by The 5P Foundation

Share this story

With the acceleration of globalization dating back to the end of World War I, the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has expanded significantly, especially in preventing and managing conflicts on an international scale. The establishment of the United Nations emphasized their vital role in promoting global peace. As the end of the Cold War has shifted the world to new challenges and growing humanitarian crises, both emerging and established international NGOs are encouraged to be involved in peace. Through their flexibility and neutrality, NGOs play an important role in the initial transition from violence to conflict resolution, leveraging their local legitimacy and neutrality to strengthen advocacy.

NGOs Role and Function in Peacebuilding

While dealing with conflict, NGOs are characterized by special expertise, funding, and organization. NGOs also fall into categories, such as humanitarian aid, human rights, and conflict resolution. Stein (2001) observes that conflict resolution NGOs manage civil wars and emergencies and sometimes assume important power roles during political disengagement. Aall (2000) outlines four important roles they play in a crisis.

  • Human Rights Monitoring: 

NGOs play a crucial role in conflict zones, monitoring and reporting human rights violations, aiming to hold perpetrators accountable, raise awareness, and advocate for policy changes to enhance human rights protection.

  • Early Warning:
    By engaging with local communities, NGOs enable the international community to anticipate potential conflicts, emphasizing the need for a thorough understanding of the socioeconomic and political context for effective early warning (Aall, 2000; Bakker, 2001).
  • Mediation & Reconciliation:
    NGOs could offer policy work by investigating the conflict’s root causes and suggest restructuring of social institutions. Through their direct experience, NGOs can also offer expert advice to government policymakers for more effective conflict prevention. 
  • Relief & Rehabilitation Functions

NGOs aim to aid communities impacted by conflicts and disasters by offering emergency relief and engaging in long-term recovery initiatives, including rebuilding infrastructure and fostering sustainable development.

Approaches to Peacebuilding Efforts

Although there remains a debate over who should be responsible for peacebuilding efforts in conflict zones, there are two schools of thought to help further understanding. 

  1. Top-Down (Elite): peacebuilding efforts that emphasize the role of elite politicians and international-scale organizations, such as United Nation (UN), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), or Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE). However, there are arguments and critics that high decision high-level decision-makers often overlook the experiences that inflict the most harm at the grassroots level.
  2. Bottom-Up (Grassroots): to complete the top-down, bottom-up approach emphasizes societal-level efforts that began from the affected communities. This approach highlights the importance of local engagement, therefore positioning grassroots efforts at the base. Usually, the important role stems from local leaders, indigenous NGOs, community developers, to refugee camp leaders. 


From the History: NGOs in Bosnia and Herzegovina 

The international response to the breakup of Yugoslavia is often criticized as a policy failure. The declaration of Bosnian independence in 1992 led to brutal violence fueled by competing nationalist projects, resulting in ethnic cleansing and significant damage to Bosnian infrastructure and economy. The West framed the Bosnian war as an issue separate from Europe, contributing to a collective conflict analysis identifying key risk areas. The Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) in 1995 marked the beginning of development and peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia, with three main objectives: post-conflict resolution, economic transition, and poverty alleviation. 

Despite the challenges in international development post-conflict, hundreds of prominent NGOs, including the Red Cross (ICRC), International Rescue Committee (IRC), and Oxfam, have diligently worked for humanitarian relief. The population’s skepticism toward the government has led them to engage with NGOs, participating in reform efforts. In peacekeeping missions, NGOs, such as NATO IFOR and SFOR troops, play a pivotal role in preventing civilian casualties and sustaining essential services. Despite the occasional overlap with peacekeepers, NGOs operate in regions of utmost need, which may not always align with established priorities. The delayed arrival of civil-military cooperation units underscored the significance of training programs for troops in conflict resolution and cultural sensitivity in Bosnia.

Involving Local Communities

After their crucial roles in recent historical events, NGOs have demonstrated their importance in resolving conflicts. However, collaboration with local communities is equally vital for achieving a settlement. Looking back on the case of Bosnia from 1991 to 1996, there was a noticeable decrease in violence in the monthly data during and after the negotiation of the Dayton agreement. This indicates that phases with increased local involvement are linked to lower conflict levels, offering prospects for a long-lasting peace. While peacebuilding and conflict resolution are complex and dependent on root causes and geopolitical situations, it is evident that all stakeholders, including the government, NGOs, and local communities, should collectively strive for one solid goal: peace.



Source: Karampini, E. (2023). The Role of NGOs in Conflict Management. International Journal of Non-Profit Sector Empowerment, 2(1), e34182-e34182.

GIZELIS, T.-I., & KOSEK, K. E. (2005). Why Humanitarian Interventions Succeed or Fail: The Role of Local Participation. Cooperation and Conflict, 40(4), 363–383.

Leave A Comment

Related Posts