What is positive peace? It’s a term familiar to all of us who have been working in the field of peacebuilding, whether as academics and researchers, policy makers, or field workers and activists.

It is not often, however frequently we use the term, that we get a chance to really get to grips with what positive peace means, to reflect on how it is used and to understand how the different communities involved in peace work define and pursue the goals of positive peace.

What is positive peace?

At best the term is often used as rather vague label to describe any kind of well-intentioned peacemaking. At worst it is used as a mantra or slogan, concealing muddled objectives, strategies and methodologies.

The 2017 Positive Peace Conference

This conference was a welcome corrective. Organised by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) and The Stanley Foundation, and hosted by the Stanford Centre for Latin American Studies.

It brought together thirty speakers with a wide range of specialisms and experience and ably qualified to connect the dots between research policy and practice.

Over 70 participants attended to ensure a busy and productive engagement with the conference agenda, covering five panels, keynotes and reflections.

An enlightening presentation on the power of positive psychology guided and enlightened the implementation of positive peace practice by empowering leaders with the necessary skills and qualities to work for positive peace.


There were five panels

  • The first, on Systems Approaches to Peace and Development, presented a summary of the latest Positive Peace Report by the IEP, and the panellists surveyed their work on positive peace and systems thinking;
  • The following two panels on Positive Peace Application – Focus on Low Levels of Corruption; and Positive Peace Application – Focus on Free Flow of Information, looked at state of the art research on two of the eight pillars of the IEP’s model of positive peace.
  • The panels in the afternoon session focused on Investments in Prevention and Resilience, and on Leveraging Networks, Sectors and Strategies for Collective Impact. This panel in particular was more concerned with impact multipliers gained from the formation of effective civil society networks and corporate and public sector facilitation of and investment in the process of positive peace activity.

New partnership with Rotary International

Of the many examples given, a notable new initiative is the strategic partnership between IEP and Rotary International to train over one million peace ambassadors in the arts and skills of peacemaking through the lens of positive peace.

Keynote introductions by Steve Killelea, and closing reflections by him and by Chic Dambach and Ellen Friedman, highlighted the significance of this event.

For historians of the concept and practice of positive peace like myself, and for policy makers, practitioners and all who are concerned about the threat of reversion to inward looking nationalisms, the practical vision and transformational energies of positive peace responses highlighted at this conference provides cause for optimism and some celebration.

Get further information about the 2017 Positive Peace Conference.