Selected Definitions of Peacebuilding

The following list is not exhaustive and only provides some of the most prominent academic and institutional definitions of peacebuilding.

Conflict Information Consortium, University of Colorado

Peacebuilding is a process that facilitates the establishment of durable peace and tries to prevent the recurrence of violence by addressing root causes and effects of conflict through reconciliation, institution building, and political as well as economic transformation. This consists of a set of physical, social, and structural initiatives that are often an integral part of postconflict reconstruction and rehabilitation.

Galtung, Johan

Peacebuilding is the process of creating self-supporting structures that “remove causes of wars and offer alternatives to war in situations where wars might occur.” Conflict resolution mechanisms “should be built into the structure and be present there as a reservoir for the system itself to draw upon, just as a healthy body has the ability to generate its own antibodies and does not need ad hoc administration of medicine.”

Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict

Peacebuilding involves addressing social and political sources of conflict as well as reconciliation.

Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice, University of San Diego

Strategic Peacebuilding Principles:

  1. Peacebuilding is complex and has multiple actors.
  2. Peacebuilding requires values, goals, commitment to human rights and needs.
  3. Peacebuilding goes beyond conflict transformation.
  4. Peacebuilding cannot ignore structural forms of injustice and violence.
  5. Peacebuilding is founded on an ethic of interdependence, partnership, and limiting violence.
  6. Peacebuilding depends on relational skills.
  7. Peacebuilding analysis is complex; underlying cultures, histories, root causes, and immediate stressors are essential.
  8. Peacebuilding creates spaces where people interact in new ways, expanding experience and honing new means of communication.
  9. Peacebuilding heals trauma, promotes justice and transforms relationships.
  10. Peacebuilding requires capacity and relationship building at multiple levels.

Lederach, John Paul

[Peacebuilding] is understood as a comprehensive concept that encompasses, generates, and sustains the full array of processes, approaches, and stages needed to transform conflict toward more sustainable, peaceful relationships. The term thus involves a wide range of activities that both precede and follow formal peace accords. Metaphorically, peace is seen not merely as a stage in time or a condition. It is a dynamic social construct.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

[Peacebuilding] includes activities designed to prevent conflict through addressing structural and proximate causes of violence, promoting sustainable peace, delegitimizing violence as a dispute resolution strategy, building capacity within society to peacefully manage disputes, and reducing vulnerability to triggers that may spark violence.

School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University

Peacebuilding is a term used within the international development community to describe the processes and activities involved in resolving violent conflict and establishing a sustainable peace. It is an overarching concept that includes conflict transformation, restorative justice, trauma healing, reconciliation, development, and leadership, underlain by spirituality and religion. It is similar in meaning to conflict resolution but highlights the difficult reality that the end of a conflict does not automatically lead to peaceful, stable social or economic development. A number of national and international organizations describe their activities in conflict zones as peacebuilding.

United Nations Development Program

Peacebuilding involves a range of measures targeted to reduce the risk of lapsing or relapsing into conflict by strengthening national capacities at all levels for conflict management, and laying the foundations for sustainable peace and development. Peacebuilding strategies must be coherent and tailored to the specific needs of the country concerned, based on national ownership, and should comprise a carefully prioritized, sequenced, and therefore relatively narrow set of activities aimed at achieving the above objectives. This office works specifically with peacebuilding in the context of conflict prevention.

United Nations: Peacebuilding Support Office

Peacebuilding is rather the continuum of strategy, processes and activities aimed at sustaining peace over the long-term with a clear focus on reducing chances for the relapse into conflict…. [It] is useful to see peacebuilding as a broader policy framework that strengthens the synergy among the related efforts of conflict prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping, recovery and development, as part of a collective and sustained effort to build lasting peace. This office works specifically with peacebuilding in the context of postconflict reconstruction.

United States Institute of Peace

Originally conceived in the context of postconflict recovery efforts to promote reconciliation and reconstruction, the term peacebuilding has more recently taken on a broader meaning. It may include providing humanitarian relief, protecting human rights, ensuring security, establishing nonviolent modes of resolving conflicts, fostering reconciliation, providing trauma healing services, repatriating refugees and resettling internally displaced persons, supporting broad-based education, and aiding in economic reconstruction. As such, it also includes conflict prevention in the sense of preventing the recurrence of violence, as well as conflict management and postconflict recovery. In a larger sense, peacebuilding involves a transformation toward more manageable, peaceful relationships and governance structures—the long-term process of addressing root causes and effects, reconciling differences, normalizing relations, and building institutions that can manage conflict without resort to violence. The US Government does not have a publicly available definition of peacebuilding, other than the definition provided by USIP.