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The word “peacebuilding” evokes a story we’ve all heard over and over: Violence breaks out, foreign nations are scandalized, peacekeepers and million-dollar donors come rushing in, warring parties sign a peace agreement and, sadly, within months the situation is back to where it started—sometimes worse. But what strategies have worked to build lasting peace in conflict zones, particularly for ordinary citizens on the ground? And why should other ordinary citizens, thousands of miles away, care?

In The Frontlines of Peace, Séverine Autesserre, award-winning researcher and peacebuilder, examines the well-intentioned but inherently flawed peace industry. With examples drawn from across the globe, she reveals that peace can grow in the most unlikely circumstances. Contrary to what most politicians preach, building peace doesn’t require billions in aid or massive international interventions. Real, lasting peace requires giving power to local citizens.

The Frontlines of Peace tells the stories of the ordinary yet extraordinary individuals and organizations that are confronting violence in their communities effectively. One thing is clear: Successful examples of peacebuilding around the world, in countries at war or at peace, have involved innovative grassroots initiatives led by local people, at times supported by foreigners, often employing methods shunned by the international elite. By narrating success stories of this kind, Autesserre shows the radical changes we must take in our approach if we hope to build lasting peace around us—whether we live in Congo, the United States, or elsewhere.


Séverine Autesserre is an award-winning author, peacebuilder, and researcher, as well as a Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is the author of The Trouble with the Congo, Peaceland, and The Frontlines of Peace, in addition to articles for publications such as Foreign Affairs, International Organization, and The New York Times. Autesserre has been involved intimately in the world of international aid for more than twenty years. She has conducted research in twelve different conflict zones, from Colombia to Somalia to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Autesserre has worked for Doctors Without Borders in places like Afghanistan and Congo, and at the United Nations headquarters in the United States. Her research has helped shape the intervention strategies of several United Nations departments, foreign affairs ministries, and non-governmental organizations, as well as numerous philanthropists and activists. She has also been a featured speaker at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates and the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Jean-Marie Guéhenno is the Inaugural Kent Visiting Professor of Conflict Resolution, and Director Emeritus of the Center for International Conflict Resolution at the School of International and Public Affairs. He is a member of the High-level Advisory Board on mediation created by Secretary-General of the UN Antonio Guterres. Guéhenno is also a senior advisor of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva, a counsellor of the Australian consultancy Dragoman, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, and a distinguished fellow at the Brookings Institution. He was President and Chief Executive Officer of the International Crisis Group from 2014 to 2017.

Guéhenno has held numerous senior-level positions during his distinguished career, spanning peacekeeping, international security and defense policy. Guéhenno was the Under-Secretary-General for peacekeeping operations from 2000 to 2008, becoming the longest-serving head of peacekeeping and leading an unprecedented expansion of peacekeeping. When Kofi Annan was appointed Joint Special Envoy for Syria in 2012, he selected Guéhenno to be his Deputy, a position he left to chair a review of France’s defense and national security at the request of the President of France. Before joining the United Nations, Mr. Guéhenno had a distinguished career in the French Government and the private sector. He was the director of policy planning in the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1989 to 1993, when the Cold War ended. Subsequently, as the ambassador to the Western European Union, he helped lay the foundations of a renewed European defense effort. From 1998 to 2000, he was chairman of the French Institute of Higher Defense Studies.

Guéhenno has published articles in many newspapers and magazines, and is the author of three books: La Fin de la Démocratie (1993), a book acclaimed by The Economist, which has been translated in a dozen languages, and is considered as the first book to have identified the challenges of globalization; L’Avenir de la liberté, la Démocratie dans la mondialisation (1999) and The Fog of Peace: A Memoir of Peacekeeping in the 21st Century (2015).  Guéhenno has also taught extensively, including as a professor at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques of Paris, and throughout his time at Columbia.

Guéhenno is a board member of the Carnegie Corporation, the Stockholm Peace Research Institute, and the Ecole Normale Supérieure. He is the chair of the scientific committee of the Institute for Higher national defense studies (Institut des Hautes Etudes de Défense Nationale) in Paris.  He is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Guéhenno holds the highest decoration of the Federal Republic of Germany(commander of the Bundesverdienstkreuz), and is an officier de la Légion d’Honneur. Guéhenno is bilingual English-French. He is a graduate of the Ecole Normale Superieure, the Institut d’Eudes Politiques, and the Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA).