Peace-Building – Creating Peace Proactively


Peace is not the opposite of war; peace-building is. Peace is a neutral state. War causes destruction, suffering, and division among communities. Peace-building aims to proactively defuse the causes of conflict and create a sustained state of harmony, security, and justice for all. At one level, peace-building is a complex and multifaceted process that requires the coordinated efforts of a wide range of actors, including governments, international organizations, civil society, and local communities. Effective peace-building requires a long-term commitment and a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of conflict and supports the development of sustainable peace and stability. At another level, peace-building takes all of us to engage in actively creating peace within ourselves, nurturing harmonious relationships and interdependent organizations, and fostering inclusive and egalitarian communities. 


Peace-building is needed to maintain harmony and prevent conflict. It is a proactive investment in building connections, relationships, and trust that helps prevent active conflict.


Peace-building involves intentional efforts to address the root causes of conflict, promote reconciliation, and establish sustainable peace.  Conflict arises from underlying grievances, inequality, injustice, and a breakdown in communication or trust. Peace-building encompasses a range of activities that include mediation, dialogue, conflict resolution, post-conflict reconstruction, and fostering social cohesion. Creating peace, both within ourselves and in the world around us, is a journey that involves various practices. Inner Work Mindfulness and Meditation: These practices help us cultivate inner peace by allowing us to stay present, reduce stress, and gain a deeper understanding of our thoughts and emotions. With inner peace, we have acceptance and compassion for ourselves and others. If we feel peaceful, it is how we show up in our words and actions.  Gratitude: Regularly expressing gratitude can shift our focus from what's wrong in the world to what's right, fostering a balanced sense of appreciation. With awareness, we can work to amplify the good. Trauma Healing: Addressing the psychological and emotional wounds of hurt is crucial for sustainable peace. Trauma-informed practices, such as counseling, community dialogues, and arts-based therapies, can help people process their experiences and rebuild trust. Empathy: Empathy has to be felt to be real. It flows from our ability to see and feel the suffering of others alongside our own. With empathy, we can approach interactions with greater awareness, compassion, and an open mind.    Positive Relationships Respect for Diversity: Embracing and respecting differences in culture, religion, and perspective can lead to a more inclusive and peaceful world. Respect comes from engagement, connection, and learning. We can advocate for policies, programs, and environments that welcome and celebrate diversity and ensure that everyone feels valued, respected, and able to participate. Nonviolent Communication: Peace often begins with understanding, and this comes from truly listening to others, even those with whom we disagree. Open dialogue can lead to mutual respect and reconciliation. NVC can transform conflicts by creating a shared basis for cooperation. It aims to enhance understanding and connection by shifting the focus away from criticism, blame, and demands, and towards clarifying underlying human needs. The key elements are: 1) making observations without judgment, 2) expressing feelings, 3) identifying core needs, and 4) making clear requests. It involves both authentic self-expression and empathetic listening, and is applicable in personal, organizational, and conflict resolution contexts.  Acts of Kindness: Engaging in small acts of kindness and generosity can have a profound impact on both the giver and the receiver. It fosters a sense of connection and empathy, which are essential for peace. Volunteering your time and skills to help others can create a sense of community and shared purpose, which are key elements of a peaceful society. Peaceful Conflict Resolution Mediation: Trained mediators can facilitate dialogue between conflicting parties, help them understand each other's perspectives, and negotiate mutually acceptable solutions. Techniques include active listening, reframing, and finding common ground. Nonviolent Action: Nonviolence was championed by leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., and involves resolving conflicts through peaceful means rather than force. Sit-ins, boycotts, and the BDS movement are all forms of nonviolent civil disobedience and economic pressure tactics that have been used to challenge injustice, discrimination, and oppression throughout history. Sit-ins involve a group of people peacefully occupying a space, often a business or public facility, to protest discrimination and demand change. Boycotts involve withholding support to halt or hinder a harmful industry, political system, or economic process.  Restorative Justice: This approach contrasts with the traditional criminal justice system by shifting the emphasis from punishment to repairing harm and restoring the community. Restorative justice brings together the person who caused harm, the person(s) harmed, and the affected community to facilitate a dialogue and consensus-based process for repairing the harm and restoring relationships. The focus is on accountability, healing, and reintegration, rather than just punishment. The person who caused harm takes responsibility for their actions and makes amends, while the person(s) harmed have the opportunity to share the impact and have their needs addressed. Trained facilitators manage the process to ensure it is safe and voluntary for all participants. Truth and Reconciliation: The process pioneered in South African aims to create a comprehensive historical record, provide reparations and rehabilitation for victims, and recommend institutional reforms to prevent future abuses. Ultimately, the goal is to foster reconciliation between victims and perpetrators, and within divided communities, in order to help a society come to terms with a painful past and lay the foundations for sustainable peace and democracy. Kgotla: The kgotla is a traditional African community forum that serves as a neutral, open space for participatory decision-making. All community members are given the opportunity to voice their perspectives and collectively work towards solutions. The emphasis is on consensus-building, restorative justice, and moving the community forward, rather than dwelling on past grievances. Elders can play a facilitative role, using proverbs and metaphors to connect discussions to traditional values like ubuntu (espousing our shared humanity). The inclusive, collaborative nature of the kgotla has made it a model that has been adopted by various organizations beyond its origins in Botswana, as a way to promote community-based problem-solving and governance. Reforming Systems Shifting systemic policies to advance equity, inclusion, and opportunity for all lays the foundation for a peaceful society.  Inclusive Governance: Ensuring all stakeholders, including marginalized groups, have a seat at the table and a voice in decision-making can help create a sense of ownership and investment in the peace process. Equitable Economic Development: Addressing underlying economic inequalities and creating opportunities for shared prosperity can reduce the drivers of conflict. Security Reform: Integrating diverse perspectives, including women and minorities, into security institutions can make them more representative and responsive to the needs of the whole population. Justice Reform: Comprehensive justice systems that integrate alternatives to punishment and incarceration provide means to tackle disobedience and crime in ways that don’t amplify anger and discontent. Funding Intermediaries: Providing resources and funding for local civil society organizations that focus on peace-building, economic development, and conflict resolution builds the infrastructure for peace. Knowledge Creation and Dissemination: Improving data collection and management systems to inform evidence-based policymaking is essential. So too are means of sharing positive methods that can be replicated. Peace Education: Peace education and studies programs can build awareness and capacity in schools and colleges. They can enhance emotional intelligence and awareness of injustice, nurture inner development and resilience, offer training in nonviolent communication and conflict resolution techniques, and prepare people for professional paths to advance justice and peace.

Sample Activity

There are many activities to connect respectfully and develop a shared understanding. Concepts like peace circles or ‘talking circles’, can be found in Native American and other  indigenous cultures. They allow inclusive and civil group conversations that surface individual experiences, perspectives, and emotions and generate empathy and understanding.  A Peace Circle activity can be conducted as follows:
  1. Create a safe, inclusive space where participants can sit in a circle facing each other. This helps foster a sense of community and equality.
  2. Establish ground rules for the circle, such as active listening, respecting each person's perspective, and allowing everyone a chance to speak. Encourage participants to listen deeply to one another and avoid interrupting. The facilitator can rephrase or reframe comments to help deepen the dialogue.
  3. Begin with a guided meditation to help everyone feel calm and centered.
  4. Introduce an object, such as a talking stick, that is passed around the circle. Only the person holding the talking object is to speak, encouraging focused attention and equal participation. The facilitator can move the stick around the group to identify the next speaker and make sure all voices are heard. 
  5. Encourage the group to share the space and speaking time. The focus is on sharing, listening, and understanding and not on debate and argument. Encourage them to share stories rather than comment on other people’s expressions.  
  6. As people feel called, invite participants share their name and a brief personal reflection on the issue along with their hopes. The facilitator can claim the stick from the speaker to signal that they should draw their statement to a close. 
  7. If things become heated, pause for another centering activity using the breath and silence. 
  8. After everyone who wishes to speak has had a turn, facilitate a guided discussion on the themes expressed and potential actions.
  9. If desired, the process could be extended with a voting process on actions. The process may not lead to a resolution but should advance understanding and awareness of areas of difference. Modeling the process of dialogue also builds the capability for conscious conversation. 
  10. Close the circle by having participants share a final reflection, learning, or commitment to peace and reconciliation.
The Peace Circle activity can be adapted for different age groups and used in settings such as schools, community organizations, or interfaith groups.

Target Audience:

  • Everyone
  • Educators
  • Community Organizers
  • Faith leaders

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