Peacemakers have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to stop armed conflicts through direct interventions. See the 180 summaries of successes. Direct actions, especially those based on evidence and led by local organizations, can stop political violence.
The efforts of thousands of dedicated individuals in hundreds of peacebuilding organizations have not been enough!
To reduce the appalling human and economic cost of warfare, peacebuilders must shift more resources to:
The Better Evidence Project at George Mason University was established to encourage the use of hard evidence as the basis for decisions about how best to reduce warfare. To do that, it is building a large, easy-to-use resource library and a hub for collaboration and exchange of information by members of the Peacebuilding community.
the cost of conflict
With the limited resources available to the peacebuilding field, focusing our resources on activities that are cost-effective will go a long way to determining the results we achieve.
Essentially all of the 180 successful peacemaking cases summarized by Dr. Short* involved peacemakers engaging directly with the leaders of the conflicted parties. In contrast, very few of the presentations at PeaceCon 2022 dealt with such direct action. Instead, they described indirect peacebuilding work, efforts to create conditions believed to be conducive to peace, such as reduction of poverty or improving governance. Especially because indirect approaches are not expected to lead to results in the short term, it is difficult to evaluate their effectiveness. Shifting resources to approaches that have demonstrated their effectiveness would appear to improve results. The challenge again is to persuade peacebuilding organizations to increase their efforts to make peace directly.
The 180 cases collected by Dr. Short represent a great deal of evidence about what actions have been effective in reducing armed conflict. Similarly, failures represent potentially useful evidence for peacebuilders. Unfortunately, this abundant evidence is widely scattered. Finding evidence relevant to situations faced by peacemakers is so difficult that little of it is used.
An initial review of the summaries of the cases written by Dr. Short has yielded some tentative conclusions about the effectiveness of various approaches to stopping violence. A more thorough, deeper investigation of these cases is under consideration.
The Better Evidence Project at George Mason University (GMU)* is undertaking to assemble much useful evidence and to make it widely available in a form that makes it easy to find what is relevant to situations at hand. Amazon Web Service is partnering with GMU to create a search engine that will be easy to use. A prototype will be shown to prospective users in the near future.
Once more, the challenge will be to get peacebuilders to use the facility. Initially, it may appeal more to funders interested in the effectiveness of what they support.
Partly because results of peacebuilding work are so hard to determine, many organizations, perhaps a majority, focus more on outputs than on outcomes. A review of the web sites of 12 large peacebuilding organizations failed to identify a single claim of having reduced violence. The sites tended to follow an outline of “who we are, what we do, and where we do it”, rather than on results achieved.
What can you do to get peacebuilders to focus on results?
Much human accomplishment is the result of coordinated action following clear strategies. When I suggested to the head of the Alliance for Peacebuilding that the organization try to develop strategic approaches to reduce the amount of warfare in the world, the response was that it would never try to tell its members what to do.
While peace workers in the field frequently cooperate, much more might be accomplished if peacebuilding organizations worked together strategically.
The value of local leadership in resolving local conflicts is becoming widely recognized.