Adaptive Peacebuilding

A New Approach to Sustaining Peace in the 21st Century

About this book

This open access book responds to the urgent need to improve how we prevent and resolve conflict. It introduces Adaptive Peacebuilding through evidence-based research from eight case studies across Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. It also considers how China and Japan view and practice peacebuilding. The book focuses on how peacebuilders design, implement and evaluate programs to sustain peace, how interactions between external and local actors have facilitated or hindered peacemaking, and how adaptation to complexity and uncertainty occurred in each case study.

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Cedric de Coning, Research Professor, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), and Senior Advisor, African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD). 

Ako Muto, Executive Senior Research Fellow, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Ogata Sadako Research Institute for Peace and Development. 

Rui Saraiva, Research Fellow, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Ogata Sadako Research Institute for Peace and Development. 


“For those committed to the cause of building and sustaining peace – in a way that breathes meaning into all too familiar promises of “local ownership”, “context-specific local solutions” and “sustainability” – Adaptive Peacebuilding is an invaluable contribution to our thinking and practice. The various cases studied – many of which resonate with our own experience – demonstrate clearly that context specific adaptive peacebuilding approaches help to sustain peace because they stimulate, facilitate, and support local agency and resilience. Thank you, colleagues; through this work we all continue to learn!” – (Elizabeth Spehar, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support)

The 2015 review of the Peacebuilding Architecture had a significant impact on the work of the United Nations, and I was pleased to find that the whole thrust of this book, in both the conceptual chapters and especially the specific case studies, builds on the pioneering work begun in 2015.  The concept of adaptive peacebuilding is a good example, as well as the continued insistence on local ownership and adaptation to singular conditions.  Happily, the seeds planted in 2015 continue to germinate.  – (Gert Rosenthal, Chair of the Advisory Group of the 2015 Review of the United Nations Peacebuilding Architecture)

This is an insightful book. Adaptive peacebuilding is precisely what is needed to explain that conflicts are inherently indigenous and complex requiring society-specific approaches and interactions. To sustain peace, then, we need to empower and interact with local and national leaders who are ready to change their mindsets to adapt what needs to be adopted to achieve the goal of building self-reliant people and society. To build and sustain peace in any society, we also need to change our mindset and transcend the pre-determined prescriptions by recognizing that it is easier to change the mentality of national and local people than to change our own.- (Sukehiro Hasegawa,Distinguished Professor, Kyoto University of the Arts and,Former Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Timor-Leste

Adaptive Peacebuilding is a very welcome addition to the literature on peacebuilding. It captures the complexities and evolutionary thoughts on different approaches and processes to making peacebuilding work in different contexts. Capturing the difficulties of the linearity in liberal peacekeeping and its weaknesses and juxtaposing it with the advantages of context-specific approaches, this important addition to the peacebuilding literature recognizes and encourages local agential roles and their contributions to more sustainable peacebuilding endeavours. Adaptive Peacebuilding is a welcome comparative study of different cases studies that brings out the nuances and details of how peacebuilding has been done in different contexts. This is a useful study for students, academics and policymakers. – (Kwesi Aning, Professor of Security Studies and Director, Faculty of Academic Affairs and Research, Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, Accra, Ghana)

There is real magic in combining powerful conceptual discussion with strong and clear practice, all wrapped in a real-world passion to help build a better future for communities forgotten within never-ending conflicts. This volume sets the standard! It will be on my desk, not on my bookshelf -and will be for practitioners, policy-makers and academics alike. – (Professor Mike Hardy CMG OBE,Founding Director of Centre for Trust Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University, Chair, International Leadership Association)

In an era of uncertainty and compound crises, this book gives us practical guidance on new ways of working for peacebuilding, which are context-specific, participatory, and employ an holistic systems approach. The principles of adaptive peacebuilding introduced in the book encourage diverse actors to apply an iterative process of experimentation, learning and adaptation, and are capable of bringing different actors together to enhance much-needed effective partnerships for the humanitarian-development-peace nexus. They also resonate with our human security approach that emphasizes resilience and trust-building through dialogues within local societies. The analyses in the case studies shed light on how different actors have tried to be adaptive to deal with realities on the ground and conceptualize tacit knowledge from field experience. – (Ryutaro Murotani, Senior Director and Head of Office for Peacebuilding, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA))

Book summary

Driven by the need to reverse alarming armed conflict trends amidst increasing uncertainty, risks, and complexity, this book introduces and assesses a new approach to peacebuilding initiated by the United Nations in 2016, the sustaining peace agenda, and one new method to pursue it, adaptive peacebuilding. As this edited volume intends to speak directly to the policy, practitioner, and research communities engaged in peacebuilding, it critically analyzes the strengths and limits of contemporary peacebuilding practices and questions the dominant determined-design peacebuilding paradigm and its prescriptive orientation. The book then assesses the application of alternative approaches such as adaptive peacebuilding through seven empirical case studies, representing a diverse range of complex conflict situations and where a diverse range of peacebuilding actors – global, national and local; public and private; community, religious, development and political – is implementing a variety of peacebuilding programs. Furthermore, as peacebuilding has until recently been dominated by Western concepts and practices, this book explores the peacebuilding approaches of two major countries in the Asia-Pacific region – China and Japan – and considers how the ongoing geopolitical shifts will influence the future of peacebuilding. Finally, this edited volume also intends to analyze the key role of national and local actors in the peacebuilding process and highlight the role of context-specific solutions in making adaptive peacebuilding approaches work effectively on the ground.

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