Theme | Infrastructures for Peace (I4P) and Do No Harm (DNH)?

Hello Edgeryders (veteran and pioneer),

I was going through the draft program of the event and I would like to share about two concepts that I learned during and after my studies and have been pretty important to me in my work as a peace worker/educator. The fun part about them is that numerous individuals from all walks of life and practitioners from different professions/disciplines have contributed to the development of a solid body of knowledge spanning 20+ years.

1. Infrastructures for Peace

Infrastructures for Peace: ‘dynamic network of interdependent structures, mechanisms, resources, values and skills which, through dialogue and consultation, contribute to conflict prevention and peacebuilding in a society’.

Establishing a national or MENA ‘Infrastructure for Peace’ may include:

  • development of institutional mechanisms, appropriate to each country’s culture and context, which promote and manage this approach at local, district and national levels;
  • adoption of a cooperative, problem-solving approach to conflict based on dialogue and non-violence, which includes the main stakeholders.

Such an infrastructure can help a fragile, divided, transitional or societies recovering from violent conflict build and sustain peace by:

  • managing recurring conflicts over land, natural resources or contested elections;
  • finding internal solutions, through mediated consensus or multi-stakeholder dialogue, to specific conflicts and tensions;
  • negotiating and implementing new governing arrangements- such as new constitutional provisions- in an inclusive and consensual manner.

Essential components of peace infrastructures can include:

  • National, District and Local Peace Councils- comprised of trusted and highly respected persons of integrity who can bridge political divides and who possess competence and experience in transforming conflicts;
  • National peace platforms for consultation, collaboration and coordination of peace issues by relevant actors and stakeholders;
  • A Government bureau, department or Ministry of peace building;
  • Passage of legislative measures to create national ‘Infrastructures for Peace’ with appropriate budgets;

Based on past practice it’s features could be:

  • Expanding the capacities of national peace building institutions, related government departments, Peace Councils and relevant groups of CSOs;
  • Establishing an effective early warning and early response system;
  • Renewing and using traditional perspectives and methodologies for conflict resolution;
  • Promoting a shared vision for society and for a ‘culture of peace’.
  • These components are not mandatory, but are among the possible pillars for building ‘infrastructures for peace’.

The fun part about Infrastructures for Peace is that it can be established top-down, through governmental policies and coordination structures, or bottom-up (as I prefer :D) via local initiatives such as peace committees that may or may not be connected to a national infrastructure, but through a distributed network of Open Care Centers, for example. I am happy to share some case studies in case someone would like to to learn more about the practical experiences in diverse contexts.

2. Do No Harm as an essential element of conflict sensitivity

This is a pretty cool concept borrowed from the healthcare and bioethics. Primum non nocere (first, do no harm) is the Hippocratic Oath that all medical students are taught in school. Back in early 90’s, CDA, a peacebuilding NGO, developed a framework for analyzing the impact of aid on conflict—and for taking action to reduce negative impacts and maximize positive impacts of their work. The “Do No Harm Framework” came from the experiences of people participating in CDA consultations and feedback workshops, including other NGOs, experts, donors, and policy makers collaborated through the project to identify common patterns of interaction between aid and conflict.

The Six Lessons of Do No Harm in this brilliant book

  1. Whenever an intervention enters a context it becomes part of the context. The intervention is placed in the middle, under the context, representing that it is now part of the context.
  2. All contexts are characterized by Dividers and Connectors. The context already has Dividers and Connectors. The intervention is between them.
  3. All interventions interact with both, either making them worse or making them better. The arrows flow from the intervention to Dividers and Connectors because the intervention is having an impact on both. That impact can be negative - Dividers get worse by increasing; Connectors get worse by decreasing. That impact can be positive - Dividers get better by decreasing; Connectors get better by increasing.
  4. Actions and Behaviors have Consequences (ABC), which create impacts. The flow from the intervention to Dividers and Connectors is the ABCs. Resources and Messages flow from the intervention into the context. These affect Dividers and Connectors, making them either worse or better.
  5. The details of interventions matter. Conceptually, within the Framework, this lesson applies earlier as it is integral to understanding the Intervention.
  6. There are always Options. Where we see impacts from the intervention, we develop options to counter the negative ones. We can also attempt to support the positive ones further.

The fun part about Do No Harm is that there is no formulaic approach to using this tool. It cannot substitute for knowledge or thinking, but it is something a thinking person can use to improve his/her work.

DNH has been used by peacebuilders in the following ways:

  • As an initial conflict analysis tool
  • For conflict mapping and identifying stakeholders
  • As an early warning system by tracking how Dividers are trending
  • For identifying areas of shared interest and concern
  • To transform mindsets, bringing people to a place where they form and improve relationships with “the other”
  • As a tool for focusing constructive dialogue around shared problems
  • To help motivate people to work on peacebuilding themselves
  • To assist organizations with their strategic positioning in relation to conflicting parties, in order to establish credibility and relationships (which can support a subsequent expansion into peacebuilding)

Well, well. This is a welcome surprise, Andrei!

I am giving myself some time to re-read your post… but really glad you made it :slight_smile:

Long time, sorry for the late response Andrei, I’ve been traveling all month.
We have a Frestyle section in the program where all the most recent proposals and others who did not have time to be circulated and coagulate enough interest by now are included.

Let us know if you’re coming, hope to catch up!

Well, I would love to come, Noemi! Still, I am lacking clarity and understanding about the conditions of my participation. It says “Passes and travel support are offered on a case by case basis, so the sooner you get involved the better.” I understand that unfortunately, I came in quite late and that my post hasn’t attracted much interest either.

Nevertheless, I would be happy to offer a workshop during the Festival, if such an opportunity is still available. Please let me know, how to further proceed from here.

I would prepare something about the nexus between peace studies and health studies. One of the fathers of Peacebuilding, Johan Galtung, argues that the triangle diagnosis-prognosis-therapy can be applied. “There is the common idea of a system (of actors, of cells), of well-states and ill-states. The word pairs “health-disease” from health studies and “peace-violence” from peace studies can be seen as specifications of these very general labels.”

Both states of being actually need diagnosis (or analysis), not only violence and disease. Peace and health also have their conditions and their contexts. They may be different from the conditions for violence and disease, but could also be related to them. Galtung argues that a condition for peace could be an equitable relation, but we have to factor in the violence in a non-exploitative system, if something goes wrong within one single actor. Thus, a condition for health is a stable equilibrium of key parameters of the human body, and yet one cell or a colony of cells may go wrong, starting growing out of all proportions for instance.

If the system falls out of its “well-state” and shows symptoms of ill-states coming up, or they are already there, the question to be answered in a prognosis is whether the system is capable of self-restoration back to its well-state, or whether some other type of intervention is needed. Galtung warns that and intervention from the outside should not be identified with therapy. First, it may on the balance make the system worse (Do No Harm); Secondly, living beings may also be capable of providing self-therapy. Thirdly, self-restoration does not necessarily mean conscious, deliberate intervention. The system may “take care of itself”. Our bodies have that amazing
capacity to restore equilibrium through incredibly complex mechanisms that we have hardly even started to understand, leave alone are capable of influencing. The interesting question to ask is how to provide positive conditions for those restorative functions.

Finally, when it comes to therapy, meaning by that “deliberate efforts by Self or Other to move the system back again to some well-state, or at least in that general direction”. When we talk about the distinction between negative and positive peace, we should also keep in mind the difference between curative and preventive therapy. All four of them stand for well-states. There is no (or very little) disease or violence around. The systems are (almost) symptom-free, but in the negative case that is about all that can be said about them. The equilibrium is so unstable that a (minor) incident of hate speech can bring the system into an ill-state. In the negative case the equilibrium is more stable, meaning there is more capacity of self-restoration, even if the system may not be entirely symptom-free. Curative therapy aims at the former, preventive therapy at the latter. Both are needed for health and peace.

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