In the preface to Severine Autesserre's excellent new book, The Frontlines of Peace, Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee writes, " … the people whom foreign intervenors are ostensibly trying to save - mothers, rural villagers, inner-city dwellers, etc. - have the precise know-how and motivation to bring a deadly conflict to an end."
When international peace organizations attempt to resolve local conflicts, especially when they address the situations with preconceived approaches, they often fail. The challenging task of bringing opposing groups together to make peace requires understanding not only the situations and people involved, but also the culture and customs of the place. Arranging for local citizens to design and manage an intervention usually produces better results.
In many places, local peace organizations already exist. Providing them with funding and other assistance, as Peace Direct and Conciliation Resources do, can be effective in finding nonviolent ways to resolve conflicts.
Another approach is to identify actual or potential violent situations, convene a group of local leaders, and offer to help them make peace. The Purdue Peace Project has done that successfully in several West African countries.
When local folks lead a joint effort with international organizations to make peace, they can achieve outstanding results, as they did in Kenya in 2007.
Both donor and practitioner organizations are finding that relying more on the leadership of local citizens can be helpful and reducing political violence.