In a world where violence, conflict and divisive rhetoric have become the prevailing norm, fostering peace has never been more crucial than today.
Peacebuilding involves taking a proactive approach to tackle the root causes of violence and conflict while creating the root conditions of peace. To truly succeed in this endeavor as a nation and as a leader on the global stage, we must allocate dedicated government resources and craft a focused policy agenda that makes peace a national priority.
When it comes to addressing violence, we often witness a reactionary approach being adopted by government leaders, when in fact the most viable path to creating long-lasting and sustainable peace is by addressing the root causes of conflict. It is important to note that proactively preventing violence is far more cost effective than intervening after it has already erupted.
According to the latest Global Peace Index released by the Institute for Economics and Peace, the global economic impact of violence was a staggering $17.5 trillion in 2022, or 12.9% of global GDP. By comparison, expenditures on peacebuilding and peacekeeping accounted for $34.1 billion, which equates to 0.4% of military spending. Even a very minor adjustment in the ratio of spending on defense versus on initiatives and programs focused on peacebuilding has the potential to bring about profound transformation in our society, both domestically and globally.
Many members of the public remain unaware of the existence of a pending legislation in Congress, namely HR 1111. The bill calls for the creation of a Cabinet-level Department of Peacebuilding and the appointment of a Secretary of Peacebuilding, whose role would be to ensure that peacebuilding is a national priority within our government.
The concept of establishing an office- or cabinet-level department dedicated to peace is not a new idea: It has been a topic of discussion in our nation since the era of our Founding Fathers. The current Department of Peacebuilding legislation was first introduced to Congress in the early 2000s and has been reintroduced every two years since.
This historic bill presents a unique opportunity to change the course of history, transforming our nation, and by extension, our world. It offers the possibility of moving away from the frequent conflicts and turmoil that often define our world toward a future characterized by peace, mutual understanding and diplomacy.
Peacebuilding is a complex and multifaceted process that requires a long-term commitment and policy focus. The bill is one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation that deploys a collaborative approach with governmental and nongovernmental entities and organizations such as nonprofits, individuals, states and tribal and local leaders to develop, enact and promote peacebuilding efforts and programs. This includes consultation with those who are most impacted by the related programs.
This cabinet-level department would lead to the creation of a wide range of programs and initiatives encompassing domains such as peace education and training, domestic and international peacebuilding activities, arms control and disarmament initiatives, the promotion of human rights and economic rights, efforts towards racial healing and the advancement of environmental justice.
There are hundreds of organizations — along with city councils, counties and tribes representing nearly 18 million individuals — who currently endorse the establishment of a Department of Peacebuilding. This figure should include every citizen in our nation, regardless of their background, political ideology or age. Peace is not a luxury; it’s a fundamental human right and an absolute necessity.
How many more tragic and needless losses of innocent lives, whether from mass shootings and other acts of violence within our borders or from wars and conflict abroad, must we witness before we galvanize action in the pursuit of peace? If not today, when is the right time to engage? If not us, who else will step forward to advocate for peace in our world?
It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to become active participants in cultivating a sustainable culture of peace that will benefit both present and future generations. As the birthplace for some of the most significant social movements in American history, UC Berkeley has always been at the forefront of political activism and freedom of expression. It is time again for the Berkeley community to take the lead and advocate for peace, which is sorely needed in our world today.
One of the most impactful actions that can be taken is actively supporting peace legislations, such as HR 1111, by reaching out to those members of Congress who have not yet cosponsored the bill. The bill is currently sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and 36 other progressive members of Congress, including eight from California. Let’s combine our voices as constituents to let our political leaders know it is time to make peace a priority in our nation and our world.