HOW SOCIETY RESPONDS TO VIOLENCE

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[ PEACEWRKS [PEACEBUILDING AND RESILIENCEHOW SOCIETY RESPONDS TO VIOLENCELauren Van Metre and Jason Calder

About the ReportBased on research and a series of working groupmeetings hosted by the United States Institute of Peace(USIP), this report explores the concept of resilience inthe context of peacebuilding and conflict-affected statesand how socioecological systems respond to violence.About the AuthorsLauren Van Metre, PhD, led the Applied Research Centerat USIP and currently conducts research and writing oncommunity resilience to violence in Ukraine and Kenya.Jason Calder is an international peacebuilding anddevelopment expert and is currently the Carter Center’scountry director in Guyana.Cover photo: Teenage schoolchildren protesting gunviolence march in a festival parade in Quetzaltenango,Guatemala. Photo by Paul Liebhardt/Getty Images.The views expressed in this report are those of theauthors alone. They do not necessarily reflect theviews of the United States Institute of Peace.United States Institute of Peace2301 Constitution Ave., NWWashington, DC 20037Phone: 202.457.1700Fax: 202.429.6063E-mail: usip [email protected]: www.usip.orgPeaceworks No. 121 First published 2016.ISBN: 978-1-60127-614-8 2016 by the United States Institute of Peace

CONTENTSPEACEWORKS SEPTEMBER 2016 NO. 121IntroductionResilience: Societal Response to Stressors and ShocksCase StudiesSocioecological SystemsResilience of States and Societies, Communities, and IndividualsResilience and ns and Recommendations[The sense is growing that strengthening a society’s5. 5. 10. 16. 18. 20. 22. 23. 25.capacity to overcome violent shock and communalstressors could play a key role in preventing conflict andachieving a more sustainable postconflict recovery.]

PEACEBUILDING AND RESILIENCESummary Resilience refers to a socioecological system’s (community, society, state) response to violence and capacity to both maintain peace in the event of a violent shock or long-termstressor and resist the pernicious impacts of violence on societal norms and relationships. Considerable research has been done on societal resilience and resistance to hegemonicthreats, which can inform how the peacebuilding field thinks about resilience to violence. Increasingly, researchers and practitioners are exploring together how social systemsrespond to violent conflict, creating a rich foundation for understanding their resilience. Resilience is an attribute of a social system to respond to long-term stressors or shock andhas neither a negative nor a positive quality. Societies can be resilient to violence, andsystems of violence can be resilient to positive change. Responses to violence—adaptation, absorption, and transformation—can differ in scaleand approach. The peacebuilding field focuses on transformation, when perhaps absorptionand adaptation may be more realistic. A resilient response to violence involves actors that self-organize and learn within thesystem and institutions and norms (a regime) that support absorption, adaptation, andtransformation. A crucial aspect of resilience is response diversity, or the ability of a system to respond indifferent ways to a violent shock or stressors, which increases the odds that a successfulresponse will emerge. Resilience is not the same as invulnerability; even highly resilient social systems can bepropelled into violence as a result of severe stress or an overwhelming shock. Supporting a society to become more resilient could play a key role in preventing conflictand achieving a more sustainable postconflict recovery.USIP.ORG3

PEACEBUILDING AND RESILIENCEIntroductionColleagues in the fields of humanitarian and development assistance have long been using theconcept of resilience to better integrate their work and to make it more sustainable by ensuring that communities that have experienced a natural or man-made disaster are equipped towithstand possible future shocks. With emphasis on the strength and capabilities of local communities, prevention planning and early warning, and future risk and community response, theconcept is also gaining sway in the peacebuilding community. Researchers and practitionersin the fields of peacebuilding and conflict resolution have begun to work together to test theconcept’s utility for their work.1The sense is growing that strengthening a society’s capacity to overcome violent shockand communal stressors could play a key role in preventing conflict and achieving a moresustainable postconflict recovery. Resilience helps focus attention on the positive attributes andcapacities of communities, thus helping outside actors become more driven by community-ledefforts than by their own institutional capacities and perspectives. It puts human agency at thecenter of efforts to manage social tensions and conflict, which, in turn, creates new pathwaysfor communities to learn. Taking a systems approach—relationships and feedback loops—tosolving complex societal problems also allows for better measurement of causality and impact.The concept’s recent adoption by the peacebuilding field provides an opportunity for criticalevaluation and scrutiny: can its application, in analysis and implementation, fundamentallychange peacebuilding practices?This report draws on recent research on societal and state resilience and the findings of aliterature review on the concept’s utility in the peacebuilding field. The United States Instituteof Peace (USIP) also hosted a series of working group meetings with academics, practitioners,and policymakers from the conflict resolution field to explore their perspectives on incorporating resilience into practice.Resilience: Societal Response to Stressors and ShocksResilience, as a term, connotes flexibility and adaptability. As a concept, resilience has provenequally flexible and adaptable in its use by various professional fields. For example, the disciplines of engineering, psychology, sociology, and ecology have interpreted and used resiliencethinking to yield new insights, approaches, and measurements. Yet each has defined resiliencequite differently. In the field of engineering, resilience means maintaining the status quo orexperiencing a shock and returning to an original state. In the field of psychology, resiliencemeans having personality traits that allow an individual to respond effectively to stress andcatastrophic events—that is, resilience is an innate attribute of an individual or system.Ecologists study the resilience of complex, adaptive systems, and it is this conceptualizationthat has the most promise in its applicability to socioecological systems and violence becauseit captures the interaction among and between the structures of a system and the actors andcommunities within it (see table 1, socioecological community). An ecosystem consists of acommunity of species inhabiting and interacting with each other and with the environmentalbasin it inhabits; the unique qualities of the external environment (clear water or turgid water;prairie or tundra) structure that basin. The interaction between the community and the environmental structure constitutes the ecosystem’s regime; it is affected by the types of interactionswithin a community of species (ecosystem) but also by changes in the basin’s structure (see table1, regime). In the case of a shock or long-term stressor, community (species) interactions or constellations might change, or the shock or long-term stressor might affect the structural elementsUSIP.ORG5

PEACEWORKS 121Resilience is characterizedby a system’s response to ashock or long-term stressors.of the basin, tipping the ecosystem into a different basin or environmental state. The distinctiveinteractions between the ecosystem and the basin’s structure constitute a regime.2Resilience is characterized by a system’s (ecological or socioecological) response to a shockor long-term stressors in order to maintain the same regime (see table 1, resilience). A systemcan be drawn to multiple residual or latent states, called basins of attraction (see table 1, multipleattractors). These are alternate states that a socioecological system is predisposed or attractedto within a larger stability landscape. The analogy of a ball and basin for a regime is usefulfor explaining the flexibility and endurance, or resilience, of certain regimes and how rapidlyregime shifts can occur. Any socioecological system (group, neighborhood, or government)inhabiting a shallow basin—one without deep, broad parameters—can easily tip into anotherexisting basin of attraction when experiencing a shock or long-term stressor. The new interactions of a community with a different set of structural factors (basin) represents a regime shift(see table 1, regime shift). Analysts were surprised by the rapid fall of the Soviet Union and thecommunist regime but had long acknowledged the existence of long-term stressors (demographics, ethnic separatism, exposure to the West with détente, a growing educated class) thatwere eroding the contours of communism’s socioecological system and the rapid emergence ofnew and latent basins of attraction, such as ethnic nationalism, democratization, and authoritarianism (see table 1, stability landscape).Based on resilience, the field of ecology is shifting from controlling disturbance (shocksand stressors) to shoring up the ability of an ecosystem for self-repair, which requires bothspecies and response diversity. Different species ensure that important functions in a healthyecosystem are maintained (for example, decomposers, predators). However, most importantfor resilience is response diversity, or the ability of different species to respond in differentways to a shock, which increases the odds that a successful response or set of behaviors willemerge. Thus, adaptation, transformation, and self-organization are the central attributes of acomplex system’s approach to resilience.3The peacebuilding community has found in complex systems a useful body of theory forunderstanding violence and complex emergencies.4 Scholars have developed systemic perspectives on chronic violence, sectarian conflict, and political violence. 5 It is important to note herethat resilience, from a systems perspective, is normatively neutral—a point that will be exploredlater in greater depth. A violent or authoritarian system can be just as resilient as a peacefulone. Because the ideas of violence and peace are not normatively neutral, this report will referto a resilient nonviolent system as positive and a resilient violent system as negative. Drawingon theory and concepts from the study of resilience in socioecological systems, and adopting apeacebuilding (positive) perspective, this report defines a resilient system as one that is able toabsorb, adapt, or transform itself through self-organization and learning to maintain its basicfunction (peace) in response to violent shocks and long-term stressors buffeting the system.The resilience of a peaceful socioecosystem is also the product of its regime—the structure andvariables that shape the contours of the basin (societal structures), and the system’s interactionswith it, and which are characterized by nonviolence.Long-Term StressorsAbsorption and adaptation involve the ability of actors to resist and adapt to various threats to orwithin the ecosystem. Transformation involves the capacity of actors to bring about a regime shiftin which the ecosystem moves from one regime to another (for example, from authoritarian todemocratic or civil peace to civil war). This definition accounts for the imperfect peace that often6USIP.ORG

Table 1. Key Terms and ConceptsSocioecological System TermsMultiple attractors (states) andalternative system regimesDefinition1The alternative regimes that a complexsystem can tend toward. Perturbations canbring a system over a threshold that definesa given regime and causes the system to beattracted to a contrasting regime.Analogy in Conflict StudiesThe alternative regimes that a complexsocial system can tend toward; for example,from (a) peaceful coexistence, to (b) intergroup conflict, to (c) systemic violence andoppression, to (d) a failed state/society thatare defined by characteristic behaviors andmaintained by mutually reinforced processesand feedbacks.Example: The Soviet Union’s fall was rapidbecause of the emergence of other, alternateregimes, such as Russian nationalism andliberal democracy, that societal actors wereattracted to.Regime (basins of attraction)The characteristic behavior of a system,maintained by mutually reinforced processesor feedbacks. These behaviors have threshold levels beyond which the system enters anew regime.The contours, dimensions, and thresholdsthat define one of the alternative regimes ofa social system on a peace-to-violence spectrum. Tolerance and coexistence, intergroupviolence, or state-sponsored killings arebehaviors that mark the boundaries of theseseparate, alternative system regimes.Example: According to Tani Adams, relationships in Guatemala are structured by aregime of chronic violence, where violence isreproduced at every level of the system.2Regime shiftA change in a system regime from oneregime or basin of attraction to another.A sharp shift that stands out from normalfluctuations.(A) A change in a societal system from oneregime or pattern of behavior to another. (B)The regime shift can be caused by long-termstressors that erode the system’s resilienceand can push the societal system into anew stability basin, such as from peacefulcoexistence to inter-group violence. (C) Anintense shock can also push a system to anew regime.Example: The shock of the invasion of Iraqresulted in a regime shift in Baghdad, wherethe system moved from a multiethnic polityto a patchwork of ethnic enclaves.3ResilienceShocksThe capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoin