In a context of growing attention to the benefits of the arts in peacebuilding, this article reports on the findings of a small scoping study that aimed to identify how the arts are perceived and supported by international development agencies. Based on a 2012 analysis of five international aid agencies working in the South East Asia and Pacific region, the study found that arts and creative practices are not, as yet, afforded a significant role in current policy or strategy, although arts activity is recognised as a social development tool by agencies working in partnership with local organisations. Resulting from an analysis of participating agencies’ publicly available documentation, and interviews with staff, arts practitioners and volunteers working in field-based arts projects, this article argues that the value of arts-based interventions in peacebuilding and development is yet to be fully realised. Bringing field experience as well as policy and research backgrounds to the analysis, the authors consider why this might be the case and pose broader questions about the communication, role and influence of evaluation as one factor in this. They argue for a better acknowledgment of the diverse applications and implications of the “use” of the arts within complex social, political, and cultural systems by linking this call with evaluation methodologies that may better reveal the ways in which such projects “raise possibilities” rather than “confirm probabilities.” This article suggests a four-question schema for augmenting the documentation and evaluation of arts-based work to more authentically capture “the good” that may arise from the emergent nature of artmaking itself.

Author Bio(s)

Mary Ann Hunter is Senior Lecturer and Postgraduate Coursework Coordinator in the Faculty of Education, University of Tasmania. She is Honorary Research Advisor in the Faculty of Arts, University of Queensland and former Research Associate of the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. Contact: Dr. Mary Ann Hunter, University of Tasmania, GPO 252 Locked Bag 66, Hobart TAS Australia; maryann.hunter@utas.edu.au Tel. +61 3 6226 2530

Linda Page works for the Education Faculty at the University of Tasmania and is a postgraduate student in International Development at Deakin University. She is the former manager of meenah mienne, an Aboriginal youth arts centre, Artist Development Advisor for the Arts Council of Mongolia (supported by AUSAID) and Project Manager for Global Schools Partnership Program for the British Council.


arts-based peacebuilding, communities of practice, conflict-affected communities, evidence-gathering and analysis, policy and practice, South East Asia and Pacific region, systems thinking

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