Peacebuilding requires long term planning and commitment because it is often done in response to a conflict with roots spanning decades and generations. Lisa Schirch compares the time frame of pre-violence and post-violence peacebuilding work, pointing out that these time frames must be equal (75). Ultimately, the time and energy put into peacebuilding must match the time and energy that went into the conflict. With this in mind, since most conflicts have taken shape over the long term, peacebuilding initiatives must follow suit. John Paul Lederach emphasizes the importance of building an infrastructure for peacebuilding, pointing out that the structures within a society must be part of peacebuilding just as they likely fueled the conflict (112). He says that “proactive change is possible only if we can sustain efforts to create a vision of a commonly share future and to develop a clear understanding of, and practical responses to, the existing realities and crises” (Lederach 112). The key word here is sustain. Peacebuilding must be a sustainable process, and thinking about sustainability demands that we think in the long term. Each peacebuilding process must be organic, drawing on the resources available in the conflict society; ultimately the peace that is created must be their peace, because in the long term only what is true to that society will survive.
Lederach details the long-term process of peacebuilding, laying out a time frame of 20 years along with the types of peacebuilding initiatives that should be at the forefront during each stage of the process. In the first 2-6 months, he suggests crisis intervention, followed by preparation and training in the first 1-2 years. 5-10 years down the road, he stresses the importance of the design of social change, followed by a 20+ year “generational vision” of a shared future (Lederach 77). Knowing and believing that peacebuilding requires long term planning and commitment, I have found these charts and time frames to be very helpful. However, at times the prospect of a 20+ year peacebuilding process is intimidating and difficult for me to even imagine! What Lederach and Schirch are saying is that peacebuilding likely will (and should) take longer than I have even been alive! While it is hard for me to wrap my mind around this fact, I still appreciate this realistic introduction to the field; I would much rather be surprised about the realities of peacebuilding now than down the road in the middle of a peace process!