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Led by locals: Civil Peace Service a model for equitable North-South peacebuilding cooperations?

Updated: May 25, 2022

How can international peacebuilding become more “led by locals”? And instead of bloated Head Office structures, support those that build peace in their own country? One interesting way might be found in the so-called “integrated model” of the German Civil Peace Service, implemented amongst others by the GIZ, Kurve Wustrow and Agiamondo. The “International Peace Worker (IPW)”, usually a trained staff from a European country, is sent into the hierarchy of the organisation.

The position of that IPW, usually from Germany or another European country, is full of contradictions: on the one hand, the labour contract is signed with the Head Office of the CPS organisation in Germany. On the other hand, the reporting function is exclusively executed by the hierarchy of the local peacebuilding organisation. This ambiguity in the formal setup is challenging, but it gives the local organisation ownership over the cooperation, and allows them to utilise the resources exactly where they deem it necessary.

There are challenges to this model. For the seconded staff, this position between sending organisation and local peacebuilding organisation means constantly balancing several polarities:

· building the relationship vs. doing the actual work;

· managing the different expectations vs. taking good care of oneself in a foreign, highly conflictive and traumatised context;

· balancing different working modes (volunteer / activist versus professional / ”regular”), with different work ethics and working hours;

· adhering to what the local partner organisation wants and says vs. bringing in the outsider perspective, promoting change that might not be wanted at first;

· bearing the vast differences in working and living conditions

What do Peace Workers actually do? They organise speaking or advocacy tours for their host organisation in their country of origin. They suggest and implement innovation, for example creating a social business as part of the host organisation’s activities, or other income generating activities. They organise festivals or other cultural events, together with the local staff. They coordinate the publication of promotion material, or manage the organisation’s website or social media sites.

And they drink coffee. They listen. They write minutes of meeting. They coordinate meetings. They support the administrative staff in collecting bills and receipts. And they organise their own life in a foreign context. All these activities might seem petty, insignificant and junior. Yet the added value of this cooperation lies in its North-South character:

Given the small budgets that come with this type of cooperation, you’d be surprised how positive this “integrated model” is perceived by the local peacebuilding organisation. Here are some of the advantages of this model for the local peacebuilding organisation:

· As “foreigners”, the IPW’s are in a similar position to an Organisational Consultant – not really in, not really out. This gives them the unique opportunity to provide a fresh perspective, a different angle, and maybe to gently “disrupt” unhealthy routines;

· having a small budget, the sending organisation is able to finance flexibly small activities;

· the collaboration with a Global North organisation is an important connection to the international arena, especially with regards to lobbying for their work.

· receiving support from a “Global North” organisation is in itself already an important support, giving them the appreciation for their work that they do not receive from their own society.

Are you working as Civil Peace Worker? Or are you working with a “national contract” in a peacebuilding organisation? I’d be curious to hear from you how you view the CPS model in light of a more equitable peacebuilding system. Drop me a line!

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