ArticlePDF Available

Abstract

This article seeks to explore why, after significant financial investment and a history of nearly 50 years of civil society activity, there is a paucity of explicitly codified and consolidated indigenous theory that has emerged from peacebuilding practice in Northern Ireland. Methodologically, this apparent contradiction is explored, utilizing both empirical research (interviews with key peacebuilders) and the wide practitioner experience of the authors. It is argued that two complex dynamics have contributed to the subordination of local practice-based knowledge, namely, the professionalization of peace and the dominance of research over practice within academia. These two dynamics have played a mutually exacerbatory and significant role in creating barriers to constructing local peacebuilding theory. Phronesis, an Aristotelian term for practical knowledge, is explored to discover what insights it may contribute to both research, theory and practice in the field of peacebuilding, followed by examples of institutions demonstrating its value for practice–theory reflexivity. The article concludes with a call for peace research that validates and values practical knowledge. By doing so, the authors argue, new avenues for collab-orative partnership between practitioners and academics can open up, which may play a constructive role in bridging practice–theory divides and, most importantly, contribute to building more effective and sustainable peacebuilding processes in Northern Ireland and in other conflict contexts.
Exploring Barriers to Constructing Locally Based
Peacebuilding Theory
The Case of Northern Ireland
Emily Stanton & Grainne Kelly*
Abstract
This article seeks to explore why, after significant financial investment and a his-
tory of nearly 50 years of civil society activity, there is a paucity of explicitly codi-
fied and consolidated indigenous theory that has emerged from peacebuilding prac-
tice in Northern Ireland. Methodologically, this apparent contradiction is explored,
utilizing both empirical research (interviews with key peacebuilders) and the wide
practitioner experience of the authors. It is argued that two complex dynamics have
contributed to the subordination of local practice-based knowledge, namely, the
professionalization of peace and the dominance of research over practice within
academia. These two dynamics have played a mutually exacerbatory and signifi-
cant role in creating barriers to constructing local peacebuilding theory. Phronesis,
an Aristotelian term for practical knowledge, is explored to discover what insights
it may contribute to both research, theory and practice in the field of peacebuilding,
followed by examples of institutions demonstrating its value for practice–theory
reflexivity. The article concludes with a call for peace research that validates and
values practical knowledge. By doing so, the authors argue, new avenues for collab-
orative partnership between practitioners and academics can open up, which may
play a constructive role in bridging practice–theory divides and, most importantly,
contribute to building more effective and sustainable peacebuilding processes in
Northern Ireland and in other conflict contexts.
Keywords: peacebuilding, phronesis, civil society, practice–theory, Northern Ire-
land.
1 Introduction
The Northern Ireland conflict, once called intractable (Kriesberg, 1998; Northrup,
1989), is now considered by many as a story of successful conflict transformation,
with credit primarily being attributed to Track One political actors who negoti-
ated the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. While these efforts were vital to negoti-
*Emily Stanton is PhD candidate in the School of Politics, Faculty of Social Science, Ulster
University, Northern Ireland. Grainne Kelly is Lecturer of Peace and Conflict Studies at the
International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE), Ulster University, Northern Ireland.
International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution 2015 (3) 1
doi: 10.5553/IJCER/221199652015003001002 33
Emily Stanton & Grainne Kelly
ating a political settlement, less attention has been paid to smaller-scale efforts to
build a constituency for peace at what is variously described as the community,
grassroots or civil society levels, since the violent escalation of the conflict in the
late 1960s. While perhaps not receiving as much public recognition, such peace-
focused initiatives have received significant financial support from the European
Union, the British and Irish governments, and national and international philan-
thropies, particularly from the mid-1980s onwards. With an estimated 4 billion
US dollars distributed to date, the majority of targeted funds arrived after the
paramilitary ceasefires of 1994 and the 1998 Belfast Agreement to ensure and
secure peace on the ground (Nolan, 2012: 172).
As a consequence of both an increasing demand for a resolution of the pro-
longed conflict, and an expansion of the grant-aid sources available to civil society
organizations, the peacebuilding field experienced an exponential rise in activity
during the 1990s and 2000s. An early report that describes community-based,
peace-focused activities published in 1986, listed 45 ‘community relations’ or ‘rec-
onciliation’ groups funded either by private philanthropy or by central govern-
ment through the Department of Education (Frazer and Fitzduff, 1986: 7). Post-
ceasefires, however, the level of activity rose considerably. For example, between
1995 and 2007, over 21,000 applications for funding were approved by the Euro-
pean Union Peace and Reconciliation Fund (Buchanan, 2008: 387). Similarly,
from 1986 to 2010, one philanthropic body, the International Fund for Ireland,
supported over 6,200 individual projects (Deloitte, 2010: 20; IFI, 2006: 5). Given
the region’s 1.8 million population, these figures are impressive in comparative
context.
While some categorization of peacebuilding approaches and activities have
been proposed and various typologies developed (Fitzduff, 1993; Hughes and Car-
michael, 1998; Hughes and Knox, 1997; Morrissey, 2006; Quirk et al., 2001), it is
notable that, despite the longevity of efforts, significant financial investment and
wide scope of activities, there have been a lack of investigations that include an aggre-
gated or consolidated empirical analysis of the peacebuilding activities occurring at
the civil society level. Furthermore, there is an under-examination of the theoreti-
cal implications generated from the plethora of practical interventions either from
interested academics, supportive donor organizations or reflective practitioners.
Closing this practice–theory gap in the field of peacebuilding to ensure reflex-
ivity remains vitally important for academics and practitioners alike. In doing so,
lessons may be learned and – where contextually appropriate – shared and disse-
minated to create robust and usable knowledge that can contribute to conflict
transformation on the ground. Without such reflexivity, both theory and practice
suffer. Reflecting on qualitative interviews undertaken with practitioners, donors
and policymakers in Northern Ireland, Kelly identified this reflexivity gap as a
knowledge deficit that has led to a serious lack of understanding of “what works
and why” (2012: 102) in local peacebuilding, and described this confusion as a
barrier to the progression of sustainable peace. This shows the need to address
the barriers preventing such theory-building as a step towards addressing and
constructing a consolidated local theory of peacebuilding.
34 International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution 2015 (3) 1
doi: 10.5553/IJCER/221199652015003001002
Exploring Barriers to Constructing Locally Based Peacebuilding Theory
Thus, this article will seek to propose some possible answers to the question:
why, given the length of time, extent of initiatives and significant financial invest-
ment, does there remain an absence of codified and consolidated indigenous theory
(defined here as theory generated from local practice-based knowledge) about
peacebuilding?
In order to establish the background and motivation for the study, the article
begins with an exploration of the role and function of civil society within the
wider field of peacebuilding in Northern Ireland. It identifies the gaps in the liter-
ature that seeks to explore, document and validate the experience of local practi-
tioners in addressing the multiple causes and consequences of conflict in the
region. It then goes on to describe the methodological approach taken to answer
the research question, which utilizes both primary and secondary sources, as well
as the experience and observations of the authors as active practitioners and
researchers in the field. The findings of the article are then discussed, addressing
two dominant and interrelated dynamics that have created barriers to the con-
struction of locally based peacebuilding theory in Northern Ireland: the profes-
sionalization of peace and the subordination of practical knowledge within aca-
demia, drawing from the insights of Aristotle on the virtues of knowledge. Look-
ing outside of the Northern Ireland context, examples of institutions that value
and use practical (or phronetic) knowledge as sources of knowledge creation are
then briefly profiled to illustrate the benefits of increased reflexivity. Finally, the
article concludes with a call for peace research that seeks to validate and incorpo-
rate the wisdom and experience of practical knowledge.
2 Background
For over 50 years, civil society actors and organizations in Northern Ireland have
engaged in a diverse array of peacebuilding initiatives to address both latent and,
latterly, direct and persistent forms of violence and unrest. Such activities inclu-
ded advocating for civil rights and creating inter-group ecumenical projects dur-
ing the mid-to-late 1960s; responding to the human crises and turmoil of com-
munal violence that escalated in the early 1970s; building local capacities for
peace through community development, interfaith dialogue and mediation skill
development in the 1980s; and promoting and supporting pre-ceasefire, behind-
the-scenes intermediation between Loyalist and Republican factions prior to the
formal negotiations that led to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement/Belfast
Agreement in 1998. Sixteen years on from the peace accord, the level of commun-
ity-based activity has not diminished. Post-accord activities have proliferated to
include festivals and arts programmes aimed at an increased understanding of
issues of cultural diversity, field trips designed to educate about, and promote, a
shared history, short- and long-term interventions to reduce tension in flash-
point interface areas, intercommunity and intercultural events with young peo-
ple, and projects aimed at coming to terms with the legacy of the conflict, to
name but a few.
International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution 2015 (3) 1
doi: 10.5553/IJCER/221199652015003001002 35
Emily Stanton & Grainne Kelly
Academic literature that covers the role of civil society in peacebuilding
efforts in Northern Ireland has, for the most part, focused on its role leading up
to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. The consensus appears to be that efforts
undertaken by those working within civil society created a favorable backdrop
that aided Track One actors during negotiations (Cochrane and Dunn, 2002; Fitz-
duff, 2002; Knox, 2011; Knox and Quirk, 2000; McCartney, 1999). There is also
acknowledgment that local peacebuilding efforts within civil society may have
helped to open lines of communication and build trust between chronically
estranged communities (Acheson et al., 2006), monitor the behaviour and actions
of state and non-state actors (Belloni, 2010), establish the conditions for possible
reconciliation (Potter, 2006), and contribute to the building of a ‘social peace pro-
cess’ alongside the political peace process (Brewer, 2010). Cochrane and Dunn, in
one of the few academic analyses of the role of the community-based peace sector
in the peace process, suggests that the sector played a stretcher-bearer role, hold-
ing the society together during the worst of the violence and that cumulatively
these efforts positively impacted society (Cochrane, 2006; Cochrane and Dunn,
2002: 173). Notwithstanding these positive influences, both local and interna-
tional academics have generally evaded any definitive or decisive causal conclu-
sions about the overall impact of the work of this sector in building peace.
The majority of research scholars exploring the role of civil society actors in
peacebuilding interventions have opted to focus on specific sectors: churches
(Brewer et al., 2011; Ganiel, 2010); women’s peace groups (Hammond-Callaghan,
2006, 2011); former political prisoners’ groups (Shirlow and McEvoy, 2008); rec-
onciliation groups (Love, 1995); and the efforts of statutory and quasi-statutory
bodies such as the Community Relations Council (Hughes and Knox, 1997; Mor-
row, 2013). While cumulatively such works have been important to help increase
our understanding of both the contributions and limitations of such groupings to
civil society peacebuilding, there remains a lack of theoretical development
extending out of these investigations (Buchanan, 2011; Cochrane and Dunn,
2001; Kelly, 2012). Given the established research on specific elements of peace-
building practice in Northern Ireland, it is surprising that there is an absence of
consolidated evidence emerging either from academia or from practitioners as to
what has been learned from experiences of peacebuilding practice that may con-
tribute to the development of indigenous theory or theories of conflict transfor-
mation.
This lack of consolidated indigenous peacebuilding theory has been commen-
ted on directly by policymakers, practitioners and donors (Kelly, 2012: 78-82),
and indirectly by several authors. Attributing it in part to the wider peacebuilding
field, Buchanan cites a “definitional morass” in regional conflict transformation
policy and planning, stating that peacebuilding in Northern Ireland was nega-
tively impacted because there is no “single conflict transformation model”
(Buchanan, 2011: 183). Cochrane and Dunn instead criticize the local field itself
for incoherency and “muddle-headedness” (Cochrane, 2001: 97; Cochrane and
Dunn: 2002: 171) and describe differing approaches within the field partly as a
result of two distinct lenses through which to view the conflict, namely structur-
alist or behaviourist. Thus some interventions focused on creating institutional
36 International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution 2015 (3) 1
doi: 10.5553/IJCER/221199652015003001002
Exploring Barriers to Constructing Locally Based Peacebuilding Theory
reforms addressing socio-economic justice issues, while others primarily focused
on relationships and attitudinal and behavioural change. They write:
[I]t would also be fair to say that the P/CRO (Peace and Conflict Resolution
Organisations) sector itself shares some responsibility for its own shortcom-
ings and cannot simply blame funders, policy-makers or the media for the dif-
ficulties it faces. There is a need for these organisations to think in a much
more co-ordinated, holistic and strategic way about what they are trying to
achieve. (Cochrane and Dunn, 2002: 171)
Interestingly, this text, while in many ways the most comprehensive academic
study of the community-based peacebuilding sector in Northern Ireland, settles
on analysis of the activities of civil society actors, rather than attempting to cre-
ate greater coherence from the self-identified theoretical deficiencies. Some peace
scholars such as Ross would argue that peace practices anchored in a range of con-
flict resolution theories are not necessarily problematic (Ross, 2000). However,
Kelly’s research on Northern Ireland suggests that a lack of explicitly codified
theory or theories has negatively impacted progress on local peacebuilding efforts
in both policy and practice (Kelly, 2012). In this line, we would argue that the lack
of theoretical development is problematic for practitioners, academics and civil
society in Northern Ireland alike, for three main reasons. First, it leaves the
examination of the role of civil society incomplete as it fails to interrogate what
has been learned about change processes as a result of its practical efforts, and
what may have worked and why. Thus, from a research perspective, knowledge of
tried and tested conflict transformation models, which if contextually appropri-
ate could benefit other conflict zones, is absent. Second, it leaves current
approaches, methodologies and practices that are routinely used by practitioners
within peacebuilding projects under-scrutinized, with the result that practice can
become rote and unreflective of changing conflict dynamics on the ground and,
therefore, at best irrelevant or at worst damaging. A lack of interrogation and
theoretical investigation is particularly problematic in Northern Ireland, where
many divisive issues remain unresolved and society is still deeply fractured rela-
tionally and structurally. Third, greater theoretical coherency and consolidation
might generate lessons learned that could serve to enhance and refine current
peacebuilding approaches, create opportunities to understand effective change
processes from local areas of success and provide steerage towards promising
approaches on issues and areas that remain contentious and unresolved. There-
fore, the current academic literature, despite its importance, does not extend to
address why there is a lack of consolidated locally based peacebuilding theory.
This article is a first step towards redressing this gap in the literature by examin-
ing what may provide some explanation for this lack of locally based theory.
International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution 2015 (3) 1
doi: 10.5553/IJCER/221199652015003001002 37
Emily Stanton & Grainne Kelly
3 Methodology
The findings of this research, and the arguments and propositions developed
based on them, have been taking place within both formal academic and practi-
tioner contexts, and are informed by both primary and secondary sources. Both
authors, graduates of academic programmes in peace and conflict studies, have
been independently engaged in peacemaking and peacebuilding activities in
Northern Ireland over the past two decades, in practitioner, researcher and eval-
uator roles. Stanton’s practice spanning twenty years, has primarily focused on
intervention and training in the area of mediation, trauma awareness, as well as
the facilitation of programmes aimed at conflict transformation and reconcilia-
tion among youth, in schools, and within grassroots communities. Alongside tra-
ditional empirical research, Kelly’s work has focused on the development of inter-
ventions with applied research and evaluation components, and primarily focused
on reconciliation and conflict legacy issues, both in Northern Ireland and interna-
tionally.
As part of this activity, in 2011, Kelly undertook primary qualitative research
exploring the key practice and policy imperatives required to sustain and consoli-
date peace in Northern Ireland. Over 30 in-depth interviews with political lead-
ers, practitioners and policymakers were undertaken, the data analyzed and core
findings published and widely disseminated (Kelly, 2012). The identification of a
notable lack of theoretical underpinnings for much of the peacebuilding interven-
tions in Northern Ireland was a key finding of the research and prompted further
desk-based investigations into the absence of both theory development and test-
ing, and the lack of engagement of academia in supporting such elaboration –
aspects that are addressed in this article. Stanton’s current doctoral research on
the development of indigenous theories and models emerging from grassroots
peacebuilding practice in Northern Ireland has sought to engage reflective practi-
tioners in a qualitative engagement and exploration of where theory and practice
intersect. Primary data, in the form of in-depth interviews, has also influenced
the arguments presented in this article. These interviews have been conducted
with 10 highly experienced practitioners, a large majority of whom have worked
for over twenty years on peacebuilding within grassroots communities and civil
society and who now hold senior leadership roles within local non-governmental
organizations (NGOs). This article reflects insights gained about practice-gener-
ated knowledge and the lack of consolidated local theory drawn from these practi-
tioners, each of whom represents a range of peacebuilding sectors and NGOs,
including those working on: mediation, community relations and community
development programmes, ‘interface’ flashpoint de-escalation, reconciliation
projects in schools, arts-based and sports-based peacebuilding, victims support,
and those involving ex-combatant reintegration.
The core arguments proposed in this article are conceptually informed, there-
fore, mostly by the authors’ own experience of 20 years of peacebuilding practice,
as well as their extensive interaction with, and observation of, civil society organi-
zations in Northern Ireland in addition to the doctoral research interviews. It is
further developed through engagement with pertinent and wide-ranging philo-
38 International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution 2015 (3) 1
doi: 10.5553/IJCER/221199652015003001002
Exploring Barriers to Constructing Locally Based Peacebuilding Theory
sophical and theoretical literature outside of the field of peacebuilding that seeks
to explore the relationship between theory development and practical implemen-
tation. It also draws on an extensive secondary analysis of existing literature on
peacebuilding practice in both Northern Ireland and beyond in order to develop
its lines of reasoning and propositions.
Methodologically, Northern Ireland is utilized as a case study to interrogate
and illuminate the more generalizable challenges that face many societies emerg-
ing from conflict and that seek to develop effective locally based strategies for
interventions to support sustainable peace.
4 Discussion
This article seeks to rectify the current lack of academic literature, investigating
why there exists a paucity of consolidated locally based peacebuilding in Northern
Ireland. Our research suggests two possible main reasons that have had interde-
pendent and mutually exacerbatory dynamics. First, the professionalization of
peacebuilding globally and locally has led to increased bureaucratization and the
orientation of peacebuilding practice towards service provision and the delivery
of donor-determined peacebuilding approaches. Second, the dominance of
research over practice within academia has created hierarchies of knowledge,
which have resulted in the undervaluing of practical knowledge as a source of
knowledge creation.
It is important to state that these two reasons are certainly not the only rea-
sons for a lack of locally based peacebuilding theory in Northern Ireland. Other
factors may also be at play, such as the difficulty of researching a wide range of
activities spanning funding cycles of varying length and focus; the methodological
challenge of accessing a comprehensive collection of practice-generated data such
as evaluations from which to draw generalizable conclusions; or concerns that in
shining a critical light on local peacebuilding, work undertaken at the grassroots
level will be undermined or jeopardized, resulting in gatekeeping and non-cooper-
ation with researchers.
However, utilizing Northern Ireland as a case study, this article seeks to focus
on the role that the two aforementioned dynamics (professionalization and the
dominance of research over practice) have contributed to the lack of locally based
theory. This is for two reasons: first, our research and practice-based experience
indicate that these two reasons have played a significant role in contributing to
the lack of local theory-building. Second, while this article reflects on Northern
Ireland, the professionalization of peace and the hierarchy of knowledge within
academia are global trends. Therefore, it is worth drawing attention to ways they
may create barriers for reflexivity in peacebuilding theory and practice in other
conflict or post-conflict zones.
Thus, we discuss below in sections (1) and (2) these two reasons, respectively,
and their inhibitory effect on locally based peacebuilding theory. The discussion
concludes in section (3) by examining examples of peace researchers and practi-
tioners working outside of the Northern Irish context. Their work, which seeks to
International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution 2015 (3) 1
doi: 10.5553/IJCER/221199652015003001002 39
Emily Stanton & Grainne Kelly
close practice–theory reflexivity gaps by utilizing it both in theory-building within
academia and within professional practice, demonstrates the value for practical
knowledge.
4.1 The Professionalization of Peace Globally and Locally
The last 20 years have seen significant changes within both the practice of peace-
building and the growing academic discipline of peace and conflict studies.
Galvanized by the United Nations (UN) under Boutros-Boutros Ghali in 1992,
and reinforced through the development of a UN Peacebuilding Commission in
2005, there is now a broadening scope of practice for professionals equipped with
the theories and skills of conflict transformation and peacebuilding within a
range of global institutions. These new professionally trained peacebuilders are
increasingly integrated within foreign policy bodies such as the United States
Department of State, the World Bank, USAID and other international NGOs
working in relief, aid and development (Mac Ginty, 2012). This practice develop-
ment has been reflected within academia, with an exponential growth in the
development of graduate programmes aimed at creating ‘professionals’ address-
ing the global demands for “international conflict work” (Carstarphen et al., 2010:
2).
Within an overall paradigm of realpolitik and pervasive militarism, this pro-
fessionalization of peace has created both opportunities and anxieties in the field
for both practitioners and academics alike. While some welcome the promotion
and adoption of the language and practices of peacebuilding by international bod-
ies, others view these developments with wary skepticism (Mac Ginty, 2012;
Richmond, 2005). Critics identify concerns about the dominance of a liberal
peace, noting a variety of reasons. Some view it as the imposition of a generic and
universal model that sidelines local actors, decreasing their ownership of peace-
building processes (Donais, 2009, 2012; Mac Ginty, 2013), or that it obscures
local conflict dynamics and their role in a national conflict (Odendaal, 2013).
Others argue that the liberal peace privileges a normative worldview that relies on
a Cartesian, technical–rational ontology that is typically associated with Western
institutions and that serves, in many parts of the world, to subordinate non-
Western ways of knowing and indigenous cultural peacebuilding approaches
(Abu-Nimer, 2013; Goldberg, 2009; Neufeldt, 2007). This, it is argued, can be
counterproductive to embedding peace that is contextually appropriate and roo-
ted in cultural relevance.
The expansion of peacebuilding has also witnessed a shift in discourse, per-
haps in its efforts to prove itself a viable alternative to traditional militarist
responses. Terminology has shifted from a conceptualization of peace as utopic
and idealistic to realistic and strategic (Philpott and Powers, 2010; Schirch, 2004).
This shift may have been made to move mainstream policymakers away from
zero-sum debates between hawk and dove and to pave the way for greater inte-
gration and coordination of interventions designed to build peace. However, it is
striking in its shift towards a more empirical techno-rational thrust, conceptually
resting on an embedded assumption that peace can be designed. Finally, the pro-
fessionalization of peace has also generated a greater expectation of quantifiable
40 International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution 2015 (3) 1
doi: 10.5553/IJCER/221199652015003001002
Exploring Barriers to Constructing Locally Based Peacebuilding Theory
impact and value for money from donors, NGOs and governments (Gaarder and
Annan, 2013; Goodhand and Atkinson, 2001; Menkhaus, 2004).
This global trend towards the professionalization of peace has been clearly
evident during the life cycle of the contemporary conflict in Northern Ireland.
Efforts by civil society to address the direct and proximate causes and consequen-
ces of the conflict have been undertaken for nearly fifty years, many initially
focusing on holding communities together, and latterly on finding ways to build
an infrastructure to encourage, support and institutionalize peace on the ground.
Reflecting on the work of such groups, Cochrane and Dunn write, “[I]t would be
reasonable to conclude that Northern Ireland would have been a lot worse off
without its contribution” (2002: 173). As mentioned previously, this work expan-
ded significantly after the Republican and Loyalist ceasefires in 1994, ushering in
new opportunities for multiplying on-the-ground peacebuilding efforts. Increased
financial and human resourcing benefited many grassroots community-led
efforts by allowing the most ambitious and strategic to expand beyond their ini-
tial scope and extend their reach. It provided opportunities for new ideas to be
tested, pilot projects trialled and further specializations and training to emerge
from within the local peacebuilding field. It has also led to the perception that
there is now a peace or reconciliation industry (Atashi, 2011; Eyben et al., 2000;
Power, 2011), with an expectation of creating external and quantifiable outcomes
that require evaluation and assessment. Some might argue that although a con-
siderable amount of work has been made possible by external funding, profes-
sionalization of peace has occurred in Northern Ireland at a price.
Several critiques have been lodged. The first is that it has resulted in a percep-
tion that projects are dominated by overly bureaucratic funding demands and a
focus on ‘project’ delivery rather than needs-based practice. Both Buchanan and
Byrne et al highlight that bureaucracy served to disempower communities who, in
many cases, were ill-equipped and under-resourced to manage overly complicated
funding grants, and the accompanying regulatory requirements (Buchanan, 2011:
177; Byrne et al., 2008: 115). A second critique is that by focusing on narrowly
designed, funder-led, project delivery, practitioners became insufficiently inter-
rogative of the underlying change assumptions of their practice. Given the expo-
nential influx of funds in a short period, it is perhaps not surprising that new lev-
els of accountability stretched local agencies in directions that prioritized finan-
cial administration over reflective practice. With responsibility for overseeing the
distribution and administration of significant grant-funds, one former senior
executive from a local funding body commented that, over time, peacebuilding
activities began to be viewed in terms of service delivery rather than as opportu-
nities for learning (E. Stanton, personal communication on 10 October 14, with
former CEO of community relations funding body, Belfast, Northern Ireland,
2014). Stanton’s own practice, supported by evidence from early stages of the
doctoral research, suggests a perception in the field that reflective practice does
not happen as much as it should. Blame is attributed by some practitioners to an
over-reliance on tried and tested approaches, but also to an increasingly risk-
averse and stressful practice environment, focused primarily on managing gaps in
bureaucratic funding cycles.
International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution 2015 (3) 1
doi: 10.5553/IJCER/221199652015003001002 41
Emily Stanton & Grainne Kelly
Third and finally, a critique exists that the professionalization of peace has
led to strains upon, and a decrease in, volunteerism, the marginalization of local
community and grassroots practitioners’ voices and a devaluing of hard-won
practical knowledge of what works on the ground. Instead, there is evidence of
the perception of practice increasingly directed by funding targets that do not
necessarily match need. In a series of interviews conducted in 2013 on the theme
of ‘a shared future’, one community activist attributed recent street violence in
Belfast to unresolved identity issues and laid the blame, in part, on the role of
professionalized peacebuilding:
In our own work with young people we didn’t set out with grandiose notions,
we just provided space for them to come together to discuss everyday issues,
including questions of culture and identity. And I am convinced that most of
those young people left those interactions with a more positive view of the
‘other’ community, of one another’s identities. We were working away slowly,
without fuss. And then what happened? All these high-powered agencies
appeared – conflict resolution experts, conflict transformation specialists,
academics with highfaluting theories, funders who only wanted to hear of
programmes which promised magic solutions to the problems of sectarian-
ism. The result? Absolute chaos. (Hall, 2013: 8)
In this example, academia and funders were accused of bringing their “conflict
resolution theory” and their funding demands that simply served to whitewash
over deep-seated sectarianism. Both Atashi and Byrne et al., whose research focu-
ses primarily on the funding of peacebuilding in Northern Ireland, also comment
on this dynamic, reflecting that practitioners felt donors were “dictating the
scripts” (Byrne et al., 2008: 115) that did not correspond to realities on the
ground and that fund recipients felt decision makers were not “directing funds to
their specific needs but were imposing projects according to misguided judgments
on wrong issues” (Atashi, 2011: 216). These sources further illustrate how profes-
sionalism has played a role in transforming local practice towards service delivery,
meeting bureaucratic reporting guidelines rather than community-identified
needs, and furthering the distance between practice and learning.
4.2 The Dominance of Research over Practice in Academia
In the increasingly complex world, the compartmentalization of societal func-
tions is widely accepted as both practical and desirable. In this context, academia
is often viewed as the most appropriate institution to take on the functional role
of theory construction and development. However questions of epistemology and
what counts as ‘scientific’ knowledge and for what purpose it should be used is a
debate with deeper roots.
While often viewed as a modern phenomenon, these tensions extend as far
back as early Greek philosophical debates into the nature of knowledge. In book
six of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle sets out a discussion on what he calls the
virtues of knowledge, dividing them up between invariable and that which is vari-
able. Discussing first the invariable – described as scientific knowledge or episteme
42 International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution 2015 (3) 1
doi: 10.5553/IJCER/221199652015003001002
Exploring Barriers to Constructing Locally Based Peacebuilding Theory
Aristotle outlines this form of knowledge as consisting of universals, able to be
proven through processes of deduction or induction, producing demonstrated
truth of the “necessary and eternal” (2009: 104).
Contrasting this are two types of knowledge that are variable: the first,
techne, is knowledge of how things are made such as art, craft or skill-based
knowledge. The second, Aristotle describes as phronesis, or practical wisdom. This,
he proposes, is a form of variable knowledge because it is context-dependent and
involves the ability to deliberate on forms of action with an end towards one’s
own well-being (2009: 106). Aristotle posits that phronesis is a type of knowledge
required at both the micro level to manage households, and at the macro level to
manage states. Aristotle argues that someone can be admired because they know
things that are “remarkable, admirable, difficult, and divine, but useless” (2009:
108). By contrast, however, practical wisdom is action-oriented and gained both
through experience and by the accumulation of knowledge of particulars. Inter-
estingly, unlike episteme (epistemology) and techne (technology), there is no
modern derivative word for phronesis. While Aristotle validates the three differ-
ent types of knowledge, he perhaps lays the first brick in the wall between prac-
tice and theory by stating that phronesis cannot become scientific knowledge,
because it is concerned with variables that necessitate deliberation, judgment and
understanding with the end goal that they provide a basis for action.
The divisions in these three forms of knowledge resurface in the work of
Donald Schön. Writing in 1983, he argues that the divorce between theory and
practice has caused a “crisis of confidence in the professions” (1983: 4). Attribut-
ing this division to the influence of Positivism in the early nineteenth century, he
critiques it on two grounds – first, that as Positivism became embedded within
universities, its focus on empirical, measureable data led to what he calls the
emergence of ‘techno-rationalism’ as the dominant epistemology of practice, such
that only what was measurable counted as knowledge. His second critique was
that Positivism created a division between those responsible for theory and
knowledge creation, and those responsible for practice. Building theory became
the designated job of scientists and scholars, while the role of the professions was
to test theory and bring it back to the scientists to refine. While Aristotle had
defined them as different but equally valuable forms of knowledge, Schön argues
that with the influence of Positivism, scientific theoretical knowledge was privi-
leged over practical knowledge, and represented “the roots of the now-familiar
split between research and practice” (1983: 37).
Schön’s argument is that this division of labor has left many practitioners ill-
equipped to practise in increasingly complex professional environments. Those
more successful in navigating the complexity he describes are practitioners who
reflect on their ‘theories in use’, the implicit assumptions that guide their practice
and who have learned to value their practice-based context-specific knowledge.
However, a difficulty presents itself for practitioners who have operated effec-
tively in the face of a complex and unstable environment when trying to describe
how they knew what to do – because what counts as knowledge when judging a
context is hard to measure, and therefore does not count within an empirical
technical–rational model of practice. Thus, the very skills and abilities that are
International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution 2015 (3) 1
doi: 10.5553/IJCER/221199652015003001002 43
Emily Stanton & Grainne Kelly
needed to practise well in complex, variable contexts, and that should be highligh-
ted as important, are made invisible by the dominance of the technical–rational
empirical model.
This begs the question, what does a practitioner do with knowledge that is
central to practice, but not valuable or measurable by the empirical yardstick? It
may well be that practitioners internalize the subordination of their practical
knowledge and therefore devalue it as a source of knowledge creation.
Michael Eraut (1994), an education scholar writing on professional knowl-
edge and learning, faults both academic and professional communities for contri-
buting to practice–theory divides, but lays the blame primarily within academia.
His critique is that knowledge creation is assumed to be the domain of research-
ers, and that “by implication other professionals are not only excluded from the
knowledge creation process, but assumed to suffer from knowledge deficiency”
(Eraut, 1994: 54). Practitioners do not escape his critique entirely, commenting
that often practice choices are made that rely on tried and tested methods, while
more valid theories, rather than being tested out, can be relegated to “storage”
(Eraut, 1994: 43). This is particularly true for those working within ‘hot’ action
contexts that have less time for deliberation.
Eraut argues that barriers such as the difficulty of generalizing from practical
knowledge need to be overcome through a commitment on the part of higher
education to value, recognize and enhance its ability to collaborate with the pro-
fessions. This should also be matched by mid-career practitioners building closer
relationships with academic institutions to take joint responsibility for new
knowledge creation.
In the Northern Ireland context, evidence seems to be emerging that the
techno-rational thrust of professionalization and the bureaucratization of peace,
excaberated by the institutionalized dominance of research over practice within
academia, has led to the absence of practical knowledge and experience used as a
valid source of knowledge creation. A senior staff member from a peacebuilding
and community development organization interviewed for Stanton’s doctoral
research observed that, in her view, practical knowledge was devalued and that
university programmes, in particular, were not utilizing the scope of practice
expertise that existed within Northern Ireland.
I have real concerns about how both community development and commun-
ity relations are being taught in our universities and how there is a massive
lack of practice experience for those coming through the other end of that. …I
mean that doesn’t have to be people coming out to do placements if they’re
not comfortable with that. But it could be about getting practitioners to come
in and talk to students (E. Stanton, interview on 8 December 2014 with
Senior Staff of peacebuilding and community development NGO in Belfast,
Northern Ireland).
In order for a consolidated ‘indigenous’ theory to have emerged in Northern Ire-
land, inductive research would have been required to be undertaken, gathering
evidence across a wide variety of types of peacebuilding practice, followed by col-
44 International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution 2015 (3) 1
doi: 10.5553/IJCER/221199652015003001002
Exploring Barriers to Constructing Locally Based Peacebuilding Theory
laborative theory-building between academics and practitioners. However, early
stages of Stanton’s empirical research reflects that practitioners believe that
within academia they are not perceived as potential knowledge or theory-building
partners. Reflecting on the collaborative opportunities between practitioners and
local academics within the peace and conflict field, one long-time Director of a
well-established local arts and culture NGO explained:
But I’ve always had the feeling that it’s only really almost in very very recent
years that the University would even see us as anything at a level that they
would partner with. We always seem to be just seen as a bunch of maverick
creatives in the city. I have always kinda felt the University in particular, they
never come seeking us to work with, [or] see the work we are doing. I have
always felt they have an ivory tower approach (E. Stanton, interview on 27
November 2014, with Director of an arts and culture NGO, Derry/London-
derry, Northern Ireland).
Stanton’s doctoral research has also found that when practitioners did collaborate
with academics, their own contribution has not always been adequately acknowl-
edged. One experienced community relations practitioner, the Director of a small
grassroots peacebuilding NGO, spoke of having commissioned an academic to
undertake a piece of community-focused research to document their practice.
This resulted in a publication, which that practitioner helped to develop and edit,
but for which their contribution was never credited (E. Stanton, interview on
4 December 14 with Director, interface/community relations NGO in Belfast,
Northern Ireland).
Given that academic research tends to prefer the empirical and quantifiable,
building theory from practical knowledge (often held implicitly) is inherently
more difficult to generalize, and may challenge traditional epistemic models. Sim-
ilarly, practitioners have to step outside their day-to-day ‘delivery’ pressures to
set time aside to pool their collective knowledge together, to discern, reflect and
consolidate their implict knowledge about what has informed their judgments
and deliberation. Operating within the increased bureaucratic and technocratic
field of peacebuilding leaves little time, in reality, for reflective theory-building.
Stanton’s preliminary research is finding that practitioners in Northern Ireland
wishing to codify their knowledge find it difficult to find time amidst the compet-
ing pressures of programme delivery, tight resources, and funder reporting
demands. Furthermore, given that some practitioners reflect a perception that
their work has not traditionally been of interest, or attempts to collaborate have
not always been on a basis of equal footing, it is perhaps unsurprising that this
practice–theory divide persists.
4.3 Utilizing Phronetic Knowledge: Examples of Practice and Theory Reflexivity
If we are to take as given that phronetic knowledge is valuable, logic prevails that
it should be validated, and used as the point of departure for knowledge creation,
whether it be for theory-building or a study of particulars. Writing from the con-
International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution 2015 (3) 1
doi: 10.5553/IJCER/221199652015003001002 45
Emily Stanton & Grainne Kelly
text of peace research, Luc Reychler, echoed the call for practice–theory reflexiv-
ity, stating:
The learning of violence prevention and peace building can be improved by…
creating structures which support a better exchange of knowledge between
the decision makers, the practitioners in the field, and the research commun-
ity. (2006: 9)
Indeed, using practice to generate locally based theory can be, and is being, done.
Several peace scholars, while not making a link directly with phronesis, have
emphasized the value of context-based practical knowledge. For example,
although the term is not used, the concept of phronesis is evidenced in John Paul
Lederach’s ideas and his philosophy of peacebuilding. Influenced both by his
mediation practice in Central America and the work of Paulo Freire, Lederach’s
early work stressed elicitive rather than prescriptive approaches, using insider–
local indigenous knowledge as the “pipeline for discovery”, emphasizing the
importance of understanding how the local conflict context shapes world views
(1995: 31). Lederach’s (1995, 1997, 2005) frameworks for peacebuilding, born
out of practice, are useful precisely because they do not attempt to be traditional
epistemic theories. Containing elements of explanation and prediction that can
be useful for comparative purposes, they also retain flexibility.
Looking outside of the Northern Ireland context, two distinct institutions
(one practice-based and one academic) demonstrate the value they placed on
practice and theory reflexivity. Since the early 2000s one of the largest humani-
tarian aid agencies, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), has incorporated peacebuilding
objectives within its development work located in areas of conflict. In 2004, the
organization published Conflict as the Beginning of Peace, which described work
undertaken with fieldworkers to learn from their peacebuilding interventions and
develop models of practice to inform existing and future programs (CRS, 2004).
The process was conducted in three phases, whereby fieldworkers were asked to
write stories about their experiences of resolving local conflicts, followed by a
workshop at which their stories were shared and collectively analyzed for lessons
learned. Finally, a synthesis identifying inductively the principles of good practice
was codified. This analysis then fed back into the regional planning unit and the
organization as a whole. In this manner, practitioners’ experience was used to
build knowledge to directly inform future programme and project development.
Next highlighted is the work of an academic institution, the Center for Jus-
tice and Peacebuilding (CJP) at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), which
explicitly describes itself as an institution that prepares reflective practitioners. A
recent consultation brought together practitioners and academics working across
the globe with the STAR (Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resiliency) pro-
gramme, a trauma-awareness curriculum developed by academic-practitioners at
CJP. The purpose of the consultation was to elicit the experiences, knowledge and
insights from practitioners in adapting the STAR model within their different
locales and contexts, including Burma, Haiti, Bolivia, Kenya, Somalia, United
States and Northern Ireland. The consultation, the first part of a three-year plan,
46 International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution 2015 (3) 1
doi: 10.5553/IJCER/221199652015003001002
Exploring Barriers to Constructing Locally Based Peacebuilding Theory
uses practice-informed knowledge to guide subsequent stages of development of
the STAR model to further refine its theoretical basis and, in collaboration with
practitioners, to identify and direct further avenues for research.
These examples demonstrate commitment to utilizing phronetic knowledge
to learn, develop and support greater reflexivity within peacebuilding theory and
practice. As such, it is an encouraging example of how an international NGO
(CRS) creates the space to use such knowledge to inform and shape future pro-
gramme delivery. Likewise, it illustrates that within academia (CJP at EMU), it is
possible to commit to creating a cycle of research, practice and theory-building to
close the reflexivity gaps, which, as Reychler argues, can result in improvements
to both violence prevention and peacebuilding approaches in societies affected by
conflict (Reychler, 2006: 9).
5 Conclusion
This article investigates why, despite fifty years of peacebuilding initiatives and
significant funding, there remains a lack of locally based ‘indigenous’ peacebuild-
ing theory in Northern Ireland. We have found that this can, in part, be explained
by a combination of two factors: one lies within the realm of practice due to the
increasing professionalization and bureaucratization of peacebuilding, and the
other is dominance of research over practice within academia as a result of the
institutionalized hierarchies of knowledge. Nonetheless, we have also provided
initial evidence that constructing locally based theory is supported by various
scholars and implemented in other complex conflict zones.
In drawing these conclusions, it was recognized that the peacebuilidng field
itself has gone through a professional ‘makeover’ over the past twenty years it
has traded in its tie-dye T-shirts for a power suit and left utopian ideals for
SMART (Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Time-bound) targets and empir-
ical results. This has resulted in the tensions between the emerging dominance of
a technical–rational paradigm over one that can grapple with the fluid, complex
and context-dependent landscape of protracted violent conflict. Reflecting on the
Northern Ireland context, professionalization has been a double-edged sword,
providing much needed financial resourcing, but at the cost of the marginaliza-
tion of those who learned by experience, as though their own knowledge was
irrelevant. Academic institutions, embedded out of the technical–rational model,
may have inadvertently reinforced this divide as the field became professional-
ized. The difficulty with the current relationship between research and practice is
that it leaves practitioners in silos and ill-equipped to analyze, critique and build
upon their own knowledge, and it leads academic-generated, theoretical under-
standings of conflict without the more nuanced, practical knowledge of context.
The current hegemony of episteme forms of knowledge has resulted in the subor-
dination of insider–localized experience-based, phronetic knowledge, to the detri-
ment of building a sustainable peace.
The evidence shows that a lack of consolidated theory has affected progress
in advancing peace on the ground in Northern Ireland. While this article reflects
International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution 2015 (3) 1
doi: 10.5553/IJCER/221199652015003001002 47
Emily Stanton & Grainne Kelly
on this particular region, the barriers to building locally based theory that it has
identified are, arguably, applicable in other conflict and post-conflict zones. That
is, it might be that in other conflict zones the two reasons we discussed also
inhibit the development of locally based theories. We would wish to argue that if
phronesis were more widely acknowledged as valid and had an equal seat at the
table of knowledge, it might have significant implications for peacebuilding
theory and practice in a wide range of conflict contexts. While there is no current
literature intersecting phronesis with peacebuilding, we believe the concept of
phronetic knowledge is potentially illuminating for peacebuilding in two different
ways. First, it provides a description for the type of knowledge that both informs
and is gained as a result of practical experiences situated in the context of com-
plexity, uncertainty and instability – characteristics that are endemic within pro-
tracted violent conflicts. Second, as a macro-conceptual framework, it values and
validates this type of practical, context-derived knowledge and should be consid-
ered as equally prized for shedding light on what informs and constrains the
actions of those seeking to build peace.
Therefore, we conclude this article with a call for greater collaboration
between researchers and practitioners, and greater co-creation and co-ownership
of knowledge production. The knowledge production process may be challenging
and demand greater commitment from both academics and practitioners to col-
laborate over longer periods of of time, to analyze implicitly held understandings
of a conflict context contained in particular practices and to build knowledge
together. However, this process, if undertaken well, may yield a form (or forms)
of theory that look less conventionally epistemic, but nonetheless contribute to a
deeper understanding of the dynamics necessary to build sustainable peace on the
ground. Given the complex, uncertain and challenging terrain of conflict, this
bridge between practice and theory is all the more urgent to build.
48 International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution 2015 (3) 1
doi: 10.5553/IJCER/221199652015003001002
Exploring Barriers to Constructing Locally Based Peacebuilding Theory
References
Abu-Nimer, M. (2013). Reflections on the field of conflict resolution. International Journal
of Conflict Engagement and Resolution, 1(2), 163-187.
Acheson, N., Cairns, E., Williamson, A. & Stringer, M. (2006). Voluntary action and commun-
ity relations in Northern Ireland. Belfast: NICRC.
Aristotle. Translated by Ross, D. (2009). The Nicomachean ethics. Oxford: Oxford University
Press.
Atashi, E. (2011). Peace dividends: The role of external aid in peacebuilding. In M. Power
(Ed.), Building peace in Northern Ireland (pp. 209-227). Liverpool: Liverpool University
Press.
Belloni, R. (2010) Northern Ireland: Civil society and the slow building of peace. In T. Paf-
fenholz (Ed.), Civil society & peacebuilding: A critical assessment. London: Lynne Rienner.
Brewer, J. (2010). Peace processes: A sociological approach. Cambridge: Polity.
Brewer, J., Higgins, G. & Teeney, F. (2011). Religion, civil society, and peace in Northern Ire-
land. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Buchanan, S. (2008). Transforming conflict in Northern Ireland and the border counties:
Some lessons from the peace programmes on valuing participative democracy. Irish Politi-
cal Studies, 23(3), 387–409.
Buchanan, S. (2011). Examining the peacebuilding policy framework of the Irish and Brit-
ish governments. In M. Power (Ed.), Building peace in Northern Ireland (pp. 172-190). Liver-
pool: Liverpool University Press.
Byrne, S., Thiessen, C., Fissuh, E., Irvin, C. & Hawranik, M. (2008). Economic assistance,
development and peacebuilding: The role of the IFI and EU Peace II fund in Northern Ire-
land. Civil Wars, 10(2), 106-124.
Carstarphen, N., Zelizer, C., Harris, R. & Smith, D.J. (2010). Special report: Graduate educa-
tion and professional practice in international peace and conflict. Washington, DC: United
States Institute of Peace.
Catholic Relief Services. (2004). Conflict as the beginning of peace. Jakarta: CRS.
Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. Graduate program in conflict transformation. Available
at: <www. emu. edu/ cjp/ grad/ > (last accessed 22 June 2014).
Cochrane, F. (2001). Unsung heroes or muddle-headed peaceniks? A profile and assess-
ment of NGO conflict resolution activity in the Northern Ireland ‘peace process’. Irish Stud-
ies in International Affairs, 12, 97-112.
International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution 2015 (3) 1
doi: 10.5553/IJCER/221199652015003001002 49
Emily Stanton & Grainne Kelly
Cochrane, F. (2006). Two cheers for the NGOs: Building peace from below in Northern Ire-
land. In M. Cox, A. Guelke & F. Stephen (Eds.), A farewell to arms? Beyond the Good Friday
Agreement (pp. 253-267). Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Cochrane, F. & Dunn, S. (2002). People power? The role of the voluntary and community sector
in the Northern Ireland conflict. Cork: Cork University Press.
Deloitte: External review for the international fund for Ireland. (2010). Belfast: International
Fund for Ireland.
Donais, T. (2009). Empowerment or imposition? Dilemmas of local ownership in post-con-
flict peacebuilding processes. Peace & Change, 34(1), 3-26.
Donais, T. (2012). Peacebuilding and local ownership: Post-conflict consensus building. Abing-
ton: Routledge.
Eraut, M. (1994). Developing professional knowledge and competence. London: The Falmer
Press.
Eyben, K., Morrow, D. & Wilson, D. (2000). Reconciliation and social inclusion in rural areas.
Cookstown: Rural Community Network.
Fitzduff, M. (1993). Approaches to community relations work. Belfast: NICRC.
Fitzduff, M. (2002). Beyond violence: Conflict resolution process in Northern Ireland. New
York: United Nations University Press.
Frazer, H. & Fitzduff, M. (1986). Improving community relations: A paper prepared for the
Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights. Belfast: NICRC.
Gaarder, M. & Annan, J. (2013). Impact evaluation of conflict prevention and peacebuilding
interventions. Policy Research Working Paper No. 6496. New York: The World Bank.
Ganiel, G. (2010). Surveying religion’s public role: Perspectives on reconciliation, diversity
and ecumenism in Northern Ireland. Shared Space, (9), 53–68.
Goldberg, R. (2009). How our worldviews shape our practice. Conflict Resolution Quarterly,
26(4), 405-431.
Goodhand, J. & Atkinson, P. (2001). Conflict and aid: Enhancing the peacebuilding impact of
international engagement. London: International Alert.
Hall, M. (2013). Towards a shared future: (3) Irreconcilable identities? Belfast: Island Publica-
tions/Farset Community Think Tanks Project.
Hammond-Callaghan, M. (2006). Bombings, burnings and borders: Remembering women’s
peace groups under internment. The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, 32(1), 32-45.
50 International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution 2015 (3) 1
doi: 10.5553/IJCER/221199652015003001002
Exploring Barriers to Constructing Locally Based Peacebuilding Theory
Hammond-Callaghan, M. (2011). ‘Peace women,’ gender and peacebuilding in Northern
Ireland: From reconciliation and political inclusion to human rights and human security.
In M. Power (Ed.), Building peace in Northern Ireland (pp. 93-110). Liverpool: Liverpool Uni-
versity Press.
Hughes, J. & Carmichael, P. (1998). Community relations in Northern Ireland: Attitudes
to contact and integration. In G. Robinson, D. Heenan, A. Gray & K. Thompson (Eds.),
Social attitudes in Northern Ireland: The seventh report. London: Ashgate.
Hughes, J. & Knox, C. (1997). For better or worse? Community relations initiatives in
Northern Ireland. Peace & Change, 22(3), 330-355.
International Fund for Ireland. (2006). Annual report and accounts 2005, Belfast: Interna-
tional Fund for Ireland.
Kelly, G. (2012). Progressing good relations and reconciliation in post-agreement Northern Ire-
land. Derry/Londonderry: INCORE, University of Ulster.
Knox, C. (2011). Peace building in Northern Ireland: A role for civil society. Social Policy and
Society, 10(1), 13-28.
Knox, C. & Quirk, P. (2000). Peace building in Northern Ireland, Israel and South Africa: Tran-
sition, transformation and reconciliation. London: Macmillan.
Kriesberg, L. (1998). Intractable conflicts. In E. Weiner (Ed.), The handbook of interethnic
coexistence (pp. 332-342). New York: Continuum Publishing Company.
Lederach, J.P. (1995). Preparing for peace: Conflict transformation across cultures. Syracuse:
Syracuse University Press.
Lederach, J.P. (1997). Building peace: Sustainable reconciliation in divided societies. Washing-
ton, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press.
Lederach, J.P. (2005). The moral imagination: The art and soul of building peace. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
Love, M. (1995). Peacebuilding through reconciliation in Northern Ireland. Aldershot, Eng-
land: Avebury.
Mac Ginty, R. (2012). Routine peace: Technocracy and peacebuilding. Cooperation and Con-
flict, 47(3), 287-308.
Mac Ginty, R. (2013). Taking anecdotal evidence seriously: An alternative view of peace
indicators. Shared Space, (16), 21-35.
McCartney, C. (1999). The role of civil society. In Striking a balance: The Northern Ireland
Peace process (ACCORD Issue No. 89). Available at: <http:// cain. ulst. ac. uk/ events/ peace/
docs/ accord99. htm#society> (last accessed 22 June 2014).
International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution 2015 (3) 1
doi: 10.5553/IJCER/221199652015003001002 51
Emily Stanton & Grainne Kelly
Menkhaus, K. (2004). Impact assessment in post-conflict peacebuilding: Challenges and future
directions. Geneva: Interpeace.
Morrissey, M. (2006). Good relations audit for Belfast. Belfast: PSc Management Consul-
tants.
Morrow, D. (2013). Tracing the meaning of ‘community relations’ in Northern Ireland since
1969. Belfast: NICRC.
Neufeldt, R. (2007). ‘Frameworkers’ and ‘Circlers’ – Exploring assumptions in impact assess-
ment. Berlin: Berghof Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management. Available at:
<www. berghof -foundation. org/ fileadmin/ redaktion/ Publications/ Handbook/ Articles/
neufeldt_ handbookII. pdf> (last accessed 10 December 2014).
Nolan, P. (2012). Northern Ireland peace monitoring report, number one, Belfast: Community
Relations Council.
Northrup, T.A. (1989). The dynamic of identity in personal and social conflict. In L. Kries-
berg, T.A. Northrup & S. Thorson (Eds.), Intractable conflicts and their transformation (pp.
55-82). Syracuse: Syracuse University Press.
Odendaal, A. (2013). A crucial link: Local peace committees and national peacebuilding. Wash-
ington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press.
Philpott, D. & Powers, G. (2010). Strategies of peace: Transforming conflict in a violent world.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Potter, M. (2006). Small steps or giant leaps? Defining reconciliation in the transition
from conflict in Northern Ireland. Australasian Journal of Human Security, 2(2), 41-55.
Quirk, P., Hughes, J. & Stuart, J. (2001). A Report of the work of the EU funded groups sup-
ported by the Community Relations Council. Belfast: Deloitte & Touche/NICRC.
Reychler, L. (2006). Challenges of peace research. International Journal of Peace Studies,
11(1), 1-16.
Richmond, O.P. (2005). The transformation of peace. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Ross, M. (2000). Creating the conditions for peacemaking: theories of practice in ethnic
conflict resolution. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 23(6), 1002-1034.
Schirch, L. (2004). The little book of strategic peacebuilding. Intercourse, PA: Good Books.
Schön, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner. Farnham: Ashgate.
Shirlow, P. & McEvoy, K. (2008). Beyond the wire: Former prisoners and conflict transforma-
tion in Northern Ireland. London: Pluto Press.
52 International Journal of Conflict Engagement and Resolution 2015 (3) 1
doi: 10.5553/IJCER/221199652015003001002
... In This positional stance reflects a wider critical lens on the role of international peace supporters and their approaches to investments in areas in or emerging from civil war, violence and conflict. Much accusation has been made about liberal-driven, technocratic, bureaucratic, template-style formatting and professionalised approaches to peace- building, which can, in fact, restrict developments and social change at local level (Mac Ginty, 2008;Stanton and Kelly, 2015;Mac Ginty, 2010;Reychler, 2006). Stanton and Kelly (2015:42) argue that this professionalisation of peace has 'devalued the grassroots work' and even further marginalised the practitioners voice in any strategic or practice based plans, policies and resourcing. ...
... Global-Local: Interdependence and Hybridity Stanton and Kelly (2015) note that as a result of UN developments such as the 'Agenda for Peace,' there is now a broadening scope of practice for professionals equipped with the theories and skills of conflict transformation and peace-building. Critics however, identify concerns about the dominance of one overriding philosophy through a liberal peace. ...
... It can be further argued that the advance of liberal peace and bureacratisation provides minimal space for reflective practices as the pressure increases to deliver and report on targets and outcomes (Stanton and Kelly, 2015). Many have succumb to the belief and possible reality that there are limited alternatives to funding and subsequent interventions. ...
Thesis
Research on the conflict in Northern Ireland that focuses on young people and education has been approached from a mostly formal education analysis. My research study fills this void by putting a lens on the role and contribution of youth work (informal education) in addressing sectarianism and separation through an evaluative perspective-based study. Some writers have hinted at many shortcomings within the youth work approach and this lack of certainty on the role and contribution of youth work has informed the direction of my exploratory research study (Morrow, 2004; Millken, 2015). This research provides a platform for a contemporary review of youth work and peacebuilding by practitioners within the youth work sector by exploring their insights and perspectives based on their lived work experiences. Using qualitative methodologies, within an interpretivist paradigm, and specifically a perspective-seeking evaluative framework, the research gathered perspectives through five focussed workshops with youth work-related practitioners in making a qualitative assessment of the effectiveness of youth work in addressing sectarianism and separation. Multiple perspectives provide a conclusive evidence-base which can inform policy and strategy within Education and the Youth Sector. Primary data gathered through four focus groups with young people further provided another dimension to the study, by shedding light on how young people experience or perceive sectarianism and separation. The findings present a foundation of evidence which support the case for fore-fronting youth work as a contributor in addressing sectarianism and separation. A framework and model ‘Developing an Agenda for Peace through Youth Work’ has been proposed that is aligned to findings and consistent citations by those within the profession.
... Their roles may be even more poignant in a post-conflict, divided society (Puljek-Shank and Verkoren, 2017) like Northern Ireland, where trust in the government and the media is low (NISRA, 2017). In Northern Ireland, the 3 ELITE DISCOURSE AND DISTRUST IN GOVERNMENT community and voluntary sector is vibrant, and this sector has been involved in mobilising civil society and engaging with state actors for peace, as well as building inter-community trust (Doran, 2010;Knox and Quirk, 2016;Stanton and Kelly, 2015). NPLs have specific professional knowledge and expertise, which affords them elite status (Davis, 2019). ...
... Northern Ireland is often promoted as a successful example of peacebuilding (Stanton and Kelly, 2015). However, an array of tensions underpins Northern Ireland society, and sporadic terrorist activity and sectarian violence lead many to conclude that Northern Ireland is "neither at war nor at peace" (Hargie and Irving, 2017: 50). ...
Article
Full-text available
This article uses Northern Ireland as a research context to explore how elite discourse (from political and media actors/institutions) influences how Non-Profit Leaders (NPLs) assess the trustworthiness of government. We provide emergent themes which should aid theory development and practice in the area of political public relations by showing: (1) the value NPLs place on ‘soft’ trust qualities in trust assessments of government, namely benevolence; (2) the importance NPLs place on communicative acts which model trust (e.g. dialogue, compromise, mediation); and (3) the destructive role of divisive political elite discourse within a defective political system, amplified via the media, in NPLs’ distrust of government. The study thereby emphasises the crucial and constitutive role trust perceptions play in (in)effective political public relations, arguing that ‘trust’ must be defined by the perceiver and critically unpacked if public relations research is to fully appreciate its function. We propose that the nature of Northern Ireland’s post-conflict divided society, and political discourse in specific, makes certain trust antecedents most desirable to cross-community stakeholders. The findings contribute to further refining the concept of trust in public relations and they may also be instructive for other contexts.
... As a way beyond this potential impasse in action -to act is disempowering; not to act is inhumane -an interest in pragmatism has offered a potential solution. Writing about peacebuilding in Northern Ireland, Stanton and Kelly (2015) have mobilised Aristotle's distinction between 'episteme' (theory) and techne (skill) to apply the idea of phronesis (context-dependent knowledge) to examine the ways in which peacebuilders mobilise their knowledge. Such mobilisations may appear from different positionalities to lack uniformity, but Stanton and Kelly argue that they contain their own logic, that of a practical form of wisdom. ...
Article
Full-text available
Transitional justice, like other peacebuilding endeavours, strives to create change in the world and to produce knowledge that is useful. However, the politics of how this knowledge is produced, shared and rendered legitimate depends upon the relationships between different epistemic communities, the way in which transitional justice has developed as a field and the myriad contexts in which it is embedded at local, national and international levels. In particular, forms of ‘expert’ knowledge tend to be legal, foreign and based on models to be replicated elsewhere. Work on epistemic communities of peacebuilding can be usefully brought to bear on transitional justice, speaking to current debates in the literature on positionality, justice from below, marginalisation and knowledge imperialism. This article offers two contributions to the field of transitional justice: (1) an analysis of the way the field has developed as an epistemic community(ies) and the relevance of this for a politics of knowledge; and (2) an argument for the politics of knowledge to be more widely discussed and understood as a factor in shaping transitional justice policy and practice, and as a call to a more ethical relationship with the supposed beneficiaries of transitional justice interventions.
Article
Since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, over 2 billion Euros have been poured into Northern Ireland for peacebuilding. This article presents the hopes and experiences of workers in CSOs funded by either or both funds, development officers, and civil servants employed by the funders. They confirm that peacebuilding and reconciliation projects funded by the European Union (EU) Peace and Reconciliation Fund and the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) have positively contributed to the peace process in Northern Ireland. Civil Society Organizational (CSO) projects support peacebuilding, reconciliation, and greater cooperation between the Protestant and Catholic communities. This study explored the perceptions of 120 respondents working with these funders. They indicated that designated peacebuilding funding promotes bridging, needs to be balanced, and is important to building the peace dividend and that local knowledge, practices, and skillsets should be built into the funding process. The politics of post-Brexit Northern Ireland means that understanding how to best fund peacebuilding and reconciliation is critical. At time of writing, tensions have risen.
Article
Civil society organizations (CSOs) have important roles to play in building trust in post-conflict societies. This research examined how 25 CSO peacebuilders use communication to build trust in Northern Ireland. Our findings suggest that peacebuilders work across different levels of society as trust intermediaries. Communication is central to CSO peacebuilders’ practice in engendering trust and in demonstrating their trustworthiness as individuals, inter-group facilitators and organizational representatives. Synthesized from our data, a communication toolkit from ‘low level’ communication intervention to ‘high level’ persuasion explains the strategies that CSO peacebuilders employ to mitigate distrust and nurture trust as they work towards peace in Northern Ireland. We propose this toolkit might be malleable to trust building in other conflict-affected contexts.
Book
Full-text available
This study examines the implicit conceptualisation and apparent transformation of the discourse of peace both as an ideal, unachievable or achievable form, or as a subjective concept. It does so from its early beginnings in the context of the literature on political theory and philosophy, to the literatures on conflict, war and power, and its association with democratisation, development, free-market reform, human rights, and civil society. This is compared and contrasted with the development of the methods of making peace, public discourses on peace, and international and civil society organisations focusing on disarmament and later on humanitarian issues. This culminates in the policy discourses associated with the institutionalisation of such practices and discourses in the context of the role of the UN and peacebuilding. In particular this study focuses on the intellectual and policy evolution that has led to the development of a contemporary discourse of a ‘liberal peace’, implicit in most contemporary peacemaking activities and humanitarian intervention, and which is increasingly the precursor of intervention for governance purposes based upon a peacebuilding consensus. This study concludes by examining the different graduations of the liberal peace. It points to the danger of assuming that the concept of peace always signifies an ideal form, and therefore of condoning what may well be a slide of the debates about peace into debates about war in which the liberal peace is seen to be virtuous, but in reality is highly interventionary and perhaps also virtual. Indeed, this book argues that it may well be that the liberal peace is becoming a form of war, and furthermore, that this is far from being a new phenomena.
Chapter
It has been over 50 years now that Marshal McLuhan used the term global village which describes the idea of global coexistence with influences from international communication, culture, travel, and trade and commerce. The COVID-19 pandemic has most recently cemented the planet's status of a global village as the virus originating from the Chinese city of Wuhan has virtually paralyzed the whole world. The global energy and environmental scenario is another befitting indicator to manifest the concept of a global village.
Article
Civil society, as a form of collective action, is a means of getting closer to direct democracy, and a way in which representative democracy, as found in modern societies, can be complemented by giving the space to groups and individuals to work together and express their voice that would otherwise not be heard directly. These issues are non-exhaustive but could include watchdog functions, service provision, research and awareness and in general mobilising citizens to take action about issues that concern them. Civil society action in Cyprus is not a new concept but one that has been quite controversial in the past few years. The reasons for its slow growth may be inherent confusions in society about its role, the role of the state and the role of political parties. Moreover, the institutional framework regarding civil society work is not clear and often proves to be more of a burden than a supporter in terms of promoting an enabling environment for the sector to grow. UNDP-ACT and its predecessor the UNOP's Bicommunal Development Programme have been working with civil society on the island for almost 10 years to empower it to have a voice. In 2005, UNDP-ACT undertook a study of the state of civil society on the island based on the CIVICUS methodology to determine its features and study possible ways to address the structural problems facing it.
Chapter
Since 1986 approximately €2.95 billion has been spent in Northern Ireland the Border Counties funding conflict transformation initiatives through the IFI, Peace I and its successor Peace II and the INTERREG I, II and IIIA programmes, largely through social and economic development. The IFI was set up in 1986 by the Irish and UK governments through the Anglo-Irish Agreement with the twin objectives of promoting social and economic advance and encouraging contact, dialogue and reconciliation between the two communities in Northern Ireland and on both sides of the Border. Funded by the United States, the EU, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, it formally ceased operations in 2010. Peace I was set up in the wake of the 1994 IRA and loyalist ceasefires to support peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border Counties, largely through social and economic development activities. Funded by the EU and the Irish and British governments, it covered the period 1995-1999, with Peace II continuing this work from 2000-2004 and the Peace II Extension covering the period 2005-2006 (Peace III, covering the period 2007-2013, is currently underway). INTERREG was initially set up by the EU in 1991 to assist weaker internal border areas in dealing with the Single Market and has been restructured over the years with INTERREG III primarily concerned with promoting sustainable and integrated cross-border development.
Article
This book poses the question, "How do we transcend the cycles of violence that bewitch our human community while still living in them?" Peacebuilding, in the view of this book, is both a learned skill and an art. Finding this art, this book says, requires a worldview shift. Conflict professionals must envision their work as a creative act - an exercise of what the book terms the "moral imagination." This imagination must, however, emerge from and speak to the hard realities of human affairs. The peacebuilder must have one foot in what is and one foot beyond what exists. The book is organized around four guiding stories that point to the moral imagination but are incomplete. The book seeks to understand what happened in these individual cases and how they are relevant to large-scale change. The purpose is not to propose a grand new theory; instead it wishes to stay close to the "messiness" of real processes and change, and to recognize the serendipitous nature of the discoveries and insights that emerge along the way. Like most professional peacemakers, the author of this book sees his work as a religious vocation.
Article
Peacebuilding, like peace, is a highly contested arena both ‘academically and politically’ due to its theoretical and value-laden qualities. Feminist scholars have long argued that ‘all scholarship has political commitments’; however, this is especially apparent in disciplines such as International Relations and Peace Studies. Traditional political approaches to peace processes tend to focus on state actors and reflect the status quo, which in turn excludes and undermines the role of the civic arena - where women's political engagement is usually most prevalent. Feminist and peace theorists have shared much in common on the topic of peacebuilding, but perhaps most explicitly in their expressed goals of social and political transformation. While there has been a growing recognition of the significance of grassroots people-to-people initiatives in building peace, peace studies scholarship has often ignored or misunderstood the critical role of gender - both in mainstream peace theories and peace processes. Contemporary feminist literature on peacebuilding and conflict is distinguished not only by a ‘political commitment to understanding the world from the viewpoints of marginalized peoples and actors’, but also by a complex, gender-based analysis of peace, security and conflict, attentive to ‘bottom-up’ processes. Is it possible that a ‘gender-blind’ approach to peace and conflict may even contribute to the global failure to achieve sustainable peace? As the renowned historian Joan W. Scott has cogently argued, ‘Gender is a constitutive element of social relationships based on perceived differences between the sexes’ and ‘gender is a primary way of signifying relationships of power’.
Article
This book explores the meaning of local ownership in peacebuilding and examines the ways in which it has been, and could be, operationalized in post-conflict environments.
Article
During the Cold War, external aid was a significant component of East-West rivalries with each side influencing their allies through economic support and resources. With the new World Order and increase in the number of protracted intra-state conflicts, external aid was increasingly considered as integral to peacebuilding. Peacebuilding, a term popularised in the 1990s, went beyond the dominant model of managing conflicts and instead focused on addressing their root causes. The changing pattern of conflicts required the international community to focus on new intervention strategies to end violent conflicts based on negotiated agreements, leading to a peace process and followed by peacebuilding strategies to transform them. A peace process can be considered as a mechanism or a set of processes whereby the parties involved attempt to avoid destructive conflict by using different techniques such as diplomacy, mediation and negotiation. Defining the concept, Saunders argues that a peace process is more than conventional diplomacy and negotiation. It encompasses a full range of political, psychological, economic, diplomatic and military actions woven together into a comprehensive effort to establish peace. The term ‘peace dividend’ has been broadly defined as social, political and psychological benefits that accrue as an outcome of a peace process. From this view, external aid is channelled into peace dividends to transform a conflict by social and economic development and therefore a significant component of peacebuilding. It is also hoped that economic growth and prosperity can create incentives on the ground by convincing people that they are stakeholders in the peace process, thereby increasing public support.
Article
Division and Reconciliation in Rural Areas: Background.Political division and the structures of life in Northern IrelandPolitical and religious tensions have a long pedigree in Ireland, especially in the North. It is hardly controversial to point out that religion, politics, education and cultural activities have been so closely bound together that it is impossible to pinpoint the precise point at which one blends into the other (Whyte, 1990). Indeed, division is so deep that it affects the whole structure of society and people in the most intimate details of their lives including who people are friends with and marry, where people worship and go to school, where people live and what they dare say to one another. Divisions at this level pervade and invade even those places where people from different parts of society meet such as the workplace, shared agricultural labour, town centres, places of entertainment and educational institutions. The axes of division have traditionally been nationality and religion. Both of these have a long association with violence. Whatever the precise causes, and they are naturally disputed, the legacy has been one where suspicion and fear of the other on grounds of political or religious affiliation has always been part of ?common sense?. At the core of public life in Northern Ireland, therefore, is a deep split reflected in different experiences and feelings, sometimes about the same events. What marks Northern Ireland out politically is the degree to which this split has invaded not only the margins of society but all of it.Communication about issues of tensionDrawing on years of practice, being polite in Northern Ireland is often identical with avoiding giving offence in public. Some of our political loyalties, cultural practices, religious beliefs and historical activities are considered offensive by those who live alongside us yet who are clearly outside our group. The rules of politeness imply that these very divisive issues are seldom aired with those people against whom the grievance is held, except by the loud hailer of the pulpit or political platform (Morrow, 1997). The last thirty years have seen political violence in Northern Ireland on an unprecedented scale. Communities whose members have experienced fear and anger, grief and outrage at each other?s hands meet one another through this filter of polite avoidance. Paradoxically, things which can only be resolved by making new relationships are made difficult by the very coping mechanisms which common sense tells us make living with these tensions possible. Those places where there is contact between people of different backgrounds become places characterised by silence, wariness and subtle yet important boundaries and taboos. Social exclusion and inclusion are decided not only by economic factors, but by a climate of politeness, hesitation and anxiety the measurable symptoms of chronic division and fear.Division and reconciliation in rural communitiesRural areas of Northern Ireland and the market towns which service them have experienced their share of political violence (Fay, Morrissey, Smyth, 1999). As Rosemary Harris showed in her study of a rural area in the 1960s, sectarian silences and tensions are part of the fabric of the rural environment (Harris, 1972). No District Council area has escaped the last thirty years without bombing, shooting or rioting. Local historic memories stretch much further into the past, sometimes centring on memories of previous land-ownership patterns or on atrocities whose implications remain alive today. Less mobile property relationships and the continuity of family and community memory in rural communities mean that injuries in rural communities have an additional depth and length. Every constituency outside Greater Belfast bar one (Strangford) returned both Nationalist and Unionist members to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998. The same interface is politically present in the make-up of councillors and staff of rural District Councils. Rural communities in Northern Ireland all contain interfaces between different groups. No district is entirely Catholic or Protestant and in many districts the impact of political tension is evident in residential patterns, personal behaviour or institutional divisions . Brendan Murtagh?s detailed research in one interface illustrates how tensions shape the practical decisions of people in neighbouring rural areas about such apparently pragmatic issues as shopping, medical services and entertainment (Murtagh 1996) confirming other research into personal behaviour and political tension (Donnan and McFarlane, 1986). Farmers and producers associations are widely perceived to have distinct political and religious identities, although, Brendan Murtagh found that the letting of land, sharing of labour and machinery and the markets for livestock and produce were not similarly divided. Nonetheless, community relations in rural areas are integral to the fundamental social and economic structures and continue to determine the scope for change and stability. Cultural and community activity also reflects this partial yet deep tendency to segregation. Demographic evidence points to changes in residential patterns over the last 30 years, reflecting increasing fear and distance (Doherty, 1996). Churches, inevitably, are identified with specific political parts of the community (Morrow, 1991). Secular cultural organisations which have maintained close connections to churches or schools reflect this historic cleavage even more clearly. Of particular importance in rural districts are the Orange Order, which is often the cultural hub of protestant community life (Jarman, 1998), and the GAA which is of central cultural significance for many young Catholics (Sugden and Bairner, 1992). These organisations have also been the cultural bridges connecting people in market towns with their roots in the countryside. Reconciliation between traditional enemies in Northern Ireland is a matter of practical as well as moral importance for everyone who lives in Northern Ireland and for all institutions and organisations who have been affected directly or indirectly by fear, violence and hostility. A serious search for reconciliation will therefore entail change not only in personal behaviour and relationships but in the form in which institutions are organised and structured, in the way in which hostility and tension are dealt with in public and managerial contexts and in the political and social organisation of rural life.