Director Looks for Opportunity in Dire Situations

From the time she was little, Stacia George knew two things: She wanted to help people, and she was going to travel to the Congo.

Growing up in a small New York town, George wasn’t exactly sure how she’d accomplish her twin goals — or why, specifically, she felt pulled to visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With an insatiable desire to learn and curiosity about other countries, George visited the library, pulling every book she could off the shelves and writing to embassies in Washington, D.C.

In high school, her English teacher showed the film adaptation of “The Power of One,” a novel about one person’s ability to contribute to change.

“That’s what I want to do,” she thought. “I want to be one of those people fighting on the front lines to make change and fight for what’s right.”

  • Stacia George

    Stacia George was named director of the Carter Center’s Conflict Resolution Program in 2021.

Now the director of the Conflict Resolution Program at The Carter Center, George oversees work to prevent and mitigate conflict in the U.S., Mali, Sudan, Syria, and Israel-Palestine.

On her way to the Center, George has carved an intentional path toward a career in conflict resolution. In college, she switched her major from nursing to international studies, a move that confused her parents.

In grad school, George focused on conflict resolution and economics and set her sights on a tactical role that would let her engage directly in bringing people together. But to get at the root of inequity — and to steer the resources necessary for change — she knew she needed to be in the development world.

Through fellowships and her positions at USAID, Caerus Associates, and Chemonics International, George amassed the skills and perspectives necessary to make change happen — and finally travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC.

In 2003, a peace agreement ended a brutal conflict there. As a representative of USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives, George traveled to the country to reintegrate two sets of community members into society: rape survivors and the ex-combatants who had terrorized them. In 240 communities across the country, George’s team worked to support the disarmament process, provide resources that would discourage ex-combatants from returning to violence, and bring victims and offenders to the table to find a way forward.

“It was a hugely challenging task, but really important,” George said. “In 240 communities, we rebuilt the social fabric, and we did it when everybody else said it was too hard.”

In addition to President Carter’s legacy of conflict resolution, the Carter Center’s history of accomplishing what others say is impossible drew George here in 2021.

“I always derive excitement from finding opportunity in the most difficult of circumstances,” she said. “What drives me forward is the belief that all people in the world have a right to live without fear of violence and to feel safe.”

George is enthusiastic about the work the Center is doing in Sudan to help disenfranchised youth have a voice in their country’s future. The recent outbreak of fighting there has created new challenges, but George and her team remain committed to Sudan’s young people and to looking for solutions to bring lasting peace.

In the U.S., she is hopeful about efforts to build cross-partisan political networks — groups that can listen to each other, find areas of agreement, and ultimately help stem divisiveness. Her team’s early success has captured the attention of organizations looking to reproduce it on a national scale.

“I can see the direction our country has been going, and to play a part in trying to address that is extremely rewarding,” she said. “Our impact goes beyond these discussions; we’re leading others as they’re trying to figure out the realm of the possible.”

After more than two decades, George still asks herself one question: “So what?”

“I don’t just want to do nice things,” she said. “I want to make a tangible difference.”


Learn more about the Center's Peace Programs »

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