WHAT IS PEACEBUILDING?
“Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. And however undramatic the pursuit of peace, that pursuit must go on.” – John F. Kennedy
Peace is the absence of war or violent conflict. But can it be more than the absence of war? How can peace be created and sustained amidst violence, uncertainty, and fragility?
The field of peacebuilding is dedicated to changing systems and structures over time so that war and violent conflicts become less likely. Peacebuilding is guided by a commitment to the prevention of violent conflict and the promotion of a lasting peace.
According to the Alliance for Peacebuilding, an organization that represents the peacebuilding field, peacebuilding is: “An elastic concept, encompassing a wide range of efforts by diverse actors in government and civil society at the community, national, and international levels, to address the immediate impacts and root causes of conflict before, during, and after violent conflict occurs. Peacebuilding ultimately supports human security—providing freedom from fear, freedom from want, and freedom from humiliation.”
Peacebuilding requires a sustained effort, often spanning generations. While there are strategies and approaches that successfully stop violence from escalating or help end wars, peacebuilding is longer-term, transformative, and process-oriented. Peacebuilding can take place across different levels of society, sometimes referred to as tracks.
Track One is top-level diplomacy by government or intergovernmental organizations.
Track Two involves mid-level diplomacy by civil society organizations and prominent individuals.
Track Three peacebuilding happens grassroots, or local, community level. This is where the Global Peacebuilding Foundation (GPBF) operates.
GPBF grassroots, local peacebuilding focuses on long-term relationship building among ordinary citizens across conflict lines. Our work is built on the premise that lasting peace must be built from the bottom up. The people involved in, and most affected by, violent conflict work together to create and enact their own solutions to prevent, reduce, and transform the conflict.
HOW DOES THE PEACEBUILDING FIELD ASSESS THE IMPACT OF ITS WORK?
“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”– Albert Einstein
As the peacebuilding field has matured over the last two decades, it is paying increasing attention to assessing impact. But if there is still violence and war in the world, how do we know that peacebuilding even works? More and more donors (government, private, and family foundations) have expectations that programs they support will be monitored, evaluated, and improved upon.
The peacebuilding field has committed itself to employing both qualitative and quantitative assessments to measure, for instance attitudinal, relational, and institutional change and leadership development. An example of the field’s commitment to assessing impact is DME for Peace, a project of the organization Search for Common Ground: “We are a global community of practitioners, evaluators and academics that share best and emerging practices on how to design, monitor and evaluate peacebuilding programs. Through greater collaboration and transparency, we hope to increase the effectiveness of the peacebuilding field.”
Examples of monitoring and evaluation activities (M&E) used to collect data, assess effectiveness, and adapt strategies and programming include: participant surveys, focus groups, interviews and analysis of participant data, and randomized control trials, among many others. In terms of looking at cost and effectiveness, the peacebuilding field is in the pioneer stage of researching the comparative cost effectiveness of peace building approaches. However, an encouraging data point is the following comes from the Institute for Economics and Peace who found that “Each dollar invested in peacebuilding will lead to a $16 decline in the cost of conflict.”
GPBF grantees are committed to reflecting on their work and making changes in pursuit of the maximum impact possible. Here are examples of grantee M&E efforts:
PeacePlayers International (PPI)
PPI implemented the Most Significant Change (MSC) technique that centers on systematic collection and analysis of stories about change. Read more on the MSC technique.
PPI is also currently the subject of a multi-year randomized control trial (RCT) study examining the impact of their program among participants in the Middle East. Conducted by independent researchers from New York University, this RCT is one of the first to rigorously test sport and peacebuilding methodologies in action.
Seeds of Peace (SOP)
Together with University of Chicago Booth School of Business, in 2017 SOP surveyed a randomized and representative sample of their alumni base asking about the impact of SOP. Take a look at the SOP Alumni Survey.
ISN’T VIOLENCE INCREASING THROUGHOUT THE WORLD?
“Despite the emergence of a certain number of tragic wars and massacres, the world has experienced, over the last sixty years, the most peaceful period in its history in 10,000 years.” – Richard Matthieu, Author of Altruism - The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World.
Everywhere we look we see violence. The Iran-Iraq War of the 1990s caused almost a million deaths. And genocides accounted for hundreds of thousands of deaths: Bosnia (250,000), Darfur (373,000), and Rwanda (700,000). In Syria, approximately 465,00 people were killed or are missing. Throughout the world, about 7,000 people are killed yearly in terrorist attacks (including in countries at war like Afghanistan). Acts of terrorism, that captivate our psyche and dominate the news media, are conducted by a small number of extremists and are not actually responsible for most of the violent deaths in the world, but they are a factor.
To what can we attribute this violence? Poorly functioning democratic governance; poverty; corruption; repression; increased social and economic marginalization; conflicts over diminishing natural resources; foreign and domestic policies; and religious and ideological intolerance are key conflict drivers.
Yet, in a historical context, we live in a more peaceful world. There are many factors that contribute to this trend including:
The rise of democracies;
Economic, political, and social interdependence;
Cooperative peacekeeping missions by multinational organizations such as the United Nations, NATO and the African Union;
The emergence and growth of strong civil society organizations and networks;
A growing sense that peace is indeed possible and practice; and
The economic costs of war and conflict, which serve as a real deterrent.
WHY INVEST IN GPBF?
“If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Investing in GPBF is a specific, tangible way to positively impact the lives of youth and children living in difficult, often violent, settings. We provide support to programs at the grassroots, community level that bring youth and children together across difference, to learn, grow, and thrive, paving the way for a more peaceful future. Through the work of our grantees, GPBF seeks to undo the hatred, fear, and violence that have been passed from one generation to the next.
A long-term approach (several decades, even generations) is essential – we must replace the current short-term thinking with a long-term outlook. Alexander Cooler and Ron James the authors of, “The NGO Scramble: Organizational Insecurity and the Political Economy of Transnational Action,” agree that, while delivering “quick fixes” to problems might be possible for purely humanitarian projects – such as distributing emergency food rations to refugees to avert starvation – reconstructing post-war environments, establishing state authority, rebuilding social relationships, and promoting democracy are endeavors that must span several decades.
GPBF is a public foundation and we take our mission seriously. The majority of our funds are dedicated to programming, we are transparent in our accounting, and we support our grantees in an effort to deeply understand and improve upon the impact of their work.