The Women PeaceMakers Program — New Strategy, Ambitious Goals

Thursday, May 4, 2017TOPICS: Women PeacemakersFaculty and Staff

UN jeeps drive through a rural area of Uganda

by Andrew Blum, PhD
Executive Director, Institute for Peace and Justice

In a recent article, Severine Autesserre, a leading scholar of peacebuilding practice, writes, “Should international actors support local peacebuilding processes? If so, how can they actually do this?” She then notes that “the policy and scholarly literatures suffer from a dearth of findings on successful international support to local peace efforts.” 

Based on conversations I’ve had, this finding tracks with the lived experience of both international practitioners and local peacebuilders. In our experience, both the internationals and the locals (imperfect terms I know, but I don’t think we have better ones) recognize that collaboration is crucial to success and are deeply frustrated by failure after failure to foster true partnerships that create effective peacebuilding.

This year, as we reflected on 15 years of the Women PeaceMakers program and thought deeply about the conversations we’ve had with our PeaceMakers over the years, we realized we need to continue documenting stories of women building peace and defending human rights, but also to leverage those stories more effectively to address real challenges that they face in their work every day. And one of the challenges we hear again and again from the PeaceMakers is the one Autesserre discusses: the inability to work effectively with international partners.

The new Women PeaceMakers program for 2017-18 will focus on this challenge. In addition to choosing four PeaceMakers, the program will choose four individuals from international organizations with deep experience working with local partners on peacebuilding efforts. Through reflection on their experiences and sustained engagement with each other, the PeaceMakers and the international partners will develop a “Compact,” a set of guiding principles for more effective international-local collaboration on peacebuilding, particularly women-led peacebuilding. The PeaceMakers will then receive support to take the Compact back to their countries and work with additional international partners there to better understand how to put the principles into practice within their context.

In this new effort, we are inspired by initiatives like Doing Development Differently and Thinking and Working Politically, that are working not just to share lessons learned, but to address fundamental challenges to effective development and peacebuilding practice. We know our PeaceMakers have knowledge and experience that can transform international peacebuilding practice. Beginning next year, that will be our (admittedly ambitious) goal for the program. Finally, it’s important to note that while our goal is clear, this new effort is an experiment, a leap into a new way of doing things. All along the way, we’ll be testing our ideas, learning, and sharing our successes and failures. So stay tuned.

2017 Women PeaceMakers Application here.


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