Local Knowledge and Peace
4 & 5 March 2005
Hotel Novotel, The Hague
International workshop co-organized by
the Netherlands Development Assistance Research Council (RAWOO)
and the Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’
Opening address by Gerti Hesseling 7
Introduction by Georg Frerks 7
Introduction by Michiel van Walt van Praag 8
Exchange of experiences
Experiences from Rwanda 9
Experiences from Sri Lanka 12
Experiences from Mozambique 15
Plenary debate 17
Conceptual issues 17
Usefulness of local knowledge 18
1. An analytical approach
2. A transformative approach
3. A consultative approach
Premises and concerns 20
Operational principles 20
Research initiatives 21
Institutional recommendations 21
1. List of abbreviations 23
2. Programme 23
3. List of participants 25
These are the proceedings of the ‘Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation’ workshop, which was
held in The Hague, the Netherlands on 4 and 5 March 2005. The event was jointly organized by the
Netherlands Development Assistance Research Council (RAWOO) and the Netherlands Institute of
International Relations ‘Clingendael’ at the request of the Dutch Minister for Development
Cooperation, Ms Agnes van Ardenne.
About 25 people participated in the workshop; 10 of them came from the South, mainly from
Mozambique, Rwanda and Sri Lanka. The participants discussed how the mobilization and utilization
of local knowledge can help to build and consolidate peace after a period of armed conflict. The
experiences in Rwanda, Sri Lanka and Mozambique were central on the first day; on the second day
the participants drew lessons for research, policy and practice.
The presentation on Rwanda shed light on a number of national efforts to use traditional local
mechanisms to achieve justice and reconciliation after the genocide. It was pointed out that,
unfortunately, decision-makers often rely on far-fetched ‘exotic’ solutions, rather than on local
knowledge. On a more general note, the role of the international community was questioned, given
that the centre of gravity in contemporary conflicts lies with domestic actors. The dual agenda of
donors – local ownership on the one hand and the desire for measurable results on the other – is
paradoxical. In addition, the work of WSP International and the Institute of Research and Dialogue for
Peace (IRDP) was discussed. These organizations focus not on research but on the use of analysis and
debate as means to facilitate a dialogue between the divided groups. Although such a dialogue might
not lead to consensus, it can at least create a certain amount of understanding.
With regard to Sri Lanka, it was pointed out that analysts too often try to explain the causes of conflict
with totalizing concepts and theories with a global relevance. Thus, nuances are ignored and, more
importantly, it is not recognized that defining a conflict is in itself a contentious activity. In Sri Lanka,
major parameters of the conflict are disputed. Although it is generally accepted that the historical
background to a conflict is essential (though foreign analysts often fail to appreciate this), history itself
is framed by the conflict and might as a result become an academic battlefield. An argument was made
to take note of viewpoints that prevail outside Colombo, the capital. The perspectives of people in the
south, centre, east or north of the country are often excluded. Taking note of different viewpoints
would prevent, for example, the Muslim perspective from being forgotten, as it has been too many
times in the past. Finally, it was argued that local knowledge can be more apolitical, genuine and
emancipatory than the knowledge possessed by the elite, which is often driven by political interests.
Many of the above points emerged during the Sharing Studies project (exchanging research findings)
and the Social Harmony in Higher Education project (enhancing university education in the field of
conflict studies), which were executed by Sri Lankan universities in collaboration with Clingendael.
Finally, the presentation on Mozambique drew attention to the Democratic Society Project of the
Centre for the Study of Democracy and Development (CEDE). Citizens, social institutions and
representatives of the state participated in this effort to create a platform to exchange views and reach
agreement on key issues of conflict in Mozambique. Specific attention was drawn to the Montepuez
region, where tensions between Frelimo and Renamo came to the fore. The link between regional and
national factors proved to be key to the resolution of this conflict, and CEDE managed to contribute to
that key. On a different note, mention was made of the negative experience of Southern researchers,
who often feel they are being exploited by Northern researchers. On the whole, local actors tend to be
seen more as spoilers than as positive agencies in a peace process. This experience gave rise to the
‘What kind of peace is possible?’ project (WKOP) of the North-South Institute. This project uses
participatory methods to foster an informed policy dialogue on peace-building in selected Southern
The participants then engaged in a plenary debate based on these cases. They observed that ‘local
knowledge’ is a problematic concept, because normally knowledge cannot be pinned down at a certain
4 Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation
location. Usually, there are hybrid forms of knowledge. Knowledge is furthermore constructed and
these constructions may vary along lines of class, caste, ethnicity, gender, religion, region, etc. There
are thus competing interpretations of reality, and research does not simply entail the reflection of these
views; rather, it is an exercise that translates, selects and reconstructs and thus enters the realm of
power and politics.
The participants observed that there were various approaches at stake in the workshop:
1. An analytical approach: truth-seeking, informing policy-makers and debunking dominant
discourses. In Sri Lanka, for example, the view has taken root among segments of the
population that the conflict is in essence a terrorist problem. Tamil claims for independence
are discarded with a discourse that takes Sinhalese-Buddhist supremacy in the country as a
premise. Here, local and foreign academics have a role in debunking such dominant
discourses, especially in cases where facts are purposefully manipulated.
2. A transformative approach: dialogue and fostering understanding between people by
facilitating exposure to other viewpoints. The experiences of WSP International and IRDP in
Rwanda were mentioned as an example in this regard. The facilitation of local discussions and
the exchange of views throughout the country exposed people to different perspectives and
enabled them to scrutinize the views of others as well as their own, thus coming to a better,
mutual understanding or even an agreement.
3. A consultative approach: helping people to voice their views and concerns towards the
authorities. The efforts made to curb the escalation of conflict and to build peace in the
Montepuez region in Mozambique are relevant in this connection. CEDE managed to
communicate popular views to higher levels and to facilitate an informed approach towards a
resolution of the conflict. In addition, it was mentioned that this informative potential was
particularly useful and important for foreign donors operating in any conflict-affected country.
Having recognized the different ways local knowledge can be useful, the participants observed a
number of constraints. Because local knowledge is often not documented but present only in people’s
minds, it is difficult to access and describe these realities. At a more practical level, a lack of
resources, a lack of political space and a lack of willingness to listen to local insights were identified
as constraints. Additionally, local knowledge has an image problem, because Western researchers and
publications have a higher standing. As a consequence, research and policies are often driven by
Western, capital- and elite-based perspectives, because they ‘press the right buttons’ with the
The participants identified a number of principles for strengthening, mobilizing and disseminating
local knowledge. In summary, these are: preparation is key (and resources need to be available for it);
local actors must be in the driver’s seat; we need to take a long-term perspective that promotes
processes rather than projects; and the focus should be on trust-building and relation management
between civil society, government and donors.
In addition to these more general concerns and principles, the participants identified a number of
concrete topics where local views can have a particular added value. These topics included the
scrutiny of the ‘new security agenda’, democratization policies and neo-liberal reform strategies from
a local perspective. In addition, the evaluation and monitoring of peace-building efforts by local actors
on the basis of local insights was suggested as a concrete step forward. One interesting avenue could
be the comparison and exchange of findings between countries and regions. Finally, a specific
research field where local inputs are valuable is that of early warning.
It was recommended that donors should allow for more participation of local experts in their
discussions. They should also more often commission local consultants to carry out studies. Ideally,
investments in local knowledge and research should go a step further than the national or regional
Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation 5
capitals and should promote micro-level studies and discussion. The participants advocated national
and international coalitions to promote, mobilize and exchange local insights. Finally, it was suggested
to promote the preservation of space for local-level research in international frameworks, such as the
Utstein group, forums related to the Millennium Development Goals and the High Level Panel report,
the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and so on.
6 Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation
Opening address by Gerti Hesseling, Chair RAWOO
Ms Hesseling welcomed the guests and particularly the participants from abroad. She provided a brief
introduction to the principal tasks and goals of the Netherlands Development Assistance Research
Council (RAWOO). RAWOO advises the Dutch government, in particular the Dutch Minister for
Development Cooperation, on how to attune government-funded research for development to the
needs of developing countries. RAWOO aims to support dialogue and interaction between the various
parties involved in research for development, that is, researchers, policy-makers and end users, both in
the South and in the North. The exchange of views and the sharing of experiences may be helpful in
establishing how research or knowledge in general can assist in tackling the challenges of
development. Three principles guide the advisory work of RAWOO:
1. Research for development must be responsive to local needs, by involving major stakeholders
in the research process.
2. Conducting research and enhancing research capacity must go hand in hand.
3. North-South research partnerships must be sustainable and based on equality; they must build
bridges between the various stakeholders involved in research.
Since 1997, RAWOO has had a special interest in research on post-conflict transitions. The Council
has commissioned literature searches and consultancies and has organized workshops to explore the
potential of research in post-conflict countries. The results show that previous research has not paid
sufficient attention to the perceptions of local stakeholders. Most research has been initiated by
agencies from the North; research and knowledge at the local level seems to have been a blind spot. In
addition, research has focused on conflict prevention and conflict itself, but seems to have often
‘forgotten’ post-conflict research. Local communities have had to solve their own problems after the
peace agreement and donors have turned their attention to other conflicts. As a result, knowledge for
peace-building processes has been a neglected area. Donors have paid little attention to a sustainable
reconciliation and development process. If support has been given, the main focus has been on
security (peace-keeping) and physical and economic aspects.
In 2000, RAWOO advised the Minister for Development Cooperation to stimulate research and to
strengthen research capacity in areas that had suffered from armed conflict. Discussions between local
researchers could neutralize conflicts. Interaction between local and national professionals of the
countries involved could be an important stepping-stone towards reconciliation. About four years later,
the Council explored the state of the art and found interesting new experiences in the area of local
knowledge and peace-building, and informed the Minister about these. Ms van Ardenne expressed her
interest and suggested the Council join forces with Clingendael to organize a seminar on the potential
of local people to develop local solutions to local problems, and to work on the construction of a
common approach for research in this area.
Introduction by Georg Frerks, Head of the Conflict Research Unit, Clingendael
Mr Frerks made a few introductory remarks about the Clingendael Institute. The Institute does
research and offers education in the field of international affairs. Special attention is devoted to
contemporary conflict issues, Dutch foreign and security policy, the European Union, NATO, the
United Nations and other international organizations. In these fields, Clingendael advises the Dutch
government, the Dutch parliament and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and organizes
conferences and courses.
Referring the participants to the information brochure for further information on the Institute,
Mr Frerks turned to the contents of the workshop. He discussed the changing nature of conflict.
He stipulated that most contemporary conflicts are intrastate conflicts and underlined the complexity
of these conflicts, given the multiplicity of causes, dynamics and actors. The impact of contemporary
conflicts on civilians and civil life is grave. In addition to the human and material losses, war disrupts
Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation 7
societies in general, causing serious damage to institutional, moral, political and economic structures
inside a country. Whereas interstate conflicts can lead to a feeling of solidarity against the common
enemy, intrastate conflicts often divide countries. This results in the emergence of diverging
perceptions and discourses with regard to a conflict. An adequate understanding of these nuances and
complexities is essential for peace-keeping, peace-making and peace-negotiation endeavours.
Moving beyond these three activities, conflict transformation is the most fundamental approach. It is
through this process that the underlying causes of conflict – often in the shape of social, economic or
political inequalities in society – are overcome with the aim of achieving a sustainable peace. Such a
transformation process needs to be enacted at five different levels: transformation of context,
structures, actors and issues, and transformation at the personal and elite level.
Warfare and peace fare have definitely left the arena of high politics only, where formal peace talks at
the elite level between diplomats, generals and political leaders were of the essence. Track-I
diplomacy is obviously still relevant, but it has become widely acknowledged that it needs to be
complemented by multi-track, multi-stakeholder or multi-actor approaches. This requires an effort at
different levels, on different but interrelated themes and perhaps also in different rhythms and modes
of sequencing. In this multidimensional spectre of conflict resolution and conflict transformation, local
perspectives take a central position. Successful transformation requires the inclusion of the voice of
common people and of local capacities for peace, and demands attention for the gendered dimension
of these efforts. This is often acknowledged but rarely seriously put to practice. We need to better
understand and appreciate local discourses on conflict and peace, and to pay attention to the way they
influence the space and opportunity for conflict resolution efforts.
The mobilization of local knowledge and the execution of local research are indispensable for a
conflict-transformation process. Yet in reality there is a severe shortcoming in this regard. This
omission was the main reason for the organizers of the workshop to undertake this endeavour.
Mr Frerks concluded his introductory speech on a critical note. He underlined that the purpose of the
workshop is not simply to make a plea for better recognition of the use of local research. There are a
number of challenging questions with regard to local knowledge that the participants need to face.
Does local knowledge reflect only a part of reality, missing out on essential ingredients at the macro
level? Might it not be outright partial and related to conflict parties? Might it not be obsolete or
outdated? Might it not lack staying power and the power to define?
Introduction by Michiel van Walt van Praag, RAWOO Council Member
Mr van Walt van Praag, chairman of the first part of the workshop, complemented Mr Frerks’
introduction with a number of conceptual remarks. He posited that ‘post-conflict’ is a problematic
term. Conflict itself normally does not have a clear beginning or end, and is never completely solved.
It is the period when armed hostilities are largely over but the conflict itself remains to be solved that
is of interest to this workshop. In the peace-building process that is to take place in this period, local
knowledge is of great value. Local research and local knowledge provide a clearer understanding of
the conflict and enable a better implementation of conflict transformation and reconciliation efforts.
The dichotomy between ‘international’ and ‘local’ knowledge is inadequate, Mr van Walt argued. Too
often, people use the term ‘local’ when they refer to people in the capital. The real challenge is to
move beyond that level, because there might be great differences between common discourses in the
capital and the views in the various regions. There might also be differences in perceptions between
different classes or castes of society. Different kinds of knowledge are often complementary.
Perspectives from the various regions and the various strata of society must be combined with views
from the capital and those of international actors. This allows not only for a more sophisticated
understanding but also for local and national/international researchers to exchange experiences and to
learn from each other.
8 Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation
Mr van Walt discussed the programme for the two days of the workshop and underlined that the
outcome of the event was not predefined. He said that the participants might be able to agree on some
form of common approach or framework, but a different kind of result would also be possible. The
participants would exchange experiences related to the use of local knowledge for peace consolidation
and discuss how it could be enhanced. Can research form an avenue for peace-building? What are the
opportunities and constraints? He underlined the use of research and knowledge in a broad sense: not
only the generation but also the use of knowledge, not only academic but also more action-oriented
and participatory research. The discussion would be framed around the three cases presented during
the first day: Rwanda, Sri Lanka and Mozambique.
Exchange of experiences: Rwanda
Presented by Wellars Gasamagera (Member of Parliament)
Naasson Munyandamutsa (Research Coordinator, Institute of Research and
Dialogue for Peace (IRDP))
Koenraad van Brabant (WSP International)
Mr Gasamagera gave on overview of the way Rwanda has tried to use local knowledge and traditional
customs in the process of post-genocide peace-building. Rwanda’s resolution to use local knowledge
was aimed at mending the social fabric after genocide and was based on the realization that
administrative and political over-centralization and the dependency of the extremely poor population
on the state had turned communities into easily manipulated puppets in the conflict.
Rwanda is facing a range of formidable challenges, Mr Gasamagera observed. The incredible human
losses and tensions resulting from the genocide, along with the country’s low socio-economic ranking
(159 out of 177 on the Human Development Index) and environmental degradation, have created a
difficult and potentially dangerous mix. After the tragedy of 1994, Rwanda could choose either
permanent separation (Hutuland and Tutsiland) or cohabitation within one state. The country opted for
the latter, mainly because Rwandans cannot simply be categorized as either Hutus or Tutsis. Society is
much more subtle than that. Two separate, mono-ethnic states are thus not a feasible option. Having
opted for a multi-ethnic state, the road to ‘positive peace’ proved a long one. Achieving both justice
and reconciliation is a complicated process.
The Rwandan government encouraged people to work together at a local level to overcome the
existing divisions and build on the cohabitation of the various groups in society (building on a ‘we’
instead of ‘self/other’). Faced with the range of challenges discussed above, the government supported
decentralization and local empowerment. It tried to build on traditionally held cultural values, for
Umuganda, the tradition of voluntary work on community projects. Umuganda helps to
increase the sense of ownership of and responsibility for the common good.
Ubudehe, the tradition of collective action for community development. It helps mobilize
communities to identify their poverty issues and to seek solutions to them at grassroots levels
through collective action.
Gacaca, the tradition of the communal resolution of disputes at the village level. This has
been adopted to deal with the legacy of genocide cases. The ordinary legal system fails with
regard to the genocide, given the large numbers of perpetrators and the fact that both victims
and perpetrators have to find a way to cohabitate.
Umusanzu is the tradition of supporting the needy and of contributing to the achievement of a
common goal. This traditional practice is used to fight poverty and proved to be an effective
tool for good governance and peace consolidation in a post-conflict set-up.
Abunzi are local mediation committees. They facilitate access to social justice, thus helping to
prevent the escalation of local-level conflicts.
Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation 9
Emphasizing the integration of traditional values for optimal participation, the government has put in
place a number of institutional and policy measures, namely:
Community Development Committees. These are part of the local government structure and
are responsible for community development at all levels. They facilitate bottom-up planning
and project execution.
The Ubudehe concept. The concept has been piloted and found to be effective in ensuring the
participation of the poor in planning and priority-setting in collective initiatives.
The Common Development Fund. This fund is a government mechanism to ensure sustainable
resource mobilization for development and the equitable distribution of resources at the
grassroots level. This is particularly important in the poverty-reduction schemes.
Mutuelles de santé. This is a community-based health insurance scheme, which pools the
resources of the poor. Collaborative mechanisms with communities are developed to support
local health insurance schemes to ensure that the poor have access to health services.
The Labour Intensive Local Development Programme. This programme is based on Ubudehe
principles, and was designed to cater for off-farm employment in rural areas in light of the
shortage and degradation of land for agriculture.
Imidugudu (grouped settlements). These form the basis of the village policy, which aims to
first resettle refugees and to later optimize agricultural production.
Partnerships in Rwanda can be roughly divided into two types. First, there are those between the
government, civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders. Second, there have been private
research initiatives developed by individuals and organizations – such as the Institute of Research and
Dialogue for Peace (IRDP) and War-torn Society Project (WSP International) – promoting the use of
local knowledge in consolidating peace and democracy and in poverty reduction. Furthermore, special
attention is paid to monitoring and evaluation on both the national and the decentralized level.
Interaction between and within local communities will be maintained through debate and dialogue.
Although there have been successes, there is still much to explore in Rwanda. Central decision-makers
often do not confide in local knowledge, but rely on far-fetched ‘exotic’ solutions. It is important to
strengthen the power of the grassroots, in order to reinforce their decision-making role. Traditional
local approaches are effective but they can take time. External pressure can be a burden in this
connection. Western post-conflict mindsets often do not fit in non-Western cultures. While the
Western vision opted for a permanent separation of Hutus and Tutsis, Rwanda preferred not to divide
the community along ethnic lines (again), but to construct the people as ‘we’ instead of as ‘you versus
us’. It also established traditional Gacaca courts, instead of the Western, judicial procedure. Gacaca is
a way to combine justice and reconciliation.
Local knowledge is critical both in consolidating peace and security, and in facilitating local
empowerment for poverty reduction. Mr Gasamagera concluded that experiences in Rwanda show that
some accomplishments can be achieved. However, he also observed the difficulties ahead and
emphasized that continued efforts must be made to make optimal use of local knowledge and local
Mr van Brabant provided a presentation of the work of WSP International and of IRDP, its partner in
Rwanda. He underlined that only the people who have been in conflict with each other can make
peace. Outsiders can play a supportive role, but can in no way impose peace. Thus, it is important to
create space for local actors to undertake their own peace process. In contemporary conflicts, the
centre of gravity is among the internal actors. The question is how international actors can contribute,
without imposing their own priorities and agendas. While international organizations support national
ownership, higher public involvement and partnerships, the drive for greater aid effectiveness and
measurable results is becoming more prominent. These two agendas clash.
10 Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation
Contact with a broad range of people within a country is essential for a successful research or dialogue
effort. Relationships have to be built with various groups. Trust is the key word in these relationships.
This requires time. A framework has to be formed in which the involved parties feel free to speak. The
project team must be composed of competent, committed and widely accepted nationals. They must
represent different levels of society. Three skills are particularly important for the team:
1. Research skills and methodological rigour,
2. Facilitation skills,
3. The ability to manage political space, while working in a divided and sensitive context.
The aim of the efforts of WSP International and IRDP is not to perform research but to use analysis
and debate as a means to facilitate a dialogue between the divided groups. Such a debate might not
necessarily lead to consensus, but it can at least create some level of understanding. In this way
bridges can be built between geographically and socio-politically distinct groups. A vertical approach,
bringing the grassroots and the political elites into contact, is also very important. One can use various
methods for starting dialogues, such as debates, interviews or audiovisual materials. By investigating
the main obstacles and priorities felt by each group involved in a conflict, recommendations can be
formulated for policy-makers. Strengthening local capacities and deepening dialogues and working
groups enables societies to better respond to the challenges of social, economic and political
Mr Munyandamutsa started his presentation with a moving example of a little boy who lived through
the genocide. He was traumatized and did not say a word. Doctors and social workers did not know
how to deal with this and tried various approaches without success. Mr Munyandamutsa, himself a
psychiatrist, explained to them that in order to speak, a child must have something to say and a person
to say it to. Apparently, both preconditions were absent in this case. Eventually, they managed to bring
the boy to his native place, and in the end he spoke. It turned out that the boy had held the hand of his
father while they were facing an armed group. The moment the father opened his mouth to speak, a
gun was put in it, and as the bullet killed him, the child felt his father collapse. Not surprisingly, the
boy was afraid to open his mouth and speak.
This story is relevant for all of Rwanda, Mr Munyandamutsa explained. People must be given the
opportunity to speak and they must feel secure enough to say the things they want to say. Given that
victims and perpetrators live in the same areas, some mechanism must be created to facilitate a
dialogue. The efforts of IRDP and WSP International are intended to libérer la parôle.
The two organizations have approached people at various levels in society and have enabled them to
voice their views. This happens through discussion, written material and the exchange of audiovisual
recordings of people’s views. IRDP has composed a document that embraces the most pressing
concerns of the people. Five issues came forward that people considered to be core obstacles to
1. Rwanda’s history;
2. The genocide;
3. The lack of democracy and ethnic issues in politics;
4. The failure of the rule of law;
5. The struggle against poverty.
To further these efforts, IRDP has facilitated discussions on how these problematic factors can best be
tackled. Working groups were set up at local level, as well as with the diaspora. Resource persons
served to facilitate these groups, and discussions were set up also at a national level. These groups
have jointly come up with policy recommendations. Though the current structure is already quite
elaborate, Mr Munyandamutsa argued that it would be useful to involve more groups. At the
international level, more S-S exchange of experiences would be welcome; some of the groups present
at the workshop could provide a useful, additional dimension.
Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation 11
In the subsequent discussion, one of the participants raised some questions with regard to the
outcomes of the discussions held by IRDP and WSP International. Are they linked to other forms of
research? Are the priorities problematized? How are they used and distributed? The presenters replied
that a lot research is being done that is not useful for people on the ground. They explained that the
discussion results were documented in writing or on film and were used as an input for discussions
elsewhere. This had a positive effect. Not only were people exposed to other people’s views. This
method also provided a kick-start to the next discussions. Having seen that other people discuss
sensitive matters, people were less hesitant to follow their example.
Another question regarded the budget for these efforts. Surely a considerable amount of money is
required to facilitate a process of this scale? Mr van Brabant stated that WSP International uses
budgets of about USD 0.5 to 1.5 million per country. He added that it is difficult to convince donors
that this is money is well spent, especially in the initial stage, because there are many recurring costs
and the process is lengthy. He emphasized that careful preparation is crucial.
A participant from Mozambique inquired about the number of local and international NGOs involved
in the process. It is difficult to provide an accurate overview, the presenters explained: not all
organizations are registered and coordination can be difficult.
Drawing from Sri Lankan experiences, one of the representatives from that country asked how ethnic
divisions were reflected in the set-up of this endeavour. The presenters responded that one cannot
simply label others as Tutsi or Hutu. Cultures and identities are intermingled.
The final question concerned the potential field of tension between participation and effective
implementation. It was explained that more recently, grassroots representatives had been added to the
Gacaca initiatives. This gives power and capacity to these efforts, but might also create local tensions.
Exchange of experiences: Sri Lanka
Presented by R.M. Ranaweera Banda (University of Ruhuna)
S.M.M. Ismail (Southeastern University)
S.K. Sitrampalam (University of Jaffna)
Bart Klem (Clingendael Institute)
Mr Klem initiated the presentation with some introductory remarks about the projects executed in
Sri Lanka and about the Sri Lankan conflict in general, and said that the three representatives from
Sri Lanka would provide more detail.
Summarizing the conflict in Sri Lanka is a contentious affair, Mr Klem said. It is difficult to explain
what the conflict in Sri Lanka is actually about, because people simply do not agree on the main
parameters and root causes. In a way, defining the conflict is the first obstacle to solving it. Even such
basic aspects as ethnicity are not uncontested. As was argued by the speakers from Rwanda, ethnic
groups are created and labelled. Having acknowledged these complexities, Mr Klem explained that he
would provide the participants with some basic facts about Sri Lanka’s history and current situation.
It is normally accepted that Sri Lanka’s population groups are the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Indian
Tamils and various smaller groups. After the independence of Sri Lanka, the government was
dominated by Sinhala politicians, whose policy with regard to language (‘Sinhala Only’), education
(quotas), land (colonization schemes) and religion (Buddhism) fuelled ethnic tension. It is also widely
acknowledged that the Tamil struggle developed from a political one into armed resistance. Following
the rise of Tamil resistance dominated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a war started
in 1983 between the government and the LTTE. This resulted in a de facto division of the country: the
government controls most of the country, but the LTTE administrates an independent area, in which
12 Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation
the government does not have much influence. Throughout the past two decades, various peace
processes have been started, but all these attempts have failed. The failure of the Sinhalese polity to
come to a consensus about concessions and the decision of the LTTE to resume hostilities were two of
the main causes of these failures. The current peace process is exceptional, because it has now lasted
for three years. Whether the final outcome will be more successful, however, remains to be seen.
It is tempting to combine these factors into a simple discourse of the conflict, and that is what many
foreign people do. This, Mr Klem argued, is not adequate, because major parameters are disputed.
There is a considerable amount of debate within Sri Lanka about the conflict. Typically, however,
these debates are dominated by the Colombo-based elite. The views of people from the southern,
eastern or northern region and those of people from the central hill country are thus often excluded.
Interestingly, the views and analyses of people from these regions are divergent. A process of conflict
transition in Sri Lanka requires some level of agreement on what the conflict is actually about. Thus,
reconciling these different perspectives is a first step towards peace.
The presentation centred on two projects, Mr Klem explained: the Sharing Studies project and the
Social Harmony in Higher Education project. The former focused on research, the latter on education.
In the Sharing Studies project, regional committees collected publications about the conflict. The
emphasis was on regional perspectives, because the research that takes a Colombo- and Kandy-based
perspective is well known. The exchange of information and the discussions at local seminars between
different groups from various parts of the country showed the variety in perspectives and discourses of
the conflict. In an early stage of the research project, however, it became clear that splitting the
viewpoints into a northern, a southern and an eastern perspective of the conflict was not sufficient.
Within each region, there was again a variety of discourses at stake.
One mistake in the early part of the project was to create only one committee for the east, comprising
both Tamils and Muslims. After time, it turned out that two separate committees proved to be a better
approach. The lesson learned was that forcing from above does not work, and that one has to
appreciate the nuances, even within the ethnic groups and on a sub-regional level. The findings of the
regional committees were discussed at regional seminars. During these discussions, views from a wide
range of stakeholders from the various regions and divisions of society were exchanged.
The second project – Social Harmony in Higher Education – aimed to integrate conflict studies into
the ongoing reform of university education in Sri Lanka. Training of staff, facilitating discussions and
development of curricula were part of the project. Through this project, most universities have adopted
conflict studies as a subject. Some have even embraced such studies as a mandatory foundational
One main accomplishment of the two projects was the acknowledgement of different perspectives;
people now understand that there is no single way to define the conflict. The projects also revealed
regional and sub-regional distinctions and facilitated the exchange of perspectives and exposure to
other points of views. In addition to academic debate, courses were set up, thus exposing the future
elite to a critical discussion of their country’s conflict. The projects also provided insights to
Mr Ranaweera Banda argued that the traditional analytical approaches used in conflict studies and
peace-building are inappropriate. Too often, analysts try to explain the causes of conflict by means of
totalizing concepts and theories with a global relevance. The contexts of these conflicts differ so much
that such an approach is not useful. New analytical tools or alternative knowledge have to be identified
to explain conflicts around the world. Mr Ranaweera Banda explained that proposed solutions to the
Sri Lankan conflict often focus on the reform of the political structures. Although political reforms are
necessary to assure the rights of all people, he argued that by themselves they will not guarantee a
sustainable peace. These kinds of solutions are often state-centred. They draw from elite discourses
and fail to take into account the opinions and grievances of local people. To achieve broad support for
Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation 13
the peace process, it is important to involve a variety of stakeholders to understand the various
perspectives on the conflict.
The biased arguments of the elite are often presented in historical narratives about Sri Lanka.
Obviously, history is useful to understand the development of a conflict over time. The problem is that
history itself is framed within a dominant discourse. Interpretations of history change as a result of the
conflict. By consequence, it complicates a solution to the conflict, rather than helping to find a
settlement. Mr Ranaweera Banda argued for an event-based approach to history: the past should be
interpreted on the basis of events, rather than on conflict-based discourses. Combinations of scientific
and local knowledge broaden the horizon of knowledge and help to identify new areas of research.
As for the outcome of the Sharing Studies project, Mr Ranaweera Banda presented the outcomes of
the southern experiences. In the southern region, local people were represented by ordinary villagers,
government officers, university lecturers, students, local NGO representatives, social activists,
regional level politicians and the clergy. Making a presentation of the southern perspectives was
impossible, because there is no such thing: people do not agree on the main parameters or the main
causes of the conflict. As a result, there was a vivid debate about the different perspectives on conflict
in Sri Lanka.
The Sharing Studies project generated a continuation of discussion in various parts of Sri Lanka.
Mr Ranaweera Banda referred to Uva province, where Indian Tamils and Sinhalese villagers live in
harmony despite situational conflicts and provocation of ethnic identities by outsiders. If we analyse
the Sri Lankan conflict from an event-based approach using local knowledge, a different
understanding of the conflict will emerge, Mr Ranaweera Banda concluded. It is dangerous to rely on
dominant discourses in analysing causes of a conflict and identifying solutions to it, because the
opinions or perspectives reflected in them are not those of the local people but those of the elite. The
knowledge possessed by the elite is often driven by political interests, whereas local knowledge may
be apolitical, genuine and emancipatory.
Mr Ismail underlined the comments made by the previous speaker and explained that his contribution
would focus on the eastern part of Sri Lanka, the Ampara region. He recalled that there has been a
long history of peaceful coexistence between the Tamils and Muslims in this region. However, since
the early 1980s, tensions and distrust have grown between the two communities. Many attempts to
solve the conflict have failed partly because of the lack of grassroots-level involvement in the peace
Currently, there is a ceasefire in Sri Lanka. Only the government and the LTTE were involved in the
peace negotiations that started in 2002. Driven by the dominant discourses of the conflict, these parties
failed to take the views and positions of the Muslim population into account. However, no sustainable
solution is possible without the inclusion of local viewpoints and an acknowledgment of the Muslim
position. One problematic aspect is the division within the Muslim community itself. Muslim
discourses and political agendas differ between the Muslims in Colombo, those in the hill country and
those in the war-affected areas, most prominently in the southeast. The Sharing Studies project was a
useful contribution in this respect. The publications and workshops enabled the Muslims in the east to
indicate their positions. Also, discussions between Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims from different
regions of the country were facilitated. This created interesting discussions and a certain level of
Mr Sitrampalam briefly summarized the nature of the nationalist movements in Sri Lanka. The
government structure after independence failed to cope with the various identities, languages and
religions in the country. Unable to identify themselves with the identity of the government, nationalist
and militant movements emerged. The government’s politics of identity and the lack of power-sharing
caused tensions within the country. Mr Sitrampalam argued that a new, less centralized political
structure should give regions and local perspectives a more prominent role in solving the conflict.
14 Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation
Following these presentations, various points were put forward in a plenary debate. One participant
observed that international actors had been remarkably absent from the presentation. The presenters
explained that the two projects discussed deliberately focused on discourses at the sub-national level,
and thus international dimensions featured less prominently. They added, though, that the role of the
Tamil diaspora, international donors and India are some of the frequently stipulated aspects with
regard to the Sri Lankan conflict. India often remains a vague factor, though. People attribute all kinds
of developments to this regional superpower, but empirical evidence is usually weak. With regard to
the donor community, the presenters observed that they often have only a rather general understanding
of the conflict. Due to a lack of nuance, the failure to appreciate local perspectives and some level of
groupthink, these understandings do not reflect the realities on the ground. With regard to the peace
process, some major donor countries have created an alliance, stating they will not provide aid if the
peace process does not continue. The threat of withdrawing aid, however, does not seem to affect the
parties. The issues at stake cannot be ‘bought’.
Some international donors are well aware of the use of local knowledge and the potentials of local
researchers. Increasingly, Sri Lankan researchers and consultants are hired to provide analysis and
policy advice. Often, however, these consultants belong to the Colombo elite, so the question ‘What is
local?’ arises. Also, when time is short, donors tend to resort to international consultants. More hybrid
forms, including both local and international researchers, provide a good alternative.
One of the participants pointed to the need to link local knowledge to action. There has been a lot of
analysis over the years, but it has not helped much. Would more self-critical reflection be useful? The
presenters pointed out that the political system does not offer much space for this.
Exchange of experiences: Mozambique
Presented by Naftal Donaldo (Centre for Strategic and International Studies)
Carolina Hunguana (Centre for the Study of Democracy and Development)
Santos Simione (Ibis; Centre for the Study of Democracy and Development)
Stephen Baranyi (North-South Institute, Canada)
Mr Donaldo initiated the presentation with a few considerations about democratic development and
conflict transition in Mozambique. Following his brief introduction, Ms Hunguana provided
background to the case of Mozambique and made specific reference to the creation of a new
constitution in 1990 and the signing of the Rome Peace Agreement in 1992. These events and the
process that followed were enabled by the political will and the commitment to peace and democracy
of the two contending parties, namely the government of the Frente de Libertação de Moçambique
(Frelimo) and the Resistencia Nacional Mocambicana (Renamo).
In 1995, the War-torn Societies Project (WSP) initiated its activities in Mozambique. WSP engaged
with political parties, the central government, civil society organizations, academics, the media and the
donor community. The aim was to strengthen tolerance and socio-political cohabitation by facilitating
the dialogue between these actors. Reaching out to former combatants in an attempt to support their
reintegration into society was another component of the work.
The Centre for Democracy and Development Studies (CEDE), one of WSP’s partners, was established
in 2000. CEDE defends and promotes scientific and ethical standards of social sciences, and supports
the capacity of Mozambican research. CEDE also aims to strengthen networks of national, regional
and international scientific institutions. The goal is to contribute to sustainable peace and political
stability and to strengthen the democratic process. At first, CEDE focussed mainly on national-level
actors and processes; later, however, the focus shifted to the sub-national levels, because CEDE felt
that this had been understudied.
Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation 15
One of CEDE’s projects – the Democratic Society Project – involved the participation of citizens,
social institutions and representatives of the state. The main conclusion derived from this project is
that cohabitation is possible in Mozambique, despite the diversity and militarization of society. In
2002, CEDE published a book that reflected on the tenth anniversary of the peace agreement in
Mozambique. This book stimulated people to talk about the situation by presenting the viewpoints of
various local levels of society. The book was intended to interrogate the assumption of the
international community that peace-building in Mozambique had been a success. There have indeed
been some accomplishments, but there are downsides as well. On the one hand, people are working
together to rebuild the country politically and economically, but on the other hand only a small elite
are reaping the fruits of rehabilitation. An increasing majority of the population lives in extreme
poverty, which, in combination with the rise of corruption, could lead to a resumption of armed
conflict. For this reason, CEDE has advocated economic improvement, reconciliation, and fiscal and
political decentralization. So far, the involvement of local perspectives and knowledge in institutional
structures is limited, mostly because some actors at the state level fear that the decentralization of
political power will grant political space to the opposition party, Renamo. Finally, Ms Hunguana
argued that the gender aspects in the decentralization process have to be developed to a greater extent.
Mr Simione complemented the previous presentations by shedding more light on the Montepuez
region. He emphasized the difficulties of the cohabitation process. After the second elections in 1999,
a violent conflict arose in the region. Renamo refused to recognize the electoral victory of Frelimo,
claiming the elections had not been fair. The Montepuez region harbours a large number of former
Frelimo soldiers, and Renamo feared that Frelimo would regain its power. Violence broke out. In
response to a strike organized by Renamo, many people were put in a small cell; subsequently, 100 of
them died from asphyxiation.
The ethnic tensions between Frelimo and Renamo seem to be regional; at the state level, no such
incidents occurred. However, Renamo said that the command to take to arms came from higher levels.
International NGOs and political parties at the state level were eager to solve the dispute in Montepuez
and asked CEDE to mediate. This proved to be difficult. Trust between the divided local parties
remained weak. Local parties stated that the problem was at a higher political level, because it was at
that level that orders were given to regional actors. By shifting the focus from the level of Montepuez
to higher levels, CEDE was more successful and managed to facilitate discussions. Both differences
and commonalities came to be recognized. Mr Simione pointed out that it would be useful for CEDE
to initiate similar programmes in other municipalities. Further research is required to establish the real
cause of violence in Montepuez. So far, we have not found a satisfactory answer to the question why
violence erupted there and not elsewhere.
Mr Baranyi observed that the extent to which a synergy between research, policy and practice emerges
depends both on the research itself and on the context in which it takes place. With regard to the
research, what is at stake are the profiles of the researchers, the methods used and the involvement of
local researchers and stakeholders. The distribution of power is the core issue in achieving sustainable
peace and social change, Mr Baranyi concluded. He thus argued that the power dimension should be
emphasized in the discussion.
Mr Baranyi then presented the What Kind of Peace is Possible? project (WKOP) of the North-South
Institute. The WKOP, inspired by WSP’s dialogue approach, uses participatory methods to foster an
informed policy dialogue on peace-building in selected Southern countries. The negative experience of
Southern researchers being used by Northern researchers or consultants was one of the imperatives
underlying the project. The project builds upon the extensive experience of the Peace Building and
Reconstruction Program of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Reflecting on the
past ten years of research for peace-building, a mix of Southern and Northern researchers observed
that most research was done by Northern researchers and mainly focussed on international actors. The
contributions of Southern governments, local authorities and civil society organizations were often
ignored. They were seen more as spoilers than as positive agencies in a peace process. Most research
16 Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation
also focussed on the short- and medium-term peace-building priorities like demobilization,
disarmament and reintegration of ex-combats, but not on what happens 10, 15 or 20 years later.
The North-South Institute reconnected in 2003 with some of the Southern researchers to address
common concerns about peace-building in their countries, and to feed research into policy processes in
their countries and at the international level. The Southern researchers concluded that the analysis of
local lessons is important to understand the long-term challenges of peace-building and to strengthen
demands for change. The space for innovations was felt to be best at the really local level.
Decentralization was seen as an entry point for looking at the governance and economic dimensions of
long-term peace-building. Synthesizing the insights gathered from national and local research into
coherent messages for the international community is a way to influence policy formulation on peace-
Following the presentations on Mozambique, the workshop participants entered into a debate. Some of
discussion focused on the question of impact. What influence can research and local dialogues really
have? The observation that power is key here received broad support. Researchers usually do not have
much influence and governments are often unable or unwilling to reflect upon the issues researchers
bring forward. Both Southern governments and donor governments may well request researchers and
stakeholders to share their views, but very often they simply want to hear the views that suit their
policy or interests. Changing policies or perceptions of interests is obviously a different matter. Thus,
there is not only a lack of knowledge among governments, but also a lack of willingness to let
knowledge and analysis shape policies. A visionary leadership and a strong political will are essential.
A second issue that came to the fore was gender. Reacting to Ms Hunguana’s point that women are
often excluded from analysis, debate and policy formulation processes, Mr Gasamagera shared some
positive experiences from Rwanda. The participation of women in public debate is increasing and now
almost one out of every four parliamentarians is female, he stated. Such issues as access to education
are still problematic, but there are positive signs as well. Ms Hunguana responded that the percentages
of women’s participation are not the core of the issue. High percentages do not necessarily mean that
women actually have a say on the issues that concern them. Also, developments at the centre might
not be indicative of the position of women in the rural parts of the country.
The set-up of the workshop was quite broad and the three cases presented on the first day of the
workshop raised a large number of issues. It was decided to focus the discussion on four basic
1. What is the usefulness and what are the limitations of local knowledge?
2. What are the modalities of local research and what methodologies are available?
3. How do we conceive research?
4. How do local researchers link to policy-makers?
During the discussion, the following issues came to the fore.
There are many different types of knowledge: local, academic, operational, applied and so on. The
different realities can be politicized or divided along ethnic, religious, gender or regional lines. These
different forms of knowledge are often competing and we have to appreciate that knowledge is
constructed and is subject to power play. Some forms of knowledge can be seen as propaganda, as
ideologies, while others are perspectives or narratives. No type of knowledge is superior to another
type: there are simply different ways of looking at reality. Finally, knowledge is difficult to localize.
‘Local’ knowledge is thus a problematic concept. Normally, there are more hybrid forms of
Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation 17
knowledge: viewpoints shared by different people at different places and times. It would therefore be
better to speak of ‘knowledges’.
Although each type of knowledge is relevant in its own way, an over-relativistic approach can be
dangerous. Academic research also has a task in checking the value and empirical evidence of local
knowledge. Though each perspective is in itself an interesting phenomenon to study, methodological
rigour needs to be exercised to determine the empirical value of these perspectives.
The organizational, institutional or political arenas and contexts that shape local knowledge are often
conflictual. The diversity of perspectives in a country might itself be a bone of contention. Thus, if we
aim at transforming conflict, we cannot evade these different realities. They are part of the conflict.
Some participants even suggested that conflict in its most fundamental form is a clash of discourses.
Here, not only an abstract, theoretical dimension but also very tangible everyday issues are at stake.
Having taken a constructivist perspective, we must acknowledge that researchers do not ‘objectively’
identify local knowledge. They select, translate, neglect, reconstruct and deconstruct knowledge. This
is not a neutral exercise. On the contrary, it is rather conflictual. Knowledge can be a political
instrument, an instrument of power.
Research can be used to dehegemonize certain types of knowledge. This can be useful from a peace-
building perspective, but there is a field of tension between the academic effort of seeking truth (those
making such efforts try to be as objective as possible) and the efforts to facilitate dialogue and
reconciliation (such efforts are aimed at propagating a peace-conducive view on reality). Conflicts are
normally not simply a result of misunderstanding. Because people may have good reasons to fight, an
analysis of local knowledge and discussion might result not only in dialogue and harmony, but also in
the conclusion that it is useful to fight. This may be a problem when research is used as a medium for
peace-building. On the other hand, there was criticism towards a purely academic, analytical approach.
The issues at stake are so pressing that an ‘ivory tower’ attitude is not acceptable. In the face of
immense human suffering, a conflict transformative approach is needed.
Usefulness of local knowledge
It was concluded that there were in fact three approaches at stake at this workshop. Obviously, there is
a spectre between the three approaches presented here; hybrid activities are possible and do in fact
1. An analytical approach
This heading refers to academic efforts to analyse local viewpoints with the aim of optimally
understanding a conflict. Research enables a better understanding of the conflict and the perspectives
of the various stakeholders. The example of Mozambique showed that the conditions, structures and
processes underlying a conflict need to be appreciated for a proper understanding of the situation.
Truth-seeking efforts may also serve to debunk problematic myths or discourses with regard to a
conflict. Some viewpoints may encompass myths, propaganda or other types of knowledge that may
be an obstacle to a solution. Research, dialogue and consultation processes may thus serve to
scrutinize dominant and problematic discourses.
The case of Sri Lanka was cited as an example. The government is responsible for discrimination
against the Tamil population, but bypasses this kind of criticism by propagating the discourse that
blames the LTTE ‘terrorists’. Furthermore, Sinhalese actors foster myths about the Sinhalese Buddhist
history of Sri Lanka. In school and through the media people learn a version of the country’s history
that does not correspond with the facts and is not conducive to peace. Academics and others have a
responsibility to provide a critical voice here.
18 Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation
With reference to Rwanda, it was pointed out that notions of ethnicity may be problematic. People’s
perception of ethnicity was a key factor in the genocide, but these perceptions are constructed; they
can change. Research can debunk existing myths and convictions with regard to ethnic identities.
2. A transformative approach
A transformative approach aims at creating a dialogue and fostering understanding between people by
facilitating exposure to other viewpoints. Research can be useful to acknowledge and clarify the
multiplicity of viewpoints. A debate on local viewpoints can help people to identify commonalities
that may serve as a foundation for peace.
The experiences of IRDP and WSP International are an example in this regard. Exchanging points of
view in workshops and exposing people in different part of Rwanda to the discussions of others, for
example through videos, may help the society to transform and to come to terms with its past. In
Rwanda, different kinds of mechanisms were created to aid conflict transformation, initiated both from
above and from the grassroots level, or from both. Examples mentioned were forums, workshops and
traditional or hybrid mechanisms for conflict resolution. There is also a value to non-local
contributions. Foreign involvement can legitimize particular peaceful solutions and approaches and
generate acceptance also among the population. The opposite, however, is also possible.
3. A consultative approach
Consultation helps people to voice their views and concerns towards the authorities with the aim of
creating more inclusive and more effective policies with regard to conflict transformation. Research
can guide policy-makers to possible solutions by elucidating the main constraints and common
patterns. Research can be used as a tool for participatory action, that is, to shape a dialogue and to
move away from posturing and political positioning and capturing knowledge, as is illustrated by for
example the programmes in Rwanda and Mozambique (Montepuez).
The knowledge and perspectives of grassroots and local levels can influence policy-making and
contribute to transformation processes, but the impact highly depends on the space available for the
realization of these processes. Debate can create mutual understanding about perspectives on a conflict
(transformative approach) and this is a goal in itself. But if the conclusions of the debate are to have
some kind of policy impact, there must be a political window of opportunity. Only if high-level
politicians, governments and the international community contribute to and cooperate in
transformation processes, can local research and local viewpoints have an added value to policy.
Power-sharing and decentralization are important ways to stimulate the involvement of local people.
Local knowledge in itself can neither impose nor direct involvement.
A final dimension that was discussed concerned the possibility of mobilizing knowledge and
experiences in one country for the benefit of another country. Such may help people to broaden their
views, to learn from other people’s mistakes or successes, and to take a more innovative approach.
Having identified the different ways in which local knowledge can be useful, the participants
discussed a number of constraints. It was pointed out that local knowledge may be difficult to access.
Very often knowledge is not documented but present only in the people’s minds. Exploring these
realities and learning from them may thus be difficult. This requires subtle methodologies and a
considerable time investment.
The leverage of local knowledge depends on the available resources. The question is: who is prepared
to give money for these efforts, given that they are labour intensive and time consuming?
Also, the demand for local viewpoints might be limited. Some people might simply not be open to this
kind of input. Even if the demand is there, it might be a specific kind of demand. People might be
Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation 19
more susceptible to certain viewpoints and facts than to others. Furthermore, research is often driven
by Western, capital- and elite-based perspectives, because they ‘press the right buttons’ with the
international community and donors.
Finally, local knowledge does not have the same standing as research carried out by Western
researchers. There may be linkages between the North and the South, the centre and the periphery, and
between the minority and the majority group in a country. It remains difficult to engage in these
partnerships in such a way that foreign or capital based inputs do not dominate the scene.
In the final session of the workshop, the participants drew conclusions and, where applicable, shed
light on possible future avenues to optimize the use of local knowledge for peace-building endeavours.
These views were categorized under the following headings.
Premises and concerns
The participants agreed on the need to promote local research as a point of departure for donors.
A concern expressed by some of the participants concerned the post-9/11 security agenda, which
dominates the debate on international policy. With the terrorism discourse moving to the centre of the
international arena, development perspectives might come under pressure. With reference to President
Roosevelt, it was observed that the attention to ‘freedom from fear’ (security) might lead to a
significant reduction in investments in ‘freedom from want’ (poverty reduction). On a more specific
note, some of the participants expressed concern about the willingness of donors to keep up their
financial development investments vis-à-vis new security topics. There was a plea not to look at
development and security efforts as a dichotomy. On the contrary, the participants endorsed the need
to integrate the peace-building agenda with political and development policy.
Other participants expressed the concern that knowledge should not be an aim in itself in the countries
at stake. Rather, the aim should be to create space for people to share their knowledge, to expose
themselves to other insights and to do something with their knowledge.
It was acknowledged that it is not easy to invest in and mobilize local knowledge and research. The
participants identified the following key principles with which to face the challenges at stake.
Extensive preparation is key. Sufficient resources should be available to invest in preparatory
Local actors must be in the driver’s seat.
Though local researchers and local research findings are often well informed and better
grounded in local realities, they are often not granted the same standing as international
efforts. Thus there is a need to promote the recognition, use and expansion of research done by
or with local-level actors.
A long-term perspective in terms of approach (policy) and commitment (practice).
It is more useful to promote processes than projects. The enduring developments at stake here
can hardly be framed in shorter term projects (i.e. projects that last only a few months or a few
years). Consequently, investing in monitoring is preferable to investing in evaluation.
Donor impositions with regard to the approach taken and requirements in terms of
effectiveness often have a disempowering impact and undermine local ownership and
Transparency and accountability both on the donor’s side and on the side of the local actors is
essential for building trust and for an effective approach in general.
The focus should be on trust-building and relation management between civil society,
government and donors.
20 Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation
In addition to these more generally applicable concerns and principles, the participants identified a
number of concrete topics that require investigation. Though local research and knowledge in general
obviously have a wider relevance, the following issues were considered sufficiently important to be
subjected to the scrutiny of local perspectives.
Study the change in the concept of ‘security’. Following a long sequence of security debates
(human security, comprehensive security, etc.), the UN High Level Panel report on global
threats, challenges and change and the Sachs report on the Millennium Development Goals
recently reinvigorated the debate on military security (including terrorist threats) and its
embeddedness in the broader security issues of this world. It was considered useful to inquire
into and invest in local views on this debate, given that the brunt of security threats are borne
in the South.
Examine democratization agendas and issues of decentralization and good governance. Many
donors adhere to these agendas and the general principles may have broad support base. How
to approach these principles in practice is a subtler affair, however. Local experiences and
viewpoints are instrumental to achieving successes in this field.
Study bottom-up perspectives on neo-liberal reform. Key development institutes (and
particularly international financial institutions) continue to cherish the neo-liberal approach to
development. The debate on this approach has been going on for a long time and agendas have
not been completely rigid. However, it is felt that so far views from the South (and particularly
from the sub-national level) have played a remarkably inconspicuous role in the debate.
Strategic evaluation of peace-building projects. Donors are often in the dark about the impact
and success of such projects. Local researchers and local experiences can elucidate these
experiences and suggest recommendations for improvement. Similarly, the participants felt
that the continuous monitoring of policy practice by local researchers or other local actors
mobilizing local knowledge should be supported. Some even said that monitoring is more
important, because lessons learnt through evaluations often come to late.
Conflict and post-conflict developments normally receive most of the attention. However,
local research can be particularly useful with regard to early warning. The workshop
suggested greater investments in these efforts.
Local experiences and research findings do not only have local relevance. They can be
valuable in other parts of the country or in other countries, too. Thus, the participants
recommended the comparison and exchange of findings between countries and regions.
On a very different note, it was observed that language differences are often a severe obstacle
to the exchange and mobilization of local knowledge. Investing in translation technology will
thus be worthwhile, as such technology better enables the dissemination of existing local
Complementing the above suggestions on research efforts, the participants suggested the following
Discussion groups set up by donors in various countries often exclude local experts, national
government representatives, municipalities and civil society. This should be changed such that
donors are better enabled to take stock of local insights and perspectives.
Many consultancies and studies commissioned by donor governments and other actors still
resort to international researchers. To change this tendency, it was argued, better identification
and recognition of local research capacities is required.
Discussions and publications in national or regional capitals are often mistakenly taken to
represent local standpoints. It was thus argued that investments in local knowledge and
research should go a step further and promote micro-level studies and discussion.
National and international coalitions to promote, mobilize and exchange local insights are
required, the participants argued. Some interesting initiatives have already been set up, but
further development of both vertical and horizontal networks both within countries and
Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation 21
internationally would be valuable. Platforms for local voices and mechanisms for
documenting and sharing existing findings and viewpoints are relevant here.
Finally, it was suggested to promote the preservation of space for local-level research in
international frameworks such as the Utstein group, forums related to the Millennium
Development Goals and the High Level Panel report, the Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and Development, etc.
22 Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation
Appendix 1 List of abbreviations
CEDE Centre for the Study of Democracy and Development
IDRC International Development Research Centre
IRDP Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace
FRELIMO Frente de Libertação de Moçambique
LTTE Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
NGO Non-governmental organization
RAWOO Netherlands Development Assistance Research Council
RENAMO Resistencia Nacional Mocambicana
WKOP What Kind of Peace is Possible?
WSP War-torn Society Project
Appendix 2 PROGRAMME
Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation
International workshop co-organized by the Netherlands Development Assistance Research Council (RAWOO) and the
Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’,
4 & 5 March 2005, Hotel Novotel, The Hague, the Netherlands
The aim of the workshop is to discuss how the mobilization and utilization of local knowledge can help to build and
consolidate peace after a period of armed conflict. It has been organized at the request of the Dutch Minister of Development
Cooperation, Ms Agnes van Ardenne, in response to an advisory letter from RAWOO. Minister van Ardenne acknowledges
the significance of local expertise and underlines its importance in identifying and developing local solutions to local
The workshop brings together people with concrete experiences in this field from different parts of the world. It will reflect on
the way research, in its broadest sense, can strengthen peace processes and peace-building processes with local
perspectives. For instance, by giving voice to groups which are otherwise not heard, by involving local actors as generators
of knowledge, by stimulating peaceful (academic or non-academic) debate and the building of trust between hitherto
antagonistic groups, by developing appropriate methodologies for agenda-setting and research itself, and by informing policy
and practice. The following questions will guide our reflections:
• What contribution can local knowledge and research make in terms of agenda-setting for the peace process?
• What type of insights can local knowledge and research generate that are useful for building and/or consolidating
• How can local research inform practitioners on essential local views, perspectives and discourses on peace-
building and conflict?
• What approaches are available for local research on peace-building and consolidation?
• What major methodological constraints are to be considered in such local research?
• What improvements can be suggested?
• How can the research process, the dissemination of results and the forms of follow-up themselves function as a
vehicle for peace?
• How can the use of local expertise be improved at the international, the national and the local level?
Exchange of experiences and brainstorming will be the main working methods, and we aim to draw useful lessons for
research, policy and practice.
Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation 23
Friday 4 March 2005
09.00 Welcome, coffee, tea
09.30 Opening address by Gerti Hesseling, Chair RAWOO
Introductions by Georg Frerks (Head of the Conflict Research Unit, Clingendael) and Michiel van Walt van Praag
(RAWOO Council Member).
10.30 Short round of introductions
10.45 Exchange of experiences: case by case
Each case consists of concrete experiences with programmes in which local knowledge and research is or was used to
stimulate peace-building and peace consolidation. For each case a panel has been formed in order that the views of different
stakeholders (research, policy and practice) can be brought in. Each case session will consist of presentations by panel
members followed by a plenary debate.
Experiences from Rwanda
Hearing the voices of local people. The research and dialogue approach of the joint programme of the Institute of Research
and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP) and WSP International.
Naasson Munyandamutsa, Research Coordinator IRDP
Wellars Gasamagera, Member of Parliament
Koenraad van Brabant, WSP International (Geneva).
Experiences from Sri Lanka
Facilitating debate on conflict in Sri Lanka through the analysis of discourses and academic dialogue.
R.M. Ranaweera Banda, University of Ruhuna
S.M.M. Ismail, Southeastern University
S.K. Sitrampalam, University of Jaffna
Bart Klem, Clingendael
Experiences from Mozambique
Experiences from the programme What Kind of Peace is Possible? (WKOP) and other research activities.
Carolina Hunguana, Centre for the Study of Democracy and Development (CEDE)
Naftal Donaldo, Centre for Strategic and International Studies
Santos Simione, Ibis
Stephen Baranyi, North-South Institute, Canada.
17.30 Drinks and Dinner
Saturday 5 March 2005
09.30 Synthesis of case studies and additional experiences from participants
All participants are invited to contribute their relevant experiences from other parts of the world. Taken together with the three
cases presented yesterday, what picture emerges? What are the opportunities? What are the constraints or risks?
14.00 The way forward
Having synthesized the various experiences, what lessons can we draw for research, policy and practice? Which are the
promising avenues for the future?
24 Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation
List of Participants
Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation
International workshop co-organized by the Netherlands Development Assistance Research Council (RAWOO) and the
Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’,
4 & 5 March 2005, Hotel Novotel, The Hague, the Netherlands
Dr Stephen Baranyi Senator Wellars Gasamagera
Principal Researcher Conflict Prevention Member of Parliament
The North – South Institute Kigali
Dr Gemma van der Haar
Dr Shamsul Bari Centre for Conflict Studies (CCS)
Chairman Research Initiatives Bangladesh (RIB) Utrecht University
RAWOO Council Member The Netherlands
Bangladesh Dr Gerti Hesseling
Chair RAWOO, The Hague
Dr Chris van der Borgh African Studies Centre, Leiden
Centre for Conflict Studies (CCS) The Netherlands
The Netherlands Ms Carolina Hunguana
Centre for the Study of Democracy and Development
Dr Koenraad van Brabant (CEDE)
Acting Director Programmes Maputo
WSP International Mozambique
Switzerland Dr S.M.M. Ismail
Head of the Dept. Social Sciences
Dr Peter Brune Southeastern University
Executive Director Samanthurai
Life & Peace Institute Sri Lanka
Sweden Dr Klaas de Jonge
Consultant to Penal Reform International (PRI)
Mr Jaap Bijl Amsterdam
Consultant on Institutional Development The Netherlands
RAWOO Council Member
Senegal/The Netherlands Mr Bart Klem
Conflict Research Unit
Mr Naftal Donaldo Netherlands Institute of International Relations
Centre for Strategic and International Studies Clingendael
Higher Institute of International Relations The Hague
Maputo The Netherlands
Ms Cecilia Lopez Montaño
Professor Georg Frerks International Consultant, Colombia
Centre for Conflict Studies (CCS) President Fundación Agenda Colombia
Utrecht University Former Minister of the Environment
Head of the Conflict Research Unit Former Minister of Agriculture
Netherlands Institute of International Relations Former Minister of National Planning and Minister in
Clingendael charge of Women's Issues
The Hague RAWOO Council Member
The Netherlands Colombia
Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation 25
Mr Ed Maan Professor S.K. Sitrampalam
Secretary RAWOO Dean of Graduate Studies
The Hague University of Jaffna
The Netherlands Sri Lanka
Dr Paul Meerts Mr Marcel Smits
Deputy General – Director Consultant on Conflict Management and Prevention
Netherlands Institute of International Relations The Hague
Clingendael The Netherlands
The Netherlands Ms Judith van Tiggelen
The Netherlands (Report)
Dr Naasson Munyandamutsa
Research coordinator Ms Marijke Veldhuis
Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP) Policy Advisor
Kigali RAWOO Secretariat
Rwanda The Hague
Dr R.M. Ranaweera Banda Dr Michiel van Walt van Praag
Department of Sociology Executive President of KREDDA
University of Ruhuna International Peace Council for States, Peoples and
Sri Lanka The Hague
Dr Pamela Scholey Adjunct Professor of International Law
Team leader Golden Gate University
Peace, Conflict and Development Programme Initiative San Francisco
International Development Research Centre (IDRC) USA
Ottawa RAWOO Council Member
Mr Santos Simione
Project coordinator Ibis / CEDE
26 Local Knowledge and Peace Consolidation