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The peacebuilders: Making conflict resolution permanent

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When Schulenburg retells this story, he pauses here. He doesn't want to sound like a hero. Not because his presence didn't calm things – it did – but because casting him as a hero misses the point. For him, the drama is in the diplomacy.

"We had so much credibility, they let us go through," he says of the crowd. "We reorganized the police; we negotiated so that people could come off the roof. And afterwards, we negotiated a sort of peace deal between the two parties."

And Schulenburg did this all remarkably quickly. The men were moved off the roof in a matter of hours, and discussions held over a matter of days. Only two weeks after the 2009 standoff that observers feared would mark Sierra Leone's return to war, its two major parties announced a new agreement that became the foundation for political fair play.

If Schulenburg hadn't driven into that crowd, chances are high that the 22 men would have been murdered by the mob below – even that the violence may have escalated. "I can do that because I have a political mandate," he says. That's UN-speak for saying that Schulenburg has a form of permission no one else has – not ambassadors, not World Bank officials, not aid workers with the deepest of pockets: He has "peacebuilding."


Peacebuilding is a new approach to ending war, and it's becoming a global buzzword. It's different from peacemaking, which brings politicians around a table to hammer out a peace deal. And it's different from peacekeeping, which sends foreign soldiers to monitor peace agreements, separate warring parties, and protect civilians in conflict zones.

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