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Building Sustainable Peace through Universal Values

Uniting for Peace, Building Sustainable Peace through Universal Values at the Centenary of World War I–Criminalizing War

By Johan Galtung
18 August 2014

Keynote, 25th International Peace Research Association Conference
Istanbul, 11-14 August 2014

We have come of age, at 50; and I am the only surviving founder from 1964 in London, capital of a foggy island in the North Sea. Now we meet in the sunny capital of another empire; bridging three continents. One cloned itself all over; the other was more an Islamic umma, a community of togetherness-and-sharing, with millet islands of tolerance. And now: the superb IPRA program.

Uniting for peace. But we differ, disagree? Incredible how far we can come if we identify and focus on the good and the positive in Kiev, Donetsk and Moscow, or husband and wife in broken marriages rather than what is wrong, and build new relations on that. Peace is a relation, not attributes of the parties. So also for conferences: focus on the best in paper, praise it; not on the dubious and missing.

Building sustainable peace. My formula in A Theory of Peace is:
Equity X Harmony
Peace = ———————
Trauma X Conflict
Four Roots of Peace:
•for positive peace: 1) cooperation for mutual and equal benefit, and 2) empathy for the harmony of sorrow at other’s sorrow and joy at other’s joy;
•for negative peace: 1) reconciling trauma, and 2) resolving conflicts–avoiding violence, through skills.

Expansion of interaction–through means of communication and transportation–with rights and obligations has created vast zones with less direct violence. But without equity: more inequality, more structural violence, killing even more. Identifying violence with bullets is as naive as identifying disease with microbes, overlooking structural diseases like cancer, heart; and overlooking chronic violence, like the security state and security world, by the US National Security Agency. Better: make Ukraine a federation, relate West-North to EU and South-East to Eurasia, with both having access to the other! And clone Snowden.

Through universal values. I know only two for sure, basic to Buddhism: reduce dukkha, suffering, and increase sukha, fulfillment (wellbeing). Emotions more than cognitive values? Yes, hence more basic. Negative and positive peace. Be aware of both-and and neither-nor, the ambiguous and the bland, more frequent than either-or.

Democracy? As rule by the consent of the ruled, maybe; but not as multiparty state elections, too easily corrupted into bankocracy. As dialogue to consensus in smaller units? But many rule themselves or go for those smaller units, uninterested in “states”, “regions”.

Human rights? If enriched with collective, people’s rights, yes; but be careful. They are excellent goal-formulations for underdogs but very one-sided as conflict discourse. Where are the goals of the topdogs? Only to remain on top? Only their perennial “if underdogs come up they will treat us like we treated them?” Or also some justified skepticism about an alternative order with former underdogs on top in a majority democracy, given their numbers? We do not know in advance; give them a hearing–not guaranteed by Human Rights. Solve problems.

To be ruled by somebody of your own kind? Universal. Even if one’s own kind is unkind, it is better than the benevolence of somebody else. The First World War at 100. To see the Sarajevo’s shots on 28 June 1914 as the cause of the Hapsburg Empire attacking Serbia on 28 July overlooks Austria-Hungary annexing Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908. The Serbs wanted to be ruled by their own kind. Self-determination was key. Nor was this a world war, all major battles were in Europe (17 of them in the French-Belgian corner). The massive killing was so insane that Europeans pushed it on the world. The Second European war, rather, the First being the Napoleonic. The First World was, of course, Western colonialism from 4 May 1493 (Pope Alexander VI)–another atrocity to conceal.

IPRA at 50. What we wanted in 1964 was peace research recognized as a social science, member of the UNESCO International Social Science Council, bypassing turf-concerned Western universities. We got it. Elise Boulding–role of culture, women–very active at the founding, saving IPRA several times afterward. Her husband Kenneth–the Image, stable peace, economic evolution–was in the background and Bert Röling–the youngest judge at the Tokyo Tribunal, disarmament, law for peace–became the first IPRA Secretary General. And then Galtung–at the time the health studies parallel and positive/negative peace.

We were from the world Northwest and IPRA has, like the world, moved East and South, with a Turkish Delight and a Sierra Leone Diamond as secretaries. Prognosis: we will move on to Islam and China–India still needs time to grow with our Guiding Spirit: Gandhi. Then back to a more modest Northwest, circling on, as we should.

Criminalizing War. Massive murder, dukkha, inequity, disharmony, trauma leading to revenge, solving nothing in the longer run. The 1648 Westphalia Peace stabilized two Christianities at the price of a state system with the “right to war”. That institutional mandate has to go. A centuries long process–jus ad bellum, jus in bello, human rights–to outlaw war except for defense, peace-keeping and “peace-enforcement”–recently as R2P (Responsibility to Protect)–opens countless loopholes, protected by anonymity and collectivity. Personalize by naming the massive killers from top politicians to bottom soldiers–Nürnberg, Tokyo. Individualize by making them responsible, maybe following the Trans-National Corporations with amnesty in return for confession-contrition-compensation.

And remove that mandate from the abrahamic god’s countless massacres via rex gratia dei–the King by God’s grace–transferred to the state–and via vox popoli vox dei–the voice of people being the voice of god–perverting democracies into killing machines.

Be careful: they may kill even more in order not to be arrested. And we get further with positive and negative peace, and by fighting war as a social evil. But the three approaches add up. We have work to do.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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