Peace Building: Definition & Strategies

Instructor: Sunday Moulton

Sunday recently earned a PhD in Anthropology and has taught college courses in Anthropology, English, and high school ACT/SAT Prep.

In this lesson, we'll learn what people and agencies around the world mean when they talk about peace building. We'll also look at some of the major components of peace building strategies.

War and Conflict

Around the world, we see conflict, violence, and war. Perhaps it seems worse now than in the past few decades or maybe it seems like it hits us close to home. Either way, the pervasive fear for one's life, the loss of loved ones through military conflict, and the uncertainty about the future are detrimental to a society's well-being and to the health and happiness of the people. This is exactly what conflict resolution and peace building organizations work to address and remedy. Shall we learn more about these strategic alternatives to violent conflict?

Weapons today make peace building more important than ever.

What is Peace Building?

Peace building is a process intended to resolve current conflicts and prevent future conflicts by addressing the causes of the problem and building a comprehensive strategy to encourage lasting peace. Successful peace building not only stops or prevents violent conflict, it changes the way disagreement is handled in a society or between nations. It focuses on the desire to maintain peace while acknowledging problems and disagreements as a normal part of human interaction. Rather than rushing to violence, peace building teaches the different parties how to address their problems rationally, how to find solutions cooperatively, and how to identify new problems early enough to address them before further problems arise.

Strategic Peace Building

There is no single process or strategy used in peace building because no two situations are ever the same. However, the United States Institute of Peace identifies seven key components of strategic peace building to incorporate into any plan.

  1. Recognizing the Burdens of Long-Term Violence
  2. Eliciting Plans from Locals
  3. Conflict Transformation
  4. Insider-Outsider Links
  5. Dealing with Spoilers
  6. Identifying Obstacles to Strategic Peace Building
  7. Elicit, Evaluate, Elicit, Evaluateā€¦

Let's look at these a bit closer to understand what they mean.

Recognizing the Burdens of Long-Term Violence

Peace builders can often bring both sides of a conflict into negotiations when they realize how detrimental long-term violence will be to both sides. Often, the results of violence completely annihilate the very thing the two parties were fighting over, making their fight completely meaningless and leaving them worse off in the end. Recognizing this truth often spurs a desire to resolve the conflict quickly.

The damage seen here in Aleppo will cost millions, even billions to repair.

Eliciting Plans from Locals

We've all heard of government leaders engaging in peace talks, but how does the average person feel about the issue and how willing to accept a peace agreement will they be? Comprehensive plans for peace involve asking local leaders to identify problems and offer regionally specific solutions or plans to support the peace process. Not only does this help tailor plans to increase the chance of success, it also engages people in the process and emotionally invests them in the desire for peace.

Conflict Transformation

Conflict transformation involves training various actors to see a rising conflict as a means to identify a social problem that might otherwise remain below the surface. This turns conflict into an opportunity to improve relations between people and initiate positive changes in society. In this process, peace builders must look at the current cause of conflict as well as any deeper causes that create these surface problems.

There are numerous organizations around the world focused on conflict resolution and peace building. It is important to connect these programs to share resources and skills when needed. This enables large, international peace building groups to engage with smaller, locally knowledgeable groups. This brings the international resources to the process while creating plans that address the specific needs of the situation.

Dealing with Spoilers

It's a sad fact that not everyone will want peace. Whether their motives are based in anger, pride, or some kind of benefit they derive from the conflict, some people will always try to derail the peace process, and they will employ a number of different methods to do so. Proper strategic peace building plans should identify those factions that may try to derail peace and develop a strategy to either engage them in the peace process or limit their ability to reignite conflict.

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