In many areas of our lives, we understand that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In medicine, we talk about ways that we can watch our diet and blood pressure to avoid problems later. In highway safety, we talk about using seat belts and air bags to prevent injury. The same is true for building peace. There are many ways to prevent a conflict from escalating to violence, but these efforts are not documented nearly enough, nor are they held up as successes for other communities, policymakers or funders to learn from. This issue of Building Peace focuses on creative interventions, from an individual, community, and governmental point of view, designed to prevent violence.
Just as one medication cannot cure every illness, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to conflict and violence prevention. Successful prevention requires a deep contextual understanding – including at the human, social, economic and political levels. Armed with this local awareness and the critical skills to train, advocate, mediate or build coalitions, peacebuilders around the world are uniquely positioned to appreciate the underlying causes of tension and assess which tools or strategies will be most effective in fostering peace and preventing conflict from erupting.
In this issue, you will learn about successful violence prevention initiatives. These efforts are sometimes designed and implemented by traditional peacebuilders (eg: educators and trainers) and others times are the work of actors one might not normally designate as peacebuilders (eg: private sector companies). For instance, a non-governmental organization mediates between a government and armed groups to maintain the peace, as occurred in Myanmar. In Nigeria, preventing violence starts on the playground, thanks to a sports project that brings together children from various religious and ethnic groups and teaches them how to deal with intercultural prejudices and different values. Private companies operating in Colombia have invested in conflict prevention initiatives to sustain and grow their businesses.
Despite current armed conflicts that plague our world, there are powerful alternatives to war and violence. Thanks to the dedicated and relentless efforts of peacebuilders across the globe, we are increasingly better equipped to understand how and why violence happens and to prevent future conflicts. As always, we encourage you to contact us with your own reactions and ideas to Building Peace.