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Über dieses Buch

Based on the swisspeace annual conference 2012, the publication examines the delicate balance between external interventions and locally-led initiatives. It addresses the question of what “local” means in the peacebuilding and development context; which actors on the ground actually represent the local level and how external actors choose their partners from amongst them. Moreover, it examines how local ownership - emerging as key criteria for any external intervention - is constituted: does this concept only imply local participation or is local control from the outset a must? Finally, it assesses the potential of locally-led initiatives and local conflict resolution mechanisms and their interaction with external interventions. Several authors provide insights on these questions and nuance our thinking about both local ownership and external interventions. As such, the publication aims to encourage critical reflections on this topical debate in peacebuilding and development.



Conceptual Contributions


Chapter 1. Owners or Partners? A Critical Analysis of the Concept of Local Ownership

This chapter critically examines the term local ownership. It shows that while the concept is widely used and accepted in policy debates, many international peacebuilding programmes are still largely externally designed in practice. Due to the dominance of the liberal peace paradigm in contemporary peacebuilding debates, this means that such programmes are heavily influenced by liberal principles. At the same time, local initiatives are assessed based on their compatibility with liberal values. An alternative is provided by communitarian approaches which suggest taking the local as a starting point. In this view, the role of international actors is merely to support strategies already undertaken by local actors. Based on empirical insights, this chapter questions however whether in this latter case, local ownership is still relevant as a concept or whether it would not be more accurate to talk about local leadership. It then proposes a middle ground between liberal and communitarian approaches by examining the interaction between external and internal actors. Thereby, it suggests partnerships based on a greater focus on plurality and each actor’s comparative advantages. Only in such a way, the chapter concludes, does peacebuilding revolve around a true cooperation between international and local actors while respecting each actor’s unique perspectives.
Sara Hellmüller

Chapter 2. Local Ownership and the Settlement of Civil Wars: External Intervention in Internal Armed Conflicts—Arguments for a Conceptual Framework of ‘Political Ownership’

Local ownership as currently pursued by external actors may facilitate early recovery and reconstruction in the aftermath of war, but it has little relevance for the durable settlement of civil war. Ownership assumes a different quality and substance when the objective is to achieve a lasting political settlement of civil war, ownership should therefore be operationalized as part of the political process of conflict transformation, and it should be approached as political ownership. Political ownership determines not only the quality of the relationship between the conflict parties; it also governs external relations, in particular with those external forces playing a direct role in the peace process. This applies in particular when sovereignty is challenged through externally driven policies, such as the protection of civilians from internal threats or the objection to non-democratic regime change. An externally supported peace process takes place in the context of a tripartite asymmetric relationship. This leads to a very distinct and also uneven division of roles and responsibilities. However, it is argued that a framework conceptualizing political ownership and the lasting settlement of civil war must be part of a comprehensive model to explain the failure of political processes to end civil war.
Peter Schumann

Chapter 3. Shooting Bambi? Critical Reflections on International Approaches to Local Ownership

This chapter critically reflects on the panel on ‘International Approaches to Local Ownership’ at the swisspeace 2012 annual conference, which featured a representative of a donor institution, the founder and CEO of an international peacebuilding NGO, and a scholar with extensive experience in UN peacekeeping operations. The chapter exposes the nearly insurmountable difficulties that external actors face when trying to implement the concept of local ownership, even when they have the best of intentions. Aside from struggling to define what exactly the term means, they are not able to (or don’t want to, and perhaps shouldn’t) overcome the power imbalances between donor and target beneficiaries. As the concept of inclusiveness, suggested as an alternative to ownership during the panel, carries similar challenges, the author offers transparency and honesty of external interveners’ agendas and intervention approaches as a perhaps more empowering solution that could lead to a more equal partnership between the respective actors.
Marco Pfister

Case Studies


Chapter 4. Traditional Authorities, Local Justice and Local Conflict Resolution Mechanisms in South Sudan

This chapter explores local justice and conflict resolution mechanisms using the example of South Sudan. By describing and critically discussing different arenas of local justice and conflict resolution mechanisms, it contributes to reflections on the meaning of the term ‘local’ in South Sudan. The chapter illustrates that chiefs play a significant role in local justice as well as in conflict resolution in South Sudan. In addition, the chapter exemplifies that ‘local level’, ‘grassroots’ conflict resolution mechanisms are multi-layered and frequently involve regional and national government institutions as well as external actors such as UN agencies, international donors and international NGOs that support peace initiatives and peace conferences.
Martina Santschi

Chapter 5. Maximizing the Potential of Locally Led Peacebuilding in Conflict Affected States

There is growing recognition that effective peacebuilding requires the integration of the work of local and external organizations. This chapter argues that there is more capacity within local organizations than is often recognized, using as an example a community based DDR programme in Eastern DRC, which performed well compared with similar programmes led from outside. The importance of local peacebuilding organizations is emphasized in complexity theory, which argues that as conflict is inherently unpredictable, it should be a high priority to strengthen the ability of local organizations and networks to respond quickly to emerging conflict. The article discusses some of the most common dilemmas faced by international organizations wishing to work more collaboratively with local organizations, and ends with recommendations for donors, international NGOs and local NGOs to achieve greater local leadership in peacebuilding.
Carolyn Hayman

Chapter 6. Peacebuilding: Switzerland’s Approach to Local Ownership

Questions of local ownership are unavoidable and fundamental in post-conflict peacebuilding processes. They need to be approached in the best interests of the peace process and sustainable peacebuilding solutions. An international approach to local ownership thus means that external actors are required to carefully assess the needs of internal actors and to be ready to review their own roles. Switzerland is committed to not exporting preconceived solutions to any country or region and to include difficult partners in its actions. Overall, Swiss endeavours aim for local ownership to go beyond an engagement of local populations in outside driven processes. Rather, they focus on allowing locals to develop their activities and take responsibility for domestically driven peacebuilding processes with outside support. Switzerland wants to play an enabling role by identifying and supporting local actors who have the credibility and the willingness to assume responsibility for their country’s future. Peacebuilding can only succeed with the sustained contribution and commitment of both internationals and locals.
Claude Wild

Chapter 7. Partners for Peace: A Case Study of Local—International Cooperation

After the initiation of a democratic reform process in March 2011, the regime in Myanmar, being challenged by democratic and ethnic-based opposition movements for decades, has started peace negotiations with approximately nineteen armed groups, all of them with different agendas and priorities, even within the groups themselves. The government under president Thein Sein insisted in managing all peace processes without any engagement of a third party mediator. The opening process is also marked by an enormous increase of international stakeholders eager to contribute to a peaceful transition. This influx has had different impacts; on the one hand, the international community has enriched the landscape of local actors and contributed to the process by facilitating contacts, sharing expertise and building capacities; on the other hand, the increased presence is also problematic insofar as it bears the risk of enhancing dependency as well as compromising local ownership and inclusivity. The present case study illustrates the cooperation between the Myanmar NGO Shalom Foundation and the Swiss NGO swisspeace as a successful way of constructive collaboration. By seconding a mediation expert for several months, knowledge exchange and local mediation capacity have been strengthened while guaranteeing local ownership and inclusivity—an innovative way to be replicated.
Rachel Gasser, Ja Nan Lahtaw


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