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What is peacebuilding?

Peacebuilding is a long-term, often generational process that addresses the underlying causes of violent conflict. It seeks to resolve injustices through nonviolent approaches. It works to transform cultures and institutions that generate violent conflict—often through oppression, marginalization, gender inequality, and corruption—to enable sustainable peace to take root.

In practice, peacebuilding and conflict prevention can take many different forms. Peacebuilding programs can focus on dialogue between groups in conflict to promote trust and reconciliation. It can mean engaging with the media to counter disinformation and promote visions of peace and inclusion. It might emphasize improving democratic norms, good governance, and access to justice so that marginalized communities can influence their government and access nonviolent avenues to seek redress for injustices. It can engage the private sector to promote cross-community trade and improve employment practices to help bring together groups in conflict.

Isn’t militarism the real problem? Shouldn’t the priority be cutting the pentagon budget?

Militarism, endless wars, and the ever-expanding Pentagon budget are major failures of current U.S. foreign policy. FCNL has been, is, and will continue to work to dismantle militarism, end endless wars, and cut the Pentagon budget.

However, when advocating to end wars and militarism, the question we often receive from Congress is: “what’s the alternative?” This year we are focusing on the answer to that question.

There are many connections between our work to end militarism and to support peacebuilding. We are not only advocating for larger investments in peacebuilding but are also educating Congress on peacebuilding as a viable alternative to militarized crisis response. In fiscal year 2022, Congress appropriated the equivalent of just half of one percent of the Pentagon budget to peacebuilding and non-violent conflict prevention. We encourage you to help your members of Congress understand how much we spend on war and how little we spend on peace and to make the case that this has to change.

Is this enough to help peacebuilding?

Investments in peacebuilding and conflict prevention can save lives and bring us closer to the world we seek. These programs are also much more economical than spending on weapons and war. Despite that, peacebuilding and conflict prevention receive comparatively little funding from the United States government.

That’s part of why we are calling on Congress to increase its investments in these accounts. The first step is to educate Congress on why peacebuilding is important, effective, and cost-efficient. By informing lawmakers about the value of peacebuilding in 2023, we are laying the groundwork for larger investments in the future. Like many campaigns FCNL works on, this is just a first step to set the stage for further success to come.

What kind of work do these peacebuilding accounts support?

We are advocating for investments in three accounts dedicated to supporting programs that aim to address the root causes of violence, responding to early warning signs of emergent crises, and heal communities after conflict. Each of these three accounts deals with a unique challenge.

  • The Complex Crises Fund allows for the quick mobilization of funds to countries at risk of violent outbreaks.
  • Reconciliation programs facilitate interpersonal dialogues between conflicting groups to strengthen social cohesion and trust.
  • The Atrocities Prevention Fund is the State Department’s only funding dedicated solely to the prevention of mass atrocities and genocide.

For more in-depth information on each of these accounts, check out

The U.S. military and intelligence communities have influenced USAID programs in the past, should we be supporting these accounts today?

We are aware of the painful history of USAID and its connection to the U.S. military and intelligence agencies. Congress, USAID, and the State Department have made important reforms over the decades, although important work remains.

For example, following the Vietnam War, Congress passed Section 660 of the Foreign Assistance Act in 1975 (see below). Section 660 helped create restrictions on the use of U.S. foreign assistance for the training of foreign police or for any program of internal intelligence or surveillance on behalf of a foreign government.

Section 660(a) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961: “On and after July 1, 1975, none of the funds made available to carry out this chapter, and none of the local currencies generated under this chapter, shall be used to provide training or advice, or provide any financial support, for police, prisons, or other law enforcement forces for any foreign government or any program of internal intelligence or surveillance on behalf of any foreign government within the United States or abroad.” (22 U.S.C. § 2420 (a))

Additionally, there are multiple levels of oversight on the use of these accounts. For example, the House and Senate Appropriations, House Foreign Affairs, and Senate Foreign Relations Committees each hold annual oversight hearings on the Department of State and USAID’s budget requests. Further, USAID and the State Department are required to notify the House and Senate Appropriations Committees prior to the obligation of funds from these accounts.

In addition, the State Department and USAID both have independent Inspectors General who can conduct independent audits, inspections, evaluations, and investigations of the agencies’ operations, decision-making, programs, and the actions of government employees, contractors, or grantees. The Inspectors General focuses on efficiency and the prevention and detection of waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. They can investigate allegations of criminal activity and make prosecutorial referrals.

FCNL worked hard to identify peacebuilding and conflict prevention accounts that we feel confident in. Two of the accounts, Complex Crises Fund and Atrocities Prevention, were established in part due to FCNL’s advocacy. FCNL has long advocated for foreign policy that prioritizes peace and the prevention of violent conflict.

My member of Congress is a fiscal conservative. Why should they support peacebuilding funds?

History has shown us that it is far cheaper and more effective to prevent and prepare for emergencies than to respond to them after they occur. Research by the Institute for Economics and Peace found that for each dollar invested in prevention there is a $16 decline in the cost of conflict—a conclusion echoed by U.N. Secretary General Guterres, “Instead of responding to crises, we need to invest far more in prevention. Prevention works, saves lives and is cost-effective.”

Peacebuilding and conflict prevention funding enables the U.S. government and partner organizations to prevent and respond to early warning signs of escalating conflicts—this saves lives, as well as taxpayer dollars. We aim to demonstrate to fiscal conservatives that investing in these accounts has a good return on investment for taxpayers as they help reduce the need for expensive post-conflict humanitarian responses and military interventions.

Are these funding levels achievable? What are the recent trends in funding and support?

Yes, they are ambitious! In FY22, Congress doubled funding to the Complex Crises Fund (CCF) from $30 million to $60 million. We also saw a 20% increase in funding for Atrocity Prevention in FY23. This increase in investment in peace shows that progress is possible! It also demonstrates that Congress is beginning to recognize the value of peacebuilding and prevention programs in our foreign policy. While the 118th Congress may present a challenge, we believe progress remains possible.

Appropriations Process

What is the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPs) Bill?

The SFOPS bill is one of twelve federal appropriations bills. Through it, Congress allocates funding to USAID, the State Department, contributions to the United Nations and the Peace Corps, among other agencies and programs. As the appropriations bills dictate the annual discretionary spending for the federal budget, they must be renegotiated and passed each year.

If my member is not on an appropriations committee, how can they impact the process?

Members of Congress who do not directly serve on Appropriations Committees still have a significant role to play in this process. They can publicly express their support and encourage their colleagues to back these funding allocations. They can ask questions and speak about peacebuilding funding in committee hearings and write or join “Dear Colleague” letters. Additionally, all members of Congress can submit their priorities to the Appropriations Committees for the coming fiscal year.

When is the Fiscal Year?

The Fiscal Year refers to the 12-month accounting period of the federal government. Each Fiscal Year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 of the following year and is numbered by the calendar year they end in. For example, Fiscal Year 2024 begins Oct. 1, 2023, and runs through Sept. 30, 2024.

How does an appropriations bill become a law? What is the timeline of the appropriations process?

Finalized appropriations bills are the result of a lengthy process involving federal agencies, the House, the Senate, and the President.

  1. President presents their budget request: The President traditionally presents their annual budget request to Congress by the first Monday in February. It is not unusual for the President to miss this deadline, in which case the Presidential Budget Request is released later in the Spring. The Presidential Budget Request outlines the administration’s policy and spending priorities and offers estimates for revenue and expenditures.
  2. Congress agrees to a budget resolution: The House and Senate Budget Committees work to draft and pass a budget resolution which lays out the total amount of money that the Appropriations Committees can spend. If no resolution is passed, each chamber may set their own topline spending level.
  3. Committees draft appropriations bills: In the Spring, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees begin work to draft, amend, and approve all 12 appropriations bills. During this period, both House and Senate Appropriations Committees will hold Member Day Hearings, during which members of Congress can speak before the committees on their appropriations priorities. These committees also hold hearings with the heads of federal departments and agencies, such as the Secretary of State and USAID Administrator, to examine the administration’s budget request.
  4. Congress passes appropriations bills: Congress must pass all the annual appropriations bills by Sept. 30 as the fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. However, when this deadline is not met, temporary legislation called a Continuing Resolution (CR), can extend previous funding levels until the new appropriations bills are passed. In recent years, negotiations have usually lasted into the Fall. For example, the FY23 SFOPs appropriations bill, included in an omnibus package, wasn’t signed into law until Dec. 29, 2022— three months after the Sept. 30 deadline!

You can learn more here. Given the fluctuating nature of the appropriations process, we are actively strategizing to make sure that our advocacy throughout the year is well-timed to be most effective.