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Peacebuilding as a Lens — A Review of Integrated Peacebuilding: Innovative Approaches to Transforming Conflict

On rare occasions, a new work will both redefine a discipline and contribute to the birth of a new paradigm.  Integrated Peacebuilding: Innovative Approaches to Transforming Conflict (Craig Zelizer, Ed.)  is such a work.  In the array of disciplines related to conflict resolution, peacebuilding and international development, this work brings forward an integrated approach that views “peacebuilding as a lens” (p. 9).

Integrated Peacebuilding: Innovative Approaches to Transforming Conflict
Integrated Peacebuilding: Innovative Approaches to Transforming Conflict

Sustainable peace is an underlying motif in this book.  Viewing peace as a long-term process, this work seeks to find a process of “transforming relationships and structures in society to decrease the likelihood of future conflicts” (p. 7).

There are several significant strengths to this work.  First, it views peacebuilding in all its complexity.  It engages peacebuilding in terms of health, security, environmental change, religion, media, gender, and international development.  The scholarship is diverse as are the topics covered.  Much of it comes from Georgetown  University and its long-standing focus on conflict resolution.

It is from the multi-lens perspective on peacebuilding that this work suggests the redefinition of a discipline.  Conflict resolution studies begin with a problem to be solved.  Peacebuilding suggests a strengths-based approach of creating a multi-sector and multi-stakeholder paradigm for creating peace through responding to local community needs and priorities.

It is the great gift of this book that it frees peacebuilding from indentured service to the hegemonic interests of ‘global security.’  If peacemaking is defined by securing an international development agenda for exploiting economic and energy resources and building new trade markets for multi-national corporations, it has no future worth pursuing.

This work suggests that “peacebuilding is not effective without addressing the basic needs of people through economic opportunity, basic health services and a functioning legal system” (xii).  It challenges us to ask the compelling question:  “Whose interests are being pursued in peacemaking efforts?”  Peacemaking efforts, which are intervening in local conflicts without respect for local traditions, cultures, priorities and needs, risk prolonging and deepening conflicts, no matter how well-intentioned they may seem.

I find excitement in the strand of conversation in this work that shifts peacebuilding from a focus on an international security agenda to a more relational approach.  It resonates with my own conviction that peacemaking must begin with the relationship rather than with the agenda http://www.internationalpeaceandconflict.org/profiles/blogs/12-aspects-of-peacemaking-through-relational-presence#.U1VrdNZOWM8 .  I deeply believe that beginning with an agenda is the fatal flaw of most peacemaking efforts (http://samuelmahaffy.com/2014/04/peacemaking-through-relational-presence/) .

Integrated Peacebuilding is a scholarly work.  I see it as essential reading for anyone involved in the practice or disciplines of conflict resolution, international development or peacemaking.  I highly recommend it to agencies and organizations involved in international development.

After reading this important work more than once, I am left yearning for a companion volume that might be written in lay-persons language and be focused toward the ever growing audience of community members and leaders.

The cover picture of Integrated Peacebuilding shows a community of color demonstrating for peace.  Peace is the yearning of the human heart.  We need a follow-up to this important work that will answer our collective yearning with new wisdom and understanding on how we can transform relationships—at a community level– to secure lasting peace.  I pass this challenge back to the great scholars who have shared their insights in this work.


Page references are from Integrated Peacebuilding:  Innovative Approaches to Transforming Conflict.  Edited by Craig Zelizer. Published by Westview Press, 2013.  Information on acquiring this book is available at http://www.westviewpress.com/book.php?isbn=9780813345093.  The Editor of this work, Craig Zelizer created the Peace and Collaborative Development Network  (PCDN) (http://www.internationalpeaceandconflict.org/), an engaging and interactive site for dialogue on peacemaking.

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