We live in a world that faces constant and often debilitating conflict and violence. As we see daily, this trauma intimately touches our lives, our families, our communities and reaches across the planet. From Baltimore to Syria, from Sandy Hook to Afghanistan, the examples are tragically, countless.
From an economic standpoint, research has shown that U.S. national violence containment costs are over $1.7 Trillion every year. And yet current policies and methodologies in this realm have proven at best limited and far more often ineffective.
The good news is that emerging peacebuilding approaches focusing on conflict resolution are proving to be highly practical and effective, saving both lives and money. The science and practice of peacebuilding and conflict resolution have transcended where we presently invest our collective time, money and energy. Our social policies urgently need to catch up with proven capacities to turn these challenges around.
The following categories represent key sectors of society where peacebuilding is showing tremendous strides. These five key Peacebuilding Cornerstones offer great hope, demonstrate proven effectiveness and are ready to forge comprehensive national policies:
EMPOWERING COMMUNITY PEACEBUILDING: Supporting comprehensive activities and strategies in communities working to address such challenges as crime, violence, and gangs. Effective programs may include hands-on street outreach and intervention, mental health services, out-of-school programs, police/community relations, and arts-based practices.
TEACHING PEACE IN SCHOOLS: Bringing into our schools conflict resolution curricula with tools such as social-emotional learning, communication techniques, restorative processes, mindfulness and other proven peacebuilding skills to increase graduation rates and transform violence, bullying, truancy, and other challenges facing youth.
HUMANIZING JUSTICE SYSTEMS: Moving away from overly punitive policies, toward healing-oriented criminal and juvenile justice approaches. Restorative justice, diversion/alternative incarceration programs, and prisoner rehabilitation & re-entry programs are among the most promising solutions.
FOSTERING INTERNATIONAL PEACE: Championing peacebuilding approaches to international conflict and atrocity prevention in hotspots through mediation, diplomacy, and effective on-the-ground programs. Important components may involve development, post-conflict justice, humanitarian aid, mediation and support for frameworks necessary for democratic processes.
CULTIVATING PERSONAL PEACE: Integrating peace in our own lives, with our children, in our relationships, in the workplace, and in our approach to activism, through such methods as compassionate communication, mindfulness, empathy, and stress reduction.
You can learn much more about all these cornerstones here: www.peacealliance.org/cornerstones
Two brief examples showing the efficacy of this kind of work. In Chicago, the Becoming a Man program, which places disadvantaged boys from 7th-10th grade into mentoring relationships, saw among their participants a 44 percent drop in arrests for violent crime and an up to 23 percent increase in graduation rates.
Research (pdf) has indicated that investing early to prevent conflicts internationally from escalating into violent crises is, on average, 60 times more cost effective than intervening after violence erupts.
We recognize the powerful complementary work of millions of peacebuilders doing this conflict resolution oriented work around the globe. It is truly inspiring. Together we can create a unifying platform, to strengthen and expand a vibrant peace movement that brings effective solutions to bear on the challenges we face in our personal lives, our communities, and across our planet.
These Peacebuilding Cornerstones are part of a new national initiative organized by The Peace Alliance, entitled: “Be the Movement! Take a Step for Peace: In Your Life, In Our Communities, Among Nations.” Those of us who are working towards these policy shifts are trying to help shape how we organize our society - focusing on positive solutions, not simply in protest of what we do not want.
Whether we like how it’s functioning or not, our government is one of the primary methods through which we organize ourselves as a society. So if those of us who believe in these peace values aren’t putting at least some of our attention towards making sure how we collectively organize ourselves better reflects our deepest values, then we aren’t likely to see the change we’d like anytime soon. If you’d like to urge the President and Congress to get behind this kind of policy platform, you can do so here: www.peacealliance.org/petition
This can be a big part of the next great leap forward for the field of peacebuilding and the cause of peace on earth. It is time and millions of us are ready.