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Innovative thinking on conflict management: look towards the grassroots


A great deal of the space for innovation in managing international conflict lies at the grassroots, as a recent Interactive Brainstorm of the Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law shows. With the great challenge to bridge the gap between local, national and international levels, and between state and nonstate, there seems a lot to gain when this connection can be made.

img_news_item.jpgCountries and regions such as Syria or CAR, caught up in high levels of violence and atrocities, expose the limits of the current international response system. With the international community’s inability to reform the United Nations Security Council, and other innovations such as the Responsibility to Protect not having the desired impact, this event sought to explore fresh thinking on international conflict management.


Interactive Brainstorm: Innovative thinking on strategic approaches to conflict management #SRoLbrainstorm

On 7 October 2015, 40 professionals with diverse backgrounds joined forces to brainstorm new ways for the international community to mitigate violent intrastate conflict. The morning was devoted to exploring new approaches, with experts & innovators on state-based approaches, mediation, new technology, business and spiritual approaches. In the afternoon, small working groups focused on applying these ideas to Syria, Libya, Burundi and CAR, to identify and explore other avenues to improving conflict management.

Challenges for the international community

With the failure of international interventions to bring durable peace, the international community is facing a number of challenges. Working group discussions on Syria, Libya, Burundi and CAR revealed the limits of the international community’s influence. What can donor countries for example do when states are not responsive to international pressure? Is it possible to continue financial support, to guarantee a form of stability? Is it better to support ‘soft dictators’, versus a total collapse of central governance? Can donor efforts be better directed to initiatives identified and supported by local populations, to be more effective? An important challenge for the international community is to commit to long-term investments, against the backdrop that it takes two generations to fully recover rule of law. 

Promising local initiatives

At the same time, looking beyond the state, the event highlighted a number of promising local initiatives:

  • An online platform to map and connect dialogue in Ukraine found flourishing grassroots dialogue, where according to national authorities, “there is no dialogue in Ukraine”;
  • A small Israeli organization uses Facebook and art to connect people on an individual level across “enemy lines” around the Middle East;
  • A multinational corporation seeks to keep more benefits locally, with communities directly affected by its activities, while also working to mitigate conflict and stimulate local development through for example electrification;
  • In Kenya, local religious leaders and elders are involved to bridge boundaries and decrease tension between Christians and Muslims after attacks by Al Shabaab.

Room for innovation

These local initiatives lead to new ideas: for example, to use social media to change the images coming out of Syria, to humanize the conflict vis-à-vis the world that is watching; and to take time for the dialogue process around the new constitution in Libya, instead of focusing on a quick success. The Interactive Brainstorm underlined that there is room for innovation when it comes to managing international conflict. 

The conversation continues online: participants were invited to write blog posts which will be published on our website (see the blog posts here), and we are working on a publication which will more extensively highlight the main outcomes of the day. You’re invited to join the conversation: share your comments, or write a new blog post.