Fostering Constructive Relations: Approaches to Trust-Building in Peacebuilding Interventions


Trust-building between citizens and state security actors is an integral part of post-conflict and peacebuilding interventions. Personal encounters are a frequently applied tool in peacebuilding work that aims to foster trust. Yet survey findings from across the globe suggest that trust in state institutions is eroding. What is more, trust-building initiatives between citizens and state security actors like the police evidently fail at times to contribute to enhancing relations. Focusing on dialogue settings under conditions of power asymmetry between the stakeholders, we conducted an extensive literature review, investigating where underlying rationales of trust-building in these types of interventions are critically challenged. For this purpose, we analysed strands of the peacebuilding and conflict transformation literature and the governance and institutionalism literature, and also drew on insights from criminology as well as organisational and management literature to broaden the evidence base. We then discussed practical challenges of dialogue projects with ten practitioners from different peacebuilding contexts. With the combined insights from academic literature and practitioner interviews, we pinpoint avenues for future research that can help to establish future trust-building initiatives on more evidence-based, risk-sensitive ground. More specifically, we focus on research needs regarding the prerequisites for trust-building, trust dynamics under conditions of power asymmetry, the role of third parties in trust-building initiatives, and alternatives to trust-building for enabling collaboration in contexts that are characterised by widespread distrust.

This report is the result of a research cooperation between by IFSH & the Berghof Foundation, and was funded by the Knowledge Management Fund.

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