This area is designed to specifically discuss the "Legislation" section of the strategic plan. (Download link for whole plan is below).
We want to know specifically:
• What excites you about it?
• What concerns do you have?
• What could be made better?
• What are ways you want to implement it personally and with your local teams?
Unlike anytime in history, an awareness of the importance of violence prevention in the United States and peacebuilding work internationally permeates the national discourse and the atmosphere in Washington. President Obama's agenda calls for an "End to the Dangerous Cycle of Youth Violence" and notes the administration's support of "innovative local programs" aimed at the prevention of youth violence. Similarly, officials in the State Department , USAID , and Department of Defense leadership advocate for innovative civilian-driven efforts to build peace across societies in conflict.
The growing consensus in Washington obviously didn’t just ‘happen.’ It is a reflection of an awareness that old ways of business are not working and a reflection of the advancement of the entire field of peacebuilding. The growing consensus is driven by the continuous and demanding work of practitioners on the ground that day in and day out build and sustain relationships with at-risk young people, by the work of peacemakers who delicately bring together divided populaces at war, and by researchers who document the efficacy of peacebuilding work. And the consensus is building because we as advocates, in partnership with our allies, have organized for years district by district and state by state in support of the position that peace is possible and the time for community and legislative change is now. Because of our collective efforts policy makers are seeking to invest in peacemaking, but the question remains: “how?”
At this critical moment, we want to be part of the solution to the ‘how? question’. To do so requires a well-tailored and timely approach to legislation that can specifically meet this challenge. To date our legislative strategy has focused directly on lobbying for a US Department of Peace. While we have made great progress raising awareness and understanding of the importance of peacebuilding, for three consecutive congressional sessions we have not moved past 74 Congressional co-sponsors for each newly presented bill. This challenge has motivated us to reflect on and evaluate our strategy. We have come to recognize that we have lobbied for a Department of Peace to achieve two fundamental goals. One, to create a structure in the federal government that makes peace a priority and gives it a voice at the highest level of power. Second, to establish and enhance peacebuilding programs both in the United States and internationally.
Our greatest success to date is that we have built public and Congressional widespread agreement for the need to support and fund peacebuilding efforts. Yet we have not built similar agreement about changing the structure of our government to meet that need. We believe that to enhance our capacity to effect change in both areas we should look at separating these two fundamental goals into distinct initiatives: Programmatic Change and Federal Structural Change.
Targeted legislative change increases peacebuilding nationally, successfully expands our presence in the House and Senate, builds allies, and serves as a micro model of the larger benefits of the Structural Change we are ultimately seek. By developing tailored strategies for each we will more effectively see peacemaking results on the ground in the short-term while simultaneously building support around the longer-term structural solution.
Department of Peace
a) Engage Congress
To support the Department of Peace proposal we will engage policy makers throughout the country about the Department of Peace and document their excitement and concerns. We hold that the Department of Peace is the most comprehensive measure to date that provides strong structural support to sustainably prioritize violence prevention and peacebuilding efforts in our federal government. The bill itself has changed over the years and will continue to develop with more research and committee mark-ups. We want to know from our policy makers- do they support the US Department model? If not a Department, then what? Documenting the positions of congressional leadership grants us a comprehensive understanding upon which we can build consensus around a structure in the government that truly makes peace a priority.
b) Research and Analyze The Department of Peace and Infrastructures for Peace in the Federal Government
DC staff and interested volunteers will spearhead research and analysis of the proposal to illuminate the best federal structure to build peace. Through Roundtable Discussions we will bring together practitioners, policy experts and members of the relevant departments and agencies to assess their current capacity for peacebuilding and identify ways in which a federal reorganization may strengthen and support their work. We will build an academic and evidence-based case for structural reform.
Pass and Fund the Youth PROMISE Act:
The Youth PROMISE Act is a perfect example of a Congressional proposal that if passed could significantly enhance the capacity of our government to support peacemaking programs. The Youth PROMISE Act is an innovative piece of legislation aimed at empowering community stakeholders to drive local violence prevention and intervention efforts. We will work in conjunction with Rep. Bobby Scott’s (D-VA) office, and in partnership with a broad-based coalition, to pass Youth PROMISE Act through the House by the end of 2009, and then through the Senate and appropriations committees by the end of 2010.
Introduce or Endorse International Peacebuilding Legislation: Guided by advice from an advisory council we will introduce or endorse legislation aimed at supporting those internationally who are actively engaged in applied peacebuilding in areas plagued by violence, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine, and Darfur.
To facilitate these two goals (programmatic and structural) we have identified some needed actions:
Advisory Councils: We will establish and facilitate Advisory Councils composed of experts from the fields of international peacebuilding, youth violence prevention, post-incarceration community re-entry, and government reform that can uniquely advise the Peace Alliance on policy matters. We will build these groups around the coming year's priorities to ensure we continuously have both domestic and international initiatives.
Survey Network: We will gauge the interest of those in our entire network to guide our legislative priorities as we continue to maintain alignment between the policies we advocate and the priorities of the network.
Develop and Join Coalitions: A plethora of advocacy and service organizations are taking action in support of peacebuilding. We will intentionally connect with our peers both at the local and national levels to grow our collective efforts and collaborate on focused strategies that we will implement together.
Strengthen Congressional Leadership: Leadership on the Hill remains an extremely important aspect of passing legislation. We will continue to strengthen our relationships with House Representatives and members of Senate to support our current legislative initiatives. We will:
• Target key congressional members and their staff determined by committee placement, political clout and personal interest and their staff to build leadership and champion our legislative initiatives. Including developing leadership strategies within the congress among their colleagues
• Develop relationships with all members of the appropriations committee in both houses and work both locally and nationally to strengthen their commitment to our legislative goals.