The sophistication of peace operations and complex humanitarian missions has increased in recent decades, resulting in increased international capacity to mitigate organized violence and provide relief to suffering populations. With respect to other indicators of success, however, international peace strategies still leave much to be desired. By their very nature, externally driven efforts tend to leave local actors feeling marginalized and disempowered, and unable to fulfill aspirations for cumulative and sustainable transformations in the quality of life. The peace that local populations genuinely hope for may fail to take root, and dynamics associated with interventionism may replace one set of problems with another. To address such problems within existing peace processes and to provide a framework for broader preventive action, this paper identifies “localizing peace” as a central challenge for twenty-first century peacebuilding efforts. International and cross-cultural cooperation remain vital for tackling border-spanning problems and structural inequalities, yet the advancement of global peace depends in no small part on the enhancement of local peace capacities. Ultimately, peace must be defined and constructed locally, and peacebuilding efforts become energetic and sustainable only to the extent that they tap local resources, empower local constituencies, and achieve legitimacy within particular cultural and religious contexts. By appreciating these realities, international actors can discover more effective means of partnering with local organizations and movements, while also deriving new insights into the unity and diversity of peacemaking.

Author Bio(s)

Nathan Funk is Assistant Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Conrad Grebel University College at the University of Waterloo. His work focuses on international affairs, the Middle East, track-two diplomacy, and the cultural as well as religious dimensions of peacebuilding. He is the author of Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam (2001), Ameen Rihani: Bridging East and West (2004) and Islam and Peacemaking in the Middle East (2009). He currently serves as a member of the board of directors for two Canadian NGOs—Project Ploughshares and Peacebuild: The Canadian Peacebuilding Network. Email: nfunk@watserv1.waterloo.ca

Abdul Aziz Said is the senior ranking professor at the School of International Service, American University, where he is the Mohammed Said Farsi Professor of Islamic Peace, founding director of the Center for Global Peace, and founder of the International Peace and Conflict Resolution Division. Dr. Said was a member of the White House Commission on the Islamic World during the Carter Administration, has served as a consultant to the U.S. Information Agency and Department of State, and is a frequent lecturer and participant in national and international peace conferences and dialogues. His numerous works include Concepts of International Politics in Global Perspective (1995, 1979, 1970, 1963), Human Rights and World Order (1978), Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam (2001), and Islam and Peacemaking in the Middle East (2009).


cross-cultural cooperation, grassroots mobilization, indigenous practices, international peace strategies, interventionism, local-international partnership, localizing peace, non-Western cultures, sustainable peacebuilding

Publication Date






To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.