In 1986, the University of Hawai'i Institute for Peace was established. From the beginning, the Institute was an academic community designed to develop and share knowledge about the root causes of violence, conditions of peace, and uses of nonviolent means for resolving conflicts.
After the passing of Hawai'i Senator Spark M. Matsunaga in 1990, it was proposed that the Institute be renamed in his honor. Senator Matsunaga worked tirelessly over his career to establish the United States Institute for Peace, and provided inspirational guidance in the development of the University of Hawai'i Institute for Peace curriculum and research priorities. The new name acknowledges Senator Matsunaga's vision to institutionalize humanity's concern for world peace, starting at a local level.
In 1996 the Matsunaga Institute merged with the University of Hawai'i Program on Conflict Resolution (PCR) to form the Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution. PCR's contributions to the fields of early identification, research, prevention, mediation, facilitation, training services, and peaceful resolution of conflicts significantly enhanced the curriculum of the Matsunaga Institute.
The Matsunaga Institute has steadily expanded its curriculum and now offers four academic awards: an Undergraduate Certificate in Peace Studies (equivalent to a minor), a B.A. in Peace and Conflict Resolution (offered in cooperation with Interdisciplinary Studies), a B.A. in Public Affairs and Public Policy Studies (offered in cooperation with Interdisciplinary Studies and the Public Policy Center), and a Graduate Certificate in Conflict Resolution. Since 2003, the Matsunaga Institute has been based in the Social Sciences Public Policy Center, providing additional opportunities to link the study of peace and conflict resolution with issues of public policy and good governance.