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This is a creative review of the book ‘Little book of strategic peacebuilding’ by Lisa Schirch. The book attempts to draw together diverse activities and fields related to peace building in order to incorporate them into a single conceptual framework.  The framework’s main idea is that of strategic peacebuilding. This is an interdisciplinary and synchronized approach to building a just peace that is sustainable- a peace with justice. Strategic peacebuilding calls for clear goals: this book supports the concept of just peace as an overall vision for building peace.  Schirch (2005), also focuses on the way people working for peace. They should network with one another. By doing this, the author attempts to summarize and synthesize relational skills, values, analytical frameworks as well as the practices of numerous peacebuilding actors. By creating this synthesis, the author’s aim was to form a common language for talking about peacebuilding and to boost awareness and appreciation of the most diverse and important roles involved. The author chose the topic of this book in order to provide a more strategic and unified vision of peacebuilding by showing the way various approaches to peacebuilding connect, and collectively contribute to address violence, while at the same time bringing about lasting structural change.

The book describes the way people can live in a more peaceful world without poverty, wars, racism, community disputes, marital conflicts, and office tensions. It is thus helpful in healing and solving problems in the whole universe. The author predicts just peace…. sustainable condition as this is peace, which insists on justice. To attain just peace, the author identifies the difficulties as well as the effort this subtle model necessitates. She singled out four important activities that have to be embarked on for peace to be established at all levels. The four activities include waging conflict in a non-violent manner, reducing direct aggression, changing relationships as well as building capability. Schirch (2005) argues that this is not a fast or individual undertaking; there have to be many approaches to peace, and also candidly assessing the people, who hold power through persuasion and coercion with precise timing and keen judgment.

Thesis Analysis

Schirch (2005) thesis is well supported. In the introduction part of the book, the author begins with a meeting of a group of people affected by violence in the community, where they   have met to talk and plan their response. The group comprises of a police officer, women’s group, religious leaders, peacekeepers, community members, relief workers, non-violent activists, business leaders, government leaders, and researchers. The author argues that these persons are among many people who take part in peacebuilding to end the violence and also to establish structures that contribute to just and sustainable peace. This shows that there are many actors in many diverse arenas in peacebuilding. In this view, the author argues that field of peacekeeping is wide and more complex than most people realize (Schirch, 2005).

The author arguments are well defined and explicated. For instance, when defining peacebuilding effort, the author argues that the field of peacebuilding developed in response to the global most ruthless cases of violence. Such cases include racism, increased crime, oppression, and widespread and growing poverty, and also the war like the ones in Colombia and Liberia, where ideological, ethnic, and class divisions are fueled by an ongoing worldwide arms trade. The author then poses the question ‘what is being done about these problems? (Schirch, 2005, p.8) and argues that any answer to the question is potentially part of peacebuilding.

To support the thesis further, the author argues that different actors in peace building use different languages to describe their activities and also to talk about their values. They have diverse views on the way social change occurs and they also have diverse roles as well as responsibilities in the society. To support this point of view, the author argues that some of these actors speak for the need of law and order, others - for spiritual healing, return of traditional values, education or development, or a combination of all that were mentioned above. The actors may work in the same area, but they never coordinate their approaches in peacebuilding. This is where the author’s thesis comes into play, because she proposes that building a just and sustainable peace would necessitate that all these actors and actions to be harmonized into an overarching framework.

The book can help to heal or solve problems of the world universally, because different peace building actors would come together and coordinate their actions and learn each other’s approaches. The actors would benefit from learning more about the other actor’s approaches and how the approaches fit together. This would present a more strategic and unified vision for peacebuilding in the society. By combining their approaches, the peacebuilding actors would contribute to addressing violence and this would bring about long-term structural change.

It makes sense that this book answers questions to peacebuilding and help solve problems in a whole. The synthesis, presented in the book, creates a common language for talking about peacebuilding and also for increasing awareness as well as appreciation of the diverse and important roles involved. Unlike other authors of just peace, Schirch (2005) adds the perspective that the people who work for peace need to network with one another. Various peacekeeping fields and activities should be integrated into a conceptual framework, whose core is strategic peacebuilding in order to create a sustainable just peace-a-peace with justice.

 The author makes a significant contribution to the field of peacekeeping universally, because she offers a totally new perspective of strategic peacebuilding; combining different actors’ peacebuilding activities and fields. The book describes comprehensible and insightful approaches for pursuing a peace - that is a peace with justice- counting long lasting planning, working at each and every level in the society, making decision carefully as well as harmonizing diverse approaches and actors of peacebuilding. According to Schirch “peace does not happen, it is build when people take great care in their decision-making plan for the long term, anticipating potential problems, engaging in ongoing analysis of the conflict and local context, and coordinating different actors and activities in all stages of conflict and at all levels of society” (2005, p.9). The book also links different approaches to peacebuilding advocacy and activism, peace keeping, development, humanitarian assistance, restorative justice, conflict transformation, and trauma healing. The book offers a comprehensible planning and decision making guide.

Chapters Analysis/Review

The book addresses the issue of strategic peacebuilding chapter by chapter. There are twelve chapters in the book. This chapter by chapter analysis covers the entire process of strategic peacebuilding process. In the first chapter, the reader is introduced to the concept and process of peacebuilding. In the second chapter of the book, the author defines the concept of strategic peacebuilding. Peacebuilding is usually strategic when the actors, resource, and approaches are coordinated to realize numerous goals and address numerous issues for the long term. In the third chapter, the author identifies various values for peacebuilding. This is because the intersection of peacebuilding approaches reflects a set of values, relational skills, analytical processes, and frameworks. The values for peacebuilding grow out of a set of values that guide all decision making processes. The author argues that the values for peacebuilding needs and rights necessitate that society protects the minority rights, religious freedom, and other civil and social rights.

The fourth chapter of the book addresses to the relational skills of peace building. The intersection of peacebuilding approaches reflects a set of relational skills. The process of peacebuilding calls for skills, which build constructive relationships between people and their environment. The author assumed that conflict is usually a natural part of relationships, and thus people can learn skills, as adults and children learn, about how to relate to others in manners that increase the quality of life. Negotiation, mediation, dialogue, and negotiation skills are critical to the peacebuilding process.

 The fifth chapter covers the ‘analysis for peacebuilding’. Peacebuilding calls for a deep understanding of violence and conflict. This book advises people to understand the numerous causes and complex analysis of violence and conflict before they decide what to do about the violence and conflicts. The peacebuilders also determine the roles that they can play in violence and conflict through the analysis. They also need a clear comprehension of the dynamics and nature of the conflict before they choose the roles that they should play in any kind of intervention. Schirch (2005) argues that conflict analysis should be an ongoing task, because conflicts are dynamic.

The sixth chapter offers an overview of the peace building process. Schirch (2005) offers four broad categories of peacebuilding, which are presented in a map that shows how every category is important to peace building. The map emphasizes the unique goals of diverse approaches to peacebuilding (Schirch, 2005, p. 27). The next four chapters in the book cover the categories in the map.

The seventh chapter covers waging conflict nonviolently, which is the first category. This is where activists and advocates try to find support for change through increasing the power of people to deal with problems and develop the conditions that are necessary for transforming relationship. The eighth chapter focuses on reducing direct violence. The efforts for reducing direct violent objective is to contain violence perpetrators, prevent, and ease suffering of people who suffer from violence and also to craft a secure space for peacebuilding actions in other categories that tackle the main causes of violence. The nineth chapter covers ‘transforming relationship’. Efforts that aim to change people and their relationships employ diverse processes in addressing trauma, transforming conflict; they also do justice. The processes offer people a chance to form long term sustainable solutions for addressing their needs.

The tenth chapter covers ‘capacity building’. Peacebuilding efforts that run for a longer period improve existing capabilities to meet rights and needs and also prevent violence via training and education, research and evaluation, military conversion, and development. These activities purpose to put up just structures for supporting a sustainable culture of peace. The eleventh chapter covers ‘strategic design of peace building’. The strategic design for peacebuilding offers analytical tools for deciding on which particular process is useful in every unique context. It also seeks to unearth the strengths and successes, which can be built upon and supported through peacebuilding interventions (Schirch, 2005, p.65).

In the last chapter ‘evaluating and coordinating peacebuilding’ the author argues that tasks in peacebuilding are complex; the actors, resources, and approaches thus need to be coordinated to achieve many goals and address many issues in the long term. Without coordination, diverse approaches to building peace contradict other approaches of peace building. Coordination is thus important in ensuring that different actors and approaches to peacebuilding are in line. Evaluation offers a measure of success of peacebuilding.

Reliability Analysis

The information presented in this book is reliable, because the framework presented by the author gathers thoughts and experiences from many networks and people from around the world who are connected to the Eastern Mennonite University Conflict Transformation Program (Schirch, 2005, p. 7). The author also gathered wisdom from conservatives and progressives from the Southerners’ and the Northerners in the global community, from the past actions, and future voices in an attempt to fit the different paths into a logical peace building map.

The book is also reliable, because the author cites examples of countries that have been afflicted by war, and the way various actors and approaches can be coordinated to ensure that there is strategic peacebuilding. The author cites real life examples of peacebuilding efforts, for instance, peace building in Haiti, when internal conflict has threatened to break into mass murder and also the 2003 U.S. military presence in Liberia that aimed to reduce the levels of direct violence (Schirch, 2005, p.41). The author also cites the peace builders work at demobilization in the countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia (Schirch, 2005, p.61). These real life experiences support the author’s argument adding to the reliability of the book.

The information in the twelve chapters of the book covers the entire process of strategic peace building. The book brings together the numerous activities and fields related to peace building and integrate them into a single conceptual framework. All the chapters promote the concept of just peace as an overall vision for building peace. The author lays emphasis on the need of people working for peace to network with one another. The book generates a common language for talking about peace building and also increasing awareness and appreciation of the diverse and important roles involved.  This is achieved because the framework offered can be applied in diverse peace building efforts. The book has thus made a significant contribution to the field of peace keeping universally. 

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