Peacebuilding Overview

January 26, 2012

Peacebuilding is the set of initiatives by diverse actors, including civil society, to address the root causes of violence and protect civilians before, during, and after violent conflict.

For many years, U.S. nonprofit organizations have helped pave the way for peace by bringing fighting factions together and providing alternatives to violence as a means of redressing grievances. Unfortunately, the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project (HLP) upheld the law defining prohibited “material support” of terrorism to include conflict prevention and resolution activities aimed at getting terrorist groups to lay down their arms.

Featured Resources:

Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Bill Would Address Drivers of Violent Conflict

May 18, 2017

The Charity & Security network is one of 60 organizations signing on to a statement in support of a new bill before Congress that would ensure that the U.S. government has the most constructive and cost-effective tools to address the root causes and drivers of violent conflict.

The Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act (S 1158), introduced May 17, establishes a Mass Atrocities Task Force, requires training for Foreign Service Officers in violent conflict and atrocities prevention, requires reporting from both the Department of State and Director of National Intelligence, and establishes the Complex Crises Fund. According to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the bill would ensure effective high-level interagency coordination on prevention, save money, protect our troops, continue congressional leadership and oversight, and build on bipartisan consensus. 

Contact your senators today to urge them to cosponsor this important bill. 

Solutions to Roadblocks to Peacebuilding – Fact Sheet

Efforts related to prevent outbreaks of violence, transform armed conflicts, find peaceful ways to manage conflict, and create the socioeconomic and political conditions for sustainable development and peace continue to be stymied by overbroad U.S. counterterrorism laws and policies. But in 2015 and 2016 there are opportunities for positive change as the Obama administration seeks more creative ways to address the problem of violent extremism.

Analysis: Permissible Activities for Peacebuilders - Based on Statements by U.S. Officials

April 14, 2017

Since the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project (HLP), peacebuilding organizations have faced significant uncertainty as to what communications with Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) remain permissible under the prohibition on material support of terrorism in 18 USC 2339B.  Although there have been no prosecutions for peacebuilding activities since the decision, the lack of clarity about how it should be interpreted and applied has created a chilling impact on peacebuilding activities, inhibited constitutionally permitted speech and association, and reduced the kinds of contacts that might help prevent/counter violent extremism and terrorism. This fact sheet is intended to provide a measure of clarity by drawing on representations made by the government to the Supreme Court during oral argument and in its brief in the Holder litigation about what it considers to be permissible communications with listed groups.[1] A chart summarizing these statements is included. A PDF of this analysis is available here.

Save the Date: Webinar - Are My Peacebuilding Activities Permissible?

The 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project had a chilling effect on peacebuilders working abroad and left practitioners worrying that their work might run afoul of US counterterrorism law. Seven years later, many of those same questions persist, but there are guideposts. 
Mark your calendars for an informative webinar:
Tuesday, October 17
George Foote, a lawyer with Dorsey, serves as outside general counsel to the U.S. Institute of Peace and to PeaceTech Lab, Inc. He will share his insight on how to navigate these uncertain waters. 
Kimberly Brody Hart, senior manager of global affairs and partnerships at Search for Common Ground, will discuss the practical implications from the perspective of a peacebuilder. 

View the recording

Report: Laying the Groundwork for Disarmament & Demobilization

April 2, 2012

In the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, Chief Justice John Roberts argued that terrorist groups could “use humanitarian and international law…as part of a broader strategy to promote terrorism,” by pursuing “peaceful negotiation as a means of buying time to recover from short-term setbacks, lulling opponents into complacency, and ultimately preparing for renewed attacks.”

Track II Diplomacy: Laying the Groundwork for Peace

May 2, 2012

To achieve peace in today’s complex conflicts, Track II peacebuilding efforts are becoming increasingly important. The most famous of these produced the Oslo accords in 1993. Highlighting the importance of Track II activities, the United states Institute of Peace (USIP) has published, Conducting Track II Peace Making. Written for both Track I and Track II practitioners, this handbook explains the different stages of Track II activities, from assessment and planning to implementation and evaluation. Track II activities typically involve reputable academic, religious, and NGO leaders and other civil society actors experienced in conflict mediation or other areas of social and political expertise.

Study Finds Terrorist Listing Inhibits Peace Programs

April 29, 2013

An April 2013 study argues that the terrorist listing process in the U.S., European Union (EU) and United Kingdom (UK) limits the ability of peacebuilders to help mitigate and end violent conflicts around the world. Listing Terrorists: The Impact of Proscription on Third-Party Efforts to Engage Armed Groups in Peace Processes- A Practitioner’s Perspective, by Sophie Haspeslagh, former Head of Policy at Conciliation Resources, discusses how various terrorist listing program

Peacbuilding Fact Sheet

October 1, 2010

“It is no longer enough to just provide peacekeepers; that must be accompanied by effective mediation, peacemaking and peacebuilding.”    -U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton before the United Nations on Sept. 23, 2010.


June 24, 2015
Audio Recording Now Available

Click on the link above to access the audio file with slides for this webinar

Building Peace in Permanent War: 
Counterterrorism Laws and Constraints on Peacebuilding
Five Years after Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project

Wednesday, June 24    9:30-10:30 a.m. (EST)


Vicki Sentas, Lecturer in Law, University of New South Wales 
Louis Boon-Kuo, Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Sydney
Lisa Schirch, Director of Human Security, Alliance for Peacebuilding
Dr. Tomicah Tillemann, former U.S. State Dept. Senior Advisory for Civil Society and Emerging Democracies, currently with the
New America Foundation

The groundbreaking report, Building Peace in Permanent War, Terrorist Listing and Conflict Transformation, provides empirical data on how counterterrorism legislation has affected peacebuilding practice at the local and international level. Co-authors Sentas and Boon-Kuo will discuss their report, with commentary from Schirch and Tillemann.