A Place and Peace-building Nexus

The built fabrics that societies create, whether urban or rural are the silent stakeholders in peace-building. A fundamental facet of the process that houses, protects, informs and surrounds every action taken by people seeking to recover and adjust from violence, including those employed to help.

NGO offices, NGO staff accommodation, Shared offices, UN Compound sites, temporary offices, IDP camps, the inside of a 4x4 vehicle, staircases, safe-houses, boardrooms, canteens, boundary walls, entrance gates, hotel rooms, rented accommodation, shared work spaces meeting rooms, community halls, waiting rooms, toilets, hallways, barred windows, security check areas, storage areas and management suites, these are only a few places that support the peace-building community and arguably a product of that area’s violent context. All those places and spaces impact those that use them, those that visit, and those that observe them. These places and spaces influence their tenant's mental wellbeing, impacts in-house acts of social cohesion, informs a perception of self-worth, builds feelings of trust, offers a sense of security and helps build an image of those outside the boundaries of these places. There are so many positive and negative ways these spaces and places impact people within the peace-building community as they try to support vulnerable people struggling to survive.

The only way to ensure places and spaces impact peace-builders positively is to shape them well.

As you may have already established, this issue considering the connection between place and peace-building is a key component of humanitarian activity. The peace-building community and how place and space impact it, is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

The scale of the issue can be further explored in three major fragments:

1. The spaces and places supporting and defining peace building communities, their actions and perceptions.

2. The transitional places and spaces where the peace-building community meet vulnerable communities and build relationships

3. The massively complex fabric of places and spaces that interconnect, host and impact countless communities entangled in post conflict emotions and suffering the effects of violence.

Winston Churchill whilst addressing Briton on the reconstruction effort after World War Two almost got it right when he famously said, “First we shape our buildings, then they shape us”. What he should have said perhaps is that we should, “re-shape our places in the understanding that they will surly re-shape us in return”.

It is important to understanding that, nobody can conceive of anything, but they must conceive it in some place - in other words - everything that society does, is done within a particular place and that there is a precious ‘place and peace-building nexus’, is often taken for granted. A nexus which requires a great deal more attention and investment by us all whether it’s in the framing of peace initiatives or supporting those adjusting to upheavals brought about by climate change, war or a pandemic.

Places are all too often overlooked, not just in the peace-building sector but every day generally.

There are fundamental challenges that conflict creates within private, social, public and cultural spaces and places which can’t afford to be overlooked.

The built fabrics that society creates, whether urban or rural are the silent stakeholders in peace-building. A fundamental facet that houses, protects, informs and surrounds every action taken by people seeking to recover and adjust from violence, and those employed to help.

It is interesting to note that with roughly twenty-plus peace-building operations linked to the United Nations. Clearly, the UN isn’t the only actor within the international peace-building community as a whole. However, it’s a good example in that it engages over and above 100,000 skilled personnel from the military, emergency services and NGOs, yet there are very few people directly trained in ways to address place and peace-building.

F.M.H..... MLitt Peace & Conflict, Msc Architectural Conservation BA (Hons) Int. Architecture; MCSD, PgC TLHE
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