What is a Peacebuilder?


First: What is Peacebuilding?

Peacebuilding involves that work which promotes social change and "positive peace," which is much more than the absence of violent conflict. It often deals with the transformation of relationships and the building of capacity and relationships at multiple levels.

Peacebuilding is exceptionally complex work: Effective peacebuilders must take into account underlying histories, cultures, root causes and immediate stressors on top of their "actual" (technical) work. For this reason, we at Petra believe that the work of peacebuilders is the most humanly valuable work on the planet.

What is a Peacebuilder?

At Petra, the word peacebuilder includes a wide swath of people, both professional and amateur, involved in the wide world of national and international peacebuilding. This can include people working in:

* Humanitarian aid

* Economic development

* Institution and nation building

* Human rights and advocacy

* Conflict prevention, conflict resolution and reconciliation

* Environmental conservation and protection

* Any number of educational, social or structural initiatives that contribute to positive social change, facilitate the establishment of durable peace, and assist in preventing the recurrence of violence by addressing root causes of conflict


Peacebuilders work in their home countries, though very often they work abroad. A typical peacebuilder's life might look like one of these:

Olivia - South america

Olivia is a Peruvian social worker. Her country has made great advances in poverty alleviation, but in her job she doesn't see much of that progress; she still sees the hardest cases day after day. She's tough and competent, but she isn't made of stone, either. It's easy to get discouraged and lose focus of the bigger picture. Like many of her women peers, Olivia tries her best to juggle her work with raising her young family and taking care of her aging parents. She's tired, she gets conflicted with her priorities and doesn't really know where to turn for help and support. Olivia is a dedicated peacebuilder who needs help from someone who understands her context and who can help her sort things out for a healthy and sustainable work/life balance.

Yair - Middle East

Yair is a fledgling Israeli documentary filmmaker who throws himself into inspiring but challenging messages in order to help transform the conflict. His vision seems extraordinary to people on the outside but inside his own culture, it feels like trying to push a boulder uphill. Even his own family doesn't believe in what he is doing, and he feels terribly alone. He doesn't yet realize that there are countless filmmakers just like him fighting for social change all around the world. Yair is an ambitious peacebuilder who needs someone to come alongside him, to coach him through his next project and who can also introduce him to a wider network of colleagues from whom he will receive life-long interpersonal support.

Chris - Afghanistan

Chris is a civilian embedded with the US military in Afghanistan. As a security contractor working in nation building in a war zone, he is part of a group of people also known as Frontline Civilians. He works with Afghan provincial governments in helping rebuild schools and commerce. Others of his frontline civilian colleagues are training Afghan police and army to help build national security infrastructure. Chris is someone who embraces huge challenges; he loves his job because he feels he's doing something meaningful in an incredibly difficult place. But unlike his military counterparts, Chris is flying solo in the sense that he doesn't have any built-in medical or mental health support when his contract in Afghanistan is up. Military veterans themselves have less than adequate resources when they return from their tours; frontline civilians like Chris have even less (well, none to be honest) and yet Chris is suffering the same exact post-trauma effects as his colleagues in the field. Chris is a courageous peacebuilder who is about to learn just how difficult post-assignment life can be upon returning to his home country, on so many tangible and intangible levels.

Ellen - Southeast Asia

Ellen works in Bali, famous for its tropical climate and lovely beaches. But don't assume she works in a paradise: Like many countries, Indonesia has its challenges with human trafficking, and Ellen is a human rights lawyer. The people in Ellen's life see her as a model woman to emulate, but they don't know the full story. Ellen is 15 years into her career, and the difficult nature of her work has led her to lose faith in humanity. Furthermore, her own social support system which she had when she started her career doesn't do her any good anymore, especially now that she is half a world away from where she started her career. Her closest relationships have changed over time, and it's hard to make new friends with people who don't understand how or why your job affects you so much. She works too much, and when she finally leaves the office, she doesn't go out. She draws into herself, a tactic which usually rejuvenates her, but now there's nothing inside to get any strength from anymore. Ellen is a gifted peacebuilder on the edge of burning out.

*Sample cases are representative but not 100% factual.
any real-life resemblance is entirely coincidental.