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Building peace

from big picture to leverage point


t’s easier to win the war than the peace.

That’s a challenge Rob Ricigliano has made his life’s work. As the director of UWM’s Institute of World Affairs, he combines experience in war-torn areas from Afghanistan to the Sudan with research, teaching and writing to build a more peaceful world.

A key strategy: “Make sure everyone is rowing in the same direction.” He goes on to use medical analogies as he discusses working in troubled areas—“get an MRI of the region,” make a diagnosis, find a leverage point where intervention can begin to make change, and develop a comprehensive plan customized for the culture and people.

“We need to plan well but expect some failures. Feedback is essential in the learning process, so we have to be open and honest about setbacks.” Every conflict-torn area has its ancient hatreds, bad actors and vested interests likely to disrupt the peace process, he says. “But we actually know a lot about building a sustainable peace. We can do it if we plan, think and work together.”

Countries like the U.S., he explains, may have soldiers, aid workers, diplomats, economists, counter-terrorism experts and others separately trying to carry out their organizations’ goals. But because their efforts usually aren’t coordinated, they don’t succeed in building lasting peace. “It’s a very different mode of thinking and planning than most government and nongovernmental organizations do,” admits Ricigliano.


But some leaders are starting to see the value of integrated approaches.

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Ricigliano has done consulting work with the Defense Department, which is open to trying new planning options. Soldiers often become “armed social workers” after the immediate battle is won. That makes the military a strong advocate of integrated operations to stabilize war-torn areas at a lower human and financial cost. Another key to developing sustainable peace is to admit failures and learn from them.

Rob Ricigliano, director of UWM’s Institute of World Affairs

UWM Research Report 2012  

UWM faculty, staff and students are following many paths to creating new knowledge in diverse fields.