The Role of Communication in Peace Building

This article defines the word communication and explains how communication can help achieve peace and stability in the world.The article explains how communication especially the print and electronic media help in creating and exchanging meanings,and show that there is intereletionships between media and conflict.It goes on to say the media can be a good peace builder if rightly used.A full text of this article is 1366 words and 6 pages long.
The Role of Communication in Peace Building

The world is bedeviled with conflicts. Analysts indicate that there seem to be an increase in these conflicts over the last hundred years. The million dollar question is, how can these conflicts be resolved? In this paper the author is going to explain the role of communication in peace building.

To start with, the word communication can be defined as ''...the creation and exchange of meaning'' Dimbleby [1992]. Show J.W. 1992 defines communication as ''...a symbolic process whereby reality is produced, maintained, repaired, and transformed''. However Martins gives what the author consider as a better communication definition. He says; ''communication is a transactional, symbolic process which allows people to relate to and manage their environment by establishing human contact, exchange information, reinforcing the attitudes and behavior of others, and changing the attitudes and behavior of others'' Martins [1980:8]

It is true that communication can be used as a medium of peace building. Since communication in all its forms can be used to create and exchange meaning, it can be used to achieve peace through peace talks and negotiations. Although other forms of communication can be exploited to achieve peace in societies, the mass media and the Information Communication Technology [ICT] had been proved to be significant instrument of peace building.

The mass media communication is defined as a process of mediated communication between an institutional source and a large, diverse, dispersed audience via a mechanical device. Examples of the mass media are newspapers, radio broadcasts and the television.

A thematic assessment published by ''The Institute for the studies on Free Flow of Information'' July [2004] indicate that there are interrelationships between media and conflict.
''The media is a double edged sword. It can be a frightful weapon of
violence when it propagates messages of intolerance or disinformation t
that manipulates public sentiment...but there is another aspect to the
media . It can be an instrument of conflict resolution, when the
information it represents is reliable, respects human rights, and
represents diverse views. It''s the kind of media that enables a society
to make well informed choices, which is a precursor of democratic
governance. It is a media that reduced conflict and foster human
From the above quote it is clear that the media can reinforce and even change the attitudes of the masses. If the media talks issues of inclusiveness, unity and tolerance it becomes a useful tool in conflict resolution. However if it reports propaganda and the media is one sided that same media may also fuel tensions and provoke conflicts. A media which is controlled by personnel who apply professional ethics combined with diverse access to information can contribute to societal reconciliation, alter misperceptions and broaden understanding of the causes and consequences of conflict.

There are structural considerations for the media to be an effective peace builder such as policy and the media environment. The degree to which policy and legislation provides a space within which the media can operate, and the degree to which judiciary can regulate are crucial. The assessment I had mentioned before says if the legislation is used to silence the media or the courts are easily influenced and corrupted, then its function as the ''fourth estate'' and its role in conflict prevention and resolution will be significantly hindered.

The issue of structure makes me recall peace building in Zimbabwe. It is no secret that we are striving for peace and national healing. With few newspapers and only two government controlled daily newspapers, radio and television ,our media is not diverse and not independent which means our media will not at all promote peace and reconciliation but help to fuel tensions and conflict.

However, this is not to say the media policy environment must be too loose or self-regulatory. A too loose policy may allow rogue media, whose aim is to disseminate hate speech and provoke conflict. Such kind of media may spawn views and dogmas that are favorable only to their religious sects, tribes, races or their political parties at the expense of others.

A media with wide coverage and accessible is effective in influencing the masses. There need to be a variety of information flow.

''Homogeneous and heterogeneous media communities-the religious ethnic and political composition of the media community can be
instrumental in defining its orientation and possible vulnerability to
bias. Without diversity there is risk that the media will fail to reflect
the needs of the other.'' [2004]Thematic Assessment

The media should not keep on talking about historical conflicts telling people that current possible conflicts are unavoidable but it should talk words of tolerance and peace, in its contents the media should create an image that the outbreak of conflict can be amicably resolved and the return to peace is a number one priority of the society.

The Information and Communication Technology can also be a huge aid in the effort to build lasting peace by helping people communicate, view information that help make decisions and understand each other.

Peace is not created with a one time act hence communication through the ICTs is of paramount importance. True peace is built over time with many different processes and approaches that move parties into lasting, peaceful relationships. Activities includes arbitration, mediation, negotiations, reconciliation, conflict prevention, post conflict reconstruction, monitoring and advocacy etcetera. ICTs ?hardware and software helps people communicate, understand data, and learn, via tools such as computers, the internet, mobile phones, and more can be a tremendous help in implementing these peace building methods.

Cole and crowford [2007] in their article titled ''Building Peace Through Information and communications Technologies'' says in the Philippines, large scale demonstrations organized via cell phones and SMS were a major factor in forcing President Joseph Estrada to resign, thus bringing change without large-scale violence. The US Army is piloting a hand held system that contains maps and descriptions of civilian and militia inhabitant to help them gain a deeper understanding of the communities they are serving as peacekeepers.

In general ,Information and Communication Technologies can be used in peacemaking efforts in six different ways; to provide information, to help people process information, to improve decision making, to reduce scarcity, to support relationships and to help people understand each other.

The internet increases chances of information sharing, mobile technologies such as cell phones can dramatically increase the flow of information .For example the UmNyango Project in SA uses a SMS to allow those with cell phones to access information and report violations against women and children. Email discussion lists and forums can connect communities and encourage ongoing discussions over the internet. With a skilled facilitator and communication guidelines the internet relay chat can be a very effective method to allow groups to anonymously conduct negotiations or discuss sensitive issues.

The online Dispute Resolution Tools frame arguments and help participants to resolve conflicts peacefully using online debates, negotiation and mediation tools. For instance, the virtual command centers can allow many people spread across different continents to look at the same information. This can help in building peace across continents.

ICTs can be a tremendous help to those trying to maintain or form new relationships. The ability to communicate through the written word, photos, sound clips, and web cameras can keep people connected regardless of how far apart they are geographically.

ICTs can help people understand each other even people of different cultural backgrounds and go a long way in reducing conflicts. Through the ICTs translation software can help people plunge into deeper understanding.

While it''s true that media and technologies can''t create peace, but they can contribute to an environment where people can more easily communicate, understand current situations, visualize the implications of their actions, and understand each other''s point of view. Thus, communication can help peace building efforts.


1 Cole And Crawford ''Building Peace Through Information And Communication Technology [2007]
2 The Institute for the Studies on the Free Flow of information [2004]
3 Martins ''Communication, principles, concepts and skills'' [1980]
4 Vengesai ''Introduction to communication'' ZOU Module

Etiwel Mutero holds a  Bsc Honours Degree in Records and Archives Management through the Zimbabwe Open University.You can contact Etiwel on His Mobile phone +263773614293 or email

Popular posts from this blog

Causes of Archives and Records Deterioration and Their Methods of Control

Compare and contrast Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs with Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory.