In some countries, more civilians are being killed by armed gangs and criminal organisations than in traditional combat. Still, these pockets of armed social violence – “Undeclared wars” marked, among other things, by criminal, gang and/or urban violence – have long received much less attention than politically motivated forms of armed conflicts. As their effects — social-political destabilisation, in some cases coinciding with high numbers of victims— are becoming more pressing, national and international actors have begun addressing the phenomenon.
The 12th issue of Berghof Foundation’s Handbook Dialogue Series is dedicated to this issue. Its newly published lead article suggests that frameworks to effectively address phenomena such as urban violence, violent youth gangs, vigilantes and organised crime are still rudimentary. Referring to the conventional “political conflict violence” paradigm or an iron fist approach against “criminals” in situations of armed social violence have so far been ineffective.
The authors, Bernardo Arévalo de León and Ana Glenda Tager, argue that the inclusive and participatory methodologies offered by peacebuilding approaches provide an operational strategy that would allow the international community to engage successfully with issues of armed social violence.
We are looking forward to a lively debate and will publish a series of responses over the coming months.