War is a way of life – in some parts of the world it is an on-going struggle with no end in sight. Years of perpetual conflict have adversely affected the way in which political, socio-economic, and cultural components of society have developed. Indeed, armed conflict negatively affects all aspects of society: not only does it destroy buildings and societies, but it also leaves surviving individuals and communities with deep wounds that can last a lifetime.

Many efforts have been employed around the world to build peace following a conflict. Some interventions have proven quite successful, while others have not. Notably, civil society involvement is one of the most important factors in determining whether a post-conflict peacebuilding initiative will be successful. Efforts put forth by local government officials or the international community likely will be unsuccessful in post-conflict peacebuilding absent civil involvement, and without a societal belief that these measures are beneficial. Further, an involved civil society is important to hold governments accountable for their actions, strengthen public policies, and develop the community following a conflict.

This article describes post-conflict societies, discusses civil society generally and in post-conflict settings, provides an overview of legal and reconciliation approaches, discusses approaches alternative to legal approaches to post-conflict peacebuilding, and suggests that “building a culture of peace” is a way in which various players with an interest in post-conflict peacebuilding can influence societies to handle conflicts peacefully. Throughout, the article highlights the important role that civil society plays in post-conflict peacebuilding efforts.