Publication Date

Summer 7-28-2017

Degree Name

MA in Sustainable Development

Abstract

This research inquiry examined the relationship between increased democratic participation of civil society and conflict. The working hypothesis guiding the paper was that an increase in mobilized civil society participation will lead to a decrease in conflict at a societal level, if primary and secondary organizational tensions and conflicts of interest are mitigated, measurement standards of participation and integration at various levels of government are established, and elements and methodologies of conflict resolution and transformation are integrated into the activities of mobilized civil society actors. After extensive review of existing literature on civil society and participation, organizational theory, and conflict transformation theory, it was concluded there was a gap in existing literature on the benefits of applying conflict transformation theory to civil society activities, and in the social and psychological reasons on why people chose to participate in democratic processes and civil society institutions. The main inquiry method, a series of qualitative interviews conducted with 19 members of civil society strengthening initiatives in the Montes de Maria region of Colombia, was designed to attempt to quantify civil society participation and provide additional data on the effectiveness of a peace building approach that incorporates mediation, dialogue, and conflict transformation. The findings from codification of collective responses of five control questions showed that there was relative success in achieving these outcomes, but some of the lessons learned included that civil society strengthening is a long and complex process and limited data availability and limited time to conduct this study, as well as lack of study on the more intricate personal and power dynamics within civil society organizations, can create more questions than answers that call for further research.

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