May 20, 2021
The ideal peacebuilding model is context-specific. It heavily relies on grassroots peacebuilding efforts by the local community to address specific causes of violence. It also relies on outsiders using the traditional top-down approach to connect with government officials, elites, rebel leaders, and other power players. These responses should be led by locals with knowledge and supported by outsiders with resources. Communities must make the decisions that impact themselves, instead of outsider interveners.
Bottom-up peacebuilding is a way to end conflict that focuses on identifying the roots causes of violence in a specific community, and addressing them directly. It engages all participants to reach long-lasting solutions to distinct and sometimes unrelated issues, resolve disputes through mediation, and work with outside organizations to help fund grassroots operations. Bottom-up peacebuilding has often succeeded where top-down peacebuilding efforts have failed.
Peace, Inc. refers to the standard worldwide system of intervention and peacebuilding, also known as top-down peacebuilding. It focuses on brokering deals between elites, leaders, diplomats, and other high-level players, while ignoring the communities that are directly affected by conflict. It treats outsiders as experts and relegates locals to an inferior status. While outside intervention can bring expertise and resources to war-torn areas, Peace, Inc. tactics are often practically ineffective and can even result in harm.
Séverine Autesserre is an award-winning author, peacebuilder, and researcher, as well as a Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is the author of The Trouble with the Congo, Peaceland, and The Frontlines of Peace, in addition to articles for publications such as Foreign Affairs, International Organization, and The New York Times.
She has been involved intimately in the world of international aid for more than twenty years. She has conducted research in twelve different conflict zones, from Colombia to Somalia to Israel and the Palestinian territories. She has worked for Doctors Without Borders in places like Afghanistan and Congo, and at the United Nations headquarters in the United States. Her research has helped shape the intervention strategies of several United Nations departments, foreign affairs ministries, and non-governmental organizations, as well as numerous philanthropists and activists. She has also been a featured speaker at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the United Nations Security Council.
You can follow her on Twitter at @SeverineAR.