September 21st is always an exciting day for us peacebuilders when we come together to galvanize the world around the importance of peace. Even Facebook greeted their millions of users at the top of our feeds this morning with a video to remind us that “Peace Begins With Love.”
As with all the other international days to recognize important issues, we use this day to build awareness of the importance of peace, such as the London-based global campaign #PeaceOneDay, and as a call to action to do something for peace, such as USIP’s #PeaceDayChallenge.
Do you have a clear definition in your mind of what exactly “peace” is? I have been pressed several times in the last month to define peace. Or rather, to acknowledge that there are so many different definitions of peace that this might hinder us professionals from sufficiently aligning our efforts to make a real difference in the world. So with this cacophony of messages and initiatives on Peace Day, I am both inspired by the number of caring people and organizations involved and also aware of our disparate and diverse pieces of peace.
- The Alliance for Peacebuilding has compiled several definitions of peacebuilding from various academic and multi-lateral institutions, all focusing on the complexity of actors and acknowledging the broad continuum of different activities from conflict prevention to human rights to social and political development.
- The idea of “Positive Peace” from the Institute of Economics and Peace has added a helpful framework to define and then measure peace as much more than the absence of violence, carefully tracking the attitudes, structures and institutions that keep societies peaceful.
- There are also the specific fields of peacemaking or peacekeeping, practices which focus principally on the very fluid nature of interventions to end violent political conflict and wars.
So working for “peace” is indeed a big and complex issue in the world, yet we can also boil it down to the simplest of daily interactions. Mother Teresa said “Peace starts with a smile.”
At PartnersGlobal we are committed to peace by promoting democratic values, conflict transformation, inclusive societies and social justice. Our network of 19 local Partners’ Centers is incredibly diverse, tackling many different problems around the globe through a variety of strategies and activities. If you asked us, we might have 19 different definitions or peace. From Yemen to El Salvador to Albania to Nigeria, we confront radically different realities; but, what unites us is the way we do our work: The Partners Way.
Martin Luther King Jr. said “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” I think the Partners Way captures this sentiment. Peace is about how we conduct ourselves in our daily lives, how we respect, collaborate and build bridges with others to bring different interests together to solve common problems. Peace is about our vision for the world and how we inspire action.
I’m not sure we should spend so much time trying to define the distant goal of peace. Instead, let’s focus on the way we stitch together and amplify the cacophony of voices that come together on the International Day of Peace. On September 21st and every other day.
Julia Roig is the President of PartnersGlobal and the Vice Chair of the Alliance for Peacebuilding. You can watch her TedX Talk We are All Peacebuilders.