Our mission, strategy and history
Who we are
For over 30 years, International Alert has been working to build positive peace and reduce violence, working across conflict lines and with all parties to conflicts.
Experienced and respected, we have a proud track record of achieving change in fragile and conflict-affected countries and territories.
Our vision is that people and their societies can resolve conflicts without violence, working together to build sustainable and inclusive peace.
Our mission is to break cycles of violence and to build sustainable peace by:
- Working with people directly affected by violent conflict to find lasting solutions
- Shaping policies and practices to reduce and prevent violence, and to support sustainable peace
- Collaborating with all those striving for peace to strengthen our collective voice and impact
Alert’s 2019–2023 strategy, informed by our three mission goals, aims to respond to escalating violence while remaining grounded in our quest for positive peace.
After years of decline, armed conflict is surging and we face a violent crisis of epic proportions:
- More people are being killed in battle – rising by 27% as recently as 2016.
- Of those injured and killed in war, 80% are civilians, many of them children.
- Today, 68.5 million people are internally displaced persons or refugees – more than at any time in history.
- Half of the world’s poor are living in fragile places riddled by violence, and this is predicted to rise to 80% if no action is taken.
- Sexual violence continues to be systematically used as a tactic of war, with long-lasting devastating consequences for people and communities.
The nature of conflict is also changing. While interstate conflict remains rare there has been a rise in internal conflict fuelled and sustained by geopolitical competition. At the same time, non-state actors continue to dominate the conflict landscape in many contexts. More conflicts are in the ‘grey zone’ between skirmishes and war, with simmering fighting continuing between dispersed and fragmented groups. People are hit by different forms of violence, such as the rise in violent extremism and organised crime, while there is an increasing rejection of global multilateralism and disregard for international humanitarian laws and treaties.
While not anticipated within the original strategy, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated conflict while deeply affecting the way that peacebuilding is delivered and required Alert to adapt its own priorities and practice over the life of this strategy.
In this toxic environment, the need for peacebuilding has never been more urgent. We need to scale up our impact and embrace new partnerships. Current top-down and security-led approaches are not working. Instead of fighting violence with violence, we should address the root causes of conflict.
Our 2019–2023 strategy outlines how, over the five years, we will redouble our efforts to break cycles of violence.
We will sharpen our focus, scale up our tried and tested approaches, and develop new strategies to respond to threats such as the rise in hate speech and violent extremism.
Our work will continue to be underpinned by research, analysis and a framing of issues that identify the root causes of violence and long-term solutions to conflict.
And we will continue to focus on five ‘positive peace factors’ that will help to lay the foundations for cycles of sustainable and inclusive peace, prioritising ways of working including dialogue, influencing and partnerships.
In particular, we aim to:
- Strengthen communities’ voices and their capacity to reduce violence, in particular by working with disadvantaged women and young people
- Harness the private sector to support inclusive peace
- Promote fairness, inclusion and justice in local and national governance systems, including security, to support peace and to address the root causes of conflict, including structural inequalities
- Support inclusive peace processes and wider peacebuilding initiatives
- Champion gender and conflict sensitivity in ways that contribute to peace, including in our own work
International Alert was founded in 1986 to help people find peaceful solutions to conflict.
At that time, the number of conflicts between countries was decreasing, but there was an alarming increase in the number of conflicts within countries. Both types of conflict were undermining development and leading to gross violations of human rights. Identifying and highlighting individual abuses of human rights was not enough; a different approach was desperately needed. It was out of this urgency that International Alert was born.
In 1985 the Standing International Forum on Ethnic Conflict, Development and Human Rights (SIFEC) was founded with the purpose of addressing the issue of conflict and to alert governments and the world to developing crises. The following year, SIFEC merged with another organisation, International Alert on Genocide and Massacres, to become the charity we know today.
In 1986 we named our first Board of Trustees as well as Secretary General, Martin Ennals. Martin was the former Secretary General of Amnesty International and founder of Article 19, and a pioneer of the human rights movement. He served as our Secretary General – and for a time our only full-time member of staff – from 1986–1990. It is thanks in no small part to his energy, inspiration and vision that we have become the organisation that we are today.
Building on our early work in Sri Lanka, Uganda and the Philippines, we now help people find peaceful solutions to conflict in over 20 countries around the world and are one of the world’s leading peacebuilding organisations.