Civil society in war and peace – New TFF report

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 53 – December 23, 1998

Originally published here.

“This is yet another publication from TFF – ‘Violence, Postwar Reconstruction and Civil Society – Theory and Yugoslavia.’ It’s main focus is civil society in war and peace. It relates this concept to the economic globalisation, to international conflict-management and to the case of Yugoslavia and the Dayton agreement,” says Jan Oberg, TFF director and author of the study.

It reflects the fact that everything TFF does is based on triple-thinking: We have three types of activities – academic analyses, field work and advocacy. We do three things in conflict regions – conflict analysis/early warning, conflict-mitigation and peace and reconciliation education. We offer three perspectives – analyses, criticism and constructive alternatives. We believe that conflicts deserve three steps – diagnosis, prognosis and treatment. And we work with three conflict regions – former Yugoslavia, Georgia in the Caucasus and one more conflict,” says Oberg.

The first chapter deals with civil society and violence-prevention; the second discusses various concepts of ‘civil society’ and relates it to various types of power. It also treats civil society as a) government, as b) democracy and institutions, as c) peacemaker and as d) a global phenomenon. The third chapter looks at how civil society can help prevent emergencies, survive them and develop in post-violence reconstruction. The fourth chapter deals with the political economy of conflict, the case of ex-Yugoslavia and shows how the Dayton ‘peace’ agreement completely ignores civil society.

In the final chapter Oberg optimistically says, among other things, that “the above analysis is a plädoyer for the view that we must learn to clash as civilised creatures, not as conflict illiterates. I believe that conflict-management can and should be learnt by many more. If a lively debate could unfold over the nature and legitimation of violence in our countries and civilisation it would mark a great step for humankind, help prevent much violence and prepare us to learn why the 20th century was the most violent of all and how the 21st must be different.”

This report can be useful to field mission staff who seek a comprehensive perspective on what they do in conflict-regions, to students, journalists, diplomats, NGOs and economic institutions who would like to see how mainstream thinking can be challenged. Just a little.

The analysis was written for a project on “The Political Economy of Humanitarian Emergencies,” coordinated by WIDER, the U.N-Affiliated World Institute for Development Economics Research in Helsinki and co-sponsored by the Queen Elizabeth House in Oxford and the U.N. Department of Humanitarian Affairs. But, alas, they did not want to be challenged, paid the study and decided not to publish it. Read it and you may guess why…

Violence Prevention, Postwar Reconstruction and Civil Society. Theory and Yugoslavia
By Jan Oberg
TFF 1998, 57 pp.
Price: 125 Swedish kronor or US$ 16 plus postage.

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