Local Peace Committees (LPCs) can be found in many countries (and are also often called Local Peace Communities or Zones of Peace). In many conflict-affected countries, LPCs have an impact on local communities by keeping the violence down, solving community problems and empowering local actors to become peacebuilders.
LPCs are "committees or structures formed at the level of a district, municipality, town or village with the aim to encourage and facilitate joint, inclusive peacemaking and peacebuilding processes within its own context." [I]
They can either be completely new initiatives or have roots in traditional structures like a Council of Elders. LPCs can be part of a national Infrastructure for Peace (I4P) with a mandate of the national government, which gives them a formal role. They can also be independent and driven by the local community, which makes them informal LPCs that are not formally recognized by the state. Informal LPCs may have good working relations with local or district governments (while lacking a national mandate) or act in a completely independent way, without any government involvement.
There are such committees in many countries. It is remarkable to see that in countries like DR Congo, Colombia and Afghanistan, hundreds of LPCs exist, with a relatively strong impact.
When LPCs have a national mandate, they have more clout and have more access to national and other resources. They can also establish a critical link between local and national peacebuilding. But quite a lot of countries have weak, fragile or collapsing governments. They may also be ruled by authoritarian regimes, which are not interested in such peace structures. What can people do when their national government will not support them in their pursuit of peacebuilding? What can people do at the local level when conflict and violence are escalating in their neighborhood and the government is failing to give protection? The answer, in many countries, has been to create informal Local Peace Committees.
Most LPCs were established locally because the local community felt threatened, violence increased, justice and development failed. National government neglected to provide security, justice or development. As a result, people took matters into their own hand. These LPCs were highly motivated and were relatively, if temporarily, successful. Many function without external support.
The big challenge with informal LPCs is that they are very dependent on the broader, political or conflict environment. If that environment becomes very polarized or violent, they will be gravely affected. [II]
Local Peace Committees are the foundation of an effective peace infrastructure. It is often at local level that tensions can be contained before they become violent, or that the dynamics of conflict can be channelled in a way that begins the process of transformation. An effective Infrastructure for Peace is dependent on strong, vibrant and empowered local peace committees.
[I] Andries Odendaal and Retief Olivier, Local Peace Committees: some Reflections and Lessons Learned; (2008); Academy for Educational Development (AED), Nepal; p.3
[II] ) Potential cornerstone of infrastructures for peace ? How local peace committees can make a difference. By Paul van Tongeren, Peacebuilding Journal, 2013, Vol. 1, No 1, 1-31, Routledge/Taylor & Francis; including four Reviews by A. Odendaal, E. Corneliusson, A. Ghebremeskel and R. Smith, R. Pkalya.
Local interfaith "peace committees" (2014) and 8 Lessons for Improving Effectiveness of Community Platforms (2016) - Conciliation Resources