What we do
Conducive Space for Peace (CSP) is a Danish-based non-profit organization that explores how to effectively promote sustainable peace and bring about institutional change in the international system of peacebuilding support. CSP aims at contributing to this agenda in a manner that changes the structures, attitudes and processes of collaboration and creates a more enabling space for local peacebuilding. CSP envisions an effective international peacebuilding system that strengthens the agency and power of local actors and provides a conducive space for collaboration for sustainable peace based on equality and dignity.
Through providing an increased understanding among key decision-makers and potential change agents of the systemic challenges of the international system of support to peacebuilding and that change is possible, a combined global and country-level engagement, catalysing new and innovative initiatives doing peacebuilding differently, and collecting evidence and learnings from our work , we envision a shift from rhetoric to new practice.
In order to achieve this overall goal, CSP applies a multi-track change approach which centres around evidence, leverage, and action in pursuing three interlinked pathways for change:
→ Building Momentum for Change
→ Supporting Networks of Change Agents
→ Strategic Communication and Learning
Building Momentum for Change
→ CSP strives to build increased momentum and demand for change in the global peacebuilding system
In order to build momentum for change, there is a need to understand the challenges in the peacebuilding support system and their causes, the lessons learned on alternative ways of working, and the opportunities and barriers for change. As we are aiming for sustainable systems transformation – in structures, attitudes, and practices – it implies developing new types of evidence, synthesising existing evidence in new ways, and communicating this evidence to the right people, at the right time and in the right way.
Our goal is contributing to an increased understanding among key decision-makers and potential change agents of the systemic challenges of the international system of support to peacebuilding (and the broader development framework), the magnitude, causes and effects of the challenges, and thus a recognition of the urgency to take action for systemic change. Since its initiation Conducive Space for Peace has engaged broadly with multiple stakeholders within the peacebuilding support system, including having ongoing consultations at both UN headquarters, and with stakeholders at regional and country level.
Bringing together the peacebuilding community for discussions in New York
One type of engagement Conducive Space for Peace has conducted so far to build momentum for change was a meeting in New York themed “Conducive Space for Local Agency and Power in Peacebuilding.” It was hosted in collaboration with Humanity United on April 24-25 2019 and brought together 36 thought and practice leaders from local and international peacebuilding organisations, UN agencies, universities and think tanks to share experiences on how to transform the international system of support to peacebuilding, and especially how to strengthen the space for local agency and power in peacebuilding.
Participants explored the challenges of the system in supporting and enabling local agency and power in peacebuilding, discussed ways in which to address these challenges, and reflected on opportunities for complimentary and collective action. With inspiration and input from scholars and practitioners such as Severine Autesserre, Susanna P. Campbell, Salman Jaffer, Rob Ricigliano and George Varughese, participants engaged in lively discussions and creative exercises to explore the current system of support to peacebuilding, envision a conducive space for local agency and power in peacebuilding, and develop strategies to get there.
As one of the participants expressed after the meeting: “I found the space appropriate to support peacebuilders including myself to reflect on key persisting issues threatening sustainable interventions. The quality of participants, the discussions as well as the facilitation were very empowering. I just wanted to thank you for the great work you do and particularly the opportunity you provided to me to be part of the space. I will be back home with optimism and with more energy.” (Immaculee Mukanbito, Never Again Rwanda)
If you are interested to know more about what was discussed at the meeting, please read our report. For more reflections from the meeting, we encourage you to read the following blog posts written by two of the meeting participants: 7 Approaches to Local Ownership and 4 Problems with Trickle Down Peacebuilding by Lisa Schirch and What is required for a conducive space for local agency and power? by Isabella Jean.
CSP Accelerator during Geneva Peace Week
Another activity we have engaged in so far to build momentum for change was hosting The Conducive Space for Peace Accelerator in Geneva, Switzerland during Geneva Peace Week from November 5-8 2018. A four-day workshop brought together cohort teams working in different conflict-affected contexts to discuss innovative practices in international-national collaboration on peacebuilding.
The Accelerator gave practitioners a space to reflect and act together as a team in order to ‘accelerate’ their initiative and the broader changes it represents. Teams went on learning journeys, got inspiration and new insights from other cohort teams and team members, and connected with the activities and energy of Geneva Peace Week. Each cohort team was composed of participants representing innovative partnerships between international organisations (UN agencies and others), local government, international and national NGOs and other relevant actors involved in collaborating around and developing new practice.
Five teams worked on some of the following issues:
- Enabling locally owned youth-led dialogue platforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Strengthening local digital innovation in peacebuilding in Syria to enable broad and deep participation in high level change processes
- Placing the local population at the center of the peace-building system in Mali through systemic action research
- Supporting and accompanying young female peace leaders in playing effective roles in peace building in South Sudan, Liberia, and Nepal
In addition, a Conducive Space for Peace team worked alongside the other cohorts to explore how to transform the current international system of support to national/local peacebuilding in order for it to support a conducive space for collaboration on sustainable peace. International advisors – Gay Rosenblum-Kumar from Peace Direct and Non-Violent Action (NY), George Varughese from Niti Foundation (Nepal), Sweta Velpillay from CDA (Sri Lanka), Catriona Gourlay from Peace Nexus (Geneva), Jenny Aulin from IPTI (Geneva) worked with the CSP cohort to challenge and advance the thinking.
A public event was held on November 8 at Palais des Nations to share the challenges that the cohort teams were trying to address in the different conflict-affected contexts, and the insights and new strategic direction which had been sparked by the Accelerator. The event represented an alternative to the typical UN-led panels and discussions, and gave an inspiring glimpse of the energy and wisdom that lies at the heart of national/local peacebuilding work. It gave food for thought on the urgent need to change the international support system to be more conducive for supporting local peacebuilding efforts.
Supporting Networks of Change Agents
→ CSP strives to strengthen capacity and coalition-building of change agents to leverage change
In order to facilitate systemic change, Conducive Space for Peace must work with people in positions inside the international institutions that support peacebuilding and development. This means working alongside and accompanying ’insiders’, whether decision makers, peacebuilding experts or reform agents. CSP will engage with them in different ways depending on their role as change makers, and their position, power, interest and willingness to share knowledge and invest political capital.
Change agents are at the centre of our thinking, whether we pursue changes in structures, attitudes, or practices, or a combination of these, within the international system of support to peacebuilding. We know that there are many people working to support peacebuilding who see potential for doing better. CSP aims to support and serve these change agents and accompany their change efforts – at international level as well as national and local.
We acknowledge that there currently is little space for change agents from conflict-affected countries to have a ‘voice’ in the agenda for systemic transformation. CSP will seek to support a community of local peacebuilders and development practitioners that pursue this change agenda. We will support different spaces for dialogue among different types of change agents, and will facilitate linkages, complementarities, and joint action when possible.
There is also a need for stronger platforms and coalitions within and beyond the peacebuilding system to jointly pursue this change agenda. CSP aims to play a convening role creating conducive spaces for reflection, innovation, and action as part of the change process. We will work to create a spiderweb network of change agents – developing a movement for a more effective and dignified global collaboration on peacebuilding with local agency and power at the centre.
Conducive Space for Peace aims at exploring and developing ways of enhancing the effectiveness of international support to national level peacebuilding, by using national level experiences to inform broader transformation of the international peacebuilding infrastructure. So far CSP has made exploratory visits to Colombia, Mali, Liberia and Sierra Leone for consultative purposes, and will soon start engaging in 3 focus countries to learn more about how to effectively work to strengthen capacity and coalition-building among change agents in order to leverage change.
In December 2019, CSP went on an exploratory visit to Colombia. Here consultations were made with prominent peacebuilder Ricard Esquivia as well as a number of community-based peacebuilding organisations and local peace activists. CSP also participated in the Festival of Reconciliation in Montes de Maria where dialogue sessions were held between armed groups and victims of violence. Colombia has a strong civil society, both at national and local level, but the linkages between these two levels are not as strong as they could be, and competition for funds and political influence among the organizations are inhibiting strong collaboration. Enabling spaces for more locally led peacebuilding is vital to ensure sustainable peace in Colombia as they hold valuable experience and knowledge on how to facilitate reconciliation processes. The actors CSP met with showed a sense of recognition and interest towards CSP’s vision and goal of enabling a space for more local peacebuilding. To learn more about reflections CSP made after the trip to Colombia, read our blog here.
In the summer of 2018, exploratory visits were also conducted in Mali, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Questions explored with key stakeholders at national level included: What would an institutional framework for peacebuilding support look like that is better fit for supporting national actors in sustaining peace and preventing violent conflict? What are the challenges of the current system, and what are some good alternative practices already being explored? How can actors within and beyond the peacebuilding architecture promote systemic changes that create a more conducive space for peace?
In addition to the country level consultations, a West Africa regional workshop was held in Senegal with the UN Peace and Development Advisers from country offices within the region, representatives from the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) and other UN bodies, as well as representatives from Oxfam and other international organisations working in West Africa. The critical position of these advisers and the insights to the international system for support to peacebuilding that they hold, will be an important cornerstone in the future engagement of CSP.
Consultations showed a very strong interest in the issues raised by CSP, from UN agencies, Oxfam country offices, civil society organisations and some elements of government, in each of the countries visited. There is a sense of a deep understanding and experience of the systemic challenges that CSP aims to address, and a commitment to being part of the CSP process. The consultations provided new insights on systemic challenges and created new perspectives on the way forward to facilitating systemic transformation.
Strategic Communication and Learning
→ CSP strives for increased learning and strategic communication among change agents and key stakeholders on effective systems change
Both learning and strategic communication among change agents and key stakeholders will be central to CSP’s change efforts. CSP will facilitate opportunities and space for innovation and transformation through processes which bring people together to co-create and test new ideas, models and alternative paths for systems change. Focus will be on how to scale innovative and transformative initiatives so that they contribute to broader systemic transformation. Innovation will focus on all three core dimensions of systemic change, both structural, attitudinal, and practice-oriented.
Key learnings from the incubator phase
During the incubator phase in CSP, a number of discussions were held to explore how we uphold a constant learning process within the core of our work. The purpose of the CSP learning component is to ensure that activities conducted within the organization effectively advance CSP’s overall goals, and ultimately facilitate changes in the international peacebuilding system. CSP is engaging in learning by applying an action-focused, experimental, critical and evidence-informed learning approach by implementing reflective and adaptive practices and experiential learning opportunities.
From the incubator phase, we have summarized five main learning components that will influence how we conduct our work the coming years:
- There is increasing momentum for change
- The new geopolitical era and the changing development context creates both opportunities and challenges for change
- A systemic change process must build on an understanding of the complexity and dynamic nature of systems and inter-linkages between systems
- Local actors are at the center of this agenda for change but they are not necessarily the primary drivers of the change process
- Change requires a multi-track process, engagement with multiple sets of actors and networks, complementarity of entry points, and strategic sequencing