In recent years, arts-based approaches to the transformation of conflict have gained increased attention and prominence, from across a range of disciplines. Individual artists, cultural groups and peacebuilders now engage the arts for the positive transformation of societal conflict. The visual arts, theatre, music, dance, literary arts and film are used to support communities in campaigns of nonviolent resistance to abuses of power, to create opportunities for building bridges across differences, to addressing legacies of past violence, and to imagining a future free from conflict. By engaging with such participatory tools the use of culture becomes an integral element of peacebuilding and helps lay the foundations for sustainable conditions of peace.
The media’s impact upon the escalation of conflict is widely recognised, perhaps never more perniciously than the hate media that fed the genocide in Rwanda. But if the media is capable of creating and amplifying divisions, it also has the potential to play a significant and effective role in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Search for Common Ground have elucidated seven areas in which the media can play a peacebuilding role:
- As an information provider and interpreter, the media provides people with important information regarding their environment and plays an increasingly prominent role in daily communication and entertainment
- As a ‘watchdog’ it can provide feedback to the public on local problems and bring hidden problems to the fore
- As a ‘gatekeeper’ it can set agendas, filter issues and attempt to maintain a balanced view
- The media has a large influence on policymaking, particularly as policymakers are both recipients of messages from the media, and can also use the media to get their messages across
- The media can be used to cover diplomatic initiatives and send messages back and forth between warring sides for which there are no direct channels of communication
- As a promoter of peace the media can be used at the start of negotiations to build confidence, facilitate negotiations or break diplomatic deadlocks to create a climate conducive to negotiation
- As a bridge builder it can promote positive relationships between groups, particularly in conflicts over national, ethnic, or religious identity
An effective use of the media is thus vital in the prevention of conflict and building of sustainable peace.