Andries Odendaal is a senior associate at the Centre for Mediation in Africa at the University of Pretoria and an independent conflict transformation specialist. Among his previous positions, he was a Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace from 2009-10 and a senior trainer and program coordinator at the Centre for Conflict Resolution, University of Cape Town. He was a regional coordinator of the Western Cape Peace Committee in South Africa (1993-94) and has also served on the expert roster of the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery of the UN Development Programme.
In places as diverse as South Africa, Northern Ireland, and Nepal, negotiators of national peace plans have for years sanctioned the creation of local peace committees (LPCs) to address community-level sources of grievance and thereby to build peace from the bottom up. Peace practitioners working with LPCs around the globe have operated in the hope that such a robust peace infrastructure that facilitates collaboration between all sectors and levels of society, including government, would finally bring lasting peace to societies entrenched in conflict.
Yet LPCs themselves and their contribution to larger peacebuilding efforts have to date been poorly understood and little analyzed. In A Crucial Link: Local Peace Committees and National Peacebuilding, longtime practitioner Andries Odendaal engages in the first comparative study of LPCs and asks where and if the committees have actually succeeded. Odendaal weaves together practical experience, peacebuilding theory, recent cases, and practical guidelines for setting up and supporting the work of these local committees.
Odendaal finds that LPCs can be critical in establishing social cohesion, facilitating dialogue, and preventing violence. Through their unique ability to engage the particular local aspects of conflict not shared throughout a country in conflict, LPCs can foster the success of national agreements, especially hen they are formally supported and embedded in a larger peace infrastructure.
In-depth case studies provide keen insights into the successes and potential challenges to implementing LPCs. Explaining the dynamics of LPCs and their relationship to national efforts, Odendaal makes a compelling case for increased use of LPCs across conflicts. Building on two decades of theory on the necessity of society-level approaches to peacebuilding, this volume is a must read for anyone working to promote peace in divided societies.