Space and liberal peacebuilding:


In the field of peacebuilding, or just in general our everyday life, I think we take for granted the spaces that we have at our disposal and the spaces we are allowed to use. In this session led by Guntram Herb, we were able to dig deep into how spaces and their arrangement or presence or even absence play a huge role in our everyday lives and are more often than not the sources of conflict or lack thereof.

The four types of space we were acquainted with in our session were:

Space as Facilitator

Spatial barriers

Formal Spaces

Everyday spaces

How do we then tie the concept of spaces in with peacebuilding to help us analyze or understand a conflict and then go about addressing it? The article by Benstead, “Saving Liberal Peacebuilding from itself,” talks about how liberal peacebuilding has manifested into a structure that goes into conflict zones, with a more or less “one size fits all” model for the situation at hand and applies it, without any extra emphasis on sustainability or context. This is where liberal peacebuilding is failing itself, but the structures are so prominent and any change to it would involve massive restructuring, that for the most part it has stayed the same throughout.

When we combine the idea of spaces we realize liberal peacebuilding as per the critique, is invested in these formal spaces and tries to eliminate spatial barriers through formal spaces when in fact formal spaces do not really impact everyday people or communities on a regular basis, enough to implement a change for behavior change. In that case, Benstead introduces the concept of the everyday life, and that’s where peacebuilding should be focusing, to impact and potentially improve the everyday of these people and this can be done through everyday spaces. Everyday spaces can serve as a “shared space” where people are not sharing these spaces consciously but more unconsciously, helping them connect with one other and reduce tensions and animosities without any conscious efforts. We should not be looking at eliminating spatial barriers specifically, but instead, creating and holding everyday spaces which in and of itself disintegrates these barriers.

Another angle to look at from the idea of the everyday life is, we interact with our environment on an everyday basis. Therefore, tying in peacebuilding in an everyday space for the everyday life can be achieved even better by tying in or making the environment and gender un removable factors from the process of peacebuilding. Addressing these factors as a complex system and not individually will lead to a better overall environment for the people, making it a sustainable ongoing process to address conflicts. In other words, a multi-pronged approach.

Another important idea I would like to touch upon is the notion of a digital space. Nowadays, with the heavy usage of social media and such platforms and dependency on technology, it is safe to contest that this is a very powerful platform. This platform can be used to build impactful spaces on a large scale and at the same time being extremely cost efficient. It could almost qualify as a fifth categorization of space.