Few now dispute the importance of fostering world peace. Unfortunately, many still think of this as a utopian dream. On this day of Remembrance, it seems fitting to highlight the progress made toward actually realizing this dream. While it outlines the work of one organization in particular, this article is dedicated to everyone currently working to find alternatives to war.
by Hélène Montpetit
November 11, 2015 – At the end of last month, the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) released its first comprehensive Positive Peace Report, a study and analysis of the attitudes, institutions and structures that make up the world’s most peaceful societies. The Report contains a wealth of information and is important reading for anyone concerned with building and maintaining peace. We will here limit ourselves to summarizing two key concepts and outlining the eight most important factors for peace identified by the study, but encourage you to obtain the full report and get more information on your own country’s performance.
The Yin and Yang of Peace
While most of us think of it as a general concept, those in the business of maintaining and promoting it distinguish between two types of peace:
- Negative Peace, characterised by the absence of violence or fear of violence; and
- Positive Peace, which is the presence of attitudes, institutions and structures that make up and sustain peaceful societies.
Nations with high Positive Peace tend to have better economies, higher well-being and more gender equality. They also take better care of the environment. Positive Peace improves a society’s ability to cope with unforeseen shocks, adapt to change and transform itself when necessary. It hinges on:
- attitudes (norms, beliefs and relations between layers of society);
- formal and informal structures (codes of conduct, protocols, morality, tolerance); and
- institutions (governments, labour unions, industrial associations and the like).
Understanding how to sustain a healthy balance within and good relationships between these elements can point the way to practical solutions.
The Report identifies the following eight areas as being crucial to Positive Peace. While all of them work together and none can be left out, the first two nurture civil and political peace specifically, while numbers three and four are pivotal to economic and social peace in particular.
- Peaceful relations with neighbouring countries and between groups within a country.
- The free flow of information through free and independent media.
- A skilled human capital base (education, knowledge development and economic productivity).
- The equitable distribution of resources such as education, health and income.
- A well-functioning, stable government that delivers high-quality services, can be trusted, engenders participation and upholds the rule of law.
- A sound business environment (formal institutions supporting the private sector and a regulatory system conducive to business).
- The guarantee of basic human rights and freedoms and norms that favour high tolerance for those of different ethnic, linguistic, religious and socio-economic groups. Respect for gender equality, workers’ rights, freedom of speech.
- Low levels of corruption leading to good allocation of resources and trust in institutions.
Our personal attitudes and actions are as important to peace as those of the states and institutions we put into place and maintain. Within the contexts of our families, circles of friends, workplaces and communities, each of us can promote and model the attitudes that support a healthy society.
It has been said that the 20th century was the bloodiest in recorded history. Why not put every effort into making the 21st the turning point to peaceful coexistence. After all, would that not be the best way to honour all those we are remembering today?
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