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March-April 2012

Vol. 37, No. 2


Peacebuilding and sustainable pathways to peaceEarth

For the past four years, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns has promoted "Sustainable Pathways to Peace and Inclusive Security" (SPPS; see box below) as one major areas of focus for our work. To illustrate some of the dimensions of this focus, we will include related articles in this and future NewsNotes. In this issue we examine different definitions of peacebuilding. Subsequent articles in NewsNotes will look at religious peacebuilding, Catholic peacebuilding, women and peacebuilding, the role of the United Nations and then some essential dimensions of work for sustainable peace and inclusive security, including the various intersections of peace and sustainability, and how they relate or not to developing insights into the challenge of peace.

The concept of peacebuilding is often used in a narrow sense to describe the specific and immediate work of rebuilding a society following a period of violent conflict. At other times, it is applied more broadly to efforts toward the long term sustainability of peace in a given context through attention to structural change, transitional justice, healing and reconciliation, poverty alleviation, education, respect for human rights and so on.

The Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP) defines peacebuilding broadly as does the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at Notre Dame. AfP talks about "the set of initiatives by diverse actors in government and civil society to address the root causes of violence and protect civilians before, during, and after violent conflict." Peacebuilding is "multi-faceted and adapted to each conflict environment."

The Kroc Institute describes "the creation and nurturing of constructive relationships — at every level of society — across ethnic, religious, class, and racial boundaries." "Peacebuilders," they write, "seek the nonviolent and collaborative resolution of social inequities and the transformation of structural conditions that generate deadly conflict. The range of relationship-building activities encompasses the entire conflict cycle and includes conflict prevention, conflict management, conflict resolution and transformation, and post-conflict reconciliation." The Kroc Institute will publish a multi-volume book on strategic peacebuilding with Oxford University Press. The first volume of the Oxford Studies of Strategic Peacebuilding, edited by Scott Appleby, John Paul Lederach, and Daniel Philpott, was published in early 2010.

Heather Dubois, in the article "Religion and Peacebuilding" (Journal of Religion, Conflict and Peace, Spring 2008), writes that peacebuilding is "an enterprise that is more often described than defined. Perhaps this is because it is undertaken by a wide variety of actors whose strengths and capacities enable them to build peace in different ways." She refers, among others, to Michael Pugh, who "traces peacebuilding practices back to the Cold War in the confidence building work of NGOs such as the Mennonite Central Committee, the Society of Friends, the movement for European Nuclear Disarmament, and the UK-based Centre for International Peacebuilding" and Johan Galtung, who "as early as the 1960s, began to describe peacebuilding as 'the practical implementation of peaceful social change through socio-economic reconstruction and development.'"

University of Notre Dame Professor John Paul Lederach writes about peacebuilding 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." (Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies, U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 1997)

Finally, the role of the UN Peacebuilding Commission is expansive, but largely limited to post-conflict situations. The commission is charged with (1) bringing together all of the relevant actors, including international donors, the international financial institutions, national governments, troop contributing countries; (2) marshaling resources and (3) advising on and proposing integrated strategies for post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery and where appropriate, highlighting any gaps that threaten to undermine peace. Its partner organization, the UN Peacebuilding Fund, supports peacebuilding activities which directly contribute to post-conflict stabilization and strengthen the capacity of governments, national/local institutions and transitional or other relevant authorities.

Sustainable pathways to peace and inclusive global security

People around the world, as members of Earth Community, are interconnected as never before. Increasingly evident ecological crises will ultimately necessitate dramatic shifts in patterns of globalization, but our lives are inextricably tied together by electronic communications, the consequences of disease and lack of health care, malnutrition, inadequate education, the effects of climate change and extremist ideologies. The response of the United States, other governments and multilateral bodies to current political, economic, social and ecological crises has to take this interconnectedness into account, welcome it and build on its many positive possibilities. Placing greater emphasis on cooperative engagement toward just peace and inclusive global security rather than national security could encourage U.S. Americans to appreciate the diversity of gifts from other nations and cultures. The U.S. posture in our world should be cooperative and more trusting.

Trust is the opposite of fear. Fear sees potential enemies; trust sees potential friends and collaborators. Fear leads to greed and selfishness; trust empowers right relationships. Fear demands control; trust allows others freedom. Fear aspires to superiority; trust ensures that others have enough. Fear is preoccupied with one's lack; trust celebrates the gifts of others.

To the pursuit of just peace and inclusive global security, Maryknoll brings many useful lessons. Maryknoll missioners have traditionally inculturated in communities abroad. They have learned to communicate through new languages and to appreciate new cultural experiences. They have seen extreme poverty and violence, but also have discovered new riches in honored relationships and respected traditions. Some have gone overseas with a zeal to produce and accomplish great things, and have adapted to different rhythms and simpler ways of life. They have brought with them U.S. American norms, and have bumped up against different but refreshing values. In short, they have discovered something that could help alleviate some of our greatest fears of "the other."

Our pursuit of sustainable pathways to peace and inclusive security builds on this experience. We believe it is time to replace time-worn, discredited policies that emphasize U.S. national security over-against the well-being of the whole earth community with a new cooperative attitude and a commitment to promote what constitutes lasting peace and inclusive security for all.

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