On Monday evening the World Affairs Council will host US Institute of Peace President Nancy Lindborg at a Global Town Hall in association with the Belmont University Center for International Business. Please join us for this opportunity to hear from and talk with Ms. Lindborg about the challenges the United States faces in the world in “waging peace.”
Today we are pleased to share with you Ms. Lindborg’s op-ed “The Case for Waging Peace,” which has been published in “The Tennessean.”
The Case for Waging Peace
By Nancy Lindborg
It’s hard to remember a time since the Cold War ended when there seem to be more global threats to our security. Russia and China are spending billions to challenge America’s interests worldwide, a nuclear-armed North Korea is issuing alarming new threats, and authoritarianism is on the rise.
More than a quarter of the global population today lives in a fragile state, where the social contract between society and the government is deeply frayed. These are the states that spiral into civil war and chaos, forcing hundreds of thousands of citizens to become refugees. And the threat of violent extremism continues to keep our troops in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yet, we often forget that all these global threats are occurring against the backdrop of a long peace. Over the last 70 years, we have seen the leveling off of interstate conflict and heartening progress in global development. Worldwide, the number of people living in extreme poverty dropped by half between 1990 and 2015, as did the rate of women dying in pregnancy or children dying before their fifth birthday. These milestones demonstrate that determined global leadership and action can achieve great progress.
Likewise, years of research and work on the ground in conflict zones has made clear that, while it takes time–often decades–peace is possible. Many conflicts that used to dominate the news have been resolved, with U.S. leadership, diplomacy and partnership. In Northern Ireland, U.S.-supported peace talks brought an end to 30 years of conflict that claimed more than 3,500 lives. In Liberia, the U.S. worked with the Economic Community of West African States to help end an 18-year civil war. That peace ushered in Africa’s first elected female head of state, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who will step down in January in the country’s first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since 1944.
Today’s conflicts seem equally intractable. But even now, peace efforts are moving forward, often at the local level and through the extraordinary efforts of ordinary people. Not surprisingly, the best approaches usually involve helping citizens and governments solve their own problems.
In Iraq, for example, the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) helps tribal leaders and government officials broker local peace agreements between rival sectarian groups in communities torn apart by the ISIL occupation. The accords not only spare American and Iraqi lives, but will reduce the need for repeated military intervention and open the way for hundreds of thousands of displaced people to return home.
In Colombia, the Institute helped negotiators end a 50-year civil war–one of the world’s longest-running conflicts–in part by involving victims who’d lost family, property and livelihoods, and by mobilizing civil society groups, especially women’s organizations, that could bring to the table their voice and concerns for a more inclusive peace.
Even in Afghanistan, where the war seems intractable, peaceful habits can be re-established. After Nangarhar University in the east developed a peace education curriculum in partnership with USIP, hundreds of pro-peace students marched against violence and terrorism. Just one year earlier, the university had had large campus rallies in support of ISIS and the Taliban.
But building an environment where peace can take hold takes time. One young Afghan woman studying law in Kabul told me that, after 40 years of war, an entire generation—even her own family—have lost the skills, traditions and models for solving problems peacefully.
We are at a critical moment, where we can either spiral into further conflict and chaos or heed this global wake-up call with concerted action. U.S. global leadership and the values we have infused into the system are essential, coupled with a greater focus on preventing and resolving violent conflict.
Tennesseans are in a good position to understand the unique role America plays to maintain global leadership. The chairman of the Health, Education and Labor Committee and former Education Secretary, Lamar Alexander, and the chairman of the Senate’s influential Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, represent the Volunteer State. And Tennessee has produced three American presidents and statesmen from both sides of the aisle like Al Gore and Howard Baker.
With more than 71,000 Tennesseans serving in active duty or reserve military and defense roles, and international trade supporting almost a quarter of the state’s total jobs in 2013, what happens in the rest of the world has a direct impact on the people of Tennessee.
As President John F. Kennedy said, it is “dangerous [and] defeatist” to believe that war is inevitable. He said, “Our problems are man-made. Therefore, they can be solved by man.”
Nancy Lindborg has served since February 2015 as president of the United States Institute of Peace, an independent institution founded by Congress to provide practical solutions for preventing and resolving violent conflict around the world. She will be speaking at a World Affairs Council Town Hall at Belmont University on Oct. 2. Information and RSVP at TNWAC.org
Nancy Lindborg has served since February, 2015, as President of the United States Institute of Peace, an independent institution founded by Congress to provide practical solutions for preventing and resolving violent conflict around the world.
Ms. Lindborg has spent most of her career working in fragile and conflict affected regions around the world. Prior to joining USIP, she served as the assistant administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA) at USAID. From 2010 through early 2015, Ms. Lindborg led USAID teams focused on building resilience and democracy, managing and mitigating conflict and providing urgent humanitarian assistance. Ms. Lindborg led DCHA teams in response to the ongoing Syria Crisis, the droughts in Sahel and Horn of Africa, the Arab Spring, the Ebola response and numerous other global crises.
Prior to joining USAID, Ms. Lindborg was president of Mercy Corps, where she spent 14 years helping to grow the organization into a globally respected organization known for innovative programs in the most challenging environments. She started her international career working overseas in Kazakhstan and Nepal.
Ms. Lindborg has held a number of leadership and board positions including serving as co-president of the Board of Directors for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition; co-founder and board member of the National Committee on North Korea; and chair of the Sphere Management Committee. She is a member of Council on Foreign Relations.
She holds a B.A and M.A. in English Literature from Stanford University and an M.A. in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
About the United States Institute of Peace (USIP)
The United States Institute of Peace is an independent national institute, founded by Congress and dedicated to the proposition that a world without violent conflict is possible, practical, and essential for U.S. and global security. USIP pursues this vision on the ground in conflict zones, working with local partners to prevent conflicts from turning to bloodshed and to end it when they do. The Institute provides training, analysis, and other resources to people, organizations, and governments working to build peace.
The Tennessee World Affairs Council is a nonprofit (501c3), nonpartisan educational charity based in Nashville that works to build understanding of global issues in our communities. Learn more about the Council and find how you can join, donate and volunteer at: www.TNWAC.org —