How Do Communities Experience Peace in Their Daily Lives? Future Generations Researchers in Eight Countries Went to Find Out!


Summary

To help people monitor accurately whether their communities are safer (more peaceful) over time or not, this post summarizes the initial experience with a method that Future Generations is testing. If Everyday Peace Indicators (EPIs) prove to be relevant and reliable, then we plan to continue to refine the methodology and utilize it in other sectors, such as conservation and health. The EPIs that are identified span across many aspects of life and may include indicators such as the number of religious and cultural events and rituals that are performed or the number of people who are actively working (men and/or women) in a community.
This map shows the eight countries where research into Everday Peace
Indicators was conducted.

Background

In January 2017, researchers in eight countries (Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Guyana, Nepal, Nigeria, Somaliland, South Sudan, and Uganda) set out to understand how urban and rural communities as well as local peacebuilding experts experience and determine that they can measure peace in their everyday lives.

Typically, methods used to study peace yield complex, scholarly results that are not directly relevant, useful, or sometimes even intended for communities to understand. 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 is that communities are best placed to measure and interpret their own peace. The research methodology builds on prior and ongoing research on Everyday Peace Indicators (EPIs) at the United States Institute for Peace (USIP). 

As lead researchers on prior EPI work—Pamina Firchow and Roger Mac Ginty—describe this approach as:[i]

[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.…
 
Future Generations is also particularly interested in this methodology due to our history of peacebuilding research and our peacebuilding concentration within our Master of Arts degree program. There is in-house research and academic work that the university 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 university is keen to pursue a research agenda in developing indicators of peace, an effort that will be augmented by the partnership it has begun to develop with USIP.

 

Methods

This study included focus group discussions in at least two sites in each country. The sites were selected to represent urban and rural contexts within the country and were selected based on communities where our research team had connections and was able to establish and build on trusting relationships in order to undertake this participatory research. A total of 20 sites are represented in the study findings including four sites in Guyana and four sites in Afghanistan and two in each of the other countries.

 

At each site, focus groups were held separately with men, women, boys and girls—expect in Nepal where the men and women were divided into two groups each based on caste and youth were merged into one group for each site in order to be responsive to social norms and ensure an in-depth, productive dialogue. The purpose of these focus groups was to hold an open brainstorming discussion with each of these demographic groups in each community about how they experience peace—first very broadly and then progressively honing in on tangible and then countable things from their everyday lives that could indicate whether their community was becoming more or less peaceful over time. A total of 80 focus groups were held across the 20 sites.

After the initial focus groups were completed, the researcher(s) at least site compiled all of the discussions into one long list of potential KIs for peace in that community. Then, representatives from each of the initial focus groups were brought together to discuss, refine, and then vote using a multi-voting process on a focused list of about 10 countable indicators that best reflected peace in their communities.

In parallel with the focus groups, a series of key informant interviews with local peacebuilding experts were conducted in each country. Respondents included university faculty, government officials, law enforcement officials, nonprofit organization leaders, United Nations representatives, youth and youth  advocates, and others. Between four and seven interviews were conducted with a variety of different respondents in each country for a total of 35 interviews. The results from the interviews and focus groups were compared and contrasted for each site and often showed similar alignment on the priority issues, but different understanding of each one.


Selected Findings

The indicators identified in this research spanned many sectors and nearly every aspect of everyday life as well as the day-to-day experience of some of the large-scale conflicts that often claim center stage in the global media.  While peace remains a complex, sometimes intangible, and multi-faceted concept, many of the indicators that were identified were actually related to the ability to do very basic activities necessary for daily life, and of relevance in pretty much every community around the world. Three common themes related to the findings across sites are summarized here.

Employment: Being able to access employment or a way to support and sustain a family was a frequently raised theme. This was important for men, women, and youth and valued at both the household level as well as in larger savings groups or cooperative efforts among community members. One report noted:
Coming together in the form of groups was rare. The groups would become victims of attack by warriors. With peace now, there are many social and economic groups coming up. For instance, there are village savings and loan associations. (Uganda)
 

Roads and other infrastructure: Access to communities by road as well as other infrastructure such as availability of electricity and internet services was a theme across many sites.

If [the] government is focusing on investment on infrastructure can be an indicator of peace. That means if the government assigns more budget on it… and less on military budget. (Ethiopia)
 
Infrastructure services…facilitate people’s activities for growth and development thereby contributing greatly towards their presence of peace. (Uganda)

 

Education: Access to schools, functional school systems, equal opportunity for boys and girls for education, educational attainment of youth, and expansion of fields of study and private school opportunities all featured prominently among identified indicators. One report described the linkage between education and other contributors to peace and conflict:
 
If the school at least works 4-8 hours a day based on the grades/classes children will be busy with learning and progressing, but if not, children will be at risk of pulling and children clashes which in most cases escalate to parents-to- parents fight.  (South Sudan)
 
Traditional and culture: Often, conflict disrupts traditional practices and rhythms. A theme emerged through this research on the importance of communities being able to carry out traditional festivals, rites of passage, and religious celebrations. Some findings also noted that new cultural practices, such as creating new songs about violence and revenge, could be a sign of worsening conflict.
 
Cultural and religious sites are the binding factors of social cohesion, but after the 10 year long conflict people believes that people are falling apart and peace can be attained when you go to the temples and be part of the cultural events. (Nepal)

 

 

Discussion

The concept of peace has many different meanings. Even for a number of the researchers who implemented this study are already engaged in some kind of work related to conflict resolution, youth and women’s empowerment, anti-radicalization, and related efforts, they noted gaining additional understandings of what peace means to people in the communities where they work and to local experts around them. Throughout the process of conducting this research, many of the researchers commented on how they gained new, different, or more nuanced and in-depth understandings of peace from talking with communities and local experts. A number of new relationships, potentials for collaboration, and dialogues within communities were also sparked by this participatory inquiry.  

One of the recurring challenges within this research study was that the identified indicators were so specific to the local context. In a number of countries, similar or identical indicators were proposed in the urban and rural sites, but their meaning was different or even opposite. An example of this is schools being open in Afghanistan—in urban areas, this was a sign of relative peace that children could attend school but in the rural area where this study was conducted, schools being open indicated that the territory was being occupied and the schools managed by the occupiers and was therefore not a sign of peace.

Next Steps

 

The research team is developing a full report and also a peer-reviewed journal article in the coming months. In addition, the Africa-based sites are planning to put together a regionally-focused policy brief targeting African decision-makers and something that can be distributed in paper format as well as electronically. Finally, each implementer of the methodology has identified key next steps to directly facilitate that the identified indicators get utilized. Some examples of the kinds of utilization that are planned include:

1.     Building the most relevant and salient indicators into community workplans, projects and project evaluations, and organizational strategic plans

 

2.     Advocacy with local leaders, including government officials, religious leaders, and law enforcement, for local peacebuilding priorities and ways to track progress on them

 

3.     Training and awareness-raising among peace-related service providers (law enforcement and other social services) and communities at large about local understandings of peace and conflict and dialogue about how to address local issues

 

4.     Seek additional resources—funding as well as mentorship, time and other resources—to enable communities to work to improve on the indicators that are the most important to them

 



[i]Mac Ginty, R. and Firchow, P.  Everyday Peace Indicators: Capturing Local Voices Through Surveys. Shared Space: A Research Journal on Peace, Conflict, and Community Relations in Northern Ireland.
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Post by Dr. Meike Schleiff with input from the researcher team members*
Meike brings a background of community-based mentoring, teaching, and program implementation to Future Generations University. She has worked extensively with communities and young leaders in Haiti through GROW project, the non-profit that she co-founded with Haitian colleagues, and has also been engaged in community development planning, implementation, evaluation, and training in Guyana, Ugandan India, and the Appalachian region in the USA
*Vincent Abura, Chiranjibi Bhandari, Abdishakur Hassan-Kayd, Amanullah Hotak, Fisseha Getahun, Anthony Kadoma, Firew Kefyalew, Omer Marouf, Andualem Mitiku, Sushila Chattergee Nepali, Uchenna Onyeizu, and Rohan Sagar (Picutred as listed from left to right below:)
 
 

 

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