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Technical Peacebuilding: Measuring Peace

by Zayneb Nishant

Table of Contents

Introduction: Positive vs. Negative Peace

Measuring Peace

Comparing the Two Structures



Introduction: Positive vs. Negative Peace

Peacebuilding is a method of mediation that tackles conflict by attempting to prevent violent clashes and by establishing sustainable peace. Peacebuilding differs from other more common, reactionary peace efforts in that it confronts root causes of violence, enforces the expectation of peaceful resolutions to disputes, and helps societies to stabilize both economically and politically.

Action that drives the peacebuilding process depends heavily on the context to which it is applied and must be tailored specifically to the situation. In its 2017 Positive Peace report, the IEP stated that in order for peacebuilding efforts to be successful, they must “create an environment supportive of self-sustaining, durable peace; reconcile opponents; prevent conflict from restarting; integrate civil society; create rule of law mechanisms; and address underlying structural and societal issues.” [1]

Negative peace, on the other hand, is defined as merely the absence of war or armed conflict. Rather than identifying the origin of an issue, negative peace refers to a more short term, curative method of addressing conflict. This approach may help stop violence, but does so temporarily and without real effort to pursue sustainable peace.

Negative peacekeeping efforts emphasize:

  • Managing interpersonal and organizational conflict to control, contain, and reduce actual and potential violence.

  • Reducing the incidence of war by eliminating the extreme dangers of the war system and limiting war through international crisis management. [2]

  • Preventing war through strategic deterrence and arms control. [3]

How Positive Peace works: Systems thinking

We have come to understand that pursuing positive peace is a complex, delicate process and it must only be approached armed with a thorough understanding of all aspects of the root issue. The theory of systems thinking has proved a helpful tool when examining the complicated issues between and within countries and nations. The systems theory claims that though we tend to gravitate toward classifying situations in a linear, cause and effect way, in reality, they tend to be a lot more complex and interconnected. The world is made up of intricate and codependent systems and in order to truly solve a problem, it is important to see the full picture and recognize how each component affects the others. When a problem is addressed without a full understanding of the details, there is a potential for accidental consequences. Failure to resolve many of the world’s lingering issues is often the result of this lack of understanding. By allowing us to understand and properly tackle issues, the system thinking theory can be applied to the pursuit of positive peace. [4]

Measuring Peace

To be able to clearly identify the most effective approach to support, measure and implement peacebuilding, it is important to compare different methods and pinpoint what works and what is missing. The IEP’s eight pillars of peace and the 6 segments included in the peacebuilding framework of the UN Peacebuilding Support Office are systematic measuring instruments designed to assess key aspects of peacebuilding. Holding these two structures next to each other will highlight which method is more comprehensive, helping us to identify variables that are missing in either IEP or UN’s framework to support peacebuilding activities.

Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP)

A massive amount of work has been done by Institute of Economics and Peace in measuring global peace and developing indexes such as the Global Peace Index, the Positive Peace Index, and the Global Terrorism Index. Each of these indexes help to identify variables to quantify peace metrics in a country. The various indexes have given a clear sense of direction for countries to recognize areas that can be worked upon to sustain and boost peacefulness.

IEP Pillars of Positive Peace: The eight pillars represent what the IEP have identified as the key aspects of Positive Peace. Within these eight general domains, the IEP has included information based on 24 different variables that have been identified by compiling and analyzing huge datasets taken from different government and United Nations websites. [5]

  1. Well-functioning government – a government able to provide services, to prompt political participation, to uphold rule of law, and to maintain a stable political climate

    1. The EIU Democracy Index – Democratic political culture

    2. Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) – Government effectiveness

    3. Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) – Rule of Law

  2. Sound Business Environment – A strong, stable economy and a competitive market

    1. the Legatum Prosperity Index – Business environment

    2. the Heritage Foundation - Index of Economic Freedom

    3. Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) – GDP per capita

  3. Equitable Distribution of Resources - Equal access to resources such as health and education

    1. UNDP – Inequality-adjusted life expectancy

    2. IDP – Social mobility

    3. World bank – Poverty gap

  4. Acceptance of the Rights of Others – Tangible legislation advocating for universal human rights and unofficial societal norms of tolerance between different groups

    1. CIRI – Empowerment Index

    2. Fund for Peace – Group grievance rating

    3. UNDP – Gender Inequality Index

  5. Good Relations with Neighbors – peaceful relationships with other countries

    1. EIU – Hostility to foreigners

    2. EIU- Number of visitors

    3. EIU – Regional integration

  6. Free Flow of Information - a free press

    1. Freedom House – Freedom of the Press Index

    2. Mobile Phone Subscription rate (ITU)

    3. Reporters Without Borders – World Press Freedom Index

  7. High levels of Human Capital – a skilled, highly educated population

    1. The World Bank - Secondary school enrollment

    2. Cornell University - Global Innovation Index

    3. Commonwealth Secretariat – Youth Development Index

  8. Low levels of Corruption -

    1. Fragile States Index – Factionalized elites

    2. Transparency International – Corruption Perception Index

    3. Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) – Control of Corruption

The IEP’s systematic accumulation of information provides a platform from which Positive Peace can be pursued. By using systems thinking to identify essential dimensions of peacebuilding, they have attempted to touch on every aspect that is pertinent to the issue at hand. They have found a way to combine the efforts of numerous reputable sources to help form a comprehensive understanding of all the relevant factors. [6]

In the past, there has been a split between those who believe that culture of peace is an abstract, unmeasurable concept and those who attempt to quantify and implement peace scientifically. The blueprint for peacebuilding provided by the IEP approach is revolutionary in that it has attempted to combine these previously conflicting approaches by actually systematically approaching and scientifically measuring a region’s culture of peace.

The United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO)

The peacebuilding efforts of the PBSO center around three general features: National Ownership, National Capacity, and Common Strategy.

National Ownership refers to the UN’s commitment to getting local actors involved and interested in peacebuilding efforts. The PBSO sees the importance of developing a working partnership with regional stakeholders and makes sure to… It is repeatedly clear that effective implementation of this feature is crucial to the success of the peacebuilding process. One of the most well-known triumphs of ‘national ownership’ can be seen in South Africa’s relatively smooth, post-apartheid transition, where the national government and local sectors of society were able to collaborate effectively. While the peacebuilding process is a collective effort, local governments and organizations have key responsibilities and without cooperation between external and internal actors, peacebuilding becomes unsustainable and difficult to enforce. [7]

National Capacity is the feature of UN peacebuilding that focuses on helping the country to maintain its ability to sustain lasting peace. In order to sustain durable peace, the PBSO has identified 6 segments of society that… This feature and its 6 corresponding segments are comparable to the IEP’s pillars in that they both aim to address root issues to create lasting peace.

6 segments of reform used by United Nations

  1. Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration (DDR)These efforts can actually be classified as negative peace as it represents a peacekeeping strategy rather than a more long term peacebuilding tactic. DDR refers to the removal of weapons and ammunition from militant groups, the disbandment of those groups, and the reintegration of their members into society as civilians [8].

  2. Security Sector Reform (SSR)This segment focuses on creating a well-functioning security sector that demonstrates accountability, transparency, effectiveness, and commitment to rule of law. These objectives are essential to the establishment of a well-run SSG and it is clear that a security sector lacking in any of these aspects would pose a threat to both civilian and national security [9].

  3. Reconciliation Programthis segment focuses on the establishment of sustainable peace and the prevention of the possibility of conflict restarting. The main objectives center around repairing relationships, a process that must be handled with careful attention to all specific details of “the nature of the conflict and the character of the transition.” [10]

  4. HealthThis section stresses the correlation between a well-functioning healthcare system and a sustainable culture of peace. With guarantees of essential resources and treatments, comes a cycle of prosperity and stability.

  5. Social and Administration This segment is about rebuilding a state’s legitimacy and accountability by creating a well-functioning administration that is able to deliver social services equally and consistently to its citizens. The state must have the ability to “raise and manage revenue, establish priorities, allocate and account for resources, maintain order, deliver services, pay state employees, procure equipment and services, and develop and implement projects.” [11]

  6. Education – This section recognizes the importance of education in the peacebuilding process. By teaching problem solving and critical thinking skills, education trains people to find nonviolent solutions to their disputes rather than using violence. It has also proved to create a feeling of normalcy and stability within a community, helping to restore faith in the state. [12]

Common Strategy refers to the importance of having an established course of action toward which the state, the UN, and any other participating partners can allocate resources. Using information collected about the national capacity, a strategy can be formed around the assessment of the country’s situation. This process must be conducted through inclusive collaboration with a variety of stakeholders in order to guarantee the strategy is acceptable to all parties involved. It must also be based on a thorough assessment all aspects of the situation so that the strategy can effectively confront the region’s specific issues. [13]

Comparing the Two Structures

Peacebuilding has proved to be an effective method to diffuse tension and prevent conflict. The aspects it deals with are nuanced and complex and they must be approached armed with a thorough understanding of the situation at hand.

When comparing these two frameworks, it becomes clear that the UN and the IEP have approached their peacebuilding efforts in different ways and with varying data collection methods. One of the most evident differences between these two systems is that the IEP has been able to collect more in-depth information from a wider variety of sources. By using information gathered from 24 different indexes conducted by multiple trusted sources, the IEP has been able to compile detailed and precise information to more accurately understand a country’s situation. The UN PBSO’s use of the IMPP toolkit and the PCNA-TRF has provided them with some insight, but their structure fails to address a region’s situation as comprehensively as the IEP’s.

DDR and SSR:

Some of the criticism directed toward the UN PBSO 6 segments centers around the fact that DDR and SSR both represent negative peace strategies. DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration) broadly refers to the decommission of weapons, the disbandment of militant groups and the reintroduction of those individuals into society. While these efforts are helpful in stopping conflict in a short-term capacity, it does not qualify as a long term, positive peace solution. SSR (Security Sector reform) is the establishment of an accountable, effective security sector, able to function with transparency and with respect to rule of law. Similar to DDR, the SSR segment falls short of peacebuilding in that it is a reactionary solution that can more easily be defined as peacekeeping. Having previously identified the differences between positive and negative peace and having established that true Peacebuilding can only happen when positive peace measures are implemented, these two aspects of the UN plan seem out of place in their framework.

Reconciliation program

The UN reconciliation program is a very comprehensive approach to repairing relations, healing trauma, and reestablishing normalcy and trust. Since conflict is rarely resolved with quick-fix solutions, this program attempts to actually change the region’s culture of peace by repairing relationships and resolving disputes through constructive discourse and the sharing of perspectives. While this segment does represent an indisputably vital feature of peacebuilding, it also seeks to solve a presumably deep-seated and complex issue with broad, blanket solutions. The UN PBSO’s literature on the reconciliation program is full of abstract goals such as truth-telling, trauma healing, forgiveness, and open dialogue. All of these methods are important, but would fail without proper implementation and research. The IEP’s pillars conduct a more thorough study of disputes and seek to identify the specific areas of contention. the structure represents more exhaustive methods and the corresponding indexes approach reconciliation in a much more specific, fact-based way.

Social & Administration vs. Well-functioning Government

The UN segment for a Social and Administration can be easily compared to the IEP pillar of a Well-functioning government. Both categories focus on the creation of a legitimate, effective governing body, but there remains a disparity between the precision with which this goal is approached. The IEP’s framework includes the information provided by three different indexes that measure specific aspects of a government’s effectiveness. With indexes measuring democratic political culture, government effectiveness, and rule of law, the IEP has been able to compile and significant amount of information. The IEPs pillar measuring levels of corruption provides an even more in depth assessment of a government’s ability to function with transparency.

Health and Education

The UN segments for Health and Education, though verifiably essential elements of the peacebuilding process, are pretty much encompassed by the broader IEP pillars of Equitable Distribution of Resources and High levels of Human Capital.

The UN structure includes some essential elements of peacebuilding and has clearly attempted to implement the systems thinking method to achieve meaningful peacebuilding results. Despite this, it is also clear that there are some key elements missing in the UN PBSO’s reform segments. In their framework, the IEP has included pillars such as Free Flow of Information, Acceptance of the Rights of Others, and Good Relations with Neighbors, each adding another layer of understanding to the IEP’s approach to peacebuilding. Understanding each of these additional pillars would allow peacebuilders to better address a region’s situation, reducing the chance of the restarting of conflict.


As stated earlier, the theory of systems thinking stresses the importance of understanding and addressing all aspects of an issue before tackling it. In order to fully and meaningfully implement peacebuilding, we must do it properly: with care and with full understanding of what the specific situation requires to maintain a culture of peace. From experience, we have seen the damage that uninformed intervention can have on a nation with fragile, interconnected systems. Without full and complete comprehension, it is impossible for peacebuilding efforts to be effective. Efforts to create a culture of peace must be open to evolution when opportunities to improve present themselves. In a field that must adjust its methods to the context to which it is applied, it is clear why it is so essential for the UN framework to include a more detailed measuring structure. From our comparison, it has become evident that the IEP’s inclusion of various indexes and studies is a more accurate approach that should be implemented by all organizations attempting to measure peace. The UN PBSO would benefit from updating their measuring frameworks to match this level of comprehensiveness.


[1] "Positive Peace Report 2017." Tracking Peace Transitions Through a Systems Thinking Approach. October 2017. Accessed August 12, 2018.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

[7] United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office. “Peacebuilding: An Orientation.” September 2010. Accessed August 12, 2018

[8] United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office. “SSR and Peacebuilding” 2012. Accessed August 12, 2018.

[9] United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office. “DDR and Peacebuilding” 2012. Accessed August 12, 2018.

[10] United Nation Peacebuilding Support Office. “Building Just societies: Reconciliation in Transitional settings.” June 6, 2012. Accessed August 13, 2018.

[11] United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office. “Peace Dividends and Beyond:

Contributions of Administrative and Social Services to Peacebuilding” 2012. Accessed August 12, 2018.

[12] Ibid

[13] United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office. “Peacebuilding: An Orientation.” September 2010. Accessed August 12, 2018


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