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To address global fragility, we must start locally

To address global fragility, we must start locally
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In his first public speech since the inauguration, President BidenJoe BidenHouse panel approves bill to set up commission on reparations Democrats to offer bill to expand Supreme Court Former Israeli prime minister advises Iran to 'cool down' amid nuclear threats MORE stressed the need for diplomacy to end the war in Yemen and alluded to reclaiming U.S. moral authority abroad by “building back better at home.” Despite this encouraging rhetoric, ending violence in places like Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and here in our own country will take much more than words. 

Despite the rollout of major new policy initiatives to reign in COVID-19, boost the economy, repair a broken immigration system and rejoin the international community, violent conflict around the world — and here at home — continues to escalate. Policy change and dedicated resources are urgently needed to reduce global violence and support effective peacebuilding at home and abroad. 

In December, the Department of State (DOS) released the U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability, a key step in implementing the bipartisan Global Fragility Act of 2019, one of the few major bills on U.S. foreign policy passed by the last Congress. The new strategy “seeks to break the costly cycle of fragility and promote peaceful, self-reliant nations” and will “pursue a new approach that addresses the political drivers of fragility and supports locally driven solutions.” 

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This presents an opportunity for the United States to partner with communities and governments in states dealing with conflict. It requires much stronger U.S. government coordination, clear civilian leadership and enhanced civilian resources to address the drivers of violence, extremism and atrocities to support sustainable locally-led peace. 

This new strategy is a strong starting point for fundamentally shifting U.S. foreign policy away from decades of militarized approaches toward the prioritizing peacebuilding. But it’s not enough.  

The U.S. can no longer pretend that we are a “shining city on the hill” to the world. Any remaining vestiges of that myth were fully shattered on Jan. 6. The realities of our own fragility are all too clear. Implementing any U.S. foreign policy strategy to help reduce violence and build peace globally now requires a great deal more humility than previous administrations — Republican and Democratic — have tended to practice. It also requires a serious commitment to apply the same principles of democracy, human rights and peacebuilding here at home

The Biden White House should make peacebuilding its next big priority. It should commit to ending our country’s overreliance on violence as the solution to complex issues. Instead, the new administration should support community-led initiatives to bridge divisions, heal harm, strengthen democracy, protect lives and, ultimately, transform the roots of conflict into pathways to peace. 

Local peacebuilders on the frontlines of violence are working every day to prevent, restore and sustain peace. They have been documented on Peace Insight, which is Peace Direct’s peacebuilding database of conflict updates and a map of where local organizations are located around the world. It should be noted that I am the U.S. executive director at Peace Direct. They have developed effective solutions to the problems their communities face but are often overlooked or under-supported. Local peacebuilders around the world provided recommendations for how the U.S. should implement the Department of Commerce's (DOC) new strategy. The new administration should listen to them. 

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Local peacebuilders are hard at work here in the U.S. too. Networks like the TRUST Network, the National Association for Community Mediation and the U.S. Truth, Racial Healing, Transformation Movement are actively engaging with communities across the country to prevent violence, mediate conflicts and heal divisions.  

This type of community-led peacebuilding needs greater support internationally and domestically. 

Last year, Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarNew York Times defends itself against Project Veritas defamation suit Tlaib: US policing 'intentionally racist,' can't be reformed Biden, first lady send 'warmest greetings' to Muslims for Ramadan MORE (D-Minn.) introduced the Global Peacebuilding Act, which proposed shifting $5 billion from the Pentagon’s war slush fund to reinvest in locally-led, multilateral, public-private peacebuilding efforts. Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeProgressive lawmaker to introduce bill seeking more oversight of Israel assistance Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  Biden funding decision inflames debate over textbooks for Palestinian refugees MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerBiden's DOJ civil rights nominee faces sharp GOP criticism Congressional Black Caucus members post selfie celebrating first WH visit in four years Black lawmakers press Biden on agenda at White House meeting MORE (D-N.J.) introduced legislation in the House and Senate calling for the first-ever national U.S. Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Commission. These initiatives should be expanded and reintroduced by Congress. 

There is no vaccine for violent conflict, but there are proven ways of managing it nonviolently to advance justice and heal divisions. It’s time we listen to those who are on the frontlines of peacebuilding and invest in what works. 

Bridget Moix is the U.S. executive director of Peace Direct, an international peacebuilding organization.