This collection of articles contributes to the growing body of research on how technology is affecting peacebuilding, peace and conflict studies, and research methodologies in the field. Assumptions about the use of technology for peace are interrogated, such as the purported deepening of inclusivity and widening of participation that technology provides to peacebuilders and communities. It frames the discussion from a peace-focused perspective, providing a response to the work done by others who have focused on the ways technology makes violence more likely. This supports a holistic discussion of the ways that technology can have an impact on contentious social and political processes. By expanding the base of knowledge about how technology can be used for peace and violence, we hope this collection increases the understanding of the circumstances under which technology amplifies peace.
Based on findings from the Everyday Peace Indicators project, the article considers how top-down and bottom-up narratives and understandings of conflict often differ. The article posits that top-down narratives are often the result of a peculiar framing system that imposes imaginaries on conflicts and those experiencing them. The bottom-up narratives, based on research in South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe, show that localised perceptions of peace, safety and security are not only articulated in different ways to top-down narratives but also raise different issues.
The Transcripts of Peace: Public, Hidden or Non-obvious?
This piece introduces the special issue on everyday peace indicators. It considers the limitations of orthodox approaches to capturing and evaluating peace. Many of these approaches are top-down and reflect state-centric approaches. Alternatively they are focused on specific peacebuilding programmes and have little to say about the wider context in which peace is being built or obstructed. The lived-experience of conflict and war-to-peace transitions is often written out of accounts of peace and conflict. While recognizing that measuring peace is an inherently complex task, this introductory essay notes that there is little appetite among international organizations to reassess how they record and evaluate peace. In part, this is explained by the lucrative political economy of monitoring and evaluation. This special issue seeks to contribute to thinking about new agendas for evaluating peace.
Many of the approaches to measuring peace favoured by international organisations, INGOs and donor governments are deficient. Their level of analysis is often too broad or too narrow, and their aggregated statistical format often means that they represent the conflict-affected area in ways that are meaningless to local communities. This article takes the form of a proposal for a new generation of locally organised indicators that are based in everyday life. These indicators are inspired by practice from sustainable development in which indicators are crowd sourced. There is the potential for these to become ‘indicators +’ or part of a conflict transformation exercise as communities think about what peace might look like and how it could be realised. The article advocates a form of participatory action research that would be able to pick up the textured ‘hidden transcript’ found in many deeply divided societies and could allow for better targeted peacebuilding and development assistance.
Most indicators of peace, development, and reconstruction are top-down — designed and identified by international organizations and political leaders in New York, London, or Geneva. Surveys are “done to” war-affected communities, turning local people from war-affected areas into sources of data or survey enumerators. Top-down indicators often rely on national-level statistics that bear little relation to the lived experience of conflict. They risk subsuming local experiences into a national story.
The Everyday Peace Indicator project — a project of the Kroc Institute, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, and the University of Manchester — aims to investigate alternative, bottom-up indicators of peace. Funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the project will operate in five sub-Saharan countries. Taking its cue from studies in sustainable development, the project will ask community members to identify their own measures of peace.
- Current peace-related indicators often technically correct but give an inaccurate impression of the locality. Often just see the public transcript.
- How do we access the hidden (or non-obvious) transcript?
- Propose a new bottom-up, local-level type of indicator
- Argue that these could be ‘indicators +’ by having a conflict transformation dimension, as well as information-gathering function
Introducing The EPI Project: Investigating Bottom-Up Indicators of Peace