What is Peacebuilding?

Peacebuilding provides tools for resolving conflict without resorting to deadly violence.

Peacebuilding is an elastic term, 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—where people have freedom from fear, freedom from want, and freedom from humiliation.

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Graphical depiction of peacebuilding as it relates to other fields of practice.

Peacebuilding efforts aim to manage, mitigate, resolve, and transform central aspects of conflict through official diplomacy, civil society peace processes, and informal dialogues, negotiations, and mediations. Peacebuilding addresses root causes of violence and fosters reconciliation to prevent the return of instability and violence. Peacebuilding efforts seek to change beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors and to transform dynamics between individuals and groups toward a more stable, peaceful coexistence. Peacebuilding also helps create structures and institutions that provide platforms for the nonviolent resolution of conflict and stabilize fractured societies.

The term “peacebuilding” can have two broad meanings:

  1. Peacebuilding as direct processes that intentionally focus on addressing the factors driving and mitigating conflict. Examples:
  2. Peacebuilding as an integral comprehensive set of interrelated efforts that support peace, including economic development, humanitarian assistance, governance, security, justice, and other sectors where participants may not use the term “peacebuilding” to describe themselves but that contribute to a broader peace nonetheless. Examples:

Together, these two types of efforts make peacebuilding different from other fields such as security sector reform and humanitarian aid because peacebuilding is:

  • informed by a robust, participatory, ongoing conflict assessment,
  • based on conflict sensitivity that reduces the possibility of unintentional harms that could increase the risk of or actual violence or social divisions,
  • designed to address drivers and mitigators of conflict,
  • drawn from local capacities to manage and resolve conflict peacefully,
  • driven by local ownership,
  • anchored in social dialogue that builds consensus and trust, and
  • inclusive of all relevant stakeholders throughout programming and implementation.

Definition above adapted from: Schirch, Lisa. Conflict Assessment and Peacebuilding Planning: Toward a Participatory Approach to Human Security. Boulder: Kumarian Press, 2013. 7-8.

For further reading: