At the 2012 General Conference of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) in Mie, Tsu, Japan, War Prevention Initiative director Patrick Hiller organized and chaired a plenary panel discussion on the topic “Global War Prevention – Are we at a turning point in history?”
Kevin Clements and Luc Reychler, renowned peace scholars and former Secretary Generals of IPRA were the invited presenters, José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Laureate and former President of East Timor was the discussant. Professor Clements outlined his thoughts relating directly to the provided question, whereas Professor Reychler looked at global war prevention through the lens of time as an independent variable. After the audience commented on the presentation Ramos-Horta concluded the panel with his own discussion.
Good morning fellow peacebuilders. My name is Patrick Hiller and I am the director of the War Prevention Initiative by the Jubitz Family Foundation as well as professor for conflict resolution at Portland State University in the United States.
This morning we are gathering to talk about a big question, one that might be the ultimate driving force for many of us here. The title of this plenary session is: “Global War Prevention. Are we at a turning point in history?”
It is my great honor to be here with Kevin Clements and Luc Reychler, individuals who have formed our field. It is my great honor to be alongside José Ramos Horta, whose “work towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor” was recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize.
I don’t want to take too much time, but I will take the liberty to frame this discussion. I have hope, I have hope because humans are making good things happen. I am worried, because they are not enough and not self-perpetuating.
In 2011 historian Kent Shifferd wrote that “the twentieth century was the most promising century for the eventual development of peace in the last eight thousand years”. The challenges that an interconnected, globalized world has brought to us are an opportunity to change dominant war narratives.
The overwhelming practical and scholarly evidence that peaceful processes are the better alternatives to waging war is encouraging. Over the last two days I already heard hopeful critical analysis and solutions – for example thoughts on a sustainability revolution or the growing realization that strategic nonviolent struggle is far more effective than violence. Katsuya Kodama mentioned several trends which Shifferd attributed to an evolving system of global peace: International non-governmental organizations, nonviolence or the information technology revolution. Then I believe what we are doing – peace research and education – is another positive trend. While we should be rigorous in our academic work, we are uniquely situated in also developing what John Paul Lederach calls the “moral imagination”. This idea entails the risk of stepping into the unknown landscape beyond violence – and I will add war.
Now let me introduce our speakers. I will preempt this by saying that I am only able to provide a fraction of their work and accomplishments; otherwise we would have no time for the actual discussion. Professor Kevin Clements is Founder and Director of the New Zealand Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago. He was the IPRA Secretary General from 2008-2010. Professor Clements has been a regular consultant to a variety of non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations on disarmament, arms control, conflict resolution, development and regional security issues. He has written or edited 7 books and over 150 chapters and articles on conflict transformation, peacebuilding, preventive diplomacy and development with a specific focus on the Asia Pacific region. His career has been a combination of academic analysis and practice in the areas of peacebuilding and conflict transformation.
Luc Reychler is Emeritus Professor of International Relations at the University of Leuven in Belgium. He was past Director of the Center for Peace Research and Strategic Studies and Secretary General of IPRA. He has published widely on sustainable peace-building architecture, planning and evaluation of violence prevention and peace-building interventions and multilateral negotiations. His books include “Democratic peace-building : the devil is in the transition”, “Peace building: a field guide” and “Aid for peace: a guide for planning and evaluation in conflict zones”. Since becoming Emeritus Professor in October 2010, he uses his newly found freedom to work on two books, which are “Time for peace” and “A theory of sustainable peace building architecture”.
Our commentator, José Ramos-Horta has been widely introduced at the beginning of this conference. I will follow this line. José Ramos-Horta was the President of East Timor from May 2007 to May 2012. Before serving his country as President, he was known internationally as a peacemaker. In exile from his country for the better part of three decades, he had been the international voice of the Timorese people while they fought for survival against one of the most brutal regimes of our time. In 1996, José Ramos-Horta and Timorese Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for their work toward a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor.”
In a 1999 referendum the country voted overwhelmingly for independence which resulted in extreme violence by pro-Indonesia militia halted by the intervention of UN peacekeeping forces. José Ramos-Horta returned from exile on December 1, 1999. Assuming the post of Senior Minister in the new government, he quickly began work to help build a new democratic government in his country, becoming one of the chief architects of the new country’s government. I will jump in time now and share a few words from José Ramos-Horta’s farewell speech as President of East Timor:
I am proud of being part of a society that has shown a great heart in resisting the temptation to exercise revenge in the name of justice. In victory be magnanimous, never seek to humiliate the adversary; if he is on his knees hold his hands and plead with him to rise up, embrace him; walk halfway and meet the vanquished ones, embrace them, invite them to join in a new enterprise of peace, a new future for all. This has been my belief and in many ways this has been our practice since independence.
I am delighted to now turn it over to the panel and ask the question “Global War Prevention. Are we at a turning point in history?”
With the ongoing violence in Syria, the intractable conflict between Israel and Palestine and other violent conflicts, so Professor Clements, doubts about a turning point in global war prevention are indeed justified. Ultimately though, Clements suggests that we have reasons to be optimistic and that there is evidence that we are at a turning point.
“Whenever individuals, groups, social movements say no to violence, no to war, no to injustice, no to sexism, no to racism, no to classism, no to domination and yes to nonviolence, yes to peace, yes to equality, and yes to cooperation we create opportunities, possibilities for peace”.
These positives, according to Clements, are forms of positive globalization. Evolving global norms highlight these positives and create conditions for abolishing war and global war prevention. Scholars from different backgrounds, like International Relations expert Joshua Goldstein and Psychologist Steven Pinker, also argued that the world is becoming more peaceful. Their arguments evolve around the futility of conquest, the rise of trade and prosperity or the growing repugnance toward direct or institutionalized violence. While Clements pointed to some debate about whether those scholars paid enough attention to recent incidences of violence in Africa and the Middle East, the widespread agreement is that the world is getting more civilized remains.
Clements then went on to discuss empathetic basics for peace, which also was one of Steven Pinker’s approaches. While we as humans harbor demons like greed, dominance, revenge and self-deception, we have faculties that inhibit them like self-control, empathy, reason and a sense of fairness. Those in turn are strengthened by rules, codes and laws and thus buildings blocks critical to global war prevention.
Moving forward in his presentation, Clements distinguished between turning points and tipping points, arguing that we certainly are at a turning point, but the question to be asked is if we are at a tipping point. Particular mass movements, according to Clements, were mainly responsible for decisive changes of directions – e.g. the abolition of slavery or norms against weapons of mass destruction. To ensure global war prevention, we need a gradual mass rejection of the moral acceptability of violence. War prevention, therefore needs a rigorous commitment to nonviolence.
“In the late 20th and early 21st century, however, nonviolence has been seen as a ‘Force more powerful’ and as Erica Chenoweth and others have documented nonviolence is more efficacious than violence in the overthrow of oppressive regimes and in providing long term security.”
Clements outlined interpersonal and institutional drivers of peacefulness. He argued that intra- and interpersonal factors like personal integrity and responsibility as well as respect for others and focus on human rights must merge with global institutions committed to peace with justice. Merging these factors can then lead to community building, transparency, peace and ecological sensitivity.
Shifting his focus, Clements discussed the so-called Global Peace Index (GPI), where 158 nations are ranked according to 23 dimensions of peace. This is a remarkable database prepared and updated by the Institute for Economics and Peace, one of the many institutions to which Professor Clements contributes as a Peace Scientist. In 2012 the GPI indicates a slight improvement in the level peace with improvements on the political terror scale, terrorist acts and militarization.
All global regions except for the Middle East improved from 2011 to 2012, with a most improvement found in the Asia Pacific region, particularly Sri Lanka. All regions in the world since 2001 have also decreased their military spending as a % of GDP except the United States, which is suggestive of the fact that nations value their diplomatic relations and seeking power through economic means rather than military means. Overall the GPI data suggest that positive peace is a structural prerequisite for negative peace and that negative peace in turn provides resources for positive peace.
“To expand positive peace simultaneously with building effective regional and global institutions to constrain national sovereignty and xenophobia is to create ripe conditions for global war prevention.”
Clements pointed to remarkable data with regard to global monetary value of peace. If the world would be only 25 less violent, the total additional or redirected economic activity would equal an additional $ 2.25 USD trillion in 2011. This sum could finance EU Financial Stability Facility, the UN Millennium Development Goals, EU climate change and there would still be over one trillion dollars remaining.
Clements then moved on to discuss the multidimensional nature of structures which shape peace. Concluding his remarks, Clements suggested that the world is becoming more positively and negatively peaceful, generating the best chances yet to abolish war as a means of settling disputes and to put in place more robust war prevention mechanisms. We already see a lot of those mechanisms in inter-state conflicts.
As humans we are becoming more closely interconnected trough modern communications, social media and transportation. Positive globalization generates dynamics in favor of cooperation and integration.
Democratization from bellow, conflict sensitive development strategies, global welfare and recognition of cultural, ethnic and political diversity, security, nonviolence, and heightened concern to prioritize peaceful conflict transformation generate the best chance of a world without war.
It is our responsibility as peace researchers and educators to analyze and advocate for nonviolent solutions to problems and conflicts.
Professor Reychler added unique and new thoughts on the role of time in conflict and peace dynamics. Using recent news stories related to sanctions against Iran, Palestinians in Gaza or the war in Afghanistan, Reychler illustrated “the role of time in the analysis and evaluation of current strategic, financial, economic, environmental, humanitarian, population, energy and other crises. They focus on temporal problems related to the past, present and future: speed, crises, forecasting and impact assessment and reactive and proactive conflict prevention.”
A forthcoming book is will be based on four premises: (1) time is a precious and non-renewable resources in conflict prevention and peacebuilding; (2) too much time is wasted and many opportunities are missed; (3) our dealing with time in conflict management should be more adaptive to the challenges of violence prevention and peacebuilding; and (4) the democratization of time is a necessary condition for sustainable peace and security. Reychler introduced the term “temporament” as the way persons or organizations deal with time in conflict management and peacebuilding situations.
Five factors are considered relevant for giving attention to the analysis and evaluation of the role of time in peace and conflict dynamics:
1. Time is a more comprehensive measure of violence and of the quality of peace. For example differences in life expectancy can be caused by physical violence as well as psychological violence, ecological violence, cultural violence, structural violence, bad governance at national and international levels and transnational crime.
2. Time is part of the context enhancing and constraining conflict and peace behavior. For example the American rhetoric of “We are a nation at war” – war time – justifies action like torture and detention without trial, leads to public disengagement and undermines democratic accountability.
3. Time is a major element in the analysis of conflict and peace dynamics. In Syria, for example questions are concerned with the protracted nature of the conflict, ripeness of mediation or the long-term impact.
4. Time is part of the planning and implementation of conflict prevention and peacebuilding policies. Involvement of the International Criminal Court in Libya at the same time NATO operations were conducted was contentious since chances of the regime giving up power peacefully were removed.
5. Time is power. For example Netanyahu’s language of red lines with respect to Iran is an effort to maintain the perceived urgency and raise the threat of war.
Professor Reychler then went on to discuss the most relevant dimensions of time in conflicts and peace processes. Those were: (1) the time perspectives or orientations to the past present and future; (2) the nature of change; (3) the anticipation of change and response time; (4) the handling of time in conflict transformation and peacebuilding; and (5) the democratization of time.
The time perspectives for example look at the quality of learning from the past, the importance of reconciliation, and the difference between past-negative and past-positive experience. The nature of change deals with the pace of change, change patterns, change duration and change magnitude. The third dimension deals with the anticipation of threats and opportunities and the impacts of interventions in conflict and peace dynamics. The fourth dimension addresses the feeling of temporal control, the reactive or proactive approach, the timing of exit and entry and priority setting. The fifth dimension simply implies that everybody’s time is valuable, which in turns directly addresses the notion of collateral damage.
Based on the argumentation laid out, Reychler suggested that that “conflict prevention and sustainable peacebuilding require changes in the ‘temporament’ of decision-makers and diplomats of governmental and nongovernmental organizations.” The temporament needs to be better adapted to cope more effectively with the challenges of violence prevention and sustainable peacebuilding. The necessary changes relate to seven parameters: (1) balancing and integrating temporal orientations, (2) anticipation of threats, opportunities and impacts, (3) proactive violence prevention, (4) the appropriate use of time in planning and implementation of peace building efforts, (5) the value of time, (6) temporal differences and empathy and (7) ethical time.
José Ramos-Horta considered both presentations most enlightening and interesting. He understood the positive aspects surrounding global war prevention trends. Ramos-Horta underlined his general agreement by comparing the contemporary world to that in the immediate aftermath of World War 2. The awareness of human rights and other individual rights are far more rooted, and nation states are more accountable to the international community. Ramos-Horta argued that 40 years ago those issues were matters of domestic jurisdiction. While acknowledging those improvements, he suggested to the panelists and the audience that there is a missing discussion of some imponderables. Those certainly are improvements in his eyes. What he was mission was the discussion of the imponderables like the rising of India and China. In their efforts to follow with the 21st century modernization, they will compete over scarce resources – particularly in the energy sector – in Asia and beyond.