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Infrastructures for Peace

Madeleine Mosse, CEO at Plan for Peace, explains how building a more peaceful world ‘happens on every level’
Plan for Peace community leaders in Kosovo

This article first appeared in our Earth Day issue of My Green Pod Magazine, published 22 April 2024. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Main image: Plan for Peace community leaders in Kosovo

As we look at the state of the world this Earth Day, it’s easy to feel disheartened.

War is surging around the world, bringing mass deaths, pushing people out of their homes and disrupting food production and economic supply chains.

Meanwhile, climate change is amplifying threats such as food insecurity, water scarcity and resource fears, while also spurring migration. 

In the face of such large-scale suffering, you may be wondering how you can make a difference.

How to build peace

At Plan for Peace, we support societies to build Infrastructures for Peace. Just as countries invest in the infrastructure of war – spending huge sums on military hardware, the training of personnel and strategies for defence – we demonstrate how by investing in human resources, mechanisms and policies that build trust and connection, de-escalate violence and facilitate dialogue, we can effectively build peace.

Elements of an Infrastructure for Peace differ in every context. They can involve developing national social cohesion strategies, establishing peace committees that ease tensions, supporting inter-community dialogue or putting in place effective early warning systems.

They could encompass new institutions such as Peace Museums or Ministries for Peace, and reforms across education and the security forces.

The important thing is that peace is systematically strengthened at every level of society – from grassroots to the government – and, crucially, that it is shaped by local actors.

Peace through connection

This approach was transformative in post-apartheid South Africa, where Nelson Mandela led the formation of local peace councils, the Peace and Reconciliation Commission and other initiatives as part of a concerted and systematic peace effort that many credit with preventing civil war.

Another way of looking at an Infrastructure for Peace is to see it as a well functioning web of relationships; where people feel connected, we know that peace can flourish.

Often, as was the case in Northern Ireland, it isn’t just political will that sustains peace, but the compounded quality of thousands of positive micro-relationships between people and groups.

In the words of John Paul Lederach, a famous peacebuilder and our mentor at Plan for Peace, it’s about understanding that ‘Ultimately in the long picture the wellbeing of my enemy’s grandchildren and my grandchildren are intimately tied together.’

Letting go of blame

An Infrastructure for Peace must also recognise the change that needs to take place at the individual level. This is the hard emotional work that requires enormous courage.

Moving beyond our natural desire for revenge, blame and judgement is perhaps the most challenging endeavour of all.

Peacebuilding doesn’t only take place on the frontlines of war, it takes place in our homes, workplaces and communities as well.

Our Head of Peacebuilding, Jo Berry, has her own incredible story of making peace with the man who killed her father. ‘Through deep listening and empathy we can disarm those that we are in conflict with’, Jo says. ‘Once we have let go of our need to blame, we can have a new conversation where both sides can hear each other, despite the difference. This then opens up the possibility of finding a way forward that engages the needs of both parties.’

We believe that building a more peaceful world happens on every level, which is empowering because it means that all of us can make a difference.

In these turbulent times we must not lose hope: we know that change is possible. To believe in hope is a form of non-violence in itself, and an essential quality for any peacebuilder. One that we can all embody.

ABOUT PLAN FOR PEACE

Plan for Peace was founded in 2020 by three-times Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr Scilla Elworthy to help create a groundswell of people, governments and institutions committed to a world without violent conflict.

In the UK, Plan for Peace supports and connects community leaders and changemakers through its Changemakers in
Turbulent Times programme.

Globally, the organisation’s work is focused on supporting countries to build viable Plans for Peace – strategic processes and frameworks to help prevent violent conflict.

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