Overlooking the Lincoln Memorial, and the war memorials that mark American sacrifices in Vietnam, Korea, and World War II, the presence of the Institute's headquarters brings to the Mall a vivid expression of America's commitment to peace.
Fittingly, the Institute is not a memorial. It is a vibrant center, dedicated to the hard work of peacebuilding, through programs that take its staff into the heart of conflict zones around the world. It functions as the headquarters for the Institute's staff but is also a public institution, dedicated to educating Americans and visitors about the history and practice of conflict resolution.
Among its facilities, the building will house the Academy for International Conflict Management and Peacebuilding, providing instruction for practitioners in subjects that range from mediation and negotiation, to understanding the economics of conflict, and strategies for advancing the post-conflict reconstruction of war-torn countries and societies.
The new building will also be a resource for the community of nonprofit organizations in the US and around the world that play a critical role in conflict resolution. For this reason, the Institute is planning a major summit of leading peacebuilding organizations as part of its formal opening activities in the fall.
The intent of the summit is not to look backward, however, or to congratulate ourselves. It will focus on agenda setting, on identifying the core challenges that civil society confronts in working for peace, and on the development of strategies to enhance the work of nonprofits in preventing violent conflict and supporting peaceful means of conflict resolution.
In the future, the Institute will also house a Global Peacebuilding Center, the first phase of which will open to the public in September. This new center will extend the Institute’s longstanding educational mission and will have a particular focus on young people and educators.
Through the multimedia exhibits and educational programs offered onsite, and the resources that will be available through a new website, the Global Peacebuilding Center will enhance visitors’ understanding of international conflicts and non-violent approaches to addressing them.
By engaging and empowering young people, including middle school and high school students from the DC Metropolitan Area, the Global Peacebuilding Center will contribute to the development of the next generation of peacebuilders.
Already, USIP’s headquarters has changed the landscape of Washington. But what happens inside the building – the learning, training, teaching, and practice of peacebuilding that define the Institute's work – enables USIP to fulfill its commitment as a public institution to serve the American people.
Steven Heydemann is the Senior Vice President of the U.S. Institute of Peace.