According to the UN, violent conflict has reached a 30-year high and more than 70 million people have been forcibly displaced world-wide. In this reality, we need to broaden the aperture on peace, and efforts to foster peace, to include the creativity and energy of people at every level of the system.
After more than a decade of work on peace, justice, and conflict transformation around the world, we know that those working at the frontlines of peace hold the deep expertise, knowledge, and relationships necessary to transform their societies. Unfortunately, their efforts are often deeply devalued. Our goal is to support and amplify the work of proximate peacebuilders, while at the same time influencing global peacebuilding and policy systems to be more responsive to proximate agency and power. We recognize that peace is not simply the absence of war, but a process for restoring human dignity, and creating societies that can manage conflict, resist shocks, and promote the agency and power of all citizens.
Our Peacebuilding portfolio recognizes that current approaches to peacebuilding and conflict prevention are often ineffective because of a deep power imbalance at the heart of the global peacebuilding system. The field of peacebuilding has increasingly relied on “top-down” strategies that reinforce the agency and decisions of those with power, while ignoring the expertise of proximate actors, which then creates transactional relationships with those living closest to violence.
Our ultimate vision is a transformed global system in which international cooperation on peacebuilding is defined and driven by the agency and power of proximate peacebuilders. To make progress toward that vision, we support sustainable networks that contribute to an ecosystem where proximate actors can make meaningful change in their own contexts and begin to spark global change.
To support this vision, our Peacebuilding strategy focuses on long-term efforts to increase the agency and power of proximate actors and to generate more inclusive, lasting solutions to violence. In assessing the needs of the current context, our resources, expertise, and existing relationships, we have chosen to focus our grantmaking around four key themes and two geographic lenses.
Inclusive Peace Processes: Political transitions and peace processes are too often controlled by elite powerholders who craft narrow processes that leave marginalized communities without voice or agency to build sustainable peace. It is critical to invest in transitions and peace processes that are collectively owned by a wide range of stakeholders and proactively build shared norms, values, and institutions that meet their needs and deliver sustainable peace.
Agency of Peacebuilder to Take Collective Action: In deeply restrictive, violent, and authoritarian environments, peacebuilding and nonviolent social movements need to reach collectively across social cleavages to address systemic problems. Proximate peacebuilders and social movement actors need to have the space, opportunity, and agency to build solidarity, negotiate with powerholders, and act in pursuit of shared goals.
Peacebuilding Innovation and Learning: Peacebuilders across contexts and levels are building new – and rediscovering ancient – ways of building peace that center the leadership of communities. By investing in spaces for creativity and innovation, providing risk-tolerant resources for peacebuilders piloting alternative practices, and nurturing channels to share learning and wisdom, we create opportunities for new systems to emerge that redistribute the power to create change.
Well-Being and Healing for Peacebuilders and Their Communities: Individual and communal psychosocial well-being is critical for sustainable peace, enabling people to relate to one another in a healthy and whole way, and allowing communities to break the grip of intergenerational trauma. In a healthy system, multiple forms of psychosocial support would sustain peacebuilders through the long arc of social change.
Geographic Lenses: Colombia & South Sudan We have long-term, ongoing relationships in Colombia and South Sudan, where the unique ecosystems and depth of relationships have taught us a great deal about what it means to walk alongside proximate partners in a spirit of accompaniment. We see positive shifts in these contexts as having global ramifications as proximate actors take a leading role in shaping all four focus areas.
Our geographic partners are fully embedded into our thematic focuses, creating grounded opportunities for more fluid collaboration and learning across themes in the portfolio, and allowing us to experience together how the four core conditions play out in unique and intertwined ways.
What is Peacebuilding?
Peacebuilding is a comprehensive field, encompassing the full array of processes, approaches, and relationships needed to transform conflict, bridge divides, and create more resilient and just societies. Peace is not merely a stage in time or a condition; it is a dynamic social construct. Therefore, peacebuilding involves a wide range of activities that both precede and follow formal peace accords. Peacebuilding aspires not simply to reduce violence, but to create “positive peace”: the structures and processes needed for a society to resolve conflict through dialogue, negotiation, and politics, and to ensure dignity and justice for all.
Principles that Guide Our Work
All of the work in our Peacebuilding portfolio is guided by a set of principles, informed by our organizational values:
- Power of Relationships: We strive to maintain authentic and healthy relationships, which are necessary and critical for shifting power at all levels of the global peacebuilding system.
- Shared Humanity: One of our organizational values, shared humanity recognizes the interconnectedness and intrinsic dignity of all human beings. We pledge to act with humility, empathy and commitment; to invest in relationships with deep listening, curiosity and consistency; and to learn from our partnerships in tangible, respectful, and granular ways.
- Commitment: We make contextually appropriate time commitments, and take emergent approaches that allow us to learn and adapt in our work. We are dedicated to constant learning and self-evaluation in order to better accompany our proximate partners.
- Humility: Another one of our organizational values, we strive to be humble and recognize our own power, biases, limitations, and shortcomings. We prioritize the direction and wisdom of proximate peacebuilders, in order to create spaces that foster proximate agency and contextually appropriate collective action. We want to reframe the relationship between proximate peacebuilders and donors toward an accompaniment model of co-learning and co-design.
- Meaningful Inclusion: We aim to prioritize and elevate marginalized voices in a way that promotes dignity.
- Do No Harm: We endeavor to ensure that we avoid causing inadvertent harm and that our work is in the benefit of our partners and the world.
- Innovative and Future-Oriented: We seek to understand systems, support innovation, and sense trends that provide insight into possible futures.