Sustainable Peace Systems Mapping Initiative

For policy makers, civil society, and local communities around the world, specifying and achieving ‘sustainable peace’ has too often proven to be elusive. This is in part due to challenges comprehending peace in complex societies, and thus a lack of coherent, measurable, and implementable policy agendas that pursue sustainable peace and measure progress toward or away from it. For some, sustainable peace simply means a stable, long-lived peace that is associated with the preservation of the status quo through adequate security and protection from outside influence. For others, sustainability in the context of peace is associated with adaptation and renewal — a creative-adaptive peace — which recognizes that all social systems are in flux and progress through multiple states or stages over time.

In 2014, an interdisciplinary team of scientists and academics convened by the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict, and Complexity (AC4) at Columbia University launched a multi-year initiative aimed to provide a more comprehensive and fundamental view of peace and its sustainability. The main objectives of the project are to

  1. use the scientific evidence from a wide range of disciplines to identify factors that influence sustainable peace,
  2. create a shared understanding of the relationships between the main factors influencing sustainable peace and their relative importance, and
  3. build on this evidence to create an interactive visualization to identify effective interventions, measurable goals, and empirically and locally-informed indicators for tracking trends in sustainable peace.

Expert Survey

As a first step, in the spring of 2015 the AC4 team developed an expert survey to gather scientific perspectives on the meaning(s) and key drivers and inhibitors of peace and its sustainability. The analysis of the responses of 74 experts from 35 disciplines, along with a review of national and international peace measures and relevant literature were synthesized in draft visualization of core factors associated with peace sustainability.

To download the Expert Survey Report, click here.

Expert Meeting

In October 2015, the draft visualization of peace sustainability was presented and discussed at a synthesis workshop at Columbia University, which included 17 subject matter experts from 13 disciplines. The feedback on the assumptions, factors and core dynamics of the draft visualization collected at the workshop will inform the further development of the project.

Commissioning of Science Briefs

To be launched in the Spring of 2016, AC4 will be commissioning a series of brief review papers that will explore key factors and dynamics associated peace, from ecology to social norms and international policy, focusing on the latest scientific evidence from multiple disciplinary perspectives.

Each of the reviews is intended to briefly synthesize the scientific evidence and current perspectives on peace sustainability to provide a snapshot of the state-of-the-science through the lens of multiple disciplines. The reviews will also inform the further development of the Sustainable Peace Systems Map.

The complete series will cover a wide range of areas. Experts will assess (1) the current level of understanding in their particular field, (2) elaborate on key unanswered questions, and (3) share their perspective on the ways the current understanding in the field may change in the next two decades. The reviews are intended to provide an interdisciplinary view of peace sustainability, and will be organized around the key social and ecological factors that determine key dynamics.

Community-level dialogues

Along with synthesizing the scholarly perspectives on peace sustainability, a parallel phase of the project will involve a series of community-level dialogues with members of conflict-affected communities and civil society which aims to 1) incorporate the perspectives of communities and ground level stakeholders in a manner that will contribute to the development of a comprehensive understanding of sustainable peace and, 2) stimulate community-level discussion and planning regarding policies and practices conducive to enhancing peacefulness locally.

Through a process of ground-truthing, we will refine the interactive visualization of the systems map of sustainable peace in order to 1) pilot a methodology for integrating practitioner expertise into science and policy around sustainable peace; 2) provide voice and visibility for community decision making and knowledge in the policy making process; and 3) develop an analytical decision support tool for communities and policy makers at the international, national and civil society levels.

AC4 Core Team

Kyong Mazzaro (Program Manager)

Peter Coleman

Beth Fisher-Yoshida

Joshua Fisher


Expert Group

Peter T. Coleman
Columbia University

Dr. Peter T. Coleman is Professor of Psychology and Education at Columbia University where he holds a joint-appointment at Teachers College and The Earth Institute. Peter Coleman is Director of The Morton Deutsch International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (MD-ICCCR), and Co-Chair of AC4. Peter Coleman has conducted extensive research on optimality of motivational dynamics in conflict, power asymmetries and conflict, intractable conflict, multicultural conflict, justice and conflict, environmental conflict, mediation dynamics, and sustainable peace. He is author and editor of the Psychological Components of Sustainable Peace (2013).


Beth Fisher-Yoshida
Columbia University

Dr. Beth Fisher-Yoshida is a faculty member and the academic director of the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution program at Columbia University and Co-Chair of AC4. She is the founder of FYI Fisher Yoshida International, LLC, a firm that partners with clients to develop customized interventions aimed at improving organizational performance. She specializes in leadership development, conflict resolution management systems, intercultural communication and diversity, team development and effectiveness, and performance management.


Josh Fisher
Columbia University

Dr. Josh Fisher is Director of AC4. Josh Fisher has worked with geospatial statistics, remote sensing, and econometric modeling to develop spatially explicit forecast models of the likelihood of armed conflict. In addition to his academic work, he has worked in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America on environmental management and poverty reduction. He has worked with conservation organizations, private sector firms, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management on natural resource governance and biodiversity conservation issues.


Douglas P. Fry
University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)

Dr. Douglas P. Fry chairs the Anthropology Department at UAB and also holds an affiliation as Docent at Åbo Akademi University in Vasa, Finland. Doug Fry has written extensively on aggression, conflict, and conflict resolution, and leads an ongoing research project that examines conflict management and reconciliation in nonwarring clusters of societies or peace systems. He is author and editor of War, Peace and Human Nature (2013).


Larry S. Liebovitch
Queens College

Dr. Larry S. Liebovitch is Professor of Physics and Psychology at Queens College of the City University of New York, and serves as Adjunct Senior Research Scientist for AC4. Larry Liebovitch has worked with nonlinear methods to analyze and understand molecular, cellular, psychological, and social systems. He is the author of Fractals and Chaos: Simplified for the Life Sciences (1998), and co-author of Fractal Analysis in the Social Sciences (2010).


Philippe Vandenbroeck

Philippe Vandenbroeck co-founded the Belgium-based futures consultancy shiftN, a network of professionals that works with leading organizations using systems thinking, multi-stakeholder dialogue, and design to better understand complex systems. With a background in bio-engineering, philosophy, and urban planning, for the last 20 years he has used systems thinking approaches to study complex business and societal issues such transition to sustainability, management of food, water and energy systems, armed conflict, novel governance systems, challenges in public health and social policies.