Governance and Insider Peacebuilders in Societies in Transition from War to Peace

This three-year research project examines alternative forms of governance and insider peacebuilders in societies transitioning from war to peace. Case studies include Nepal, Aceh/Indonesia, Myanmar (Burma) and Sri Lanka. Guided by the question whether alternative forms of governance can be effective in the pursuit of accountability - especially in authoritarian, illiberal, weak forms of state in South and South-East Asia - this project aims to identify such forms of governance. It analyses linkages, dynamics and interactions of insider peacebuilders and informal networks of influence on state, society, regional and transnational levels. Insider peacebuilders are defined as people with in-depth knowledge of their local contexts, a high level of personal commitment and the ability to access and influence formal structures.

The project employs an action research methodology along with primary, ethnographic research and a comprehensive secondary-source literature review to explore insider peacebuilders’ impact at various governance levels. Our method follows a three-tier approach, moving from research to practice to policy by first, engaging in empirically guided theory-building, secondly, feeding results back into practice by supporting change agents and promoting a network for social and political change, and thirdly, generating policy-relevant knowledge. The results will be disseminated through a number of information-sharing platforms and publications and will be used to influence regional policy-making and to build potential insider mediators’ capacities.

Timeframe

2012 – 2016

Conflict Setting

Ongoing ethnopolitical strife and sectarian violence, impunity and the lack of effective post-war justice mechanisms have long marked a number of countries in South and South-East Asia. In most of these cases, the states are either unwilling or unable to address the political demands of equality, justice, representation and accountability. Even in countries where protracted wars have ended through political settlements, the root causes have yet to be sufficiently addressed. In cases where peace agreements and political settlements have been reached, implementation has proven difficult and accountability remains low. The crucial question is how to make peace processes effective, resilient and transformative.

Approach

This project emphasises two core aspects of effective peace processes: It highlights and analyses both the role of insider peacebuilders and of alternative forms of governance. As people with in-depth knowledge of their local contexts, high personal commitment and the ability to access and influence formal structures, insider peacebuilders are capable of extending broad networks of personal relationships to all parties and enjoy a high level of trust and reputation. In this project, we hope to promote and study the linkages, dynamics and interactions of informal networks of insider peacebuilders who in the past have acted as peacebuilders in the countries examined and who have subsequently developed and implemented new peace support strategies through alternative forms of governance. In this context, insider peacebuilders are defined as people with in-depth knowledge of their local contexts, a high level of personal commitment and the ability to access and influence formal structures. They are capable of extending broad networks of personal relationships to all parties and enjoy a high level of trust and reputation.

The overall objectives of the project are:

  • To interrogate alternative forms of governance (e.g. hybrid, transnational or parallel forms of governance) through empirical research and explore whether these forms of governance can be effective in pursuing accountability and challenging impunity, war crimes and sexual violence in authoritarian and weak forms of state in South and South-East Asia,
  • To study and map the linkages, dynamics and interactions of informal networks of insider peacebuilders with local, regional and transnational levels of state and society in the four areas of study.

We employ an action research methodology as well as primary, ethnographic research and a comprehensive, secondary-source literature review. By connecting research and practice, the project follows a three-tier approach from research to practice to policy. First, we aim to formulate empirically informed theories and critically examine informal networks of influence with empirical and participatory action research. We then can feed results back into practice by supporting change agents and promoting a network for social and political change. Finally, we can use these results to generate policy-relevant knowledge.

Outcomes

By identifying alternative forms of governance in Aceh/Indonesia, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal and Sri Lanka and analysing linkages, dynamics and interactions of insider peacebuilders and informal networks of influence on state, society, regional and transnational levels, the project will contribute significantly to generating comparative understanding. It will help illuminate local capacities’ constructive potential as interlocutors, multipliers and bridge-builders. Empirical research will provide a critical examination of informal networks of influence. Additionally, the project will support change agents and promote a network for social and political change.

At the national level, the project will increase understanding for the relevance of insider peacebuilders as mechanisms complementary to state efforts in the post-war political settlement phase. At the regional level, the project will support national networks to establish a regional platform for insider peacebuilders to share and mutually learn. At the international level, the project will heighten awareness for these local resources and the necessity to include them into processes creating sustainable infrastructures for peace.

The findings will be presented in a number of information-sharing platforms and publications such as policy round tables and policy briefings on a broad range of topics as well as international conferences jointly organised with the Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security. In addition, they will be disseminated through comparative study publications and two edited volumes on alternative forms of governance in the countries examined and on insider peacebuilders, respectively.

The project will furthermore forge relations with government think-tanks and regional cooperation bodies to influence regional policy-making and to bring together scholars from South and South-East Asia to establish a collaborative network strengthening the capacities of potential insider mediators, interlocutors and bridge-builders.

Regional Focus

The project focuses on four countries in South Asia (SA) and South-East Asia (SEA): Nepal, Aceh/Indonesia, Myanmar (Burma) and Sri Lanka.

Partners

The project is conducted in collaboration with the Research and Education for Peace Unit, Universiti Sains Malaysia (REPUSM) and the University of Windsor.

Funders

The project is funded by the International Development Research Centre, a Crown Corporation of the Government of Canada.

April 2015 – Research Workshop in Banda Aceh (Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam/Indonesia)

The project’s fourth research workshop took place from 12 to 16 of April 2015, in Banda Aceh, and focused on the structural transformation in post-agreement Aceh, as well as the role of civil society and insider peacebuilders, especially women, in post-agreement peacebuilding.

May 2014 – Research Workshop in Yangon (Myanmar/Burma)

The workshop “Challenges of Transition from War to Peace” took place in Yangon on 30 and 31 May 2014, as part of the Insider Peacebuilders project. Mainly focusing on the project case study of Myanmar, the workshop highlighted governance and governance actors in the transition process and emphasised the crucial issues of gender, impunity and access to justice. Furthermore, insider/outsider dynamics of all four case studies were discussed and compared. 63 representatives of national and international civil society organisations and non-state groups participated in the workshop that was hosted by the Gender and Development Initiative-Myanmar.

October 2013 – Research Workshop in Penang (Malaysia)

Our second researchers’ workshop took place in Penang end of October 2013. It included introductions to key concepts and mapping reports for each case study. Goals and strategies were discussed for the next steps of the project.

January 2013 – Inception Workshop in Berlin

The project’s inception workshop was held in Berlin end of January 2013. After a brief introduction to the project, its fundamental aspects, tentative research foci, terminology, main questions and case studies, the core concepts and eight research questions were discussed and refined with regard to critical aspects in each of the four case studies. A work plan and timeline were determined.

The results of the project will be disseminated through the publication of comparative studies and two edited volumes - one on alternative forms of governance in the countries under observation and one on insider peacebuilders.

Publications will be posted here in due course.