Diana Francis

From Pacification to Peacebuilding

I have been a peace campaigner all my life. When I wrote my first book, People, Peace and Power,1 I did so as a professional consultant in the field of conflict transformation. But my activist background and my knowledge of ‘nonviolence’ and ‘people power’ around the world have informed all my thinking and writing.

My professional work began in the wake of the crumbling of the Soviet empire and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union itself. New and violent conflicts were erupting and it was these that prompted the formation, in1992, of the lengthily-named Co-ordinating Committee for Conflict Resolution Training in Europe (CCCRTE), which later became the Committee for Conflict Transformation Support (CCTS).2 As Howard Clark recounts in his history of the committee,3 its creation was a ‘response to a growing demand for conflict resolution training in the “post-Communist” countries of Eastern and Central Europe’, particularly those of the former Yugoslavia. Gradually the committee evolved into a forum for organisations (and individuals) that were mostly UK-based but were working in every continent, in support of local people confronted by violent conflict and seeking to address it. It has been, as Howard says, ‘one of the few places where … practitioners have taken the space to share their dilemmas, in some cases their excitement and in some cases their disappointment, as they reflect on their work and on developments in the field’.

I have been part of CCTS for its whole life,4 and served as its Chair from 1995 until the end of 2009, participating in almost all its meetings and seminars. At the same time, I have worked as a consultant to CCTS member organisations, along with many others, learning with and from them.
CCTS discussions, whether in regular meetings, seminars, or the CCTS Review, have been a testing place and a stimulus for my own thinking. Through them we all have access to the concerns and ideas of partners and networks across the globe – North, South, East and West – so that our perspectives are constantly being shifted and challenged. While I would not claim to have a reliable overview of all that is happening in our field, I consider myself lucky to have had, through these connections, exposure to a wide and varied sample of practice and to rich sources of insight. It is largely on these, and on my own direct experience in ‘the field’, that I have drawn in my writing. (Nonetheless, I cannot, in the last analysis, step out of my shoes as a 64-year-old woman who looks out on the world from the West.)

My purpose in writing this book was, in the first place, to look back to the hopes and the vision with which we, as a committee, began. (Though there are different tendencies within this field, as there are in others, I believe these hopes and this vision will not have differed greatly from those of other networks.) I wanted to review the successes that have encouraged us and to discuss the dilemmas, obstacles and frustrations that we have faced. But I also wanted to relate this world-within-a-world to wider pressures and events, examining the impact of these and their implications for our work as professionals and our responsibilities as citizens. In this I have picked up on themes explored in my second book, Rethinking War and Peace.5

I have set out to show that working for conflict transformation in any locality, in the way that we are currently doing, vital as it is, can take us only so far when the big world is going in quite another direction; that unless we address the wider questions our little boat of conflict transformation will constantly be swept out of the water by the big ships of geopolitics and militarism, in which the dominant agenda is to subdue or ‘pacify’ those who threaten instability or insubordination. In this book I am calling on my profession, and indeed on all readers who espouse the values of peace, to recognise that, unless we take up our own responsibility for changing the political, social and ideological contexts in which we live and work, we shall not see our dreams fulfilled. We must ensure that we are not co-opted into an agenda founded on values very different from our own, and do everything in our power to change those values and the systems that embody them. And we must recognise that movements have a power that complements the work of ‘peace practitioners’, and that professionals and movements need each other.

This book, written for fellow peacemakers and peace campaigners around the world, is therefore not only a study but also an argument: my small but necessary contribution to what I see as the daunting but all-too-urgent project of global transformation – the fundamental change so desperately needed by humanity and our planet. Unless we take a more radical approach, we shall not get beyond fire-fighting and the seemingly endless task of reconstruction. Unless we transform the way we think about conflict, human relationships, and what it is to be successful, our very life as a species is under threat.

Our field is going through a time of intensive self-scrutiny.6 The phase that began with the Soviet collapse has ended. For too many years we were caught up in the calamitous policies and actions that followed the events of 11 September 2001 in the US, and there were signs that a new Cold War was beginning. Then the advent of a new US president brought new hope.

Our field can be credited with many important achievements, which should be recognised and set out. The value of its work will continue. At the same time, we have come to recognise our limitations.

I have long argued that the field of conflict transformation needs to be brought together with the older one of active nonviolence and to incorporate its wisdom, energy and knowledge. That now needs to be said more forcefully, and related to the deep contradiction between the dominant culture and dynamics of power, which rest ultimately on coercion and violence, and the values and assumptions of conflict transformation. The discussions and debates that have taken place within our field should now be crystallised and brought to a wider audience.

Those who work for peace in their own country – even when that work is funded – are likely to see what they do as the activism of concerned citizens, rather than as a profession. Those whose work is largely focused on other people’s societies, although their concern for peace may spring from the same values, may be so caught up in this professional work that they are not actively challenging their own societies or the policies of their governments – governments that may perpetuate the violence they wish to address. It is time for these practitioners, and academics, in the field of conflict transformation to ‘get political’. And it is time for peacemakers everywhere to look beyond their own specific context to the wider system of global militarism and to join forces to challenge and change it. In doing so they should connect with the wider peace movement, which is vital to the transformation of the cultural and structural context in which specific violence takes place and which, in turn, needs the insights and skills that peace professionals can bring.

It is also time for us to acknowledge that peace – positive peace – is not separate from justice (economic and social), from human rights, or from environmental protection. We need to make the connections more strongly: intellectually, politically and practically. These ‘goods’ are all essential to humanity, and war is their common enemy.


  1. D. Francis, People, Peace and Power, London: Pluto Press, 2002.
  2. See its website: .
  3. H.Clark,TheEvolutionoftheCommitteeforConflictTransformationSupport, 1992–2006, p. 2 – available at .
  4. As I write, the committee’s future rests in the balance. By the time this book is published it may have entered a new phase of its life, or its work may have come to an end. Either way, its contribution in support of good practice and the growth of understanding will remain.
  5. D. Francis, Rethinking War and Peace, London: Pluto Press, 2002.
  6. See for example S. Fisher and L. Zimina, ‘Just Wasting Our Time? Provocative Thoughts for Peacebuilders’, in B. Schmezle and M. Fischer (eds), Peacebuilding at a Crossroads? Dilemmas and Paths for Another Generation (Berghof Handbook Dialogue No. 7), Berlin: Berghof Research Center, 2009.