Adding Up To Peace

I don’t usually review books that are aimed at specialized audience. I made an exception for Diana Chigas and Peter Woodrow’s Adding Up To Peace a) because they are friend and b) more importantly, they take on the toughest challenge we peacebuilders face. How do we build on what we accomplish in a particular community and turn it into lasting peace that holds for an entire society.

As is true of everything CDA has done in recent years, the book is anchored in systems and complexity theory. Among other things, that makes this a challenging book to read because systems and complexity show us just how challenging our work is.

That starts with a simple truth we have all known for a long time, but not really included in the work we’ve done in the field. There is no magic wand or simple pathway to peace. Any project that adds up to peace will take a long time, have lots of false starts, and not be easily adapted for use in any other conflict zone. Instead, as they put it early on in the book, lasting peace is only possible when

Key actors change their thinking, which opens possibilities of progress in other areas. Of course, such shocks can (and often do) also produce adverse reactions and worsening of conflict, depending on how governments and citizens respond to the events.

That openness to change has to extend from providing basic security from violence to addressing the underlying social, economic, and political issues that gave rise to the conflict in the first place.

They do reach some key conclusions that colleagues are beginning to take seriously:

  • Projects should be locally run and “owned”
  • Peacebuilding organizations can help provide what they call horizontal and vertical linkages that allow local projects to spread into broader social and political movements (horizontal) that can affect national level policy makers (vertical)
  • Initiatives are bound to lead to change that is incremental in nature, but we also need to think about adding to those changes so that they also lead to a cumulative and bigger impact on the entire system
  • We need to think about new forms of leadership that lead to transformative changes
  • Peacebuilding programs need adequate and longer term funding that takes these considerations into account