The Role of Civil Society in Peacebuilding
QUNO believes that peacebuilding must be supported from the bottom up in order to be sustainable. This includes support to local civil society at the grassroots level, including recognizing that civil society have a key role to play when it comes to national ownership of peacebuilding processes.
"Local and traditional authorities as well as civil society actors, including marginalized groups, have a critical role to play in bringing multiple voices to the table for early priority-setting and to broaden the sense of ownership around a common vision for the country’s future." (Report of the Secretary-General on peacebuilding in the immediate aftermath of conflict, June 2009)
Local civil society in post-conflict countries are often engaged in peacebuilding activities in a variety of sectors from mediating land disputes to the inclusion of women in political processes to peace education for youth. Civil society is often more closely connected to the needs of local communities than governments emerging from conflict situations. Civil society can play an important role in bringing the voices of local people to the setting of peacebuilding priorities by governments and the UN and to the monitoring of peacebuilding strategies and activities.
The UN has recognized that civil society plays a particularly important role in post-conflict countries. The five year peacebuilding review of the PBC called for “A more relevant Peacebuilding Commission, with genuine national ownership ensured through capacity-building and greater civil society involvement... More must be done to ensure that these groups are in a position to engage meaningfully in the peacebuilding process.” However there is no systematic way in which civil society is included in UN peacebuilding processes and challenges often remain in their access to high-level debates and to international funding and support.
QUNO seeks to be a bridge between civil society actors in the field and the UN and member states engaged in peacebuilding in New York. By facilitating visits of civil society and non-governmental organizations engaged in local peacebuilding, as well as through quiet diplomacy, QUNO works to improve the inclusion of civil society in UN peacebuilding processes.
QUNO facilitates informal meetings with civil society and UN staff and member states and convenes larger thematic events in partnership with think tanks and member states.
- In January 2010, QUNO facilitated a visit by Carolyn Hayman, Chief Executive of Peace Direct to Quaker House in New York to lead a discussion with representatives of the UN peacebuilding community on the potential for locally-led peacebuilding initiatives to create “peace writ large”. This discussion led to the publication by Peace Direct and QUNO of Ripples into Waves, an analysis of how civil society peacebuilding processes can have scale
In several post-conflict countries QUNO is able to connect directly with civil society groups, including Quaker groups, engaged in peacebuilding activities in order to facilitate bringing their voices to the UN.
- In Burundi, QUNO works closely with its parent organization American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) to support local capacity building work and connections with the UN Peacebuilding Architecture in NY.