What is peacebuilding? - International Alert

What is peacebuilding?

Peacebuilding is fundamentally about dealing with the reasons why people fight in the first place, while also supporting societies to manage their differences and conflicts without resorting to violence. 

It aims to prevent the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of violence, so can take place before, during and after conflicts. 

It is a long-term and collaborative process, as it involves changes in attitudes, behaviours, norms and institutions. 

What contributes to peace? 

We believe that peace is more than just the absence of violence. While the period after fighting stops and a return to normality is welcome, stability frequently masks the reality that grievances or other causes of conflict have not been addressed and may erupt again. Peacebuilding organisations such as Alert ultimately strive to promote what is described as ‘positive peace’.   

To understand peacebuilding, we need to appreciate the factors that contribute to peace, the absence of which can potentially lead to conflict. Positive peace is when: 

  • everyone lives in safety, without fear or threat of violence, and no form of violence is tolerated in law or in practice 
  • everyone is equal before the law, the systems for justice are trusted, and fair and effective laws protect people’s rights 
  • everyone is able to participate in shaping political decisions and the government is accountable to the people 
  • everyone has fair and equal access to the basic needs for their wellbeing – such as food, clean water, shelter, education, healthcare and a decent living environment 
  • everyone has an equal opportunity to work and make a living, regardless of gender, ethnicity or any other aspect of identity 

These are the factors that, taken together, provide people with the resilience that allows them to deal with their differences and conflicts without violence. 

What does peacebuilding involve? 

Peacebuilding approaches and methods are varied and diverse, but they all ultimately work to ensure that people are safe from harm, have access to law and justice, are included in the political decisions that affect them, have access to better economic opportunities, and enjoy better livelihoods. 

Some of the ways in which this can be achieved are through: 

  • bringing different groups together to build trust and promote reconciliation 
  • engaging in various forms of diplomacy and support for formal peace processes 
  • strengthening democracy and inclusive politics (e.g. inclusion of marginalised groups, active citizenship initiatives, etc.) 
  • improving justice systems (e.g. anti-corruption initiatives, constitutional reforms, access to justice initiatives, truth commissions, etc.) 
  • working to improve community security and shape the behaviour of security forces 
  • working together with business and trade to create sustainable jobs or improve their employment practices 
  • improving infrastructure and urban and rural planning 
  • creating free and inclusive media 
  • making development programmes (health, education, economic development) in conflict areas more sensitive to conflict dynamics so that they deliberately contribute to peace 

Importantly, peacebuilding is done collaboratively, at local, national, regional and international levels. Individuals, communities, civil society organisations, governments, regional bodies and the private sector all play a role in building peace.  To sustain positive change, everyone affected by a violent conflict has to be involved in the process of building peace. 

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We believe in a world where people resolve their differences without violence. From the grassroots to policy level, we bring people together to build sustainable peace.