Few would disagree: building peace is most likely to be successful if there are, in any given place, champions, processes and well known structures which take upon themselves the non-violent transformation of conflicts. This prerequisite is being discussed under various headings: “local ownership”, “local capacity-building”, or, indeed, infrastructures for peace.
What does a peace infrastructure look like and what does it provide? “It could be anything from a rugged shed housing a local peace council in a remote South American village, to the elegantly designed high-rise office of a national truth and reconciliation commission in the capital of an African country. Its organisations could include a ministry dealing with peace and reconciliation in Nepal, the office of a presidential advisor coordinating the peace process in the Philippines, or one of the many district peace committees in Kenya...” writes Ulrike Hopp Nishanka, lead author of Berghof Handbook Dialogue No. 10 which investigated peace infrastructures around the globe.
A working definition for us is that:
“I4P can be defined as a dynamic networking of skills, capacities, resources, tools and institutions that help build constructive social and political relationships and enhance sustainable resilience of societies against relapse into violence” (Embedded Peace, p. 10)
It is important to remain flexible in both concept and practice, rather than pursuing a one-size-fits-all approach. At the same time, in order to learn from peace infrastructures across different contexts, it helps to have a joint understanding of what their key aspects are and how they connect to other peacebuilding mechanisms and processes. Berghof Foundation’s practical support work and its conceptual endeavours have spanned this dual demand of flexible practice and conceptual clarity with a number of publications and projects over the years.