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This initiative will launch a global participatory process in 2020, but you can already contribute and share thoughts and insights - click here

The Challenge to Realizing Peace
  • The world is at its least peaceful since the end of the cold war.
    The negative trend in peace is historic: it is the first time since the World War II that the world has become consistently less peaceful.
  • The human cost of this conflict has been enormous.
    This decline in peace has contributed to over 70 million[i] people being forcibly displaced, the highest number on record, surpassing post-World War II numbers.   
  • The existing toolbox of the international community’s peace and security architecture is ineffective at addressing these peace and conflict challenges.
    The international community has a poor track record at resolving conflict.  Most peace agreements fail between seven and twelve years after they are negotiated and are not even implemented.
  • Most of the world’s major violent conflicts are not being resolved.
      Many of the conflicts we are dealing with today are manifestations of ’old’ conflicts. 90 percent of the active conflicts during the 2000s were in countries that had already experienced a civil war.
  • There is an urgent need to improve peace processes.
    New and ongoing peace processes in places like Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria, South Sudan and through the Sahel will determine regional and global security for many years to come.
  • There is global political will.
    The UN Sustaining Peace agenda and related Security Council Resolutions provide the critical political will for greater international, national and local efforts toward conflict prevention and more effective peace processes.
  • Yet, there is a gap between policy and action.
    We need new energy and effort to improve peace processes. In spite of years of learning and more resources than ever, we are seemingly no closer to witnessing actual changes to the way peace processes are designed, implemented and monitored on-the-ground.
For the first time since the decade of the 1970s, the first half of the 2010s witnessed a historic trend - more armed conflicts started than ended. A significant portion of this uptick in the number of conflicts was due to entirely new conflicts (such as the conflict in Cameroon), as well as several more intense civil wars than the average (Syria and Yemen). While there has been a slight increase in the number of interstate conflicts (conflicts between states) the primary reason why the world is less peaceful is because more countries have been unable to peacefully resolve their own internal conflicts.

This inability of countries to resolve their own conflicts underlines a key challenge about the process of building peace – that peacebuilding is predominately an internal, not external activity. However, because of the increasing connectedness and globalized nature of the world, the internal peace and security challenges of a single country can have an outsized impact on regional and even global political dynamics. The role of the international community in peace making and peacebuilding action remains critical not merely as a matter of moral obligation, but also based on the security of all nations.  Globally, there are 52 on-going conflicts - an all-time high. At this critical time, with intense conflicts such as Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya and across the Sahel requiring enormous resources and humanitarian aid, effective peace processes are more important than ever.[ii]  

Yet, other troubling trends indicate the international community’s poor track record in resolving conflict and building sustainable peace. Of the 103 countries that experienced some form of civil war between 1945-2009 (from minor to major conflict), only 44 avoided a later return to civil war, meaning 57 percent of all countries that suffered from one civil war during this time period experienced at least one conflict thereafter.[iii] This trend has continued whereby 90 percent of the active conflicts during the 2000s were initiated in countries that had already experienced a civil war. This statistic underlines a persistent fact about international peace-making and peacebuilding action over the last 60 years - that a large number of the peace processes initiated to resolve these historic conflicts have only been successful in reaching what can be described as a temporary cessation of violence.[iv]  Not only have the number of successful peace agreements dramatically fallen while conflict has gone up, a continually large number, 35 percent, are not even implemented.[v] Thus international action toward conflict prevention and peacebuilding today requires us to not just stop new conflicts from starting, but rather to permanently end the conflicts that have already started.

Notably, the formal peace and security architecture and adjoining normative framework that has regulated the way conflicts are resolved has, in fact, not dramatically changed in over 50 years. A review of flagship policy documents in international development or peacebuilding and peace-making policy reinforces the general weakness of top-down policy recommendations as a method of institutional and behavioural change. Unfortunately, despite years of lessons learned and reform processes to the ‘toolbox’ of the international peace and security architecture we are seemingly no closer to witnessing actual changes to the way peace processes are informed by local dynamics, designed, implemented and monitored on-the-ground.

This poor track record and lack of meaningful change indicates fundamental system-level failures in the evolution of the international peacebuilding and peace-making architecture. Too often, the constellation of actions that contribute to peacebuilding and peace-making processes result in actions that are too externally driven, disconnected from the reality of the local context and short term. Meanwhile, the development, humanitarian and peacebuilding fields have evolved into an enormously complex network of organizations, interventions and political mandates resulting in a profound lack of coherent strategies for peace, despite enormous resources and the presence of political will.

How do we create more effective peace processes?
  • There is broad consensus on the challenges that undermine the efficacy of peace processes.
    Several studies, such as the flagship UN-World Bank Pathways for Peace study[vi], highlight the need for more inclusivity and local ownership.
  • Too often, peace processes are over-focused on critical, yet short term milestones, such as cessation of violence.
    While ending violence is a critical first step, the ultimate objective of a peace process is a much longer-term goal - sustainable, positive peace.
  • We need to expand the frame of reference of a ’peace process’.
    Peace processes are commonly thought of as a series of negotiated steps to end wars and build sustainable peace. However, peace processes also involve a multiplicity of interventions and actions before, during and after violent conflict that enable societies to build their capacities to resolve conflicts in non-violent ways.
  • Peace is a complex social process that cannot be ’built’ in a singular moment.
    This requires us to step back from narrow perspectives on how peace is made ‘at the table’ and put in place an expanded frame of reference that more fully accounts for who is relevant, to which processes, within what level of society and when.
  • We need principles to incentivise more of ’what works’.
    We know long term participatory and interconnected processes that adequately capacitate local and national actors to credibly and legitimately lead their own peace processes is critical. However, we need principles, guidance and standards that help to incentivize our collective actions toward the ultimate goal of sustainable locally owned peace.
The situation calls for a fundamental re-think of the way peace processes are conceived and structured. Firstly, peace processes cannot be built through one externally led process, but rather an interrelated and coordinated set of processes taking place at various levels, at various times and involving a wide variety of actors and tools. The local and national capacities for peace take time to be built, and that means our frame of reference for a peace process needs to be expanded as well.

Traditional policy decrees, recommendations, reforms and even ambitious UN initiatives such as the Sustaining Peace agenda[vii], have largely been unsuccessful in changing bad practices and establishing new good practise. In order to avoid repeating the same historic mistakes, there is a need to fundamentally change the incentives and consequent behaviours of the international community. In contrast to policy and rules, international principles can permeate much deeper to the moral and ethical calculus of individuals and thus tend to influence decision making much more effectively. [viii] Deeply held principles and values can cut across hierarchies and impel individuals to act not because they ought to ‘obey a rule’ but rather because it is ‘the right thing to do’. Principles do not need to be represented in negotiated text or in international treaties but can exist at multiple informal levels with individuals and institutions. 

We need Principles for Peace

The initiative will commence a global participatory and consultative process to inform the development of guiding the Principles for Inclusive Peace. The Principles for Peace could become the global reference point against which all peace processes would/could be assessed in terms of their inclusiveness and likely effectiveness.  The initiative will establish a participatory global process and diverse advisory commission and supporting mechanisms to lead development of the Principles.  

How can I contribute?

Everyone can provide input and contribute to this initiative, for more information read the FAQs, subscribe or leave a message and we will be in touch.
  1. UNHCR (2019) Figures at a Glance. See
  2. Strand, H., Rustad, S., Urdal, H. & Mokleiv Nygård, H. (2019) Trends in Armed Conflict, 1946-2018. See
  3. Walter, B (2010) Conflict Relapse and the Sustainability of Post Conflict Peace. See
  4. According to the UCDP Peace Agreements database, “Of the 216 peace agreements included in the dataset between 1975 and 2011, 125 of them led to the termination of violence for at least 5 years in the dyads signing the agreement (57 percent). However, this number would likely come down if taking in a ten-year time period given the average re-onset rate for a conflict is seven years.”
  5. Hogbladh, S (2012) Peace Agreements 1975-2011, Uppsala Conflict Data Programme (UCDP) See:
  6. United Nations and World Bank. 2018. “Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict.”
  7. de Coning, C. (2018) Sustaining Peace. Can a new approach change the UN? Global Governance Spotlight (3).
  8. Finnemore, M. & Sikkink, K. (1998) International Norm Dynamics and Political Change. International Organization 52, 4. 

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