Sunday, September 4, 2016

What Is Peacemaking, Anyway?

I'd love to be able to make peace happen. But I don't really know what "peacemaking" is. I only know the results. It's like the difference between wanting pie and knowing how to make pie. Well, I'm sure it isn't that simple, but I hope you get my drift.  I thought it might be helpful to explore just what is meant by "peacemaking."

Peacekeeping, peacemaking, and peace building are terms used by conflict theorists. They can easily be confused. "Peacekeeping" means keeping people from attacking each other by putting some kind of barrier between them. Sometimes this barrier is neutral soldiers - peacekeepers - from the UN or a group of neutral nations. The soldiers are only there to keep the two sides apart. They don't do anything to settle the disputants difference or to negotiate any peace agreements.

"Peacemakling" is the process of forging the settlement between the disputing parties. This can be done in negotiations directly with the two disputing parties. But it is often also done with a third party as mediator who assists with the process and communication problems. They help theparties work together effectively to draft a workable peace accord. The negotiators are often diplomats, although like in the Colombian peace agreement with the rebels, citizens are getting involved in the peacemaking process more and more. Citizen diplomacy is an increasingly common way to start the process, which an then be finalized with official diplomatic efforts.

The involvement of citizens in this process is more and more important in making a sustainable agreement. And the involvement of women is crucial as they are most affected by armed conflict. They are left to deal with the destruction of violence. 

 Peacemaking is not the final step in the peace process, however. The situations in the Middle East and Bosnia clearly demonstrate that it takes more than a peace accord to bring peace to a region. The peace accord is just a beginning, which must be followed by long-term peacebuilding--the process of normalizing relations and reconciling differences between all the citizens of the warring factions. Here too, the intervention of women is critical, as women are better at developing relationships through multiple layers of interactions. They are better able to communicate agreements and cooperation needed for peace building to succeed.**

While you and I may not be involved in the peacemaking process at a national level, we all can be more involved in peacemaking in our own families, neighborhoods, cities, and states.Some principles of peacemaking are important to learn and to share.*

  • Peacemaking should allow for healing to occur between disputing parties/groups. Anger and hatred leave many wounds, seen and unseen. There must be a place in the process for that to occur.
  • The goal is to create harmony, not to punish or remove from the community. People must find a way to cooperate toward a common goal. Forgiveness on both sides can only occur in this kind of environment.
  • The whole family or community is affected by conflict, so all must be involved in regaining harmony. Otherwise, one tiny group of people can undo all of the work of building harmony and peace.
  • Those that disturbed the peace need to be reintegrated into the group for healing to be complete. He or she is no different than us and when they are reintegrated into the group the group become whole again. It is through relationships the the group come to know and accept each other. 
  • All interactions must be done with respect and responsibiity, without the placing of blame, discredit or punishment.
  • All must agree on the final resolution. Compromise may be necessary but no single entity should have an unequal burden as a result. All must share in the consequences.
This process may take one or many sessions to resolve the conflict. Creating peace in your environment will change your world and that of those in it. So commit to persist. As my last post shows, the persistence of the Colombian people resulted in a peace accord after five decades of conflict.  The price of peace is less than the price of war, and more than worth it.

*These principles are adapted from the Navaho Peacemaking Project at

Have you ever been involved in a peacemaking or conflict resolution process. How did it work? Was the conflict resolved? Share your perspective in the comments below.

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