Can international actors foster social cohesion?

ISP researchers publish study on religion and social-cohesion in conflict-affected countries

When do external peacebuilders foster social cohesion in deeply divided societies? Can they even be obstructive to peace in certain instances? These were the guiding questions of a two-year research project whose results have now been published. The project was based at the University of Denver, under guidance by Timothy D. Sisk, Fletcher D. Cox and Catherine Osborn with a contribution by Sabine Kurtenbach.

Project summary from the project's website:

The project on Religion and Social Cohesion in Conflict-affected Countries is a two-year research and policy-dialogue initiative that compares how international peacemakers and development aid providers engage religious communities and institutions in efforts to foster social cohesion across six conflict-affected countries: Guatemala, Kenya, Lebanon, Nepal, Nigeria, and Sri Lanka. Through field research conducted by teams of international and local scholars, the project addresses two key questions:

  • How do various international development actors seek to promote, directly and indirectly, social cohesion in conflict-affected countries?
  • Under what conditions do externally sponsored initiatives lay the foundation for social cohesion in deeply divided societies, and under what conditions do they reinforce or even catalyze social divisions that negatively affect peacebuilding and development objectives?

The final report is available here, more information on the project can be found on its web page and here is a direct link to Sabine Kurtenbach's case study on Guatemala.