As a community of scholars and educators pursuing development of and critical reflection on knowledge that can contribute to the achievement and maintenance of peace, we believe the recent house vote (HR 1, amendment 1) eliminating all federal funding of the United States Institute of Peace to have been ill advised and detrimental to U.S. and international peace and security interests.
USIP was established in 1984 to provide “analysis, training and tools that prevent and end conflicts, promote[s] stability and professionalize[s] the field of peacebuilding.” In its 26+ years, USIP has played an important role in peacebuilding, sponsoring critical research and education and providing training to governments and civil society organizations. Their work has had an impact in nearly every area of the world. As an independent organization they have made peacemaking contacts that governmental and ordinary political channels cannot.USIP has also made important contributions to reducing US dependency on military intervention. In response to the pending budget cuts, General David Petraeus, Lt. General Robert Caslen, Admiral G. Roughead, and George Shultz all wrote letters of support for the work of USIP that helps to keep US troops alive in the field.
USIP has facilitated peacebuilding and stabilization efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, permitting US military operations to proceed with significantly reduced violence and consequent loss of life. The Institute’s conflict analysis and training in Sudan and the Niger Delta has provided the US government with critical policy perspectives. The USIP convened Iraq Study Group and Genocide Prevention Task Force produced constructive recommendations for the prevention of armed and violent conflict and cost-effective, life saving alternatives to military interventions.
We acknowledge the tremendous challenges faced by Congress in deriving a fiscally responsible budget to assure peace and security and the economic well-being of all Americans. However, cutting the modest budget of the USIP in an era of intense international conflict and proliferation of ever more incidents of warfare would only serve to undermine the security and the well-being of this nation. Unprecedented military spending is not a route to these ends. In terms of assuring international peace and security, the $34 million congress provided USIPin 2010 is both economically and strategically more productive. This amount represents .00006 percent of the $533.7 billion US military budget for the same year. This annual ounce of prevention has saved the US taxpayer billions in military expenses, not to mention priceless human lives that would have been lost to the conflicts USIPhas helped mitigate and avoid.
Investing in peacebuilding and peace education efforts is needed now more than ever. This is evidenced by the important role non-formal civilian education and training contributed to the recent nonviolent toppling of dictatorship in Egypt. Such significant nonviolent political transformations are not likely to occur without the essential education and training of ordinary citizens, equipping them with skills of peacemaking, mediation and negotiation, conflict transformation, and strategies for nonviolent social and political change.
Education plays a profoundly significant role in facilitating political and social change and transformation. The field of peace education and research is seriously underfunded. A tremendous loss to this essential and underfunded aspect of peacebuilding will result from eliminating the allocation to USIP. The Peace and Security Funders Group recent report on “Peace and Security Grantmaking by U.S. Foundations, 2008-2009” noted that foundation funding work to promote peace and security totaled approximately $257 million in 2008 and 2009 combined. Perhaps more importantly, the report revealed that “funding in the area of Advancing Education and Public Understanding attracted the largest number of funders, yet only nine percent of all funds; was not dominated by large foundations; and had the smallest average grant size.” These funding statistics, especially the minuscule amounts granted to education, are tragically disproportionate to the 3.037 Trillion in global military expenditure for this same 2008-09 period.
We call upon the US Congress to immediately reinstate all funding for the USIP not only as a symbol of America’s commitment to international peace and security, but as an investment in our common future. We additionally call upon private donors and the peace and security funding community to further recognize the essential role of education in transforming conflicts and to give significantly increased priority to the funding of education and research efforts so vital to the possibility of a more peaceful and secure world order.