Illuminating the unseen in community peacebuilding : lessons learned from the first year of Coexistence Afghanistan

Degree Name

MA in Conflict Transformation

First Advisor

John Ungerleider


Cognitive assumptions that drive post-conflict development processes are not always well understood or supported by traditional planning mechanisms. This intrinsic case study highlights a pilot community peacebuilding program for reintegrated refugees and host communities, as it was implemented over 12 months in two sites in central Afghanistan. Using data derived from ethnographic and social survey techniques, it also examines how unspoken beliefs about conflict on the part of program implementation staff impacted program process and outcomes. An analysis of how each stakeholder perceived program goals, conflict sources in program areas, implementing success and challenges, and suggestions for improvement permits the researcher to identify meta-narratorial assumptions that shaped the development of the program. Informants who participated in this study include male and female national and international staff from the donor agency and two of its implementing partners, a national peacebuilding NGO and an international livelihoods security NGO. Findings indicate that these assumptions indeed had a profound impact on not only how program staff interacted with program beneficiaries, but also on how they interacted with each other throughout the program design and implementation process, dynamics which invariably reverberated back to the program beneficiaries. Critical incidents in the program cycle prompted staff to cyclically re-conceptualize peace building as more than a strictly rational, problem-solving process, but as a multifaceted, integrated process which includes logical-material, relational and symbolic-ritualistic aspects. Stakeholder perspectives may be relevant for other peacebuilding planners and practitioners working in a wide range of intercultural post-violence contexts.

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