Design, Monitoring and Evaluation for Peacebuilding

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Pillars of Peace - a New Conceptual Framework

In peacebuilding programming, we often get preoccupied with addressing the immediate effects of violence. However for sustainable peacebuilding, during the program design phase it is also important to emphasize on strengthening attitudes, institutions and structures that contribute to peace in the long-term. 

On September 9 2013, the Institute for Economics and Peace released an important new report, “The Pillars of Peace”, which provides a new conceptual framework for understanding and describing factors that are associated with peaceful societies. 

We find the report to be an important contribution to the Design Monitoring and Evaluation (DM&E) for Peacebuilding field because it is one of the few quantitative studies that adopts Galtung’s lens of positive peace, isolating positive factors that reinforce peaceful societies. It will be of special interest to practitioners working in conflict-affected and fragile environments because it will provide them with a comprehensive framework to refer to when thinking about the long-term goals of their conflict transformation projects. 

The report also helps contribute to the ongoing dialogue that is emphasizing the overlap between development and peacebuilding, and development and security. See the newly released report, “A New Deal? Development and Security in a Changing World” here

The Pillars of Peace consist of: 

A well-functioning government

A sound business environment

An equitable distribution of resources

An acceptance of the rights of others

Good relations with neighbors 

Free flow of information

High level of human capital

Low levels of corruption 

These Pillars demonstrate how the attitudes, institutions and structures associated with peace are also associated with many factors considered desirable in the broader development field.

The framework breaks down in detail each factor that contributes to the strengthening of a particular pillar. For instance, under Sound Business Environment, the report lists low levels of corruption, high levels of education, infrastructure (among others) as contributing factors.  This outline will prove especially useful for projects that work at the intersection of peacebuilding and areas such as governance, economic development, independent media and others. It will also help organizations identify their niche within the larger peacebuilding arena, and refine their approach towards programming. 

While the Pillars provide a model that conflict-affected environments can aspire to, they also provide a benchmark against which to measure broader aspects of societal development, and a country’s overall resilience when confronted with social upheaval. This means that we have further literature to draw from when assessing state fragility. 

After reading the report, considering its focus on positive peace, do you anticipate the “Pillars of Peace” being a useful tool for designing programs in conflict-affected environments? Or do you find their utility to lie more in assessing state fragility, or post-conflict recovery? Please share your insights in the comments section! 


After reading the report and considering its focus on positive peace, I do anticipate that the "Pillars of Peace" will be a useful tool for designing programs in conflict-affected areas on both Macro and Micro levels. 

I am facinated by the systems approach to peace and the possibility of using these statistically identified Pillars of Peace to aid in the mapping process before designing an intervention.  In the report they state that "these eight Pillars were found to be associated with peaceful environments and are both inter-dependent and mutually reinforcing, such that improvements in one factor would tend to strengthen others and vice versa." Utilizing the Pillars of Peace, mapping could focus in on these positive indicaters of peace to better identify barriers, points of entry and needs for adjustment for success based on the quantified, interconnected system.

This has great implications for program design in that it quantifies, in a very accessible way, where intervention can occur to have the greates effect on the system. Further, it can aid in identifying why certain interventions have not had the predicted effect and re-direct such efforts towards another pillar where they may be more successful in producing the desired outcome. This could be true at the community level where for example perhaps pillars are weak locally and stronger regionally identifying gaps between local and regional pillars where perhaps the interventions have been mostly grass roots. Or at the national level in post war conflict the pillars could be used to quantifyably identify which pillar is stopping success of a project directed at another i.e. micro loan programs not encouraging business growth and pillar mapping allowing intervenors to identify if it is more heavily an issue of human capitor or corruptions that is still creating a barrier. 

In this case I suppose it is equally useful in identifying state fragility, but in my point of view has greater strength in its ability to act as an entry and mid-point evaluation tool for interventions to increase their efficacy.


Thank you for your thoughtful response. Your point about using the Pillars of Peace framework as an entry and mid-point evaluation tool is very interesting. I would love to learn about how you think a broad systems approach like the Pillars of Peace will help quantify the effect of an intervention on the system.

In my opinion, one of the challenge of incorporating the Pillars of Peace framework is that since it is focused largely on the macro picture, implementing partners and organizations may find it challenging to draw conclusions regarding correlation and causality between their small-scale interventions and the pillars, which as you mentioned are impacted significantly by multiple other factors.

It would be so great to hear about the experience of donors and organizations who have adopted this framework for program design and M&E, and see what their experience has been. 

I think a broad systems approach like the Pillars of Peace will help quantify the effect of an intervention on the system by providing a standard of measuring peace based on the pillars at the Macro level that is easily scaled down to local areas and corresponding small scale interventions.  It is more easily quantifiable in the sense that it provides a set  factors to research that are standard across the pillars and therefore more easily compared and consistently measured. 

I think that the techniques applied, and research conducted on pillars at the macro level can be scaled down to look at state, regional or local level version of the pillars to highlight how the pillars change when applied on a micro level and how they relate across local, regional, federal and international levels. For example, rule of law measured at the national level could be looked at using the same measures at the regional level measuring non-violent means of resolving conflict or separation of power. 

The results may be quite different at the regional level vs. the national level depicting barriers to peace as we scale up or down that are interdependent and would otherwise not be obvious to the small scale intervenor.  Scaling down to focus on more localized areas takes what is originally applied as a macro observation and provides a connection from the macro level to the more micro scales as well as a standard from which to work and measure factors at the smaller level that is easily paired with macro findings for consistency and comparison.

I think it is in this comparison and scaling that consistency across measures of small or large issues and interventions will highlight opportunities and unknown barriers in evaluation that will remove some of the typical M&E shortcomings in the field.