Peace Zones - Brief Description
Peace Zones are community-based, people-led initiatives in local geographical areas which residents themselves declare to be off-limits to armed conflict primarily to protect civilians, livelihood and property. Furthermore, Peace Zones are designed to contribute to a more comprehensive peace process through peace-building measures addressing the roots and manifestations of the conflict. The method draws on different elements of conflict resolution, conflict management, conflict transformation and development theories and is usually applied at the grass-roots level in the context of protracted intrastate conflicts.
The prime importance of the formation of Peace Zones (PZ) is an attempt to mitigate violence in an ongoing conflict or to assist in the process of ending the conflict (in addition to others such as peace negotiations, etc).
The idea of sanctuaries or places where individuals or communities are immune from arrest, attack and other forms of violence dates back to Egyptian civilization and passed through classical times to Medieval Christendom. One prominent example for early concepts of Peace Zones is the sacred sites in classical Greece that afforded protection for local populations fleeing from the effects of war. In the last two decades of the twentieth century the practice of establishing recognized local sanctuaries in the midst of violent and protracted intrastate conflicts saw a major revival. This development has been illustrated recently by the United Nations efforts to establish so called ‘safe heavens’ where inhabitants are immune from attack.
Peace Zones are often based on local people’s perception of themselves. This can be fundamentally different from the parties engaged in violent conflict. Peace Zones is an initiative pioneered in several countries including the Philippines. The generic term “Peace Zones” also covers other similar efforts known as “zones of life” “sanctuaries of peace” “spaces for peace” as well as “neutral zones” and the like where there is a declared will of the people and a commitment of conflicting armed forces not to make their communities a battleground.
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