Willemijn Verkoren and Mathijs van Leeuwen
What does civil society (CS) look like in so-called “fragile states”? What civil society actors have a potential to contribute to peace in fragile contexts, and what roles do they play, or may they play, in bringing peace closer? How can they be strengthened by international development organizations?
In (policy) literature, “civil society” actors are allocated diverse roles in democratization and peacebuilding, including advocacy, peace education, local mediation, and service delivery. Given the importance attached to CS in promoting peace and democracy, increasingly, policies to promote peace in conflict-torn societies have included “CS building” or “strengthening” as an aim. Among US-based development organizations and donors, the idea is often that citizens' associations create a space between the citizen and the state, which is used to discuss and negotiate public issues. This allows for a check on government actions, the representation of citizens' interests, and the creation of a “social contract” between both parties. More European-oriented traditions emphasize the transformative role of societal groups in striving for political reform and emancipating citizens. Based on such ideas, over the last decade, we have seen an increasing interest in “civil society building” in developing countries.
Such ideas about CS have also found strong resonance in the context of so-called ...