The Role and Effectiveness of Non-governmental Third Parties in Peacebuilding

November, 2013 | Diana Chigas

Since the 1992 Agenda for Peace, the number and range of non-governmental actors engaged directly or indirectly in peace work, and the variety of initiatives they take, have expanded dramatically. This reflects a useful evolution in our understanding of the realities of building and consolidating peace, but it also has made it challenging to assess the contributions of non-governmental initiatives to building peace. This chapter presents a typology for understanding the various roles of non-governmental actors in peacemaking and peacebuilding and assesses their real contributions and limitations. The author identifies important roles that non-governmental actors play in bringing parties to the table, engaging those excluded from peace processes and building skills and attitudes that support the emergence of “peace constituencies” and capacities critical to the maintenance of peace. Non-governmental actors have a number of qualities that make them uniquely suited for these functions: flexibility to initiate communication with “illegitimate” actors and explore new ideas with parties without excessive risk and capacity to deal with social-psychological dimensions of conflict, among others. Critics have raised valid questions about the extent and depth of impact of these activities. The author concludes that these initiatives have had limited impact, but that this should not call into question their potential value. Rather, non-governmental agencies can increase their influence if they plan and implement their functions more strategically. At the same time, expectations of what non-governmental actors can achieve are often unrealistic; non-governmental roles cannot substitute for coherent political action at the track-one level.


Suggested Citation: Chigas, Diana. “The Role and Effectiveness of Non-governmental Third Parties in Peacebuilding,” in Moving Toward a Just Peace: The Mediation Continuum edited by Jan Marie Fritz. Springer, 2013.