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War Child Holland. Peacebuilding in Sierra Leone Understandings and Approaches. Peacebuilding.

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War Child Holland

Peacebuilding in Sierra Leone

Understandings and Approaches


War Child works towards ‘positive peace’, aiming to transform social relationships, structures and culture in a direction conducive to a reduction of root causes of social conflicts, and enhancing the capacities to manage emerging conflicts non-violently and constructively.

peacebuilding framework deficit approach


Military / Security


Level: Track 1,2,3


1 2 3

Political / Institutional



Peacebuilding Framework: ‘Deficit approach’
war child paper 2007 key understandings 1 3
War Child paper (2007)Key understandings (1/3)
  • Not all conflicts become violent; they should be seen as potentially contributing to positive change. Conflicts are complex social, political, cultural and economic phenomena, which warrant in depth and continuous analysis and reflection.
  • The most appropriate way of dealing with conflict is therefore not to prevent or resolve it altogether, but to try to transform it and make it work for positive change.
war child paper 2007 key understandings 2 3
War Child paper (2007)Key understandings (2/3)
  • Peacebuilding is not only an activity or series of activities, it is an impact. This impact is twofold: 1) stopping violence and destructive conflict; and 2) building a just and sustainable peace.
  • Humanitarian and development interventions should consciously increase positive and minimize negative effects on peacebuilding potential.
war child paper 2007 key understandings 3 3
War Child paper (2007)Key understandings (3/3)
  • Youth should not be seen as a homogenous group, but rather as a heterogeneous group with widely differing needs, interests and ambitions.
  • Young people have great, largely untapped peacebuilding resources. They should be regarded as active agents in their own lives and capable participants in their communities. Increasing their resilience and socio-political engagement should be the main foci of peacebuilding interventions for young people.
young people actively involved in violent conflict
Young People activelyinvolved in Violent Conflict
  • Demography
    • “They fight because there are too many of them”
  • Coercion
    • “They fight because they are forced to”
  • Youth crisis
    • “They fight because they are alienated and disenfranchised”
engaging young people
Engaging Young people
  • Active agents during armed struggle
  • Primary producers of violence in the post-violent conflict period
  • Victims of post conflict violence
  • Crucial actors in grassroots community development and peacebuilding
  • Holders of the right to participation
actors for peace
Actors for Peace


Y o u n g P e o p l e






war child contexts explored
War Child contexts explored

Level of Violence /














war a don don the war is over

WAR A DON DONthe war is over




“During the festive community celebration, a person stood up from the crowd unexpectedly.

In front of a large public he felt urged to share how he had not been on speaking terms with his neighbor for many years.

The neighbor was among the crowd. The two then used the opportunity to settle their differences on the very spot.”

war child sierra leone vision
War Child Sierra Leone vision

Young people growing up in a healthy, stable and cohesive environment, supported by protective factors that help them grow into 'peace minded' adult community members.

war child sierra leone mission
War Child Sierra Leone mission

In the communities where WCH-SL works, adult, youth and child community members will either be actively participating in or attending activities organized and implemented by the community structures set up for that purpose.

Children and youth will participate in creative and life skills workshops, fun days, recreational (sports and games) and cultural events, community meetings, and participatory assessments and evaluations.

Adults will participate in parent support groups, recreational and cultural events, community meetings, participatory assessments and evaluations.

All community members will be encouraged to attend awareness-raising activities and events, such as drama performances, panel discussions, rallies etc.

war child sierra leone programme approach
War Child Sierra Leone programme approach

Contribute to the psychosocial recovery of communities and foster community cohesion through the development of individual life skills and the facilitation of social infrastructures

current situation in sierra leone 2007 pna outcomes
Current situation in Sierra Leone (2007 PNA outcomes)
  • Inadequate adult support for children
  • Lack of community cohesion / negative interactions between community members
  • Negative peer interactions & influence
  • Lack of future prospects/livelihood prospects
  • Migration from community to town or mines
community cohesion interaction 1 2
Community cohesion & interaction (1/2)
  • There is a lack of harmony and positive dynamics amongst community members.

This is to a large extent due to the disintegration of society and community during the war. The chaos, anarchy and violence of the war have led to the collapse of many communities and the breakdown of the social fabric that traditionally holds a community together.

Ten years of conflict have splintered homes and communities, destroyed social structures, cultural norms and values, and protective mechanisms that used to keep people together and brought about unity in a community. This has an immense impact on the wellbeing and the development of children and youth. They are exposed to this lack of unity and negative interactions between adult community members; who are supposed to be their role models.

community cohesion interaction 2 2
2. Relations between adult community members are in many cases not considered to be positive and constructive.

Conflicts between community members are frequent, leading to aggressive and violent attitudes towards each other. There appears to be a lack of support for one another and insufficient collaboration in working towards the development of the community. People do not work anymore as one community towards a common goal.

Cultural activities, which used to play an important role in bringing the community members together and in expressing a sense of community identity, have largely disappeared as a result of the war.

Community cohesion & interaction (2/2)

“In today’s world, we ought to ask children and young people for their opinions. By involving the children, we prepare them for the world of tomorrow. By involving children in activities, they learn skills such as how to speak before a group and express their opinion, and how to solve problems by discussing them.”

impact on children of civil war in sierra leone
Impact on children of Civil War in Sierra Leone

Children were at the core of the brutal civil war that ravaged Sierra Leone between 1991 and 2002.

Many children witnessed horrible violence, were subjected to systematic abuse, lost family members, saw their homes go up in flames and had to flee to find refuge in camps or with relatives in safer places.

Thousands of children, boys as well as girls, were forced to become combatants themselves. Senseless killings, mutilations, rape and other inhuman treatment were part of these children’s daily experiences.

war child sierra leone programme results
War Child Sierra Leone programme results
  • Sustainable community structures that involve and support children and youth are created and functional
  • Awareness of and support for child rights and psychosocial development of children and youth at the community, district and national levels has increased
  • Positive dynamics/cohesion within the community have increased
  • Children and youth have gained life skills
  • Educational opportunities for youth are enlarged
war child sierra leone programming process
War Child Sierra Leone programming process


  • General Needs Assessment to select communities

Year 1:

  • Participatory Needs Assessment in selected communities
  • Set up Children and Youth Support Structure
  • Form Community Action Groups
  • Action & Sustainability planning for 1st year
  • Implementation of 1st year Action and Sustainability Plan
  • Participatory Community Evaluation AND Action & Sustainability planning for 2nd year

Year 2:

  • Implementation of 2nd year Action and Sustainability Plan
  • Participatory Community Evaluation AND Action & Sustainability planning for 3rd year
  • Exit

Year 3:

  • Monitoring and follow up

In times gone by, our parents did not protect us. If adults saw children going to dangerous places, like into the jungle, they would only laugh. Their attitude was one of “I don’t care”. Parents did not look out for their children, and certainly not for children who where not their biological children. Things are different now, because parents are showing that they care about us”.


“Adults now pass on their knowledge to us. They not only teach us how to play the Boo-Boo flute and how to drum, but also how to get a group together and then lead it. Children and young people are now very much involved in planning and carrying out community activities”


“The war has made our people violent. Children and young people stopped going to school and started playing in the jungle instead, fighting each other with sticks and bottles. No-one had any control over them. Adults were not aware of the negative effects of the situation. Parents also set a bad example by fighting each other on almost a daily basis while their children were present.”


“If we act respectfully, the people in our community know that we are being properly brought up. Our parents can then be proud of us, and we are asked to take part in community activities. This generates peace and unity, not only in the family, but in the community as well. We have a saying: ‘If children wash their hands, they can eat at the village chief’s table’.”


“Now that there is more peace in the communities and adults are no longer each others enemies, they are able to pay more attention to children, whether these are their own biological children or not. Neighbors help children when they are ill by taking them to the hospital, even if the parents are not around. And our parents no longer hit us now that the message has been spread about maltreating children and children’s rights”.


“There is now more cohesion in our community because we have come together and have started organizing cultural festivals. Nowadays, residents of nearby villages are friendly towards us. In contrast to how things used to be, when such cultural dance activities were characterized by violence, they now end peacefully.”