Sustaining Peace Forum

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Peace Is Always Local: Transformation at the Center of Conflict

Local-led peace actors are gaining more attention in the international peacebuilding scene. Yet, the rhetoric of “inclusive peace” often falls away quickly in high-level peace efforts by states and international organizations. The endemic failures of peace processes can often be traced directly to a lack of authentic engagement with local-led peace leaders. In this event, we will highlight that peace, like politics, is always local. We will explore local-led peace efforts to show that they are at the center, not the periphery, of effective peace building. The panelists will also call for radical changes in how international actors understand and engage these key stakeholders. This dialogue aims to make the case that we can no longer operate under the paradigm in which local actors are “invited to the table.” In fact, local actors are already creating the most important “tables”, in meaningful and powerful ways. This event will include prominent scholar-practitioners who each focus their inquiry on different and complementary aspects of local-led peace efforts.


Introductory Remarks:

Leymah Gbowee is the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and a peace activist, trained social worker, and women’s rights advocate. She currently serves as Executive Director of the Women, Peace, and Security Program at AC4 at the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Her leadership of the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace brought together Christian and Muslim women in a nonviolent movement that played a pivotal role in ending Liberia’s civil war in 2003.


Séverine Autesserre (Barnard) is an award-winning author, peacebuilder, and researcher, as well as a Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University. She will discuss her new book The Frontlines of Peace (2021) and narrate successful local-led peacebuilding efforts. She is also the author of Peaceland, and The Trouble with the Congo, in addition to articles for publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Foreign Affairs.

Zachary Metz (SIPA), Director of Peacebuilding practice at Consensus, a consulting firm specializing in peacebuilding, conflict resolution and negotiation, has over 20 years of experience as a practitioner and scholar in the field. His work as a consultant, trainer and program designer ranges from global UN agencies to small local NGOs working in the heart of conflict. He will share an innovative framework he has developed called “the Intimacy of Enemies”, that details how local-led efforts create meaningful, consequential forms of political and sociological power.

Riva Kantowitz (Radical Flexibility Fund) is the Founder of RFF which focuses on shifting power to locally-led social change, including local peacebuilders. For more than 20 years, she has worked with peacebuilders and frontline human rights advocates, catalyzed programs to assist civil society organizations and overseen innovative grant-making. She will discuss political-economy and funding dynamics, showing how major international actors and other funders can and should radically rethink how funding for peace efforts is done.


Sami Awad is the Executive Director of Holy Land Trust, a Palestinian non-profit organization, which he founded in 1998 in Bethlehem and has extensive experience in works in conflict resolution, democracy, and non-violence. Holy Land Trust has spent over 20 working in nonviolence, peacemaking, and creating awareness of the social and political conditions in the Holy Land.



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