By Patrick Hiller, July 5, 2016, published in Diplomat Courier
Give Peace a Chance has been an anthem of the American anti-war movement since it came out in 1969. The present peace movement looks very different, and so does the notion of peace. For the purposes of this article, I hope John Lennon would have approved of adding the term science to the title of his song. Here is why.
We are at a stage in human history where we can say with confidence that there are better and more effective alternatives to war and violence. Despite a perception of overwhelming violence, which is true in parts of the world, humans have also figured out alternatives. Building peace in theory and practice is becoming increasingly professionalized. Peace Science, as one of the founding fathers of the field Johan Galtung states, is the research and theory guiding peace workers to produce a more enduring and positive peace. Rigorous, theory-driven analyses accompanied by quantitative and qualitative empirical data have proven to be useful in explaining the causes of war and the conditions for peace.
Peace Science has emerged as an academic discipline now offered worldwide by more than 450 university programs. A myriad of peer-reviewed academic journals, textbooks, and conferences address both the theoretical and practical developments in the peacebuilding arena, as do peace research institutions like the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute or the Peace Research Institute Oslo, and professional associations like the International Peace Research Association and its regional affiliates in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America. Lastly the Global Peace Index, now going into its 10thyear, is probably the most renowned research-based measure of peacefulness or lack thereof. The point is, Peace Science is real and here to stay.
Peace Science has many potential beneficiaries. Peace educators, professional peacebuilding practitioners in the Alliance for Peacebuilding, and funders in the Peace and Security Funders Group can set up their curricula, programming, and funding, respectively, based on insights from the field of Peace Science. Peace activists can strengthen their campaigns to challenge the war system status quo by adding scientific evidence as a force multiplier for reshaping the national and global peace and security discourse. Legislators recently benefited from certain Peace Science analyses. During the Iran Nuclear Deal negotiations several expert policy-briefings on the framework of the deal took into consideration Peace Science research, in particular on understanding the nature of negotiation. Two instances stood out following the signing of the deal in 2015: (1) Within less than a day the U.S. Navy sailors who had entered Iranian waters were released, as was a detained Washington Post reporter who had been convicted of espionage. (2) In late 2015, Iran was invited to join the Syria peace talks, a clear shift in the relationship between the U.S. and Iran and a clear result of the nuclear deal. Those developments were predictable and based on what Peace Science tells us about diplomacy and negotiation.
In the media the “expertise” related to war and peace provided by members of the intelligentsia is very one-sided. Many of these eloquent individuals have achieved their legitimacy through academic credentials, military authority, or recognition as political commentators. Their facts, opinions, and advice on matters of war and peace shape the dominant discourse and mostly serve to uphold the status quo of a war system. With growing recognition of the reality of Peace Science, the expertise on war and peace issues will include public peace intellectuals, who offer viable alternatives to the common destructive responses in the war system. Once those alternatives come to light, it has been proven that there will be a decline in public support for war.
Peace Science does not offer a solution to all problems, and, like any other social science, it needs to be open to scrutiny. This is particularly important because this discipline does not only provide theoretical and empirical knowledge related to issues of war and peace, but it also has the normative goal of advocating for the prevention of war and the creation of cultures of peace. Peace scientists have to be even more rigorous in their methodology and more practical in their analysis.
The long-term, historical trend lines for global war and violence are pointing downwards. While encouraging, these developments should not lead to complacency, especially since we have seen a dramatic increase of internal, armed conflict during the last years. However, by examining how and where long-term, sustainable peace has been achieved, peace scientists can provide orientation and offer relevant advice toward transforming worldwide militarism and intractable conflicts into cultures of peace and peaceful societies.
The need to draw upon the strengths of the tools, approaches and methods of Peace Science in domestic and international affairs has become clear. If we give peace science a chance, there is more reason for authentic hope.
About the author: Patrick Hiller, Ph.D., directs the War Prevention Initiative by Jubitz Family Foundation and teaches Conflict Resolution at Portland State University. He serves on the Executive Committee of the International Peace Research Association, is member of the Peace and Security Funders Group, and founding editor of the Peace Science Digest.
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