Defining Positive Peace

Positive peace is a term familiar to all of us who have been working in the field of peacebuilding, whether as academics and researchers, policy makers, or field workers and activists.

It is not often, however frequently we use the term, that we get a chance to really get to grips with what positive peace means, to reflect on how it is used and to understand how the different communities involved in peace work define and pursue the goals of positive peace.

At best the term is often used as rather vague label to describe any kind of well-intentioned peacemaking. At worst it is used as a mantra or slogan, concealing muddled objectives, strategies and methodologies.

This conference was a welcome corrective. Organised by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) and The Stanley Foundation, and hosted by the Stanford Centre for Latin American Studies, it brought together thirty speakers with a wide range of specialisms and experience and ably qualified to connect the dots between research policy and practice. Over 70 participants attended to ensure a busy and productive engagement with the conference agenda, covering five panels, keynotes and reflections and an enlightening presentation on the power of positive psychology to guide and enlighten the implementation of positive peace practice by empowering and guiding leaders with the necessary skills and qualities to work for positive peace.


There were five panels: the first, on Systems Approaches to Peace and Development, presented a summary of the latest Positive Peace Report by the IEP, and the panellists surveyed their work on positive peace and systems thinking; the following two panels on Positive Peace Application – Focus on Low Levels of Corruption; and Positive Peace Application – Focus on Free Flow of Information, looked at state of the art research on two of the eight pillars of the IEP’s model of positive peace. The panels in the afternoon session focused on Investments in Prevention and Resilience, and on Leveraging Networks, Sectors and Strategies for Collective Impact. This panel in particular was more concerned with impact multipliers gained from the formation of effective civil society networks and corporate and public sector facilitation of and investment in the process of positive peace activity.

Of the many examples given, a notable new initiative is the strategic partnership between IEP and Rotary International to train over one million peace ambassadors in the arts and skills of peacemaking through the lens of positive peace.

Keynote introductions by Steve Killelea, and closing reflections by him and by Chic Dambach and Ellen Friedman, highlighted the significance of this event. For historians of the concept and practice of positive peace like myself, and for policy makers, practitioners and all who are concerned about the threat of reversion to inward looking nationalisms, the practical vision and transformational energies of positive peace responses highlighted at this conference provides cause for optimism and some celebration.

For further information about the conference go to

Tom Woodhouse

Emeritus Professor

Prof. Woodhouse was the founding Director of Centre for Conflict Resolution at the University of Bradford (1990). he research areas have included sport, popular culture and conflict resolution, cyberpeace and online learning. He is a Council Member for the Conflict Research Society, an Adviser to British Council on Christmas Truce Project as well as an Adviser to the Independent Football Ombudsman (Football and Community Relations). He is also an Adviser to Open University of Catalunya and Foundation of Football club Barcelona on Masters degree on Sport Social Inclusion and Conflict Resolution. He is currently a Emeritus Professor at Bradford University.

Understanding Positive Peace

Understanding Positive Peace