Peace Building without Using the Word "Peace"

National NGOs' Reputational Management Strategies during a Peace–to–War Transition in Sri Lanka

Author: Oliver Walton


This article examines the reputational management strategies of national nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) involved in peace-building work in Sri Lanka between 2006 and 2007, a transitional period when the cease-fire was unraveling and the NGO sector was facing a "crisis of legitimacy." It traces the structural and proximate causes of the crisis and analyzes some of the ways in which NGOs were able to counteract the negative impacts that this criticism had on their legitimacy. This analysis challenges the mainstream view of NGO legitimacy as stable, unidimensional, and capacity-based by emphasizing the contested, highly politicized, and politically symbolic nature of NGO legitimacy in the Sri Lankan context. It also highlights the way in which national NGOs reframed and adapted peace-building agendas of international actors, challenging the popular view that liberal peace building functions hegemonically and that NGOs are compelled to follow the strategies of their international funders.

Regions: South Asia
Countries: Sri Lanka

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September 2012
© Sango Mahanty