Dear Friends of USIP,
I write this with a very heavy heart as the country grieves the terrible killing of George Floyd and struggles to confront the history of racism and injustice that led to this moment.
The United States Institute of Peace was founded by Congress 35 years ago as an independent, nonpartisan, national institute devoted to working with partners around the world to prevent and resolve violent conflict. From our global work, we know too well how social exclusion, fragmentation and marginalization, lack of access to justice, and repressive security forces are key sources of upheaval—and if left unaddressed, surely lead to violence.
As peacebuilders, we have experienced how dialogue between police and citizens can create new levels of mutual understanding. We know the importance of training security forces with the mandate of supporting and serving the people, ALL people. We know that reaching across divides is critical to reducing that sense of otherness that can lead to brutality and violence. We know that peaceful, organized, strategic and creative protests will ultimately lead to sustained peace in ways that violence never can.
All over the world, violence closes pathways and excludes broader support and participation for the just causes promoted by nonviolent action. There is no place for violence as a means for positive change.
Above all, we know that it is imperative to listen—to understand, to learn, to fully take in the injustice and commit to action.
In the middle of this crisis, I am deeply heartened by the voices of many people who have been working for justice for decades and keep at it; the voices of youth leaders who are now dedicating themselves to working for a more peaceful and just world. I am encouraged by the Minnesotans who turned out to help clean the wreckage from a night of destruction in their city. And I am lifted up by those who are calling for this to be a moment for change—for practical, organized and peaceful action to seize this moment and turn it into a chance to overcome, finally, these destructive inequities that create pain and division.
None of us at USIP could do the work of peacebuilding if we didn’t ultimately possess a pragmatic understanding of how difficult and slow change can be, coupled with a deep well of optimism. That optimism is being tried as we contend with this challenge to justice and peace, in addition to the global pandemic and pervasive economic uncertainty that has further illuminated the inequities and divides affecting communities here and around the world. Now is an important time to reach out to others in the community; to listen, learn and affirm; to recommit to action and take care of each other. And now is a time to stay focused on the hope and light that lies beneath the fear.
In this painful moment, we at USIP grieve with George Floyd’s family and all those who have suffered here and around the world from injustice and repression. We embrace our mission of embodying America’s commitment to peace, abroad as well as at home. As we say, peace is possible, but it takes action, it takes all of us.
In sadness and in hope,