Indigenous peace-making versus the liberal peace

Roger Mac Ginty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

261 Citations (Scopus)


Recent years have witnessed a resurgence of interest in indigenous, traditional and customary approaches to peace-making in the context of civil wars. Supporters claim that indigenous approaches to peacemaking are participatory and relationship-focused, and that peaceful outcomes have a higher chance of community adherence than template-style international peace interventions effected through the `liberal peace'. Using historical and contemporary examples, this article assesses the feasibility of a complementary relationship between customary and Western forms of peace-making. It posits that internationally supported peace operations (the liberal peace) are promoting a standardization of peace interventions in civil war situations that often fails to deliver a widely enjoyed peace. In some cases, traditional and indigenous approaches to peace-making and reconciliation can offer a corrective to the failings of the Western peace-making model. Yet, any temptation to romanticize `indigenous' and `traditional' peace-making must be resisted: instead, the concepts require careful conceptualization and interrogation. The article concludes that the structural power of Western peace-making methods limits the space for alternative approaches to peace-making and that rather than a co-existence of both forms of peace-making we are more likely to see the co-option of indigenous and traditional approaches by Western approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-163
Number of pages25
JournalCooperation and Conflict
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008


  • alternative dispute resolution
  • conflict resolution
  • indigenous peace-making
  • liberal peace


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