Over the past fifteen years, the role of Non-Governmental Organizations in peacebuilding has considerably increased. International relations, conflicts, and humanitarian crises have somewhat evolved since the end of the Cold War, and a new space of intervention has opened up for NGOs.
Before even studying the impact of what some might consider a contribution to peacebuilding, we must ask ourselves whether the contemporary role of NGOs is an indirect consequence of a sprouting linkage between civil society and intergovernmental or regional organizations, or if it has been imposed by the changing nature of conflicts. Although both factors are complimentary in the field, it is necessary to distinguish the two approaches when analyzing the effective weight of NGO intervention in a peacebuilding process.
[...] The changing nature of conflicts has put NGOs in a privileged position to become fully associated, but independent actors in peacebuilding processes. On one hand, globalization has increased the mobility of goods, capital, people, ideas and information, giving only NGOs the potential velocity to intervene. On the other hand, it has made it necessary for global governance to consider all transnational political and social movements as full-time actors of a multilateral peacebuilding process, and therefore NGOs may take part with a specific role. [...]
[...] Moreover, the subcontracting of peacebuilding to NGOs by the UN or States creates a risk of derogation to their own obligations. This risk is that State actors will continue regarding peacebuilding in a purely realist manner, whereas, as mentioned above, security matters cannot be conceived apart from Human Rights matters. Although some NGOs act as lobbies for multilateral peacebuilding, others simply rely on military forces for security, while regarding themselves as the best actors in peacebuilding. Accordingly, the mass of NGOs will be faced with a catch-22 in years to come. [...]
[...] This “private diplomacy” may be publicized, especially when NGOs act directly to organize negotiations between conflicting parties in order to end or prevent conflict, as do many religious based NGOs. They can also be unofficial and secretive, as it is the case when cooperation is criticized enough for NGO volunteers to be endangered, as in Iraq for example. Since 9/11, humanitarian workers have often been perceived as battle targets because of the necessary ties between military operations and peacebuilding processes. [...]
[...] Without going into the detail of NGOs' financing, we can say that their constraints are much more limited than those of IGOs or States when it comes to the use of their funds, although this fact seems less and less true given the tendency of donors to ask for increased transparency. However, NGOs are more likely to act in an autonomous and neutral way, which is especially valued in conflicts which involve several conflicting parties. NGOs may serve as intermediates between belligerents, or between them and IGOs. [...]
[...] Moreover, the space occupied by NGOs in transnational diplomacy will determine the performance of IGOs in the same period. The fact is that NGOs and IGOs both consider themselves as most efficient in peacebuilding, and both are in the field anyway. Rather than compete, they must collaborate, each one benefiting from the presence of the other. NGOs gain in credibility and prestige, both locally and internationally, when they become actors of global regulation, while States and IGOs gain in local access and independent expertise, as long as NGOs are able to finance their own activities. [...]
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