A Wise Investment in Uncertain Economic Times: Saving the Budget of the U.S. Institute of Peace


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“Our own stories don’t begin to demonstrate USIP’s impact. 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 indicating the significant contributions USIP has made to their efforts and keeping US troops alive in the field. USIP has conducted peacebuilding and stabilization efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, permitting US military operations to proceed with significantly reduced violent interactions….

“Amendment 100 was proposed by representatives Weiner (D-NY) and Chaffetz (R-Utah) who declared the USIP a “waste of taxpayer money.” We believe the opposite to be true: in the realm of international peace and security funding the $34 million congress provided the USIP in 2010 is a clear bargain. That’s only .00006 percent of the $533.7 billion US Military budget for the same year. The ounce of prevention the USIP provides saves the US taxpayer billions in military expenses, not to mention priceless human lives lost to violent conflict.”

Author: Betty Reardon and Tony Jenkins, both of Columbia University
Published in: HuntingtonNews.net out of West Virginia, Community Times out of Baltimore County, Maryland (projected week of March 6), The Cap Times in Madison, Wisconsin (at http://host.madison.com/)
Date: March 2, 6 and 7, 2011

For the full article:
A Wise Investment in Uncertain Economic Times: Saving the Budget of the U.S. Institute of Peace
(507 words)
by Betty Reardon and Tony Jenkins

The New York Times recently featured significant articles highlighting the important role of non-formal civilian education and training contributing to the nonviolent toppling of dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt (Feb 13: A Tunisian-Egyptian Link That Shook Arab History; Feb 16: Shy U.S. Intellectual Created Playbook Used in a Revolution). In our peacebuilding work, we have found that such significant nonviolent political transformations are not likely to occur without the essential education and training of everyday citizens in the knowledge and skills of peacemaking, mediation and negotiation, conflict transformation, and nonviolent resistance. This is why we believe the February 18 vote in the US House of Representatives in favor of amendment 100 to HR 1 (246 to 182 – largely along partisan lines) that will eliminate all federal funding for the U.S. Institute on Peace (USIP) is a tremendous mistake.

The U.S. Institute of Peace 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 been a key leader in the peacebuilding field, sponsoring critical research and education and providing training to governments and civil society organizations around the world. Their work has had an impact in nearly every area of the world, and as an independent organization they have been able to reach individuals and governments that traditional channels cannot.

Recently, the International Institute on Peace Education, with which we are affiliated, received a small grant to support the establishment of community-based peace education teacher training networks in Colombia, India, Peru, the Philippines, Tanzania and Ukraine. These training opportunities for formal and non-formal educators in the knowledge and skills to overcome local manifestations of violence ranging from gender based violence to child soldiers.

Our own stories don’t begin to demonstrate USIP’s impact. 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 indicating the significant contributions USIP has made to their efforts and keeping US troops alive in the field. USIP has conducted peacebuilding and stabilization efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, permitting US military operations to proceed with significantly reduced violent interactions. Their conflict analysis and training in Sudan and the Niger Delta has provided the US government with critical policy perspectives. USIP convened the Iraq Study Group and the Genocide Prevention Task Force that produced constructive recommendations for the prevention of armed and violent conflict and cost-effective and life saving alternatives to military interventions.

Amendment 100 was proposed by representatives Weiner (D-NY) and Chaffetz (R-Utah) who declared the USIP a “waste of taxpayer money.” We believe the opposite to be true: in the realm of international peace and security funding the $34 million congress provided the USIP in 2010 is a clear bargain. That’s only .00006 percent of the $533.7 billion US Military budget for the same year. The ounce of prevention the USIP provides saves the US taxpayer billions in military expenses, not to mention priceless human lives lost to violent conflict.

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Betty Reardon, author of Educating for Human Dignity: Learning about Rights and Responsibilities, founded a Peace Education Center and Program at Teachers College, Columbia University and the International Institute on Peace Education. Tony Jenkins is the Director of Education of the National Peace Academy, Global Coordinator of the International Institute on Peace Education, and former Co-Director of a Peace Education Center at Teachers College, Columbia University.