The focus in this program is on public latent, open, and structural violence as opposed to domestic/private sphere violence and non organised criminal violence. There are however often links between different types of violence, e.g. in the public and private spheres. Conflict can be important for social change, but the focus here is on violent destructive conflict.
NCA understands that peace requires the absence of both open and structural violence - a situation where principles of justice, fairness and equality prevail. The main focus of the programme is to secure the right to a life free from violence. Violence can be both open and subtle in the form of structural repression of groups. Violence and fear of violence negatively influence a range of other rights, and violent conflict is therefore a barrier to human development at all levels. Survivors of violence often suffer long-term physical and psychological harm, while individuals and families living in conflict areas are forced to focus on organising their lives in order to avoid violence, rather than to effectively improve their living conditions. Access to basic services, formal and informal justice, sustainable livelihoods and housing tend to decrease during violent conflict, as do freedom of expression, people’s mobility and ability to organise and participate as active citizens. Local structures that normally prevent and manage conflict are overwhelmed or non-functional due to the intensity of conflict and violence, as are response services for survivors of violence.
Violent conflicts can be understood as systems of dysfunctional relationships between state and/or non-state actors2. Such dysfunctional relations are on the one hand expressed in and fuelled by for example hate speech, manipulation of group identities, religious actors perpetuating prejudice and negative intergroup relations. On the other hand, structural imbalances in access to political, economic and/or social power contribute to create dysfunctional relations between groups. The nature of these structural imbalances varies from conflict to conflict and must be determined by conflict analyses. The duty bearers vary accordingly, but government/ policy makers, regional and international actors (like the UN) often play an important role, as do actors who are in a strong position to influence people’s group identities, for example religious, ethnic and community leaders, intellectuals, the media and teachers. The main rights holders are communities affected by conflict, with women and men being affected and involved in gender specific ways. Equally, other subgroups are affected and involved in different ways according to age, ethnicity, religion etc.
NCA addresses both the deeper causes of conflicts as well as different forms of open violence and conflict triggers through our programmes. Although not sufficient, working to stop all forms of open violence is important because without stopping open violence and enabling groups to interact in peaceful ways, efforts to address the deeper imbalances causing the conflict will often be in vain. The peacebuilding programme is geared towards ending open, potential and structural violence primarily by strengthening inter-group relations and addressing key drivers of conflict through peace advocacy. An important aspect of NCA’s peacebuilding programme is that it presupposes collaboration with other programming efforts which aim at addressing structural injustices causing violent conflicts. Examples of such efforts are the programmes to secure equal access to livelihoods and water, and efforts to strengthen accountable governance.
NCA’s main strategy for such collaboration is to apply the “Reflecting on Peace Practice” (RPP) approach for all of NCA’s work in open or latent 3 conflict settings. The RPP framework is well adapted for use in different contexts as it opens for contextualised ways of addressing conflicts and building peace. An important step in RPP is conducting gender sensitive conflict analyses in order to define what factors are driving the conflict, what the structural imbalances in a specific setting are, and who the key actors are in the conflict. Based on this analysis, NCA is in the position to see how different thematic programmes within a country strategy can effectively contribute to an overall peacebuilding goal. This can be done by addressing the key conflict drivers or structural imbalances identified in the conflict analysis, and by engaging the actors who have the power to influence the conflict in a positive or negative direction.
The core focus in the peacebuilding programme will be to address open or latent violence through facilitating constructive inter and intra-group relations. Constructive relationships have both social and political dimensions: on the one hand, strengthening constructive relationships entails stimulating co-existence, interaction and acceptance of the other’s right to participation and protection from violence. On the other hand, it also includes lobbying for political conditions which can enable such interaction. To address these different dimensions there is a need to establish and support inclusive local structures which can reduce tensions in the early response phase of conflicts, mediate conflicts and resolve disputes. These structures can also prevent conflict by building trust, collaboration and non-violent attitudes, and be involved in peace advocacy that aims to weaken key driving factors of conflict. Mobilising faith-based actors to participate in these efforts, for example through supporting inter and intra-faith platforms, will be an important strategy to achieve results.
NCA’s peacebuilding efforts will be based on participatory conflict analyses: A broad range of actors - women and men from civil society, the private sector and government structures, representing different identity groups - will be invited to analyse the causes and consequences of the conflicts at hand, in addition to seeking solutions. The aim is for this to strengthen civil society’s self-awareness of both conflict dynamics and local capacities for peace.
Through accompanying and supporting faith-based and civil society partners in addressing the destructive dimensions of violent conflict, their capacity will be strengthened, for example by gaining access to strategic tools such as RPP and Do No Harm. NCA will also seek to bring actors for change together and facilitate the emergence of broad-based coalitions connecting local, national and international levels. There will be a special emphasis on securing meaningful participation of groups that are often excluded from peace processes, such as women and youth. Collaboration with female religious leaders, women’s rights organisations and women’s wings within faith-based organisations will be important in this regard. Working with local capacities for peace will be especially crucial at the local level because these resources are already present in local communities and build upon local traditions and culture. Working with these actors makes peacebuilding efforts more sustainable and rooted, and these structures can also become more representative of marginalised groups through NCA’s emphasis on the principle of inclusivity.
NCA has broad experience from engaging civil society in peacebuilding, including actors representing faith communities, when these are well positioned to reach out to the groups in conflict. This peacebuilding programme accommodates the specific resources which faith-based actors have in addressing different forms of violent conflict. We believe that such actors and the organisations they represent have a specific role to play in creating constructive inter-group relations. Religious language, leaders, organisations and movements can drive and fuel conflict or can be among the factors connecting groups, despite conflict. With the NCA partner base consisting primarily of faith-based partners we believe that we have a specific potential to address religious dimensions of violent conflict.
Our experience from working with faith-based actors has shown us that in some contexts religious leaders have the potential to modify religious language which stimulates violence. Supporting efforts aimed at dismantling religious exclusionary and inflammatory rhetoric and offering alternative faith-based interpretations of intergroup relations is one typical and important contribution NCA and its partners can make to address the driving factors of conflict. Religious leaders can also play a role in mobilising for dialogue and peace talks in conflicts where religion plays a minor role, as they are in some contexts perceived as neutral third parties with strong moral authority. This role also makes them well positioned to address rights violations directly with decision makers. Religious leaders can also play a role in creating space for other civil society actors through this type of low profile lobbying.
The extent to which faith-based actors are well positioned to address conflict varies from context to context. NCA will also work with other civil society partners than faith-based actors in the peacebuilding programme, such as women’s rights organisations. In our experience, such partners have had important contributions to peace in different contexts and are often well placed to work for more constructive inter-group relations, as well as to strengthen and complement peace initiatives by faith-based actors.
NCA’s main role will be to support and accompany partners and local capacities for peace in their peace initiatives, contribute to building their capacity and link them with relevant networks and experiences in other areas/regions. In addition, an important role will be to challenge faith-based actors on women, youth and marginalised groups’ participation and influence in peacebuilding, and to engage in faith-based reflections on faith-based actors’ role in peacebuilding. NCA will facilitate links between faith-based actors and other civil society organisations, and strengthen the role of women and youth wings in faith-based organisations’ peacebuilding work. Resources especially developed by and for faith-based actors will be used. NCA has participated in international discourses on effective peacebuilding and has adopted internationally acknowledged standards for such work, for example through our use of Reflecting on Peace Practice as a programming tool for peacebuilding. Given NCA’s broad competence in other thematic areas such as livelihoods, gender based violence, health, emergency relief and water, sanitation and hygiene, we are also well positioned to work holistically and create synergies from different interventions, and contribute to sustainable peace.
Inclusivity will be a key term in the peacebuilding programme: the aim is to engage a wide variety of groups, taking into account not only gender and age, but also how gender and age intersect with other identity markers such as ethnicity, religion, class, rural-urban residence etc. We will however have a particularly strong focus on women’s participation in peacebuilding processes. Collaboration with women’s rights organisations, women’s wings in faith-based organisations and female religious leaders will be key to achieve this, as will facilitation of dialogue between these groups and male religious leaders, faith-based organisations and decision makers. NCA will work with local actors for gender balanced multi-stakeholder peacebuilding structures (interfaith platforms, local peace committees, etc.) and provide women with capacity building and mentoring to be better able to influence such structures. Capacity building on gender relations and mainstreaming of gender perspectives from the start of NCA’s engagement with such structures will also be important. Monitoring of peace negotiations and agreements from a gender perspective will be relevant in some contexts, as will efforts to improve women’s access to information about peacebuilding.
Youth participation will also be emphasised in the peacebuilding programme, with the aim of ensuring that young women and men’s concerns will be adequately addressed in peacebuilding efforts. Collaboration with youth wings of faith-based organisations, youth associations and organisations will be important in this regard. The efforts will be informed by conflict analyses and analyses of what motivates some youth to join armed groups, and the work will be closely coordinated with other NCA programming efforts targeting youth.
Read also about our results from our Global Report 2015