community based rehabilitation: a strategy for peace-building

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    BMC International Health

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    Open AcceBMC International Health and Human Rights 2002, 2 xDebateCommunity based rehabilitation: a strategy for peace-buildingWilliam Boyce*1, Michael Koros2 and Jennifer Hodgson3

    Address: 1Community Health and Epidemiology and Education, Queen's University, Kingston Ontario Canada, K7L 3N6, 2Canadian International Development Agency, Central & Eastern European Branch, Hull Ouebec, Canada, K1A 0G4 and 3International Programs, Faculty of Arts & Science, Queen's University, Kingston Ontario Canada, K7L 3N6

    E-mail: William Boyce* -; Michael Koros -; Jennifer Hodgson -

    *Corresponding author

    AbstractBackground: Certain features of peace-building distinguish it from peacekeeping, and make it anappropriate strategy in dealing with vertical conflict and low intensity conflict. However, sometheorists suggest that attempts, through peace-building, to impose liberal values upon non-democratic cultures are misguided and lack an ethical basis.

    Discussion: We have been investigating the peace-building properties of community basedapproaches to disability in a number of countries. This paper describes the practice and impact ofpeace-building through Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) strategies in the context of armedconflict. The ethical basis for peace-building through practical community initiatives is explored. Anumber of benefits and challenges to using CBR strategies for peace-building purposes areidentified.

    Summary: During post-conflict reconstruction, disability is a powerful emotive lever that can beused to mobilize cooperation between factions. We suggest that civil society, in contrast to state-level intervention, has a valuable role in reducing the risks of conflict through community initiatives.

    BackgroundRole of Civil Society in Peace-buildingIn the 1992 report Agenda For Peace, the Secretary Gener-al of the United Nations defines peace-building as "actionto identify and support structures which will tend tostrengthen and solidify peace in order to avoid a relapseinto conflict" [1]. Because this definition is extremely gen-eral, it has provoked tremendous interest and considera-ble discussion. For example, the Canadian Department ofForeign Affairs now defines peace-building as "a set ofmeasures that create a sustainable infrastructure for hu-man security". Furthermore, Foreign Affairs notes that

    governance, sustainable development, and social equity"are important elements of sustaining global peace [2].

    However, these general definitions of peace-building re-quire refinement, especially in relation to various forms ofconflict that are endemic in the early twenty-first century.In the search for a term describing conflict which encom-passes such diverse conditions as full-scale armed conflict,military occupation, and popular rebellion, it is helpful touse 'political violence', as described in the epidemiologi-cal work of Zwi and Ugalde [3][4]. These authors identifyfour major forms of political violence: structural, repres-

    Published: 4 November 2002

    BMC International Health and Human Rights 2002, 2:6

    Received: 19 April 2002Accepted: 4 November 2002

    This article is available from:

    2002 Boyce et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article: verbatim copying and redistribution of this article are permitted in all media for any purpose, provided this notice is preserved along with the article's original URL.Page 1 of 10(page number not for citation purposes)

    "the concept of human security recognizes that humanrights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, good

    sive, reactive, and combative. These forms of conflict de-scribe situations of political violence varying from

  • BMC International Health and Human Rights 2002, 2

    imposed societal inequities in resources and power (struc-tural political violence), to the processes of militarizationand war (combative political violence). The frameworkalso includes informal forms of political violence by thestate such as political assassinations, torture, disappear-ances, detention, and harassment (repressive political vi-olence), as well as violence against the state in the form ofcoups d'etat, guerrilla warfare, and revolutionary force (re-active political violence).

    With respect to these various forms of conflict, R. J. Fisherdistinguishes peace-keeping from peace-building but doesso in relation to another typology of conflict, either hori-zontal or vertical [5]. Fisher defines peace-keeping as "adissociative approach in which a third party intervenessimply to keep the warring parties apart and maintain theabsence of direct violence. This approach is appropriate ina horizontal conflict such as combative or reactive politi-cal violence, between equals who are relatively weak (be-cause strong parties can be their own peace-keepers), butis not appropriate to vertical conflicts between un-equalsbecause it freezes the status quo in a biased manner [6].

    Thus, peace-keeping is not an appropriate strategy in ver-tical conflicts, structural or repressive political violencewhich "are highly resistant to de-escalation, in part be-cause of a host of social-psychological processes, includ-ing cognitive rigidities and distortions, self-fulfillingprophecies, and irrational commitment mecha-nisms....Due to the complexities of such conflicts ... [thereis] a set of interlocking ethnic, political, and economic fac-tors in which no one issue can be resolved by itself" [7].By far, the most common type of conflict in the world to-day is vertical in nature, involving 'low intensity conflict',which is "based in deep-seated racial, ethnic, and religioushatreds combined with structural cleavages and politicaloppression that result in the victimization of one or moregroups through a denial of their fundamental needs" [8].

    Fisher describes features of peace-building which distin-guish it from peace-keeping, and suggests the appropriate-ness of peace-building strategies in dealing with verticalconflict and with the very nature of low intensity conflict.He states that peace-building is "an associative approachthat attempts to create a structure of peace both withinand among nations a structure that removes the causesof war and provides alternatives to war. This structure in-volves relations among a large domain of several partiesthat are equitable, interdependent, include a variety ofpeople and types of exchange, and have a supportive su-perstructure.... Peace-building thus requires a process ofnonviolent social change toward equality" [9]. Therefore,in Fisher's view, peace-keeping keeps relatively balanced

    Multi-track diplomacy is a practice that includes peace-building and implies that, in addition to formal diplo-matic efforts to resolve conflict, other methods are of val-ue. The relevant external actors in peacekeeping activitiesare usually other national governments and multilateralagencies. External actors in peace-building efforts, on theother hand, may be from a broader base. The phrase'Track Two diplomacy' was coined in 1982 by Montville[10] to describe activities occurring outside formal state-to-state, or Track One relations. The main objectives ofTrack Two diplomacy efforts are:

    X to reduce or resolve conflict between groups or nationsby improving communication, understanding, and rela-tionships;

    X to decrease tension, anger, fear, or misunderstanding byhumanizing the 'face of the enemy' and giving people di-rect personal experience of one another; and

    X to affect the thinking and action of Track One diploma-cy by addressing root causes, feelings, and needs and byexploring diplomatic options without prejudice, therebylaying the groundwork for more formal negotiations, orfor re-framing policies.

    Indeed, the basic premise of Track Two diplomacy "is thatthe expertise for dealing successfully with conflict doesnot reside solely within government personnel or proce-dures" [11].

    The importance of multi-track efforts to the success of for-mal peace agreements has been recognized by scholarssuch as Crocker & Hampson [12] whose study of fivepeace settlements (Cyprus, Namibia, Angola, El Salvador,and Cambodia), led to the distillation of several opera-tional and strategic rules of the road, one of which is ofparticular relevance here. They assert that civil society is akey player in peace-building:

    "Economic and social reconstruction is crucial to the suc-cess of the peace process. In addition to advancing humanrights, third parties have a crucial role to play in rebuild-ing and reconstructing civil society for long-term peaceand stability. There is a vital link between sturdy civic in-stitutions, including the norms and networks of civic en-gagement, and the performance of representativegovernment. Not only is civil society important to democ-racy, but it also has a significant role to play in consolidat-ing the peace process in countries making the transitionfrom war to peace. Because third parties often provide thenecessary foundations for democratic institutions, inter-national development agencies and non-governmentalPage 2 of 10(page number not for citation purposes)

    parties apart, while peace-building brings unbalancedparties together.

    organizations have a pivotal contribution to make to thetask of post-conflict rebuilding" [13].

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    Ball and Halevy [14] have suggested several peace-build-ing activities that can be undertaken in support of a peaceagreement:

    X provide a sufficient level of internal security to enableeconomic activ


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