A New Approach to Working for Peace
A note from Milt Lauenstein:
We can do it!
We can reduce the amount of armed conflict in the world! We have done it many times in many places. The 101 success stories summarized in Elliot Short's report in the Publications section demonstrate that we can do it. The results achieved by UN Peacekeeping Operations over more than 50 years prove that we can do it. Yet the work of 188 international peace organizations supported by 84 funders has not been enough to reverse the trend toward increasing warfare in recent years. The question we face is how peace workers can be more effective.
One way is to perform and to support activities that experience has demonstrated actually reduce armed conflict rather than ones that may sound promising but for which there is no hard evidence of effectiveness. In 2020, George Mason University established the Better Evidence Project to provide funders and practitioners with information on what experience shows actually works.
Peace organizations work independently, each following its own approach, with no overall strategy. Collaborating to coordinate efforts according to a coherent strategy might lead to better results.
Foreign experts have often determined what work is done to promote peace in less developed countries. Local citizens, including women, are better positioned to understand local situations and to know how best to deal with them. Relying more on local leadership of peacemaking projects can lead to better results.
Much peacebuilding activity aims to improve economic, political, and social conditions to make warfare less likely in the long run. Whether such work can succeed is uncertain. The United States government has spent billions of dollars over a period of many years to promote peace in such places as Afghanistan and Iraq with little to show for it. It may be more productive to allocate more assets to peacemaking, that is, to address current situations in which violence is occurring or threatens to break out rather than to attempt to establish "sustainable peace".
"Peace systems" are clusters of neighboring societies that don’t make war with each other”. Seventy-four such systems have been identified, ranging from a group of native American tribes to foragers in Western Australia to the nations of Scandinavia, which have not made war on each other for centuries. Research to determine how to establish peace systems could lead to a reduction political violence.
This website is intended to stimulate consideration of these and other possible ways to reduce armed conflict. We can do it!
Five ways to improve actions to reduce warfare:
Base resource allocation on evidence.
Collaborate following a coherent strategy.
Rely more on local personnel to resolve local conflicts
Shift resources from peacebuilding to peacemaking
Learn how to establish peace systems.