Dealing with the bang-bang and numbed to the carnage, there is a tendency in our reporting and others’ to accept conflict and the suffering it creates as somehow inevitable. 

But it isn’t. Which is why we’ve launched this series, reporting from the front lines of peace. The focus of our coverage is on how atrocities can be prevented, how societies can be made more resilient, and how peace can be sustainably built.

In short, we’re looking at the flipside of humanitarian disaster: attempts at healing and redemption with a focus on the “triple nexus”: the fusion of peace work, development, and humanitarianism.

Below, we introduce you to some of the people our reporters have met, offering their unique take on what peace means for them. You can also click through a graphic that tots up the number of agreements around the world (the huge number is both positive and alarming). And take a look at our "war and peace, defined" section – explaining some of the ideas you might find in our coverage.

In collaboration with the Stanley Center for Peace and Security, The New Humanitarian is exploring ways to ensure that our reporting reaches individuals involved in relevant policy conversations, via new distribution channels and events.

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Meet the people on the front lines of peace

Instead of looking at what’s broken and what has gone wrong, our reporting will focus on what works, or might work – from community-driven approaches to international initiatives. We’ll follow clues as to why some societies resist falling into violence, and we’ll trace the steps to successful peace interventions.

Bar chart showing regional breakdown of peace processes globally
Abigail Geiger/TNH

We’ll marry the strength of our on-the-ground storytelling with the latest peace research to generate coverage that offers fresh perspectives, creates awareness around policy options, and ultimately momentum around positive policy choices.

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Because no region holds a monopoly on tolerance or violence, our coverage will be global. We’ll focus on these broad themes:

Mediation – the art of a positive deal, creating inclusive and broad-based peace.

Resilience – managing fragility to transform conflict into opportunities for peace.

Reconciliationbuilding tolerance and helping people overcome the wounds of conflict.

Women in peace and security – turning a gender lens on issues of inclusion and sustainable peace.

And, yes, COVID-19 adds a new and as yet unclear dimension to both conflict and resolution. We’ll be looking at that, too.

Check back here to see our latest reporting – along with some of our best archival coverage. And be sure to sign up for our newsletter to keep up with all our peacebuilding coverage. 

READ MORE: War and peace, defined

The following terms are likely to crop up in our coverage. They refer to the human toll of conflict, but also point to the transformational potential peace has on attitudes, institutions, and power structures within societies.

Atrocities: Refers to genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing. The first three are international crimes defined by conventions. 

Crimes against humanity: A range of acts including murder, enslavement, torture, enforced disappearances, rape, and other sexual crimes if they are committed in the context of “a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population”.

Elite bargains: Peace deals that allow the distribution of power and the allocation of resources between select, high-profile groups in a society. Although these deals can offer initial stability, they are based on pre-existing configurations of power and often don’t address underlying grievances and conflict triggers.

Ethnic cleansing: The killing or expulsion of a group of people from a geographic area. It includes acts that are serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law that may amount to genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes.

Genocide: Defined as the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”. That can include imposing measures to prevent births or forcibly transferring children within the group to another group.

Peacebuilding: Addresses the reasons for conflict and aims to prevent its re-emergence by helping communities manage their differences without resorting to violence. It is a long-term collaborative process involving changes in attitudes, behaviours, and norms.

Positive peace: Peace does not just mean the absence of conflict. If the seeds of violence are not tackled, it can revive. Positive peace addresses the political, economic, and social drivers to conflict. It is about creating inclusive, participatory, and equitable systems.

Prevention: Once violence takes hold, incentives kick in for it to continue. Effective prevention requires acting before grievances harden and the threat of violence limits the choices available to political leaders and affected communities.

R2P: The Responsibility to Protect is an international security and human rights norm adopted in 2005 to address the UN’s failure to prevent and stop genocides, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.

Women and peace: Women are largely excluded from the negotiating table, even though their direct participation increases the sustainability and the quality of peace. The vast majority of peace agreements fail to reference women and address their concerns, including empowerment and gender-based violence.

Peacebuilding Deeply, part of the NewsDeeply archive that is now hosted by The New Humanitarian, offers additional context. As we start this journey to the front lines of peace, tell us what you’re interested in reading about – or send us tips on people or initiatives or organisations we should know about.

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Our latest coverage

My hijab: Nigerian Muslim women on faith and fashion

‘I’ll tell my daughter: Know your rights, love yourself, and always have your own money!’

Four young Nigerians share their visons of what peace could mean in northeast Nigeria.

When peace comes: Imagining the end of Nigeria’s Boko Haram war

‘When people, especially families, stay out late at night with no fears of being attacked, sharing stories of their day.’

A large crowd of people gathered in a city square are holding flags and shouting

Mediators step up Ethiopia ceasefire bid as aid efforts flounder

‘The country will be peaceful when everyone stands together for Ethiopia.’

An illustration shows a group of bandits standing together holding weapons.

Nigeria’s rampant banditry, and some ideas on how to rein it in

‘The problem is that the peace deals negotiated so far are badly flawed and amateurishly executed.’

An illustration depicting the Koblenz court on the left-hand side, and a street in Syria on the other.

Syrian war crimes on trial in Germany: Will justice be lost in translation?

‘A lot of Syrians don't necessarily feel that the trial is theirs.’

Malakal is yet to recover from three years of war in which the town changed hands 12 times.

In a flashpoint South Sudanese town, women peacemakers try to bridge the divide

‘Thinking along ethnic lines is not helpful. If we want to feed our families, we need to stay together.’

Two soldiers walk off of a dusty road into brush land.

What’s behind the rising violence in western Niger?

‘How can a poorly armed group of farmers defend itself from well-equipped terrorist fighters?’

The flag of the defeated breakaway republic of Biafra is held by a protester demanding secession once again for southeastern Nigeria

Why support for secession is growing in southeast Nigeria

‘I don’t think Nigerians want a broken country. They think the country is already broken and they’re protesting it.’

Reporter’s Diary: Finding forgiveness in Burundi’s mass graves

‘I just want to be the first to see my grandfather’s remains.’

More than 3,000 Boko Haram fighters and their families have surrendered to the military since July.

What Nigerians displaced by Boko Haram say about living with ex-fighters

‘It's very difficult to forget what they did to us.’

Colombian government forces have been stepping up operations to eradicate coca plantations, like this one in Antioquia province on 10 September 2019.

Five years on, Colombia’s coca regions remain at war and distrust is growing

‘We haven’t known peace in decades.’

A clandestine Nigerian government programme is reaching out to senior jihadist fighters in the bush to encourage them to abandon their goal of building a caliphate by force of arms, and to defect. (Still taken from an ISWAP propaganda film)
A clandestine Nigerian government programme is reaching out to senior jihadist fighters in the bush to encourage them to abandon their goal of building a caliphate by force of arms, and to defect. (Still taken from an ISWAP propaganda film)

EXCLUSIVE: Nigeria’s secret programme to lure top Boko Haram defectors

‘If sulhu allows us to go back to our farms and villages, and the government says we must accept, then I will.’

A destroyed Armenian tank near Martuni, a town in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region where local men spoke of wanting to raise their families in peace.

Searching for peace in post-war Armenia

‘Both Karen and I are Armenian, yet he was wielding a gun and I had the Notes app open on my phone.’

The community in Lukodi, where the Lord’s Resistance Army killed more than 60 people on 19 May 2004, gathered to hear the sentencing of rebel commander Dominic Ongwen by the International Criminal Court.

Trial of LRA commander Ongwen still divides northern Uganda

‘Dominic is now like Jesus: carrying the cross for everyone and what they have done.’

A woman and a child sit on the floor near some large sacks of aid.

Death of Boko Haram leader doesn’t end northeast Nigeria’s humanitarian crisis

‘It has been very tough just staying alive.’

A reporter speaks to a group of people outside a small building.

From global cause to forgotten crisis: A reporter’s diary from Darfur

‘In 2003 and 2004, aid groups used to visit us frequently. But now there are none.’

A man sits at a computer desk with a UN flag behind him.

Q&A: Can a new UN peace operation help stabilise Sudan?

‘Expectations are huge and sometimes without any real connection to the mandate we have.’

A woman walks past Cameroonian elite Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) members as they sit on their military vehicle during their patrol in the city of Buea in the anglophone southwest region, Cameroon, 4 October 2018

Caught in the middle: Peace activists in Cameroon try to end a brutal war

‘This is a conflict without a head. Dialogue is really complicated, because who do you dialogue with?’

A woman stands in a barren field near a camp.

UN peacekeeper withdrawal leaves security vacuum in Darfur

‘People in Darfur feel that the conflict is not yet settled.’

Building peace, from the bottom up: A Q&A with Séverine Autesserre

‘What is fascinating is how personal peacebuilding actually is. It is fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters reaching out to family members who are fighting.’

A man stands in a street, holding a gun.

In Darfur’s rebel-held mountains, the war is far from over

‘If there is a war, we are ready.’

Multiple burnt dwellings stand empty in a dusty village.

What’s behind the rising violence in Sudan’s Darfur?

‘The violence is not tribal, it is political.’

A man walks down a dusty street, past a painted mural.

Holdout rebels, sidelined victims, and other hurdles to peace in Darfur

‘We are rejecting the agreement because nobody consulted us.’

A man stands on a pile of rubble, a large stone he has thrown is in mid-air

Despite government promises, lives in Sinjar remain on hold

‘They all just talk but don’t do anything.’

Cameroon’s elusive peace: Rivals, rifts, and secret talks

‘What we desperately need is for both sides to humble themselves by sitting down with one another as brothers.’

À Djibo, les habitants se disent pris entre les forces de sécurité, les combattants volontaires et les djihadistes.

EXCLUSIVE: Burkina Faso’s secret peace talks and fragile jihadist ceasefire

‘For us not to return to the jihadists, we expect the government to help us and stop killing us.’

A portrait of  Danelly Estupiñán standing against a wooden wall decorated with photographs

Colombian city, gang violence and ‘structural racism’ collide

‘The government and businessmen need to understand that we’re not animals that live here.’

The photo shows a scattered crowd of people sitting in chairs watching the screening, which is out of view.

Amid a rebel offensive, a push for justice in Central African Republic

‘If justice is not served, it might encourage others to take weapons, to earn power and money.’

An image of a woman in a headscarf standing in a near empty room from behind, looking slightly down and to the side.

A Libyan town reckons with its past horrors and uncertain future

‘People were buried alive. Whole families were eliminated.’

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit speaks into a microphone behind a podium.

Old grudges and empty coffers: South Sudan’s precarious peace process

‘The risk is rising that some opposition forces could return to conflict.’

An image of a Fulani herder standing is a field while cattle graze behind him.

The longshot bid to end rampant banditry in Nigeria’s northwest

Zamfara is at the centre of Nigeria’s bandit industry – time is running out to prevent the criminals from completely taking over.

A man stands in front of a burnt out stone house

Standing up to the bandits: A Nigerian community looks to forge its own peace

Hundreds of people have been killed by communal violence and banditry in Southern Kaduna this year. A local community says: “Enough!”

A child walks on the street of a slum in Soacha, on the outskirts of Bogotá, Colombia

COVID-19 fuels growing conflict and displacement in Colombia

As Colombia’s armed groups feel the pandemic pinch, competition intensifies, violence escalates, and civilians are caught in the crossfire.

An illustration of a displaced woman and child

In Myanmar’s Rakhine State, trust in armed group grows as election hopes fade

‘People are less interested in electoral politics and increasingly interested in military actions.’

Indigenous people march in the Colombian capital, Bogotá

Long road to peace: An Indigenous protest movement emerges in Colombia

‘Families were starving while the government did nothing.’

Black-and-white photo display at the Afghanistan Center for Memory and Dialogue in Kabul

Afghanistan’s memory museum pushes for justice by reframing a war

Can there be peace without justice? As Taliban talks begin, a Kabul museum tries to rewrite 40 years of conflict – and erase a history of impunity.

Weapons owned by Marxist National Liberation Army rebels

How Colombia’s armed groups are exploiting COVID-19 to recruit children

The social and economic fallout of the pandemic is driving children towards armed gangs offering regular food and false promises of riches.

People walk past a poster of slain Ethiopian singer Hachalu Hundessa

In Ethiopia, a musician's death and a transition in trouble

The murder of a much-loved singer has exposed the country’s deepening divisions.

Security personnel inspect the site of a car bomb in Yala, Thailand

In Thailand’s southern provinces, a ‘glimpse of hope’, but no momentum to sustain a COVID-19 ceasefire

A unilateral coronavirus ceasefire was met with silence. Is there a path to peace after 16 years of conflict in southern Thailand?

A man registers for a new ID card in al-Bab

Stop-gap solutions for Syrians without papers

Rebel authorities have spent years printing documents for Syrians in insurgent-held areas. But what happens when al-Assad wins back control?

Paisal Marat, 24

‘Peace is possible’: A new generation pushes back against Thailand’s deep south conflict

‘It’s the duty of our generation to speak out.’

Nury Cabezas shows cell phone photos of displaced people

Forced displacement and violence fester four years after Colombia peace deal

In the first half of 2020, more than 24,000 Colombians were either displaced in conflict areas or “confined” to their homes by armed groups.

A Cameroonian government soldier walks past a burnt car

Ahead of peace talks, a who’s who of Cameroon’s separatist movements

Peace talks have begun between separatists and the government, but the secessionists are terribly divided. Can the dialogue end three years of war?

Voices from the violence: How Burkina Faso’s crisis is changing society – and how to fix it

Six Burkinabé from different walks of life share their thoughts on the country’s spiralling conflict.

A year after al-Bashir’s ouster, cash-strapped Sudan too broke for peace

‘There is no money. That could be the biggest issue that's causing this transition to fail.’

Peace in Afghanistan? Watch the militias

Blamed for targeted killings and civilian deaths, the future of paramilitary ‘death squads’ cannot be left out of the conversation.

European cases to test the reach of prosecuting Syria war crimes

With the path to the International Criminal Court blocked, prosecutors try charging Syrian regime figures another way.

A woman hangs a Colombian flag next to a FARC political party flag

Is a new Plan Colombia putting a fragile peace at risk?

Four years after a historic peace agreement was signed, critics say aggressive government plans hark back to Colombia’s bloody past.

Anticha Sangchai, a university lecturer in Pattani

Tired of conflict, Thailand’s deep south women are on the front lines of peace

Aid responders, mediators, bridge builders: Women in Thailand’s south are trying to build peace where political summits and negotiations have failed

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