Peacebuilding Manual/What is Peacebuilding?

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What is Peacebuilding?

“Peacebuilding” has become an overarching term for an entire range of actions designed to contribute to building a culture of peace. The term peacebuilding became part of the policy vocabulary through the United Nations Agenda for Peace: Preventive Diplomacy, Peace Making and Peacekeeping of 1992. The mid‐1990s witnessed a rapid increase in peacebuilding activities by a variety of actors, ranging from international and regional organisations (the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union) to academic institutions, foundations, civil society groups, social movements, business groups, and the media.

Peacebuilding has often been described in the post‐conflict context as action to identify and support measures and structures that will strengthen and solidify peace in order to avoid a relapse into conflict. For this Manual, peacebuilding covers a broad range of measures, activities and interventions implemented in the context of post‐conflict situations and which are explicitly guided and motivated by a primary commitment to the prevention of violent conflict and the promotion of a lasting and sustainable peace.

“Soulh” in Persian signifies peace. According to Johan Galtung, “negative peace” is the absence of war and violence and “positive peace” is the integration of human society. These two types of peace are to be conceived as two separate dimensions, where one is possible without the other. Negative peace is achieved through coercive power, arms control, multilateralism, international conventions, complete disarmament, etc. Positive peace policies and proposals include improved human understanding through communication, peace education, international cooperation, conflict resolution. Arbitration, etc.

As used in this manual, peacebuilding is a people-centred, relationship-building, and a participatory process. Peacebuilding occurs either before violent conflict erupts (as a preventative measure), or after violent conflict ends (as an effort to rebuild a more peaceful society). Peacebuilding may take the form of activities designed to increase tolerance and promote coexistence, or activities may address structural sources of injustice or conflict.

Peacebuilding and development are closely linked since development is ideally a long-term programme of improving the well-being of people within stable, peaceful communities. As mentioned in most peacebuilding material, peace is the outcome of justice based on the rights and needs of people and peacebuilding creates the capacity within communities to meet all forms of human needs and rights. Peacebuilding helps people meet their own basic needs and rights while acknowledging the rights of others. It is based on a set of values, relational skills, analytical frameworks, and social processes that aim at preventing, reducing, transforming, and helping people to recover from violence in all forms.

Peacebuilding is usually the responsibility of different actors: governments, religious organizations, civil society, traditional leaders and structures, media, business community. It takes place at all levels of society, in academia and government, in schools and businesses, in community centres in every village and town and at the national policy levels. It grows out of a set of universal values found in every culture and religion.

Peacebuilding requires skills in building constructive relationships between people and their environment. While conflict is a natural part of all relationships, people can learn skills as children and adults about how to relate to others in ways that increase the quality of life. Communication, dialogue, mediation and negotiation skills are central to peacebuilding processes.

Peacebuilding requires a deep understanding of conflict and violence. Before deciding what to do about conflict and violence, people first need to understand the multiple causes and complex dynamics of conflict and violence. Peacebuilding requires a range of approaches.

While many actors engage in multiple categories of peacebuilding, the table below illustrates the cycle of peacebuilding, highlighting the unique goals of different approaches to peacebuilding:

Waging Conflict Nonviolently that includes monitoring and advocacy, direct action, and civilian-based defense. Advocates and activists seek to gain support for change by increasing a group’s power to address these issues, and ripen the conditions needed to transform Reducing Direct Violence. that includes legal and justice systems, humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping, military intervention, ceasefire agreements, peace zone; efforts to reduce direct violence aim to restrain perpetrators of violence, prevent and relieve the immediate suffering of victims of violence, and create a safe space for peacebuilding activities in other categories that address the root causes of the Transforming Relationships. that includes trauma healing, conflict transformation, restorative justice, transitional justice, governance and policymaking; efforts that aim to transform people and their relationships use an array of processes that address trauma, transform conflict and do justice. These processes give people opportunities to create long-term, sustainable solutions to address their Capacity Building. that includes training & education, development, military conversion, research and evaluation. Longer-term peacebuilding; efforts enhance existing capacities to meet needs and rights and prevent violence through education and training, development, military conversion and transformation, research and evaluation. These activities aim to build just structures that support a sustainable culture of peace.

While many actors engage in multiple categories of peacebuilding, the table below illustrates the cycle of peacebuilding, highlighting the unique goals of different approaches to peacebuilding:

Header text Header text
Waging Conflict Nonviolently
  • Monitoring and advocacy
  • Direct action
  • Civilian-based defense
Building Capacity
  • Training & education
  • Development
  • Military Conversion
  • Research and evaluation
Reducing Direct Violence
  • Legal and justice systems
  • Humanitarian assistance
  • Peacekeeping
  • Military intervention
  • Ceasefire agreements
Transforming Relationships
  • Trauma healing
  • Conflict transformation
  • Restorative justice
  • Transitional justice
  • Governance and Policymaking
  • Peace zone

Waging Conflict Nonviolently. Advocates and activists seek to gain support for change by increasing a group’s power to address these issues, and ripen the conditions needed to transform relationships.

Reducing Direct Violence. Efforts to reduce direct violence aim to restrain perpetrators of violence, prevent and relieve the immediate suffering of victims of violence, and create a safe space for peacebuilding activities in other categories that address the root causes of the violence.

Transforming Relationships. Efforts that aim to transform people and their relationships use an array of processes that address trauma, transform conflict and do justice. These processes give people opportunities to create long-term, sustainable solutions to address their needs.

Capacity Building. Longer-term peacebuilding efforts enhance existing capacities to meet people’s needs and rights, prevent violence through education and training, development, research and evaluation. These activities aim to build just structures that support a sustainable culture of peace.