Working with government and customary authorities: considerations for peacebuilding practitioners

In conflict-affected societies, government institutions are often weak, under-resourced and susceptible to corruption. In these contexts, communities rely on customary authorities to access justice and security.

Customary authorities are not unproblematic: their views and practices often diverge from the rule of law and the principles of inclusivity, human rights or gender sensitivity. Government authorities also typically fail to meet these standards. NGOs working to enhance peace and security often need to work with or alongside both sets of institutions.

Drawing on experiences in Central and East Africa, this learning paper explores how communities can effectively work with government and customary authorities, the challenges they face, and the opportunities for peacebuilding practitioners and policymakers going forward.