This paper is about civil society participation in two contexts of chronic violence: Colombia and Guatemala. It explores the extent to which civil society organisations can build citizenship in such contexts and simultaneously address violence. It argues that civil society organisations can play a vital role in building citizenship and confronting violent actors and acts of violence. However, in order to address chronic, perpetuating violence and interrupt its transmission through time and space, it is important to clarify the relationship between power and violence. Conventional forms of dominating power correlate with violence. Loss of such power or a bid to gain it can lead to violence, particularly where social constructions of masculinity are affirmed by such behaviour. The paper asks whether the promotion of non-dominating forms of power are needed if we are to tackle the damaging effects on human relationships and progress of willingness to inflict direct physical hurt on the Other. Non-dominating forms of power focus on enhancing everyone's power potential and capacity for action and promoting communication. If non-violence and non-dominating power gradually become the social norm, this might enhance citizenship and participation in ways that tackle other forms of violence, such as structural violence.
IDS Working Paper 274, Sussex, UK, IDS: ISBN 978 1 85864 643 X, 66 pp.