Top-down Bottom-up Peace Processes

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    • 00:10

      ROGER MAC GINTY: My name is Roger Mac Ginty.I'm Professor of Peace and Conflict Studiesat the University of Manchester.

    • 00:42

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: In this session, I want to talk aboutinternational peacebuilding, and how it is oftentop-down and remote.I'm particularly interested in how top-down peacebuilding,as conducted by leading states and internationalorganizations, often fails to connectwith people on the ground.

    • 01:02

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: Thus, for example, we have situationslike Bosnia or Cambodia or El Salvador,where billions of dollars being spenton peacebuilding and new constitutions, yet many peoplefeel disillusioned.They feel that the quality of peaceis poor, that it has benefited very few people

    • 01:27

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: outside of the national elite.The fighting may be over.But many people feel stuck in a no war, no peace situation.If we scratch the surface of these societies coming outof war, we find that many people are simplygetting on with their lives.

    • 01:49

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: They are engaged in everyday peacemaking-- in the workplace,in the apartment building, on the public transport network,or on the university campus.We see that so-called ordinary people are oftenhighly skilled in their everyday diplomacy and civility.That's required to stop a society receding back

    • 02:12

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: into civil war.So whether it is in Lebanon or Northern Ireland,it is often so-called ordinary peoplewho are showing extraordinary peacebuilding skills.In order to explore this dissonance between the top-downand bottom-up levels of peacebuilding,

    • 02:33

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: we will first look at top-down peace--its successes and failings.Then, we will examine bottom-up peacebuilding,and consider its potential for conflict avoidanceand reconciliation.The key factor to bear in mind during all of these discussions

    • 02:54

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: is power-- who holds it?And can it be taken from them?What we see is that international peacebuildingactors often have a lot of material powerthrough military forces, holding high office, or money.But local-level actors often have different sorts of power

    • 03:16

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: that are associated with legitimacy and respect.

    • 03:49

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: International organizations like the UN and the EUand leading states such as the US and the UKhave a long track record of being involved in peacemakingand peacebuilding.They have saved and improved many lives.But the character of this peace is worth interrogating.

    • 04:13

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: Many critics say that this piece is designed in Western capitalsand involves national elites in the conflict-affected country,but few others.The violence may stop as a result of a peace deal,but the material condition of many people

    • 04:34

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: may remain the same-- poor, excluded, and insecure.This top-down internationally-supported peaceis often called the liberal peace.This is because it uses the language of liberalism.That is, individual rights, democracy, liberty,

    • 04:57

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: and free markets.But critics say that this liberal rhetoric oftenmasks illiberal means.In the most egregious cases this can be democracy at gunpoint,as in the failed cases of Afghanistan and Iraq.

    • 05:17

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: But more generally, the liberal peacecan be recorded as a system of compliance.Post-peace-accord states must complywith a range of international statutesand financial obligations in orderto be recognized as legitimate and to access reconstruction

    • 05:38

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: funds.It has been said that international peacebuilding islike getting to Denmark.International peace builders want states coming out of warto resemble Denmark-- democratic and economically successfulstates, but one that is compliant, too.

    • 06:01

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: After all, who's scared of Denmark?It rarely makes the news.Internationally-brokered peace oftentakes the form of an elite bargainbetween international and national elites,but leaves many citizens feeling disillusioned.

    • 06:22

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: If one looks at voter turnout in many post-peace-accordsocieties, then one sees that the first electionafter the peace accord can be marked by a high voterengagement.Thereafter, in many societies, voter turnout

    • 06:42

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: tails off, sometimes to less than 50%.People realize that voting does not deliver.It does not lift them out of povertyor address the issues that are important to them,like employment and access to public services

    • 07:04

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: like health care and education.The reason, many people would argue,is that international actors-- that is, the liberal peace--are primarily interested in stability and order.Once stability is achieved-- an end to fighting-- then

    • 07:26

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: their interest in the more expansive dimensionsof democracy and liberalism become diminished.So, according to the critics, liberal peacepromises much, but often delivers a poor-quality peace.

    • 08:18

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: In the face of criticisms of top-down peacebuilding,international peacebuilding actors like the UN,World Bank, and leading states like the US and UKhave been reassessing their practices.They have recognized that top-down peacebuilding is often

    • 08:39

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: expensive and brings to poor results.The result has been a local turn in peacebuilding practice--a recognition that having local buy-inmay help with the legitimacy and sustainabilityof peacebuilding.Important policy documents from the UN, World Bank, and others

    • 09:05

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: are now packed with phrases like indigenous wisdom,local ownership, and local participation.There has been a recognition thattop-down technocratic interventionsrisk leaving the conflict-affected populationcold.

    • 09:27

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: A group of conflict-affected stateshave come together to propose a New Deal on Peacebuildingand Statebuilding.This G7+ group of countries includes states like SierraLeone, Burundi, and Timor Leste.

    • 09:48

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: They have received billions of dollars of peacebuildingand statebuilding assistance.But they sense that peacebuilding issomething that is done to them.The New Deal and many other initiativeslike it are an attempt to recalibrate peacebuilding

    • 10:09

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: so that it is participative and takes local aspirationsand needs into account.Crucially, this bottom-up perspectivesees peacebuilding as a dialogue, not merelya set of programs and projects that end after a year or two.

    • 10:31

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: Despite these initiatives to reform top-down peacebuilding,there will always be limitations to top-down peacebuilding.Firstly, as it operates in formal waysthrough foreign ministries and INGOs,it often has difficulty in seeing on-the-ground needs.

    • 10:55

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: Many would-be peacebuilders face a crisis of access,as they cannot leave their fortified bunkers or speakto the local population.If we look at conflict hot spots at the moment-- Iraq, Syria,

    • 11:16

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: northern Nigeria, Libya, Gaza, Israel,Ukraine-- then international monitors and observershave almost no access.They have very few tools at their disposalto know what's happening on the ground.

    • 11:36

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: A second problem with the reform of top-down peacebuildingis that many international organizations,international financial institutions, and donor statesprioritize order rather than peace.This necessarily limits the ambitions of peacebuilding.

    • 11:57

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: A third problem with the reform of peacebuildingis that it would mean losing control.If peacebuilding was to be genuinely bottom-up,then programs and projects would be designed and managedin the conflict-affected country.This would mean giving up control-- something that

    • 12:21

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: is very unlikely to happen.If one needs evidence that the international system isessentially about order, just take a lookat the permanent membership of the UN Security Council.Its membership-- Britain, France, China, Russia,and the US-- reflects the world in 1945.

    • 12:46

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: There has been no serious attemptto reform the situation.And there is unlikely to be one, as thiswould mean powerful states giving up power.But to be fair, the motivation on the part of some leadingstates to retain control of peacemaking

    • 13:06

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: is in part caused by liberal dilemmas.Locally-made peace may diverge from Western notionsof what is acceptable.Local peace may offend current Western liberal notionsof inclusion and nondiscrimination.

    • 13:29

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: It may be a peace that many in the Westwould consider to be patriarchal and exclusionary.

    • 14:12

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: So far, we have looked at the top-down peacebuildingby international organizations and leading states.We have seen how it has attempted some reforms,but it is likely to remain biasedin favor of order and power.I want to change tack now and talk about bottom-up peace

    • 14:34

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: building at the level of individuals and communities.This does not involve peacebuilding organizations,NGOs, and formal projects and programs.Instead, it relies on the emotional intelligenceand tolerance of so-called ordinary people.

    • 14:56

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: Although the news headlines are often, and rightly,filled with stories of conflict and violence,it is remarkable that there's so little violence on the planet.There are multiple identity groupson the planet and many competing demands.But human beings are very adept at designing their own conflict

    • 15:20

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: management systems.Consider the London Tube, or any other metrosystem in a major city.It can be seen as a massive system of conflict regulation.In general, it does not break into a huge free-for-allof violence.

    • 15:43

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: Instead, people follow basic rules, and others reciprocate.The system works.We can see this every day civility and tolerancein virtually every aspect of life-- in the classroom,in the apartment building, on the road,

    • 16:03

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: around the family table.Everyday civility and tolerance isacutely important in societies that areemerging from violent conflict.In these societies, where people of different identity groupslive together, there is a danger that small incidents

    • 16:24

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: of incivility could trigger an escalation of violent conflict.So in deeply-divided societies like Lebanon or NorthernIreland, many people engage in everyday peacebuilding.This does not involve organized schemes to make peace.

    • 16:47

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: Instead, it involves avoiding contentious topicsin conversation with neighbors from different identity groups,or looking the other way when something possibly provocativeis occurring.It is the peace of the weak smile and the hard swallow.It is grinning and getting on with it.

    • 17:10

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: This everyday peace is an imperfect type of peace.Tolerance is not the same as reconciliation.But often, tolerance between different ethnic and religiousgroups is all that can be expected in societiesthat are coming out of war.

    • 17:31

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: And it can be an important first stepin building the social capital that prevents slippage backinto war.

    • 18:07

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: The reason for concentrating on bottom-up and everyday formsof peacebuilding is that they affectand are made by real people.Much of the discourse on peacemaking and peacebuildingconcentrates on elites-- usually menin suits who reach written peace agreements

    • 18:29

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: in diplomatic capital cities.This elite peace often involves thosewho shout the largest and those with the most guns.Accounts of this top-down peacemakingreinforce the notion that diplomats and political leadersare experts in peacemaking.

    • 18:51

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: Some are.Many or not.A more startling expertise, I would argue,can be found among individuals and communitiesin deeply divided societies.Often, commentators will use wildly inaccurate phrases

    • 19:11

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: like ordinary people.But if we scratch the surface and look at lifein societies coming out of civil war,then we often see an extraordinary story of peoplejust getting on with things.This everyday peace does not involve grand signing

    • 19:32

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: ceremonies in front of the world's media.Instead, it involves countless acts of conflict avoidance--biting one's tongue, accepting diversity,sharing public services with members of another identitygroup, moving on.

    • 19:52

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaneyreflected on this type of peace in his poem "WhateverYou Say, Say Nothing."He wrote about how people in Northern Irelandtalked about the weather, but not politics,lest this cause tension among people

    • 20:12

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: of different religious groups.These may seem like small steps.But in a very tense society, these small stepscan have a big impact.They suggest that much of the academic and policy focuson peacebuilding has been looking at the wrong place.

    • 20:34

      ROGER MAC GINTY [continued]: As well as looking at states and institutions,it seems sensible that we look at peacebuildingthat happens in villages and city neighborhoods,that our unit of analysis becomesindividuals and communities, as well as big-name politicians.

Top-down Bottom-up Peace Processes

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Abstract

Professor Roger Mac Ginty reflects on the predominant top-down peacebuilding process, which excludes local voices and prioritizes order over peace. He then examines peacebuilding and conflict-avoidance actions of people trying to get on with life in conflict zones.

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Top-down Bottom-up Peace Processes

Professor Roger Mac Ginty reflects on the predominant top-down peacebuilding process, which excludes local voices and prioritizes order over peace. He then examines peacebuilding and conflict-avoidance actions of people trying to get on with life in conflict zones.

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