One persistent challenge to peacebuilding is the extent to which communities affected by conflict can transform their circumstances. Many become passive recipients of prescriptive interventions by external actors, or top-imposed conceptualizations and interpretations. The bottom-up role has immediate benefit to day-to-day lives. But how to measure peace (or, more helpfully, change whether it comes nearer or becomes more distant)?
Typically, methods used to study peace yield complex, scholarly results that are not directly useful (or sometimes even intended for) community use. Through development of ‘indicators of peace,’ this project through local participation and local ownership, seeks to produce sensitive local understanding of interventions in peacebuilding and conflict transformation. The assertion here is that communities are best-placed to measure and interpret their own peace.
What are indicators of peace?
These are signals that communities develop through participatory action research on their perceptions of their own circumstances/conflict – what peace actually entails to them.
As Roger Mac Ginty and Pamina Firchow detailed in their recent article,“[Developing indicators of peace] is participatory action research that seeks to find out people’s perceptions of their own conflict rather than impose narratives on them. The research asks local people, through focus groups, to develop their own set of indicators. …[T]he research questions are identified and designed by local people. …The research is designed and administered by local researchers and communities as a way of encouraging the identification of issues that are relevant to communities at the neighborhood or village level.”
Examples of indicators identified in USIP’s Everyday Peace Indicators project from multiple countries around the world include:
- Children are in school without disruption by rebels
- Being able to hold social events without police disruption
- How many dogs are barking at night
- Roads and other key infrastructure get repaired
- Women feel safe walking in the streets
- Able to access primary health care center
Why is Future Generations University interested in EPI?
Peacebuilding is an area that the graduate school has been engaged in for a number of years. There is in-house research and academic work that the graduate school wants to build on. Development of indicators for peace is consistent with the community change ideals that the graduate school has been teaching. Moreover, development of indicators of peace is in line with what is taught and practiced in SEED-SCALE. The graduate school is keen to pursue a research agenda in developing indicators of peace, an effort that will be augmented by the partnership it has with USIP.
|Photo caption: This map shows the 12 country sites (listed below) that are included in the current study.
What does the Future Generations University adaptation of USIP’s work look like?
This a very exciting project that currently has twelve country sites—Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Guyana, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Somaliland, South Sudan, Uganda, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe—where study implementers are alumni and current MA students. In addition to USIP’s series of focus group discussions to determine community perspectives on peace indicators, we have added a series of key informant interviews with regional/country experts on peacebuilding in each country in order to triangulate community- and expert-identified indicators with top-down global and regional indices and priorities. The study is in full swing now, and we will complete the first phase of indicator identification, verification, and review of potential uses by the end of June 2017. From there, we are seeking additional funding and avenues to further this work—in the field of peacebuilding as well as across other sectors in our institutional research strategy.
 “Everyday Peace Indicators: Capturing Local Voices Through Surveys” in Shared Space: A research journal on peace, conflict and community relations in Northern Ireland. No date.