On December 17th, after 10 years as a staff and board member, I will step down as US Executive Director. This is to make way for new leadership, and the next phase of growth and peacebuilding impact. In my last blog for Peace Direct, I reflect on the lessons learned and the achievements made during my time at this inspiring organization
Over the past decade, Peace Direct has grown its reach and impact in remarkable ways. I am proud of so much of what we have achieved in that time. We have established a US presence and grown our UK team. We’ve created a ‘Local Action Fund’ to shift power and resources into local hands, including more than 250 grants to young peacebuilders around the world. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we mobilized $150,000 to support the digital needs of local peacebuilders. For years, we’ve called for locally-led peacebuilding to be better funded and supported within the sector and among donors.
We are now a leading voice for decolonizing aid and ensuring that local people are front and center in creating more just and peaceful societies. We have learned so much together in the process. Here are five lessons I will be forever grateful to Peace Direct and our partners for teaching me:
Over the past few decades, peacebuilding has developed remarkably as a field. The work of bridging social divisions, addressing the roots of conflict, rebuilding relationships and reconciling broken communities has been present in societies for ages. And yet, it is only recently that this work has been backed up by academia, policies, and a growing evidence base. This is important progress in our collective knowledge and learning as a global community. But the most important reality remains that people – ordinary people – are the ones who build peace. Local communities who experience violence and oppression directly and work to overcome it know this, and we should never forget it. People build peace, and we can all play a role.
Peace Direct’s vision is of a just world free from violent conflict. Justice is the bedrock for safe and secure societies. Peacebuilding requires confronting the injustice and oppression that divides societies and drives violence. This includes addressing racism, discrimination, marginalization, and ideologies of hate head on. It also means decolonizing peacebuilding itself, to ensure that local people with lived experience of injustice and violence are the ones in the lead. This is not easy work, but it is vital to ensure that we are aligning our organizations with our values and vision for the world. We cannot build peace without justice.
I am continually inspired by the hope and courage that local peacebuilders demonstrate everyday as they work on the frontlines of war and violence. I cannot imagine what their daily realities are like from my place of privilege and safety. And yet, local peacebuilders are by far some of the most joyful, loving people I know. During my time with Peace Direct, we lost two long-time partners and friends. Isse Abdullahi from Somalia was killed in 2019 in a bombing by armed groups. Henri Ladyi Bora from the Democratic Republic of Congo lost his life from an infection during the pandemic that could have easily been treated with the access to decent healthcare that everyone should enjoy. Each of them chose to work for peace despite the threats and challenges it created for them and for their families. Both Isse and Henri saved and transformed hundreds of lives through their work– as do all our partners. They shared their hope and courage with everyone they touched, and in doing so, they helped others gain the courage and hope to act for peace too.
Building peace locally and globally is not possible without collaboration and collective effort. In fact, building peace is inherently about creating spaces for greater inclusion, increased connection, and deepened relationships with those we know and, more importantly, those who are different from us. Our work at Peace Direct, and the work we do to support local peacebuilders around the world, would not be possible without all our staff, partners, colleagues, and supporters – all of you! This holiday season, I hope you’ll reflect on the ways peacebuilders have touched your life and give back in whatever ways you can. Creating more just and peaceful societies is the work of all of us.
Most of all, I am so grateful for all the people I have had the honor to meet, work alongside, learn from and share with over this past decade with Peace Direct. Thank you for inspiring me every day to continue believing, hoping, and working toward a more just and peaceful world. Together, wherever we are, we can keep building that world together.
This Giving Tuesday, please join me in supporting Peace Direct and helping us prepare the way for new leadership in our team. Your gift today will help us continue working with local people all around the world to stop violent conflict, and go toward building the future of our organization.
Thank you for all your support and for being peacebuilders in your own communities!