Glossary of peace and justice related terms*

Active Listening

A way of listening that focuses on both the content of statements or responses in a dialogue and the underlying emotions. It means asking open-ended questions, seeking clarification, asking for specificity, and confirming your understanding of what the other party has said.


Intentional and unintentional, conscious and subconscious, attitudes, behaviors and actions that have a negative and differential impact on segments of the society, or favor one segment of the society.


An inevitable aspect of human interaction, conflict is present when two or more individuals or groups pursue mutually incompatible goals. Conflicts can be waged violently, as in a war, or nonviolently, as in an election or an adversarial legal process. When channeled constructively into processes of resolution, conflict can be beneficial.

Conflict Analysis

The systematic study of conflict in general and of individual or group conflicts in particular. Conflict analysis provides a structured inquiry into the causes and potential trajectory of a conflict so that processes of resolution can be better understood. For specific conflicts, the terms conflict assessment or conflict mapping are sometimes used to describe the process of identifying the stakeholders, their interests and positions, and the possibility for conflict management.

Conflict Resolution

Efforts to address the underlying causes of a conflict by finding common interests and overarching goals. It includes fostering positive attitudes and generating trust through reconciliation Institutes, and building or strengthening the institutions and processes through which the parties interact peacefully.

Conflict Transformation

Conflict transformation is to envision and respond to the ebb and flow of social conflict as life-giving opportunities for creating constructive change processes that reduce violence, increase justice in direct interaction and social structures, and respond to real-life problems in human relationships.


The shared beliefs, traits, attitudes, behavior, products, and artifacts common to a particular social or ethnic group. The term cross-cultural refers to interactions across cultures and reflects the fact that different cultures may have different communication styles and negotiating behavior. The term multicultural refers to the acceptance of different ethnic cultures within a society. Cultural sensitivity means being aware of cultural differences and how they affect behavior, and moving beyond cultural biases and preconceptions to interact effectively.


A state or community in which all adult members of society partake in a free and fair electoral process that determines government leadership, have access to power through their representatives, and enjoy universally recognized freedoms and liberties. Democracy building or democratization is the exercise of consolidating and strengthening institutions that help to support democratic government. These institutions may relate to rule of law Institutes, political party development, constitution building, public administration development, and civil society education programs.


A conversation or exchange of ideas that seeks mutual understanding through the sharing of perspectives. Dialogue is a process for learning about another group’s beliefs, feelings, interests, and needs in a non-adversarial, open way, usually with the help of a third-party facilitator. Facilitated dialogue is a face-to-face process, often among elites. It takes place at a meeting site, whereas other third-party assisted processes may occur indirectly or by means of proximity talks.


The range of human differences, including but not limited to race, gender, religion, ability, sexual orientation, personality, body shape, political beliefs, social class, etc.


The principles of conduct—right and wrong behavior—governing an individual or a group.


The process or set of skills by which a third party attempts to help the disputants move toward resolution of their dispute. Facilitation can operate at many levels, from providing good offices to a more active role as a mediator. It may mean helping the parties set ground rules and agendas for meetings, helping with communication between the parties, and analysis of the situation and possible outcomes—in general, helping the participants keep on track and working toward their mutual goals. It may also mean helping them set those goals.

Human Rights

The basic prerogatives and freedoms to which all humans are entitled. Supported by the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and several international agreements, these rights include the right to life, liberty, education, and equality before law, and the right of association, belief, free speech, religion, and movement.


Identity refers to the way people see themselves—the groups they feel a part of, the aspects of themselves that they use to describe themselves. Some theorists distinguish between collective identity, social identity, and personal identity. However, all are related in one way or another to a description of who one is, and how one fits into his or her social group and society overall. Identity conflicts are conflicts that develop when a person or group feels that their sense of self is threatened or denied legitimacy or respect. Religious, ethnic, and racial conflicts are examples of identity conflicts. Identity politics tries to exploit those conflicts for political advantage.


The Involvement and empowerment of diversity, where the inherent worth and dignity of all people are recognized.

Inclusive Excellence

The recognition that a community or institution's social and economic success is dependent on how well it values, engages, includes, and cares for the rich diversity of its members in every aspect, layer, level, and role in the institution.

Interfaith Dialogue

Efforts to promote understanding of and cooperation among different faiths, especially as a tool to advance peacemaking and peacebuilding.


The minimum form of justice is fair and equal treatment before the law—a system of rule of law based on legal procedures that apply to all members of society. Social justice refers to a situation characterized by rule of law and fair distribution of resources and opportunities in society. Some see justice as a prerequisite for a stable and lasting order, others argue that there can be no justice without order. Access to justice refers to efforts to make the justice system accessible to those who are otherwise excluded. Non-state justice, also called customary or traditional justice, refers to the settlement of disputes outside the formal state justice system, for example through tribal and community councils. Such mechanisms are widely used in rural and poor urban areas but sometimes reinforce local inequities and social exclusion, especially concerning women.


A mode of negotiation in which a mutually acceptable third party helps the parties to a conflict find a solution that they cannot find by themselves. It is a three-sided political process in which the mediator builds and then draws upon relationships with the other two parties to help them reach a settlement.


The everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their perceived identity.


The process of communication and bargaining between parties seeking to arrive at a mutually acceptable outcome on issues of shared concern. The process typically involves compromise and concessions and is designed to result in an agreement, although sometimes a party participates in negotiations for other reasons (to score propaganda points or to appease domestic political forces, for example).


Nonviolence is a powerful method to harmonize relationships among people (and all living things) for the establishment of justice and the ultimate well-being of all parties. It draws its power from awareness of the profound truth to which the wisdom traditions of all cultures, science, and common experience bear witness: that all life is one.


The word “peace” evokes complex, sometimes contradictory, interpretations and reactions. For some, peace means the absence of conflict. For others it means the end of violence or the formal cessation of hostilities; for still others, the return to resolving conflict by political means. Some define peace as the attainment of justice and social stability; for others it is economic well-being and basic freedom. Peacemaking can be a dynamic process of ending conflict through negotiation or mediation. Peace is often unstable, as sources of conflict are seldom completely resolved or eliminated. Since conflict is inherent in the human condition, the striving for peace is particularly strong in times of violent conflict. That said, a willingness to accommodate perpetrators of violence without resolving the sources of conflict—sometimes called “peace at any price”—may lead to greater conflict later.

Peace (and conflict) Studies

An interdisciplinary field of study that focuses on conflict analysis, conflict management, and conflict transformation; nonviolent sanctions; peacebuilding, peacekeeping, and peace enforcement; social and economic justice; war’s causes and conduct; and international and domestic security. Peace research is a constituent element of peace studies, drawing on the work of academicians and nongovernmental organizations alike. Although peace studies generally refers to college-level work, the term peace education encompasses all levels of students.


Originally conceived in the context of post-conflict recovery efforts to promote reconciliation and reconstruction, the term peacebuilding has more recently taken on a broader meaning. It may include providing humanitarian relief, protecting human rights, ensuring security, establishing nonviolent modes of resolving conflicts, fostering reconciliation, providing trauma healing services, repatriating refugees and resettling internally displaced persons, supporting broad-based education, and aiding in economic reconstruction. As such, it also includes conflict prevention in the sense of preventing the recurrence of violence, as well as conflict management and post-conflict recovery. In a larger sense, peacebuilding involves a transformation toward more manageable, peaceful relationships and governance structures—the long-term process of addressing root causes and effects, reconciling differences, normalizing relations, and building institutions that can manage conflict without resorting to violence.


An attitude- and the behaviors that accompany that attitude- that everyone has the right to be acknowledged as a valuable individual capable of making positive contributions to the team.

Serial Testimony

Coined by Dr. Peggy McIntosh as the "autocratic administration of time in the service of democratic distribution of time." Serial Testimony is a facilitation method that empowers people by valuing their knowledge and insight. It offers the opportunity to testify to the realities of their own lives, making their personal reflections part of the experience. Serial Testimony creates dialogue that doesn't focus on convincing others or winning an argument, but rather on sharing perspective that can inform how participants view themselves and the wider world.


Placing a person in a "mental file," not based on information derived from knowledge about or personal experience with the person, but based upon what we believe about a group to which we assume this person belongs.


In general, the ability to maintain something indefinitely. In capacity building, sustainability means creating capacity that will remain in place and effective even after the Institute ends or the intervener departs. In development, it means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In the context of natural resources, sustainability refers to harnessing natural resources without depleting them. In the broader context of the environment, it means satisfying basic human needs while maintaining environmental quality.T


Psychological or physical force exerted for the purpose of threatening, injuring, damaging, or abusing people or property. In international relations, violent conflict typically refers to a clash of political interests between organized groups characterized by a sustained and large-scale use of force. Structural violence refers to inequalities built into the social system, for example, inequalities in income distribution.

*References for these sources came from the United States Institute of Peace, Circles of Belonging, The National SEED Project, and the works of John Paul Lederach and Parker J. Palmer.