Complexity theory offers a theoretical framework for analysing how social systems prevent, manage and recover from violent conflict. Insights from complexity suggest that for a peace process to become self-sustainable, resilient social institutions need to emerge from within, i.e. from the culture, history and socio-economic context of the relevant society. Peace operations are deployed to contain violence and to facilitate this process, but if they interfere too much, they will cause harm by inadvertently disrupting the very feedback loops critical for self-organization to emerge and to be sustained.
To navigate this dilemma, the paper proposes employing an adaptive approach, where peace operations, together with the communities and people affected by the conflict, actively engage in an iterative process of inductive learning and adaptation. Adaptive Peace Operations is a normative and functional approach to peace operations that is aimed at navigating the complexity inherent in trying to nudge societal change processes towards sustaining peace, without causing harm.
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