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War is a way of life – in some parts of the world it is an on-going struggle with no end in sight. Years of perpetual conflict have adversely affected the way in which political, socioeconomic, and cultural components of society have developed. Indeed, armed conflict negatively affects all aspects of society: not only does it destroy buildings and societies, but it also leaves surviving individuals and communities with deep wounds that can last a lifetime.

Many efforts have been employed around the world to build peace following a conflict. Some interventions have proven quite successful, while others have not. Notably, civil society involvement is one of the most important factors in determining whether a post-conflict peacebuilding initiative will be successful. Efforts put forth by local government officials or the international community likely will be unsuccessful in post-conflict peacebuilding absent civil involvement, and without a societal belief that these measures are beneficial. Further, an involved civil society is important to hold governments accountable for their actions, strengthen public policies, and develop the community following a conflict.

This article describes post-conflict societies, discusses civil society generally and in post-conflict settings, provides an overview of legal and reconciliation approaches, discusses approaches alternative to legal approaches to post-conflict peacebuilding, and suggests that “building a culture of peace” is a way in which various players with an interest in post-conflict peacebuilding can influence societies to handle conflicts peacefully. Throughout, the article highlights the important role that civil society plays in post-conflict peacebuilding efforts.



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