Smidt, H.M. (2020). United Nations Peacekeeping Locally: Enabling Conflict Resolution, Reducing Communal Violence. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 64(2-3), 344-372. doi:10.1177/0022002719859631
Background & Theory
There have been many studies evaluating the role of UN Peacekeeping in conflict-ridden regions, but few look at the role of local encounters and improving intergroup dialogue specifically to improve parameters in the same. This study looks carefully at why peacekeeping itself works by studying UNPKO in Cote d’Ivoir. It seeks to shift the focus from armed groups and political elites to community leaders and local populations as harbingers of peace.
The author sought to answer the following question:
- Is the average probability of communal violence lower in localities where UN peacekeepers organize intergroup dialogue activities than in localities where UN PKOs do not organize intergroup dialogue activities?
The researcher studied monthly information on UN peacekeepers’ intergroup dialogue activities across 107 departments (third-tier administrative units) in Cote d’Ivoire between October 2011 and May 2016. They relied on 8,302 French and English press releases published on the UNOCI News web page between January 2006 and May 2016 (UNOCI News 2017) in order to capture local intergroup activities. They essentially tried to observe some out of the 777 intergroup activities carried out by United Nations Peacekeeping Operation in Coˆte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) in several towns and villages.
The study concludes that UN PKOs’ strategy of conducting local intergroup dialogue activities helped decrease communal violence. Primarily, intergroup dialogue activities helped create opportunities for community leaders of different groups to discuss local conflict issues, often with the help of direct mediation by peacekeepers. These activities accelerate intergroup information sharing and coordination so that social order is maintained locally. Second, intergroup dialogue activities may reduce negative feelings and biases toward “out-groups” by providing a space for positive contact between members of different groups. With a “nipping in the bud” approach, the author emphasizes the importance of a consistent local-level “every day” or “peacetime” effort to avoid escalation and war between communities.
How This Translates for the Workplace
- Choose Approachability over Authority: This paper empirically shows how actions by local leaders and intergroup dialogue is more effective in peacebuilding than instructions by governments and armed forces. Similarly in an organization, junior managers are akin to local leadership, and senior leadership like the CEO or COO being akin to the government. This being the case, it is important that issues get resolved under the former’s guidance, as they are in much higher proximity and interaction with the employees. For this, managers would have to be approachable and invested in the well-being of their teams, rather than seem like authority figures who employees can’t directly approach for conflict-related problem-solving.
- Work on building Inter-Cultural Empathy: Employees can’t be expected to always act mindfully, without being given the tools to show such behavior regularly. Most people are not born with diversity sensitization and conflict resolution capacity, so they must be given workshops and training on the same. The company must invest in such initiatives to build a long-term healthy and peaceful organizational culture. We at PPS offer training for workplaces in diversity, inclusion, as well as conflict resolution. Contact us to get in touch!