Launch of new tool scores one for predicting peace

By Jennifer Brookland

May 11, 2015

Violence can be hard to measure, but even trickier is peace. In societies that are not suffering the outright clashes of conflict but are dealing more subtly with the pricks of instability, understanding how groups are relating, how economies are shifting and how governments are performing can present opportunities for intervention.

The newly launched Social Cohesion and Reconciliation (SCORE) index is a tool to measure these dynamics and pinpoint options for peacebuilding.

Presented just before the April, 2015 Build Peace conference in Cyprus, the index quantifies social cohesion and reconciliation with people, institutions and development in mind—and unlike other gauges, goes a step further by linking assessment to recommendations.

“There are good tools and indicators to measure cohesion and reconciliation—but not together,” says Creative’s Senior Conflict Advisor Paul Turner. “The benefit of SCORE is that it combines both, and leads to action.”

The SCORE index, a partnership between the United Nations Development Program Action for Cooperation and Trust in Cyprus, USAID, and the Centre for Sustainable Peace and Democratic Development, uses structured questionnaires that help measure variables like how much contact rival groups have with one another, and how ready they are for political compromise.

In this way, the tool provides a descriptive snapshot of the relationships between groups—something that could help identify sticking points and possibilities.

By looking at the data over time as well, it also becomes a tool for monitoring and predicting peace—a “peace barometer,” in the words of Maria Ioannou, a senior researcher at the Center for Sustainable Peace and Democratic Development.

Ioannou says SCORE can even be used to figure out whether certain interventions have been effective—measurement that has proved tough to achieve in peacebuilding programs in Cyprus and beyond.

She hopes the tool can be used by an array of stakeholders, from local and international civil society organizations to governments and academics. International development organizations could benefit from SCORE too.

“We envision opportunities ranging from analysis, project design, and monitoring and evaluation that may be able to benefit from the index, and look forward to the benefits we anticipate it bringing as we seek to build resilience in communities in conflict-affected areas,” says Turner.

The indicators

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The SCORE index measures peacebuilding in part by assessing the quality of coexistence between groups that have previously been in conflict.

SCORE measures social cohesion and reconciliation because they are both important dimensions for understanding and predicting intergroup conflict.

The working hypothesis behind SCORE is, of course, that social cohesion affects or predicts reconciliation, and in turn, the propensity of a country to remain or become peaceful.

Findings from 2001 research revealed that 64 percent of countries that had at least one reconciliation event, like a meeting between former opposing factions, did not return to violence. Only 9 percent of countries where no such event took place remained violence-free.

SCORE measures reconciliation through indicators such as intergroup contact, perceptions of social threat, active discrimination, and propensity for forgiveness.

It evaluates social cohesion with indicators such as satisfaction with civic life, freedom from corruption, and trust in institutions.

“Social cohesion undermines the spoilers’ efforts to polarize society and create a sense of ‘otherness,’” Creative’s Turner says—a key ingredient in fomenting frustration and misunderstandings between groups that often leads to violence. “Cohesion serves as a resilience to the grievances we are constantly battling every day.”

Surprises in the SCORE

Applying the SCORE index to the protracted conflict in Cyprus yielded unexpected results that could lead to shifts in conflict and development practitioners’ approaches.

“It is commonly understood that in conflict mitigation, finding commonalities help makes peace,” says Ayan Kishore, Creative’s Senior Associate focusing on technology for development, who attended the launch. “But it was surprising for them via the SCORE process to find out that in Cyprus, people wanted to maintain their separate cultural identity.”

The index also identified that while Greek Cypriots are equally if not more averse to the idea of integration, they hold the perception that it is Turkish Cypriots who wish to remain separate. Surprising as well was the finding that women in both communities are more reluctant to integrate than men.

As promised, the SCORE results translate into policy recommendations across multiple levels, from the international community to local authorities and youth organizations in Cyprus.

“An assessment tool alone has no impact on building peace,” says Turner. “It must lead to action and impact in transforming the conflicts that the tool is being used to assess.”

SCORE was also piloted in Bosnia and Herzegovina and is currently being used in Nepal. There, it will be put to the test as it teases out the relationships between a much higher number of cultural, ethnic and religious groups than in the two European countries.

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