Knowledge Networking: Implications for Peacebuilding Activities

By Verkoren, Willemijn | International Journal of Peace Studies, Autumn-Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Knowledge Networking: Implications for Peacebuilding Activities


Verkoren, Willemijn, International Journal of Peace Studies


Abstract

It is increasingly recognised that the mobilisation and exchange of knowledge between different sectors (such as academia, policymakers, and practitioners) and regions (between North and South as well as among conflict regions) can be of paramount importance in the field of peacebuilding. As a result, the number of knowledge networks in this field has risen dramatically in recent years. This article aims to shed light on these initiatives and their potential by analysing the structural factors that shape the possibilities for knowledge exchange in networks in the field of development and peacebuilding. It maps recent thinking about knowledge networking and draws on conversations with network participants in North and South. Attention is paid to conditions and characteristics of knowledge networks, including theoretical frames for understanding them and ways of categorising them. In addition, the article deals with obstacles for successful knowledge networking, including organisational structure and culture; power issues, competition, and contested knowledge; embeddedness, regimes, donor relations, and discourse; the social and political situation in postconflict regions; cultural issues; and the issue of knowledge changing over time. The final section of the article concludes by listing a number of factors that influence the success of knowledge networks.

Introduction

One of the most pressing issues faced by developing countries today is the preponderance of violent intra-state conflicts. The death and destruction brought by these civil wars present a serious challenge for social and economic development. The economic and social setbacks that are the result of fighting make countries vulnerable to renewed warfare. It is difficult to make the transition from conflict to peace without some measure of social and economic development, which offers people an alternative to fighting. As a result, about half of all postconflict countries revert back to war in the first decade of peace. Just like it is difficult to achieve sustainable peace without development, it is also difficult to achieve development without peace and security. Thinking within the borders of traditional academic disciplines alone is not enough to meaningfully reflect and respond to these developments. To guide successful

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It is increasingly recognised that the mobilisation and exchange of knowledge between all these different entities is of paramount importance. In the words of Kofi Annan, "we realise more and more that knowledge is what makes the difference: knowledge in the hands of those who need it, and of those who can make best use of it" (Clarke and Squire 2005, 110). As a result of these developments, knowledge exchange is a hot item on the agenda of many organisations working in peacebuilding and development.

The number of knowledge networks in these fields has risen dramatically in recent years. Some of these networks bring together actors within a specific region or province within a country, such as the Cons ortium of Bangsomoro Civil Society in Mindanao, the Philippines. Many operate at the national level, such as the Gruppe Friedensentwicklung (FriEnt) in Germany . Others, like the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), are subregional in scope. Still others cover entire continents (Coordinadora Regional de Investigaciones Economicas y Sociales in Latin America and the Caribbean) or even operate worldwide (Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict). Some networks, like the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), focus on a specific issue within the field of peacebuilding, while many others have a much broader content area.

Some of these networks are academic in nature, some consist exclusively of practitioners, others are policy-oriented. Many networks attempt to bring these different groups of people together in order to achieve cross-sectoral learning and knowledge exchange for the improvement of policy, practice, and research. …

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