2013: A Year of New Beginnings

Jessica Berns has twenty years international experience, primarily working on issues of social inclusion, peacebuilding, governance, and anti-corruption. The majority of her work has taken place within the NGO sector. Her areas of expertise include strategic planning, program design and implementation, partnership development, and strategic communications. In 2011 she founded Jessica Berns Consulting, where she provides non-profit organizations, academic institutions, and philanthropists with customized guidance, directional support, and project management. Jessica works with clients to develop strategies, ignite programs, create communications platforms, and convene networks. She tweets from @jessicabberns.

At the end of each year, we tend to reflect on what the last year held for us. Perhaps we started a new job, made a few new discoveries, or welcomed a new family member, colleague or friend into our lives. For me and the Building Peace team at the Alliance for Peacebuilding, 2013 included all of this when we launched the inaugural issue of Building Peace in April. During this last year of developing and publishing the magazine, we learned a great deal from our authors and you, our readers.

As we head into 2014, we in the peacebuilding community see a year of great transition as people around the world find themselves on the brink of social, economic, and political change. In fact, it is increasingly clear that the very way in which change occurs is shifting:

People around the world rise up and make stronger calls for peace, as poignantly documented in Opting Out of War and A Whisper to a Roar. In response, the peacebuilding community is identifying the best ways to support those movements:

  • The revolution in communications and social media is changing social and governmental dynamics on every level, in unpredictable ways – and helping to build peace. See John McDonald’s article on Building a Platform for Peace.
  • Peacebuilders around the world are using new tactics to prevent violent conflict (See article by Victor Ochen on Uganda: Restoring Hope and Jon Kurtz on From Conflict to Coping: Promoting Drought Resilience through Peacebuilding) and governments are also pushing the boundaries of how to redress the impact of violent conflict. See Paula Gaviria Betancur on Colombia: The Victims’ Hour.
  • Women are becoming a part of the peacebuilding fabric and infrastructure around the world as Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee discussed in her interview with me. We will address this in our March issue which looks at more gendered and inclusive approaches to peacebuilding.
  • Cross-border criminal violence has overtaken politically-oriented civil violence as the major source of violent deaths – and new trends are emerging in the peacebuilding field. My colleagues and I on the Building Peace team and at the Alliance for Peacebuilding will explore these new issues in our September issue of Building Peace in 2014.

It may be that at the start of every year we claim to be on the cusp of great change. I believe that 2014 will bring much change. We need to remind ourselves that change can be small and barely noticeable or great and eye-catching, but for individuals and communities whose lives are improved by increased peace and security, even small change matters. 2013 saw a rising tide of momentum for peace – and 2014 will be about seizing the political and public will for peace. I am grateful to be working toward this with you – our dedicated readers and partners in peace. Here’s to a new year – and our renewed efforts.


Jessica Berns
Editor-in-Chief, Building Peace: A Forum for Peace and Security in the 21st Century

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