Monday, Jul. 22, 2019

2016 U.S. Report to Global Alliance for Ministries & Infrastructures for Peace

By Nancy Merritt · July 30, 2016

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The GAMIP report was written by Kendra Mon with contributions from the National Department of Peacebuilding Committee.

The Peace Alliance is connected with an international organization in existence for over 10 years now that promotes departments of peace internationally – currently known as the Global Alliance for Ministries and Infrastructures for Peace – or GAMIP.  (See gamip.org)   

With members representing 50 countries, 6 countries actually have operational governmental peace infrastructures – Costa Rica, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, South Sudan and East Timor.  GAMIP has had 6 international Summits , including in the United Kingdom (2005),  Canada (2006), Japan (2007),  Costa Rica (2009), South Africa (2011) and Switzerland (2013).  Peace Alliance/ Department of Peacebuilding supporters have participated in all GAMIP Summits.

Periodically GAMIP calls for country and regional reports.  The following is the 2016 United States of America Report to GAMIP which was submitted by the National Department of Peacebuilding Committee of the Peace Alliance.

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Country:  United States of America

Your Name:  Kendra Mon
On behalf of the Department of Peacebuilding Committee (DoP)
Anne Creter, Karen Johnson, Nancy Merritt, Kendra Mon, Debra Poss, Pat Simon & Jerilyn Stapleton

Organization Name:  Peace Alliance (www.peacealliance.org)  

While we submit this report on behalf of the DoP Committee of the Peace Alliance, there are many organizations in the United States working to create a culture of peace, many universities offer peace studies, and many institutions which utilize restorative practices and nonviolent conflict resolutions.  Many work on policies and laws which include infrastructures of peacebuilding.

Areas of Focus:

Since our last report, the Peace Alliance expanded its focus from advocacy for legislation to create restorative violence prevention and intervention programs for youth.  While still advocating for these two pieces of legislation and other peacebuilding funding or legislation as may become timely, the Peace Alliance adopted a wider spectrum of peace initiatives clustered around what we call the Five Cornerstones of Peace: 

  •      Empowering Community Peacebuilding
  •      Teaching Peace in the Schools
  •      Cultivating Personal Peace
  •      Humanizing the Justice System
  •      Fostering International Peace

Peace Education:

As part of our efforts to educate ourselves and others about peace, we adopted the word peacebuilding to emphasize that peace is never achieved but is a process for us individually and collectively.  Indeed, when the legislation to create a national peace department was reintroduced in 2013, it was titled by its author, as the U.S. Department of Peacebuilding Act.

To further peace education, the Peace Alliance has regularly hosted calls with expert speakers on various subjects within the Five Cornerstones, worked with the worldwide Shift Network as a cosponsor of teleconferences during the annual Summer of Peace series (www.summerofpeace.net), and generally promoted peace initiatives and wisdom through email and on the website.

In addition, the California Peace Alliance/Campaign for a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding has monthly conference calls with guest speakers from organizations and agencies which include peacebuilding in their programs.  These calls are open to anyone interested.

Advocacy & Policy:

Above all else, we are an advocacy organization.  Our leadership and grassroots have organized action teams to advocate in their local areas and nationally for proven effective legislation and policies intended to promote a culture of peace by addressing the underlying causes of violence and prevent or reduce violence. 

We visit our legislators, write to them, write letters that are printed in newspapers, give workshops and talks, talk with people at community events, carry our banners in parades and marches, solicit letters of support to deliver to legislators.  In the past 2 years, we would estimate that we have had about 200 meetings with legislators or office visits with legislative staffers, generated hundreds of phone calls and letters, and spoken with thousands of fellow citizens.  We have met with legislators and staff in their local offices and made annual trips to Washington, D.C. to meet with them there.  One team member has written to the President Obama on a weekly basis to convey the importance of instituting peacebuilding within our federal government and policy.

Every two years, proposed national laws that are not adopted must be reintroduced, and our work for passage of Department of Peacebuilding legislation begins again.   Our national team worked closely with the Congress member Barbara Lee on amendments to the U.S. Department of Peacebuilding Act for 2013 and then coordinated our efforts to promote and secure endorsements by other legislators.  At this point there are 39 Congress members who have endorsed the legislation by signing on as co-sponsors.  Later this year we will again work with Barbara Lee on a new bill to be introduced in 2017.

Since 2011, the California team has been a strong presence at all state meetings of the California Democratic Party (CDP), including a CDP convention and at least two other meetings each year.  The team secured CDP endorsement of the legislation to create a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding.  In addition, they were successful in their advocacy to have peacebuilding language inserted in about half of the officially adopted policies of the party.  Further, they were successful in getting the CDP to adopt a resolution for peacebuilding a resolution “Calling upon the United Nations and All Member States to Support Infrastructures for Peacebuilding Within and Externally among Nations.”  This is part of continuing education of policy makers to adopt peacebuilding as part of every aspect of society, such as business and economy, agriculture and food safety, and education.

This year we have a Presidential election and national party conventions.  Presidential candidate and Senator Bernie Sanders cosponsored the U.S. Department of Peace legislation when it was first introduced in 2001 and as long as he was a member of the House of Representatives.  Our team submitted language for inclusion in the national party policy statement, or platform.  One of our members was an official delegate to the Democratic Party convention and promoted peace and peacebuilding there.

Conflict Resolution:

The current proposed U.S. Department of Peacebuilding Act has been changed in order to resolve a conflict with other governmental agencies, such as the Peace Corps, that wanted to keep their current status and avoid becoming part of the new Department. Instead, the current proposal provides that the new Department would “work proactively and interactively with each branch of the Federal Government on all policy matters relating to conditions of peace.” 

Social Justice:

We recognize that social justice and peace are intertwined. The root causes of violence are often economic and social injustice.  The Student Peace Alliance has been active in a campaign to remove questions from academic applications asking about conviction histories in order to make education more accessible to formerly incarcerated people.

Peace Building:

Earlier this year, the Peace Alliance sponsored a 10 week virtual course, Teaching Peace in the Schools.  Currently, we are offering a series of teleconferences, Call to Calm, the purpose of which is to unite in our intentions, navigating the months ahead and bringing about a greater peace in the midst of so much negativity.  The most recent call featured Rita Marie Johnson, creator of the Connection Practice, the Razur Foundation (www.razurfoundation.org), GAMIP member and instrumental in creation of Costa Rica's Ministry of Justice and Peace.

Countering Violent Extremism and Civil Military Human Security:

Along with other members of the Alliance for Peacebuilding we advocated for passage of the Global Atrocities Prevention Act.  While that legislation did not pass, many of its provisions were included in another law passed by the U.S. Senate, the Department of State Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act, but has yet to be passed by the House of Representatives.  President Obama also signed an Executive Order to make permanent the Atrocities Prevention Board within the U.S. State Department.

Storytelling:

We each continue to hone our own personal stories of why we came to peacebuilding and what drives us to continue our work.  In addition, many of us are collectors - - collectors of stories of effective peacebuilding in action and inspiring quotations - - that we sprinkle into our conversations and writings, in hopes that they will take root and help people overcome hopelessness and inertia about their/our ability to create change in the world.

We also report these stories and reports about our work at the Movers and Shaker link on the Peace Alliance website:  https://peacealliance.kontribune.com/

In addition, we have hosted film showings that also tell some of the stories of effective peacebuilding in action - - short films like Admissions, hour-long films like Cesar Chavez: Common Man, Uncommon Vision, longer films like Body of War and Soldiers of Peace.

Restorative Justice:

The Peace Alliance continues to sponsor a weekly Restorative Justice on the Rise teleconference series:(www.restorativejusticeontherise.org).  In addition, the Peace Alliance supported the state initiative in the state of Colorado where several laws have been enacted to support the wider use of Restorative Justice with youth offenders, supporting a similar initiative in the state of Massachusetts, and working with a national committee to promote Restorative Justice state-by-state, providing strong connections between those who have achieved success in the recent past and those who are currently making strides.

We have connections with local Restorative Justice programs, and one of our team members is active in the National Association for Community and Restorative Justice.

Mediation:

Mediation is one of the tools for nonviolent conflict resolution which we support. Many with mediation and restorative practices experience participate in our national and California conference calls.

Peace Networks:

The Peace Alliance is a member of the international Alliance for Peacebuilding (www.allianceforpeacebuilding.org) and works with that organization to sustain and expand the U.S. Institute of Peace and the existing peacebuilding offices within the U.S. State Department (the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, Complex Crises Fund, and the Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation).

In addition, we have an ongoing campaign to secure endorsements from a wide array of prominent people, organizations and government entities to endorse the Department of Peacebuilding Act.  At this point, there are 43 endorsements by governmental entities.

Our sister organization is the Peace Alliance Educational Institute.  Current and former leadership and board members are also involved in the leadership of the National Peace Academy and the River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding.  We work with many, many other organizations, including those that participate in the Season for Nonviolence and the annual Japanese Peace Lantern Ceremony to remember the devastation of the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.  We also work with the United Nations and United Nations Association groups.

As a member of GAMIP, we also promote GAMIP and the www.peacenow.com petition.

Research:

We continue to research the national archives for information about the rich history in our nation of the concept and proposed legislation for a U.S. Department of Peace or Peacebuilding.

Other:  Promotion

In 2015, we developed and printed 5,000 postcards advocating for a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding that include pictures of Mahatma Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for wide distribution.  One of our team members revised a Power Point presentation to be shared.  We updated the Peace Alliance website and are working on a new Facebook page.  We also hosted a workshop on the Department of Peacebuilding at our 2015 national conference with GAMIP member Dot Maver presenting.  Youtube videos can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6ebD-Yaw5s and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooUE7ow3y7s

"Creating a countrywide model of peace is possibly the most powerful means for inspiring humanity to put an end to violence."    - Rita Marie Johnson

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