The National Peace Foundation’s (NPF) roots can be traced back to the National Peace Academy Campaign (NPAC), which was established in 1976 as a federally chartered educational institution whose goal was to promote “peacemaking and conflict resolution.” In 1982 NPF was formed as NPAC’s educational affiliate. Two years later NPAC was disbanded, and in 1985 NPF began to play a more prominent role in “public education on conflict resolution.” Soon thereafter, the organization launched a newsletter titled Peace Reporter, and published a bibliography of literature containing “the basic background for international peacemaking and conflict resolution.”
NPF’s current President and Board Chairwoman is Sarah Harder, who also co-chairs the National Women’s Conference Committee and serves on the National Council of Women’s Organizations. She served as President of the American Association of University Women from 1985-89, and as Vice President of the Geneva-based International Federation of University Women. Today she is Professor Emerita at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where she spent 35 years in faculty and administrative positions. Harder is a member of the Unitarian Universalist church.
NPF Board member Joan A. Kuriansky, who holds a J.D. and a Master’s Degree in Urban Affairs, was Executive Director of the Older Women’s League from 1987 to 1994. In 1992 she received a “Women of Vision” award from the Ms. Foundation for Women. She also received a Gloria Steinem award “for her leadership in promoting health care reform.” Today she is the Executive Director of Wider Opportunities for Women, and a Board member of EMPOWER, ISAR, the Muskie Institute on Public Affairs, the National Center on Security Studies, and the National Institute of Justice. In 1995 President Bill Clinton appointed Ms. Kuriansky to serve on the President’s Advisory Council on Violence Against Women. She held that position until June 2001.
A notable NPF activist is the Russian-born Olga Bessolova, whose father was a member of the Communist Party.
NPF has established conflict-resolution and peer-mediation programs for teachers and students in a number of Washington, DC-area schools. These programs teach that potentially explosive situations commonly can be defused by following the “I Can Problem Solve” method, which consists of these six steps: “stop [and] cool off; talk and listen to each other; find out what you both need; brainstorm solutions; choose the idea you both like best; make a plan and go for it.”
NPF’s Middle East Program seeks to “brin[g] Palestinian, Israeli and Bedouin young adults together to envision a world of cooperation.”
In Russia, NPF has promoted the growth of a consortium of some 250 female-led non-governmental organizations that focus on issues of nonviolence. Known as “Women for Life without War and Violence,” member groups in this consortium work together in the North Caucasus to mitigate ethnic conflict. NPF’s work in Russia also consists of programs for the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction and HIV/Aids.
In 1989 NPF established its Peacemaker/Peacebuilder Award, which it presents periodically to individuals deemed to be effective advocates of conflict resolution. Past recipients of this award include Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1997); Attorney General Janet Reno (1997); Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton of Pax Christi USA (1997); Senator Tom Harkin (2001); the Colman McCarthy family of the Center for Teaching Peace (2001); and Landrum Bolling, the former Earlham College President who serves as a senior advisor to Mercy Corps, and who narrated an anti-Israel film that featured the Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi (2001),
In 2002 NPF presented a Lifetime Peacebuilder Award to Andrew Young, who has served variously as a U.S. congressman, ambassador to the United Nations, mayor of Atlanta, founding board member of the United Nations Foundation, and President of the National Council of Churches.
From 1989-93, NPF acted as the secretariat and organizing body for the Alliance for Our Common Future, a coalition of more than six-dozen anti-war, disarmament, social justice, and environmental groups.
In 1990-92, NPF established conflict-resolution training programs at universities in Nicaragua and El Salvador. In 1991 it assisted in the creation of the Russian-American Program of Conflict Resolution at St. Petersburg University. That same year, it founded the Russian Women’s Civic and Political forums, a nationwide network whose mission was to retrain displaced workers and involve citizens in the political process in Russia.
In 1994 NPF launched the Transcaucasus Women’s Dialogue, out of which grew several NGOs dedicated to conflict resolution, the provision of assistance to victims of war, and environmental causes.
In 1999 NPF established a Russian Leadership Program whose aim is to provide opportunities for emerging Russian political leaders “to be hosted in cities and communities throughout the United States in order to gain significant firsthand experience on how American democracy works and how American citizens conduct their daily lives.”
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, NPF President Sarah Harder issued the following statement — entirely bereft of outrage or condemnation; suggesting that the attacks had been caused by the perpetrators’ legitimate psychological angst; and counseling a moderate U.S. response:
We want to thank all who have sent messages of condolence to all of us at the National Peace Foundation. At a time of nameless faceless violence, it is comforting to receive human messages of understanding from across the world.
No American could awake on Wednesday morning [September 12, 2001] without the sense that our world has changed. But it will be important that our nation’s response is measured and careful, without mirroring or escalating the devastation imposed by terrorists upon the innocent. We will all be working to assure such a response.
And while none of us [at NPF] has suffered personal losses, none can escape the shock and emptiness which follows this tragedy. We need to work together to overcome the feelings of alienation and hopelessness which can result in violence, as we also learn to deal with the world’s changing realities.
Shortly before the start of the Iraq War in 2003, NPF issued a “Statement on War and Peace, Democracy and the International Order.” Condemning America’s “war mentality,” the statement read, in part, as follows:
The National Peace Foundation opposes war with Iraq…. Under [United Nations] Resolution 1441 no time limit was specified for the [weapons] inspectors to complete their work, although, it was to be done expeditiously. In this situation it is the [UN Security] Council, not the chief prosecutor — the United States — that must make a decision about Iraq’s compliance or lack thereof, and it is the Council, not just the U.S. administration, that must decide the next steps….
In this case, our opposition to the war follows President Jimmy Carter‘s criteria: Iraq does not present the United States or other nations with a clear and immediate threat; there are other options that should take precedence, including those that are being followed by the Security Council; and, undertaking war now, without full UN sanction, is likely to produce outcomes that are opposite to the objectives posited by the U.S…. War now, essentially initiated unilaterally by the United States, is wrong morally and practically and will profoundly disturb the foundations of the international order….
[A]n essentially unilateral war against Iraq will generate millions of new “anti-Americans” throughout the Arab and Muslim world …
Another troubling factor: the U. S. administration repeatedly cites the number of ignored UN Security Council resolutions aimed at Iraq over twelve years as a reason not to wait a week, or a few months, longer to initiate military action. Meanwhile, the administration ignores, as preceding administrations have done, the many United Nations resolutions adopted over 30-plus years demanding that Israel withdraw from the Occupied Territories. The latter requirement, many of us believe, is a more central key to Middle East peace than any other.
NPF’s funding derives from a combination of member dues and donations, tuition fees, and private grants and contributions.