the Peacemakers Trust
labyrinth logo is a trademark of Peacemakers Trust What is Peacebuilding? One Definition

Catherine Morris

A great deal of human suffering is linked to violent conflicts, political instability, or unjust policies and practices. Short-term humanitarian relief and crisis intervention, while important, are not enough in conflicted or post-armed-conflict (often called "post-conflict") societies. There is increasing awareness of the need for post-armed-conflict reconciliation, development of capacity for conflict resolution and management, and the building of sustainable peace.

The term "peacebuilding" came into widespread use after 1992 when Boutros Boutros-Ghali, then United Nations Secretary-General, announced his Agenda for Peace (Boutros-Ghali, 1992). Since then, "peacebuilding" has become a broadly used but often ill-defined term connoting activities that go beyond crisis intervention such as longer-term development, and building of governance structures and institutions. It includes building the capacity of non-governmental organizations (including religious institutions) for peacemaking and peacebuilding. The emphasis of the United Nations has been on structural transformation, with a primary focus on institutional reform.

Peacebuilding involves a full range of approaches, processes, and stages needed for transformation toward more sustainable, peaceful relationships and governance modes and structures. Peacebuilding includes building legal and human rights institutions as well as fair and effective governance and dispute resolution processes and systems. To be effective, peacebuilding activities requires careful and participatory planning, coordination among various efforts, and sustained commitments by local and international donor partners. To summarize a construction metaphor used by Lederach, peacebuilding involves a long-term commitment to a process that includes investment, gathering of resources and materials, architecture and planning, coordination of resources and labour, laying of solid foundations, construction of walls and roofs, finish work and ongoing maintenance. Lederach also emphasizes that peacebuilding centrally involves the transformation of relationships and cultures. "Sustainable reconciliation" requires structural, cultural and relational transformations. (See Lederach, 1997, 20, 82-83).


Boutros Boutros-Ghali. An Agenda for Peace: Preventive Diplomacy, Peacemaking and Peace-keeping Document A/47/277 - S/241111, 17 June 1992. New York: Department of Public Information, United Nations, 1992.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Supplement to An Agenda for Peace: Position Paper of the Secretary-General on the Occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the United Nations Document A/50/60 - S/1995/1, 3 January 1995. New York: Department of Public Information, United Nations, 1995.

John Paul Lederach. Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1997.

Lederach J.P. Preparing for Peace: Conflict Transformation Across Cultures. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1995.

For bibliographies on several topics in conflict resolution and peacebuilding see Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding: A Selected Bibliography Table of Contents. The table of contents is also linked below.

What is Peacebuilding? One Definition
Copyright 2000, revised February 2013. Catherine Morris.

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