The Role of Civil Society in the Prevention of Armed Conflict

The information on this webpage has been circulated to CPACS’ wider networks, including the Global Action to Prevent War network, and the University departments that were represented at the 2004 Australasian Peace and Conflict Studies Roundtable. For more information on the project, please get in touch with CPACS via email cpacs@arts.usyd.edu.au or phone (02) 9351 7686.

Introduction

In his 2001 report on the Prevention of Armed Conflict, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan recommended that civil society actors rise to the challenge of conflict prevention: I urge NGOs with an interest in conflict prevention to organise an international conference of local, national and international NGOs on their role in conflict prevention and future interaction with the United Nations in this field. In 2002, the European Centre for Conflict Prevention (ECCP, based in the Netherlands) proposed an integrated global programme of research, consultation and discussion on the role of civil society in conflict prevention.

This Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) was established to enhance the role of civil society in developing effective action in preventing and transforming violent conflict, as well as to strengthen civil society relationships with governments, the UN and regional organisations. To ensure that it includes a wide range of perspectives, GPPAC has organised 15 regional processes, each of which will develop initiatives to will feed into a global action agenda for civil society roles in conflict prevention, to be presented at a global conference at the United Nations in 2005.

The main goals of the initiative can be summarized as follows:

  • To produce regional agendas for conflict prevention, leading to an international agenda that will set the standard for seeking non-violent solutions to conflict in the decades ahead;
  • To explore fully the role of civil society in conflict prevention and peacebuilding;
  • To improve the interaction between civil society organisations (CSOs), the UN, governments and regional organisations;
  • To strengthen regional and international networking between the partners in the conflict prevention process, to draw the map of international work in conflict prevention;
  • To promote the development of a coherent body of research and theory that will help the conflict prevention community play its full part in international debate on the subject.

For more information, see the website of the European Centre for Conflict Prevention, which is acting as the secretariat for this initiative: http://www.conflict-prevention.net/


The Pacific Regional Process

Within the Pacific region, the Fiji NGO Coalition on Human Rights acts as the regional coordinator for the GPPAC project. A regional meeting has already been convened in Fiji in January 2004. At this meeting, national focal points were established for many of the Pacific countries where there is ‘active’ conflict. The national focal points coordinate the work in country (grassroots workshops, lessons learned, case studies, best practice, research papers, media, forums, national conferences etc) and contribute the results to the next regional consultation that is planned to take place in Fiji towards the end of 2004.

An Australian National Process

The Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney has offered to act as a national focal point for Australia, which was accepted by the Pacific regional coordinator. The aim is to set in motion discussion and research on the role of civil society in conflict prevention. Australian input into the Pacific regional process could consist of research/discussion on three overarching topics:

  1. The role of Australian CSOs in conflict prevention and peacebuilding within Australia. Since there is no ‘active’ conflict in Australia, this focus might be limited, but this depends on how ‘conflict prevention’ is defined. It could include a focus on the role of Australian civil society in the reconciliation process between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, but also on Australian civil society roles in social justice, interpersonal violence, etc.
  2. The role of Australian CSOs in conflict prevention and peacebuilding in general (E.g. disarmament movement, anti-war movement)
  3. The role of Australian CSOs in areas of ‘active’ conflict (aid organisations incorporating a conflict prevention/peacebuilding focus into their programs, other NGOs working in conflict prevention and peacebuilding in ‘active’ conflict). The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID – formerly ACFOA) has agreed to be involved in research and discussion concerning this topic.

Possible outcomes of such an Australian research, networking, and discussion process could be:

  • A meeting to be held in late 2004, to draw up a list of recommendations (or a ‘national action agenda’) to be fed into the Pacific regional process.
  • A stronger network of Australian CSOs involved in conflict prevention and peacebuilding (bridging the gaps between research, (academic) teaching and practice?)
  • A publication on ‘The Role of Australian Civil Society in the Prevention of Armed Conflict’.

Action plan

With this document we hope to set in motion an Australia wide consultation, discussion and research process on the topics outlined above. Your participation could take different forms depending on time and resources:

  • Participation in a meeting in late 2004 to discuss the role of Australian CSOs in conflict prevention and peacebuilding;
  • Organisation of local meetings for discussion on the role of Australian CSOs in conflict prevention and peacebuilding;
  • Organisation of smaller meetings that focus on a specific aspect of the broader topic of the role of Australian CSOs in conflict prevention and peacebuilding;
  • Undertaking research into a specific aspect of the broader topic of the role of Australian CSOs in conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

The Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies offers to coordinate this consultation, discussion and research process. If you/your organisation is interested in participating in this initiative, please get in touch with us and let us know how you would like to contribute to this process. We look forward to your participation and feedback. For more information on the project, please get in touch with CPACS via email or phone (02) 9351 7686.