We owe a published definition to the world's peacebuilders

In order to tell history through peace, rather than through war, we need to bring peacebuilding to the forefront of our rhetoric. A recognised definition is the next step.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God (Mathew 5.9). Regardless of religious convictions, peace, and those who build it, are central tenets. For some belief systems, Buddhism, Islam, Mennonites, and Quakers, peace and peacebuilding are foundational aspects. Outside of religious convictions, rational philosophies such as Humanism also centralise peace and peacebuilding. It is astonishing that the peacebuilding, the activity of creating peace, does not appear in English dictionaries while its opposites, violent conflict creating activities, do.

War remains the anchor points for telling history. Histories seem to position successful peacebuilding as providing reprieve between wars. This supports the very dichotomy of peaceful or not. This is the polarity the Institute for Economics and Peace has undertaken to dissolve. History also supports the more commonly held negative meaning of peace as being the absence of violence or the fear of violence. It disregards positive peace and the building of positive peace; creating the optimum environment for human potential to flourish.

The transformative aspect of IEP’s research is our Positive Peace Report. The GPI ranking opened the door to the Institute understanding who are the most peaceful nations and why this is so. What flowed was further research to understand what makes these countries the most peaceful countries. This research also is published annually in the Positive Peace Report. It also ranks nation states based on their peacefulness. But the peacefulness in this ranking is based on IEP’s research on positive peace indicators.

One of the fathers of peace and conflict resolution studies, Johann Galtung, first defined positive peace. Galtung’s conflict triangle is an often used tool by peacebuilders undertaking conflict analysis. IEP’s research of the most peaceful communities identified the attitudes, institutions and structures that lead to this positive peace. The eight Pillars of Positive Peace identified in this framework work together as a system within peaceful communities. Peacebuilders are now using this framework in varied contexts as an approach to community transformation to build Positive Peace.

How do you build peace? What is peacebuilding? Academics, strategists and practitioners continue to develop and grow this evolving field. The verb, building, suggests a construction. Construction is generally very linear starting with a plan based on needs and context. What follows is laying down foundations, building the framework, then applying the cladding, fittings and fixtures. An area of agreement between academics and practitioners is that peace building is not linear as the term building may suggest. John Paul Lederach’s seminal work, The Moral Imagination, The Art and Soul of Building Peace, is well referred, and applied, by peacebuilders. John Paul has a beautiful analogy of peace building being like web weaving. It is established one strand at a time in a seemingly random process of building relationships. What is established over a period of time is a thing of beauty. A web of relationships with surprising strength given the fragility of the individual strands. The web is capable of surviving shocks, able to recover and maintain a positive peace.

The Institute and Economics and Peace makes the similar evidenced based observations of nations state with high positive peace. They are resilient and able to withstand shocks either natural or human-made. They are more prosperous with higher growth rates in per capita income and progressed further in their Millennium Development Goals.  Higher Positive Peace countries have fewer civil resistance movements and better restorative capacities to resolve grievances across their communities.

A broad range of measures implemented in the context of emerging, current or 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.

IEP sees this definition as a well-balanced definition with the significance of positive and negative peace within the sub-text.

The global community continues to become more complex. Global warming, over population, and the emergence of populist politics are a some of the factors currently impacting. Sustainability of a global community places reliance on the peacebuilders of today and tomorrow. At the very least, we owe these dedicated people recognition in our dictionaries.

Charles Allen

IEP Director of Partnership

Charles is a peacebuilding practitioner with 35 years’ experience as a police officer prior to joining IEP. He is a Rotary Peace Fellow having studied sustainable peace and conflict resolution at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. He is also undertaking postgraduate study in Leadership and Human Rights. He has experienced the essentiality of sound research for successful peacebuilding.

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