence. Local traditions, norms and institutions shape the way a community deals with conflicts and their peaceful resolution. It is precisely these techniques that international organizations should recognize instead of downplaying them or even trying to eliminate them.

In the policy brief, Karolina Kluczewska and Anna Kreikemeyer make some suggestions on how international organizations can better incorporate established bottom-up peace practices into their work without creating new power imbalances or even fundamental resistance. First, the two authors argue, IOs need to better understand local peace practices. Furthermore, peacebuilding officers must build trust on the ground and be willing to develop pathways to peace together with local communities. All of this is not always easy for outsiders to grasp and requires time and less direction from ‘above’.

Read the Policy Brief​​​​​​​