What is peace ? meaning, history, organizations, prizes and challenges

Peace is a concept that has been discussed and debated by individuals, communities, and governments throughout history. While the definition of peace may seem straightforward – the absence of war – this is a narrow and misleading definition.

War is often equated with armed conflict between countries, but the reality is that there are many forms of violent conflict that disrupt peace and cause harm. These can include riots, massacres, assassinations, and physical attacks. It is important to acknowledge that every war leads to an absence of peace, but not every absence of peace takes the form of war.

To have a more comprehensive understanding of peace, it is necessary to see it as the absence of violent conflict of all kinds. This includes not only war, but also the various forms of structural violence that can occur within a society.

Structural Violence: Structural violence refers to the harmful consequences that arise from social institutions and practices that reinforce entrenched inequalities of caste, class, and gender.

These inequalities can cause injury in subtle and invisible ways and can lead to conflict and violence if a challenge is made to these hierarchies by oppressed classes.

For example, the caste system in India has been a source of structural violence for centuries, leading to discrimination, oppression, and violence against those in lower castes. Class disparity can also result in social and economic inequalities that perpetuate violence and conflict. Patriarchycolonialism, and racism/communalism are othes forms of structural violence that can result in significant harm and disrupt peace.

Structural Violence and It’s Various Forms

Structural violence refers to the ways in which social institutions, practices, and systems reinforce inequalities and lead to oppression and harm. There are several forms of structural violence, including:

  • Caste System: The traditional caste system in India led to social exclusion and discrimination for certain groups deemed untouchable. Despite efforts to eradicate its effects, it continues to shape society and result in harm.
  • Class Disparity: The growing inequality and oppression in developing countries, particularly in the informal sector, creates a large underclass and widespread suffering.
  • Patriarchy: Patriarchy results in the systematic subordination and discrimination of women, through practices such as child marriage, domestic violence, dowry crimes, sexual harassment, and more.
  • Colonialism: The ongoing Palestinian struggle against Israeli domination highlights the persistence of colonialism, while former colonies of European powers continue to suffer from the exploitation they faced during colonial rule.
  • Racism and Communalism: Racism and communalism result in stigmatization and oppression for entire racial groups or communities, often directed towards immigrants from Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

These forms of structural violence result in physical and psychological harm that can persist over generations, leading to conflict and grievances. A lasting peace can only be achieved by addressing these underlying causes of violence through a process of dialogue and engagement.

How an structural violence can be eliminated?

  • The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation recognizes that peace must be constructed in the minds of men since wars start there.
  • Age-old spiritual principles like compassion and practices like meditation can help build the defenses of peace in the minds of men.
  • Modern healing techniques and therapies like psychoanalysis can play a similar role in fostering peace.
  • Violence doesn’t only come from the individual psyche but is also rooted in certain social structures.
  • To eliminate structural violence, a just and democratic society must be created.
  • Peace is not a one-time achievement but a process that requires the pursuit of moral and material resources to establish human welfare.
  • It is the harmonious coexistence of contented people that is a product of such a society.
  • Peace is not an end-state but a continuous pursuit of well-being for all.

Historical Evolution of Peace Concept

The history of peace is a long and complex one, encompassing centuries of human conflict and cooperation. Peace has been sought after, codified, and celebrated throughout history, but it has also been a rare and elusive commodity. In this article, we will trace the history of peace from ancient times to the present day, focusing on the key moments, movements, and thinkers that have shaped our understanding of peace and its place in society.

Ancient Times: The Concept of Peace in the Ancient World

In ancient times, peace was often codified through treaties and alliances, such as the royal marriages between nations. For example, in Greece, two princesses from the house of Agamemnon, Hermodike I (c. 800 BC) and Hermodike II (c. 600 BC), married kings from what is now Central Turkey. This union between Phrygia/Lydia and Aeolian Greeks facilitated the transfer of technological skills and innovations, such as the phonetic written script and coinage, which had a profound impact on the progress of civilization.

Classical Antiquity: The Roman Empire and the Concept of Just Peace

In the classical world, the Roman Empire used brutal methods to impose peace upon its enemies. The Roman historian Tacitus wrote eloquently and viciously against the rapacity and greed of Rome, and one Caledonian chieftain described the Roman Empire as a force that “ravages, slaughters, and usurps under false titles, calling it empire.” This highlights the debate that has long surrounded peace: is it simply the absence of mass organized killing (war), or does peace require a particular morality and justice (just peace)?

Medieval Times: The Development of Peacemaking Institutions and the Concept of Just War

During the medieval period, the Catholic Church developed institutions to promote peace, such as the Pax Romana, which encouraged peace and cooperation between nations. Additionally, the concept of just war was developed, which held that wars could only be justified if they were fought for a just cause and if they were conducted in a just manner.

Renaissance and Enlightenment: The Emergence of the Modern Concept of Peace

During the Renaissance and Enlightenment, peace was widely debated and celebrated, and new ideas about peace and its role in society began to emerge. Philosophers, such as Immanuel Kant, argued that peace was essential for human progress and that it could be achieved through international cooperation and the establishment of a league of nations. This idea of international peace was further developed during the 19th and 20th centuries, leading to the formation of the League of Nations and later, the United Nations.

20th Century: The Formation of the United Nations and the Search for Global Peace

The 20th century was marked by two world wars and numerous other conflicts, but it was also a time of great progress in the search for global peace. The League of Nations was replaced by the United Nations, which was established after World War II with the aim of promoting international peace and cooperation. The UN has played a crucial role in mediating and resolving conflicts, such as the Korean War, and has helped to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

Recent Times: The Adoption of Restorative Justice and the Emergence of a Theory of Active Peace

In recent times, advocates for radical reform in the justice system have called for a public policy adoption of non-punitive, non-violent restorative justice methods. These methods seek to redefine justice in terms related to peace, and a theory of active peace has been proposed that conceptually integrates justice into a larger peace theory.

Why Need Peace?

The need for peace is fundamental to the well-being and prosperity of humanity. Violence and conflict have devastating impacts on communities, leading to loss of life, destruction of property, displacement, and long-lasting psychological and emotional scars. The absence of peace also impedes economic growth and hinders development, as resources are redirected away from productive activities towards conflict resolution and reconstruction.

For example, the ongoing conflict in Syria has resulted in widespread destruction, with homes and infrastructure destroyed and a large portion of the population displaced. The Syrian economy has also suffered, with a decrease in investment and employment opportunities and a decrease in the standard of living for the population. The cost of resolving the conflict, both in terms of human life and financial resources, has been astronomical.

Similarly, the conflict in Afghanistan has been ongoing for decades and has resulted in a significant loss of life and destruction of infrastructure. The conflict has also hampered economic growth and development, with limited investment and job opportunities for the population. The cost of resolving the conflict and rebuilding the country will be substantial, requiring significant resources and effort.

In contrast, a peaceful society provides the foundation for human development, economic growth, and prosperity. Peaceful societies are characterized by stability, security, and the rule of law, which provide the necessary conditions for investment, trade, and economic growth. They also provide the foundation for the growth of civil society, including non-governmental organizations, educational institutions, and religious organizations, which are essential for promoting human rights, development, and welfare.

Different Ideologies and Approaches To Establish Peace in the World

These are some of the major ideologies help in establishing peace in the world –

Pacifism

This approach advocates for complete non-violent resistance to conflict and emphasizes on peaceful means for resolving disputes. The famous examples of pacificists include Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

Realism

This approach views peace as a balance of power between nations and emphasizes on the need for military strength and diplomacy to maintain peace. The famous example of Realists include former U.S. President, George Washington and British statesman, Winston Churchill.

Liberalism

This approach focuses on promoting democracy, human rights, free trade, and international cooperation as means to establish peace. Prominent examples of Liberalists include former U.S. President, Woodrow Wilson, and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Kofi Annan.

Constructivism

This approach argues that peace is not just absence of conflict but is a positive concept that involves mutual understanding and cooperation between nations. Examples of Constructivists include former U.N. Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and philosopher, Immanuel Kant.

These are the major approaches to the establishment of peace in the world, each with its own strengths, weaknesses and different perspectives on how to bring about peace.

These are some of the major approches which helps in establishing peace in the world –

Military Approach: This approach focuses on the use of military power to resolve conflicts and maintain peace. Example: The UN peacekeeping forces that are deployed to manage conflicts and ensure peace in war-torn countries.

Political Approach: This approach stresses on the resolution of conflicts through political means such as negotiations, agreements, and diplomacy. Example: The Good Friday Agreement between the UK and Ireland, which aimed at ending the conflict between the two countries through a political settlement.

Economic Approach: This approach focuses on the role of economic development and cooperation in promoting peace. Example: The Marshall Plan, which was implemented after World War II to rebuild war-torn European countries and promote peace through economic development.

Social Approach: This approach stresses on the importance of social justice and equality in promoting peace. Example: The Civil Rights Movement in the US, which aimed at ending discrimination against African Americans and promoting social justice and equality.

Psychological Approach: This approach focuses on the importance of individual and collective psychological processes in promoting peace. Example: The peace education programs that are aimed at promoting a culture of peace and non-violence.

Spiritual Approach: This approach stresses on the role of spiritual principles and practices in promoting peace. Example: The peace-making initiatives by spiritual leaders and organizations that promote compassion, mindfulness, and non-violence.

Organizations Working For Peace Establishment

The United Nations (UN)

  • It is Founded in 1945 after World War II
  • It aims to facilitate cooperation in international law, security, economic development, human rights, and world peace
  • It replaced the former League of Nations
  • The UN Sends peacekeepers to enforce peace agreements in conflict regions
  • These Peacekeepers are voluntarily provided by member states, referred to as “Blue Helmets”
  • The peacekeeping force received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988

Police

  • It is an Constituted body of persons empowered by a state to enforce the law
  • It is Responsible for domestic peace within the state’s borders
  • It is Separate from the military and other organizations involved in the defense of the state
  • It is Funded through taxes

National Security

  • Obligation to provide peace and security against foreign threats and aggression
  • Includes multiple dimensions such as economic security, energy security, physical security, environmental security, food securityborder security, and cyber security
  • Factors that can affect national security include actions by other states, violent non-state actors, organized criminal groups, and natural disasters

League of Nations

  • The principal forerunner of the UN
  • Created at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919
  • Based in Geneva until its dissolution after World War II
  • Emerged from the advocacy of Woodrow Wilson and other idealists during World War I
  • High hopes in the 1920s gave way to disillusion in the 1930s as the League struggled to respond to challenges from Nazi GermanyFascist Italy, and Japan
  • Sir Alfred Eckhard Zimmern was an important scholar of the League of Nations
  • Bodies dedicated to understanding international affairs were created after World War I, such as the Council on Foreign Relations and the Royal Institute of International Affairs
  • The academic study of international relations started to professionalize with the creation of the first professorship of international politics at Aberystwyth, Wales in 1919

Contemporary Challenges

The United Nations has had some noteworthy successes, but has failed in stopping threats to peace. Dominant states have often acted in their own interests, even resorting to military intervention and occupation of other countries, as seen in the US actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. This has resulted in loss of life and the rise of terrorism, with terrorists now posing a significant threat through their use of advanced technology and weapons. The global community has not been able to effectively respond to these threats or prevent acts of genocide, as seen in the failure to intervene in the Rwandan massacre.

However, peace is not a lost cause. Some countries, like Japan and Costa Rica, have chosen to not have military forces and there are now several nuclear-weapons-free zones in the world. The end of the Cold War and the USSR also removed a major security threat. The peace movement has gained momentum and support from a diverse range of people, linking with other movements for women’s empowerment and environmental protection, and has even developed into an academic field of Peace Studies.

Pursuing peace requires a constant effort to maintain harmonious relationships for human well-being. There may be obstacles to peace, such as injustice and imperialism, but using violence is unethical and dangerous. In the era of terrorism, genocide and total war, the pursuit of peace must guide both the means and ends of political action.Regenerate response

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

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