Building Sustainable Peace

Building Sustainable Peace

Kevin P Clements

National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies
University of Otago, Dunedin. New Zealand


This chapter argues that sustainable peace is most likely to emerge from stable, cooperative and compassionate communities, which, place a higher value on equality and welfare rather than safety and security. While states and multilateral organisations have a significant role to play in generating the conditions for stable peace, it is doubtful whether those which emphasise security first or security alone are capable of generating sustainable peaceful relationships between peoples at local and community levels. Emmanuel Levinas’ social psychological arguments for non-violence, suggest that more attention should be paid to the singularity and significance of “the other” in ethics, politics and social relationships. Paying more attention to ways in which we connect to both positive and negative “others” nationally, regionally and globally, will generate more culturally sensitive pluralism and robust peaceful communities. It is a central argument of this chapter, therefore, that more analytic and political attention should be directed to bottom up strategies for peace than is currently the case. These bottom up strategies challenge the liberal peace notion that peace is most likely to flow from top down, Westminster style democratic institutions, neo-liberal global markets and western concepts of the rule of law. This chapter argues that sustainable peace is most likely to flow from a deeper attention to radical re-individualisation; relational ethics, and egalitarian community building. This is a challenge to many taken for granted national and international approaches to development and peacebuilding which tend to place most stress on coercive and deterrent capacities and didactic development.


Key words: Positive and Negative Peace, Peacebuilding, Community, Equality, Welfare, Levinas, Cultures of Peace, Nonviolence, Development, Justice.




Stable and sustainable peace (both negative and positive) [1] is most likely to emerge from cooperative, relatively egalitarian communities which empower individuals and groups to prevent the state ( or, for traditional communities, those in positions of informal authority) from acting violently and oppressively towards citizens and subjects and where the state or traditional leaders act to guarantee law, order and social continuity. State systems and “Chiefs” do this by claiming a “monopoly of force” or “effective capacity”. Their legitimacy, however, rests on balancing and taming the excesses and follies of the market and providing resources sufficient to satisfy citizen needs for welfare, recognition and security.


Building sustainable peace, therefore, requires actors capable of trustworthy, empathetic and predictable relationships; strong, resilient and relatively equal communities; sustainable economies capable of satisfying basic human needs and political systems capable of maintaining order, the rule of law/or customary lore and the promotion of justice and the common good. [2] If these are the fundamental ingredients of peacebuilding it is important to analyze them systemically rather than in terms of narrow social-psychological, economic, or political perspectives. Systems analysis helps us understand the ways in which different social and political actors interact but it also helps us understand how such actors ought to interact in order to optimize peaceful, productive outcomes. As such, systems analysis has both analytic and normative dimensions. It is important to understand how different actors contribute to the continuity of the whole and   equally important to understand the value frameworks within which these actors operate.

In the spirit of this enterprise, therefore, the value framework for this chapter, is the social-psychological and ethical justifications for peace and non-violence advanced by Emmanuel Levinas. This is a radical social psychological rationale for non-violent social relationships. The chapter will begin with Levinas’ rationale for non violence and then explore what this means for building sustainable peace at inter-personal, inter-group, national and global levels.

(1) Philosophical Rationale for Non Violence.

While most peaceful communities have emerged relatively spontaneously and organically as individuals, groups and societies have evolved through time; ethicists, philosophers and religious leaders have invested considerable effort in developing solid ethical and philosophical justifications for   intentional non violence and peacefulness. These perspectives   tend to take two directions.


The first, epitomized by Emmanuel Kant and Neo-Kantian philsosophers like John Rawls,   emphasize   individualist approaches to peace and peacefulness and lay great stress on agreed rules, impartiality and individual abilities to discern   just and peaceable solution to problems. In this perspective, peaceful and tolerant communities tend to flow from the character, stability and virtuous qualities of specific individuals. Much psychology is of this order too. Those who espouse individualist “virtue ethics”, tend to see moral value and   inclinations to peacefulness   residing primarily in individuals or in individual traits and motives rather than in relationships.


The second perspective, epitomized   by relational ethics and what some characterize as a feminist ethics of care, (Held, 2006) focuses much more attention on the ways in which ethical imperatives, spurs to peacefulness and justice, flow primarily from relationship. It is in relationships that one discovers the true source of ethical responsibility and obligation and an ethical basis for justice and peacefulness.[3] In this perspective what is much more important than individual “character” or “virtue”   are relational capacities to care, trust, empathise, reciprocate and generate fairness. It is these that generate   stability, altruism, mutual consideration, solidarity and a concern for the welfare of others. It is out of good relationships that good people emerge. In this perspective ,relational categories are much more important to building peaceful and sustainable community than any specific individual character traits.


Much of what is thought of now as relational ethics flowed out of earlier work by the French moral philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas. Like millions of 20th century European Jews, Levinas understood suffering and despair personally and directly. He was dispatched to a concentration camp and lost many of his family and friends in the holocaust. It is probably not surprising therefore that he focused a good deal of his early philosophical attention on why such violence occurred in Europe and how such violence might be prevented in the second half of the 20th century. He was concerned to expose the roots of violence, racism , sexism and classism and work out ways of   preventing such pathologies in the future. His whole intellectual life, therefore, was a concern to develop strategies for   “thinking otherwise”.(Burggraeve, 2002, p. 28) For thinking of ways in which human beings could marginalise and control those who tried to totalise, tyrannise and destroy those they could not face or bear to face.


For Levinas, ethics is,   at root,   “a struggle to keep fear and anxiety from turning into murderous action” (Lévinas, 1988, p. 34). Because of this he   wants to understand the deepest sources of human fear   and to develop an awareness of how these might be addressed   at their source. Levinas is interested in a sociological / relational justification for an ethical life which, at minimum, will guarantee that human beings do not kill each other. To do this he wishes to remove any possible rationale for causing harm to others so that we will not kill those who stand in front of us but more optimally have some compelling reasons for   why we might serve and advance their interests.   He knows that he is not going to be able to stop human aggression and conflict but he wants to develop a methodology for engaging the Other which   makes aggression the bluntest and least effective of all instruments for realising human potential and serving the common good.


In order do this he develops   an ethics of responsibility that flows from an awareness of the universal vulnerability of all human beings. In ‘Ethics as First Philosophy” (Levinas, 1989, pp. 75-87) he argues that the ethical attitude is independent of metaphysics and arises from our basic awareness of each other. It is in this basic awareness of the Other that we become aware of our common and shared vulnerabilities. By focusing on ways in which we can enhance awareness of the Other, most importantly by focusing on and acknowledging the Face of the Other in all its singularity and uniqueness, Levinas argues that we will discover why nonviolence towards others is the human imperative.


Levinas suggests that each human being on the planet faces a triple vulnerability.

First there is our permanent physical vulnerability; we may die anytime and we will all certainly die sometime. This is an extremely important equaliser. Mortality is the fate that awaits all of us. How we respond to the certainty of our mortality will have an important impact on whether or not we will have a disposition to nonviolence or violence. There is a large and growing body of recent psychological literature which suggests that the salience of our own mortality can have both positive and negative effects on behaviour. See (Greenberg, 2008) and (Becker, 1973). What is clear, however, from all of this literature is that confronting mortality generates concerns about meaning, specialness, and our particular place in the world.

“The hope and belief is that the things that man creates in society are of lasting worth and meaning, that they outlive or outshine death and decay, that man and his products count. “(Becker, 1973, p. 5)


Terror Management theory –which is the social psychological theory grappling with the significance of death on attitudes and behaviour– argues that mortality salience will generate increased focus on what bring self esteem, a heightened concern for the in group versus the outgroup, and an expansion of concern for close personal relationships. . While Levinas would not necessarily disagree with these outcomes he was much more interested in   confronting mortality as a spur to thinking about ways of generating life expanding relationships while still alive. He believed that   an acknowledgment of   our individual and collective mortality could generate a softening of   our demands on one another as we individually and collectively confront death. In this process we need help to live and to die. As we engage the death of self and other we will be challenged by questions of who will mourn for us and who we are willing to mourn and grieve for . Our answers to these questions will signal a lot about   how widely or narrowly we   define our boundaries of responsibility and care.


If we have some notion of species identity, for example, as opposed to narrow concepts of kinship or national identity, Levinas argues that confronting mortal vulnerability will generate an openness to thinking more profoundly about relational obligations across boundaries of national difference.


Second, the fact that we exist alongside others   generates a psychological vulnerability. Levinas argues that other people constitute a psychological threat simply because they are   Other. As Albert Schweitzer put it   “I am life that wills to live, in the midst of life that wills to live ”. (Schweitzer, 1965, p. 26). This is existentially unsettling as we never know when we are going to be taken advantage of and we become wary of others instead of trusting towards them. Grappling with   psychological vulnerability is also, therefore,   a critical element in determining the extent to which we will adopt an ethics of care instead of an ethics of fear.


Thirdly, and most importantly , however, since I am the Other’s Other I am not only potentially threatened by the Other but also constitute a threat to the Other . This is absolutely critical to the evolution of Levinas’ sociological ethic since this third vulnerability makes us morally vulnerable.


“ As a threat to others I am here in the world with no right to exist; if I cannot claim to be harmless, how can I claim any right to be here?” (Levinas, 1989, p. 80)


The only solution to this moral vulnerability is to overcome my being a threat; and the only way to do that ( according to Levinas)   is to accept unconditional ( and unlimited ) responsibility to-and – for- the -Other. This is a wonderfully compelling sociological argument for a deepening of relationship and for paying more attention to the quality and “sanctity” of the   inter-subjective . The way we do that minimally is by accepting a responsibility not to kill the other . More   optimally by accepting responsibility for the welfare of the other we have to think about the shape and contours of a peaceable community and the ways in which we can deal with all the vulnerabilities of being human.   Rational choice theorists argue that it is   irrational not to care about   individual welfare. What I would like to propose is that when thinking about building sustainable peace it is equally irrational not to care about the welfare of others and the welfare of the community.   There are good selfish as well as altruistic reasons for doing so . When this happens and we accept responsibility for the welfare of others we are in fact creating   the only solid basis for a peaceful community.


This unconditional responsibility for the Other is an imperative that does not have to be justified by any social contract, political system   or special relationship between me and the Other. (A.H Lesser, 1996, p. 149) It is an argument that   assumes   an acceptance of responsibility without any expectation of return except for that most precious return of all, namely human trust. It is an argument for an ethics of responsibility grounded in deep reciprocity and human experience. As such it is an ethic that is independent of metaphysics and theology but which feeds back into these discourses. Levinas provides a compelling social psychological and political rationale for an ethic of non violence.


Of course there are all sorts of issues that come into play when one adds a Third Party to dyadic relationships and when there are big discrepancies of power, privilege and prestige. Who is the Other when the dyad becomes a triad and we encounter others in more abstract, impersonal institutions? Why should I have responsibility for an Other if that Other is exploiting me or threatening to exploit me? It is an ethic, therefore, that is based on some degree of equality of power, privilege and opportunity which is why promoting equality ( as mentioned above) is a prime contribution to peacefulness. This is borne out empirically by   the work that I and others have been doing on the Global Peace Index. Those societies that rank most highly on levels of Peacefulness are those that have a radical commitment to welfare, equality of opportunity and equality of outcomes.[4]


In Levinas’ work, fundamental ethics   flow from “responsibility –to-and-for-the –Other”. This is the only basis for a humane society. His argument is that because human beings are     equal in their vulnerability they can only be truly safe in relationships where one places the interests of the Other over their own and the Other in turn does the same.   We are called to recognize the right of the Other as fundamental to claiming our own right to existence.


In these arguments Levinas begins grappling with the challenges of separated and narcissistic egos . Contrary to the terror management theorists who argue that mortality salience can generate higher levels of selfishness he argues that assumption of responsibility to and for the other is sufficient in itself for giving meaning and shape to life. If Becker is right, (Becker, 1973) and we deal with death, in part by a quest for “heroism” then Levinas is also right. One can be heroic in the service of others while building community. What is interesting about many obituaries and eulogies, for example, is that they highlight indivdual achievements but normally focus on the deceased’s character, family relationships, work relationships and service to the community. In death as in life what people value more than individual achievement is social capability.


Levinas’ method for resisting narcissism and   engendering   “positive othering” is based on an engagement with what he calls the Face of the Other. This is an important dimension of enhancing relational capacity. The Face to Levinas is both the Face that appears to us and the Face that does not appear to us, the invisible Face. By focusing on the Face, especially the Face of those who suffer, or are in pain, or the Faces of the subordinate, the imprisoned or the marginalised we   establish our human obligations and responsibilities. What this requires, therefore, is deep and radical attention to the concrete and particular features of the Face in encounters between the self and the other. We engage the Other in his/her individual differences but in a deeper acknowledgement of   the Other’s incomparability, uniqueness, and distinctive singularity.(Lévinas & Hand, 1989, p. 83) Somewhat paradoxically, therefore, by acknowledging the Other’s singularity we equip ourselves for building more sensitive community. In the engagement with the Face, Levinas suggests, we discern the ethical basis for responsibility which begins not from ourselves and is not based on our individual virtue or capacities but on a deep recognition of   the Other.


In the encounter with the Face, we   see joy and happiness as well as misery and suffering. We see prohibition, [you shall not kill me ] and we discover   disarming authority.   It is by paying attention to the Face of the Other   that we can begin resisting the totalising forces that seek to challenge the deep and incomparable individuality that can only flourish in sustainable relationships. Ideological totalisations like Fascism, Communism, but also a large number of other naming, blaming, stereotyping and discriminatory processes are all aimed at preventing us from seeing the Other in his/her full exteriority to the self. By focusing on the Face of the other and   what Levinas calls   “the wisdom of love rather than the love of wisdom” he argues that we   can establish a solid basis for ethical encounter and for respecting and honouring the Other.


This understanding of “radical alterity” is or should be reciprocal, it is a way of humanising and deepening all human exchanges. It has implications, therefore, for the way we deal with each other in peace as well as war. Our ethical responsibility-to-and-for-the other lies at the heart of peaceful co-existence, the non violent pursuit of justice and the development of sustainable peace. In ensuring that the interests of the other take precedence over our own interests we discover “infinity” in the present. We also discover the central importance of hospitality especially towards those who are strangers to us. By being hospitable we acknowledge all the vulnerabilities that we share as human beings and in those moments attend to the other with care, single mindedness and attention. Many people feel somewhat ambivalent about others and the notion of an Other. They have experienced pain at the hands of others. Levinas’ argument is that even for these people , focusing on another in the way he explains it will generate gentleness rather than fear.


In relation to   Third Parties, Levinas builds a theory of community, society, law and government on a basis of the inter-personal ethics that bind us to each other. He is in this sense adopting a view of politics and political responsibility which stands in tension with Hobbesian realist views which discount the centrality of self-other relations and have a very pessimistic view of community. All of our   fellow citizens –within nation states and across national state boundaries—have the same needs for recognition, welfare, justice and stability as we do. It is important, therefore, that our social and political institutions make the satisfaction of these basic human needs possible. The primordial relationship, however, remains that between Self and Other. Starting from this unconditional responsibility-to-and-for-the other seems to many a counsel of perfection, especially in a world where much energy is dedicated to selfish competition, consumerism and self aggrandisement. Why should we be responsible to someone who is I competition with us or worse seeks to harm us? Here Levinas is quite clear,   it is   justice and only justice that limits our infinite responsibility for the other.


“In principle, everyone demands of me; I am responsible to and for everyone all the time in every way. But if a person or group or institution persecutes another, then my responsibility to those who are suffering outweighs any responsibility I have to the persecutor, and I must do what I can to oppose the persecution… if there were no order of justice there would be no limit to my responsibility” (Morgan, 2007, p. 113)


When we cease attending to the singularity of others in community and ignore justice we start rendering Other’s faceless and in this process generate the conditions for harm, violence and genocide. Judith Butler, building on Levinas, in her book Precarious Life states that

“ Those who remain faceless or whose faces are presented to us as so many symbols of evil, authorize us to become senseless before those lives we have eradicated, and whose grievability is indefinitely postponed”. (Butler, 2006, p. xviii)


Acknowledging and honouring the Face of the Other, therefore, is not an optional extra for Levinas. Honouring the Other is in fact, at the heart of human relationship, non-violent ethics and   the never ending quest for justice and peace. Only by establishing our harmlessness and   a radical responsibility-to-and-for- the other can we establish the basis for committed relationship and for building just, peaceful and sustainable communities and societies.


Highlighting the sanctity of the inter-subjective ; acquiring a radical reverence for all life; and deriving social and political ethics from a deep responsibility-to-and-for-the-Other are critical to the development of harmonious   and peaceable community . They are critical because as has been argued above, peaceful communities rest on (i) a commitment to equality and justice; (ii) the cessation of relationships of domination and subordination (especially those that flowed from the colonial and imperial projects of the 19th and 20th centuries) (iii) the expansion of deep mutuality across boundaries of difference and (iv) a reverence for nature and   commitment to sustainable development.


These Levinasian principles are challenged when individuals and communities are in violent conflict with each other and yet they lie at the heart of peaceful resolution. It is only by recognising and personalising the individual faces of opponents that one can begin discerning common humanity and the possibility of solutions satisfactory to all. It is only by assuming radical responsibility for the welfare of the other than one can begin building what Martin Luther King thought of as “ the beloved community” . It is only by placing relationships at the heart of ethics that one can release empathetic and altruistic concern.


The intentional pursuit and achievement of peace and justice requires perspectives which draw on the wisdom of many disciplines but it also requires that specific cultures and communities have   positive visions of  what harmonious communities look like. Without these visions the prospects for stable and sustainable peace are slight. If the visions are not cross culturally sensitive, however, or worse primarily ethnocentric, this is likely to be    problematic since transferring   ethnocentric   visions from one place to another will inevitably generate cultural dissonance and, if imposed on others, incompatibility and conflict. This is what happens during periods of Imperialism/Colonialism. The negative peace that flows from Empire, whether it be Pax Romana, Pax Brittanica, or Pax Americana, is inherently unstable and cannot be considered the basis for sustainable peace with justice.


There are some important philosophical and empirical questions associated with how we imagine peace. For example, are most communities and societies, most of the time, peaceful and harmonious? If peace is the norm and war the aberration then we already have historic and empirical models of   peacefulness to learn from. If this is not the case and war and violence are the norm, how do societies generate peaceful moments—and long peaceful moments–from the “normal un-peacefulness” and what   empirical justification is there for different   models of peacefulness?


Empirically, most communities, most of the time, are   peaceful and non violent (i.e in terms of negative peace or the absence of organized   direct violence). There would be no human continuity if war were the norm and peace the exception. In fact throughout human history it is violent conflict which is the exception and peaceful communities the norm. Despite the high media attention focused on   violent conflict, (if it bleeds it leads) the world as a whole has been getting more rather than less peaceful since the end of the cold war (Harbom & Wallensteen, 2005).   Most states, are not, however, positively peaceful in terms of indirect or structural violence and most have high levels of spontaneous and organised criminal violence. Most members of the United Nations, for example, have high levels of vertical and horizontal inequality and there are far too many minority groups systematically and deliberately excluded from sources of political, economic and social power. (Gurr, 1993)


Inequality, corruption and criminality are   potent sources of un-peacefulness. [5] Of these three factors, however, the most important are levels of inequality. Unequal societies perform less well on most indicators of well being, health, education and peacefulness. General life chances are more restricted in unequal societies than in more equal communities. (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2009).   As Marshall Sahlins put it

“ Poverty is not a certain amount of goods, nor is it just a relation between means and ends, above all it is a relation between people.” (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2009, p. 15).

Unfortunately those who are relatively and absolutely deprived are those who are more likely to live in a state of unpeacefulness than those who are not. On a basis of the research evidence, therefore, it is clear that equality is critical to building sustainable peace. If this is so then it is important to know what states, societies, markets and individuals are doing to advance equality. Most advanced industrial states do not have explicit objectives in favour of equality but they do have educational, health and social policies that create safety nets below which citizens are not allowed to fall. The pursuit of equality and justice as a peacebuilding exercise requires both ethical and political as well as social science justification. There have to be compelling reasons for individuals, groups, and communities to move in this direction, otherwise the tendency is to maintain the status quo and reinforce existing patterns of power, prestige and inequality.


In terms of peace   research and practice many North American researchers like to keep the focus on negative peace –the absence of organized violence– because it keeps the field relatively well defined and does not demand close attention to issues of equality and justice. Focusing attention on   security ( especially national   rather than human security) does not require a critique of the socio-economic or political order and it is intensely conservative in terms of maintaining the status quo. Peace researchers concerned with “ structural violence” and especially those working in and on the global South, however, are much more inclined to   focus on positive as well as negative peace and do not believe that negative peace alone is sufficient. There is no possibility of stable peace if there are small pockets of wealth and privilege and large pockets of poverty and misery.


There are, therefore, important ethical and communitarian reasons   for   promoting positive peace. As (Johan Galtung, 2010) argues, it is vital that we know the deep psychological, sociological, anthropological and political sources of both direct and indirect violence if we are to promote realistic scenarios for both negative and positive peace. A negative peace which ignores or fails to address structural and cultural sources of violence will always be unstable and a positive peace that exists alongside large amounts of direct violence would   be somewhat oxymoronic and difficult to imagine.


So how do we ( i.e peace researchers and practitioners or social psychologists interested in the social and psychological conditions for peacefulness) combine the negative and positive peace agendas? In particular, what are some of the research and practice concerns that might guide theorists and practitioners seeking to develop systems to   prevent or transform violent conflict and build   stable and sustainable peace?


In the first place it is vital that we   identify and politically locate those who are articulating   particular visions of peace from a range of cultural perspectives. (E. Boulding, 2001) .

“ Peace cultures thrive on and are nourished by visions of how things might be, in a world where sharing and caring are part of the accepted lifeways for everyone. The very ability to imagine something different and better than what currently exists is critical for the possibility of social change” (E Boulding, 2000, p. 29)


Outsiders and insiders (within specific cultures) need to be able to identify different cultural visions of peace in order to ascertain which individuals and institutions embody and espouse them and whether they are contested or mainstreamed. Those who have coherent visions of peace and justice are those who are most inclined to constitute idealist peace constituencies that will advance both positive and negative peace. Those who are content to let their political leaders articulate   concepts of peace will probably be content with   negative peace and more inclined to adopt realist state centric perspectives of how to control direct violence. It is also important to   know what theories of social change underpin specific visions of peace since these are likely to determine what kinds of policy and praxis will generate peaceful outcomes. This knowledge is important in   helping us understand specific worldviews but perhaps more importantly who are likely to benefit from them. It is most  helpful for individuals and communities to have a clear vision of peace and clarity about peacebuilding processes, otherwise, it is highly likely that peacebuilding will be seen primarily as an issue of governance rather than processes which demand peaceful individuals, families, organizations and communities as well as peaceably inclined states. Critics of “ liberal peacebuilding “, for example, argue that many researchers and practitioners over the past 25 years have worked far too intimately and are too closely associated with promoting the specific political and economic agendas   of official governmental agencies that they have tended to ignore the critical roles of individuals, groups and institutions in generating structural stability and the communitarian conditions for peace. In particular they argue that peacebuilding has become rather too closely identified with good governance and state building and community visions of peace and justice have tended to be ignored.(Newman, Paris, & Richmond, 2009)


Second, in addition to specific visions of peace, it is important to identify   key peace-builders in specific localities. There is little point in having   peaceful visions unless there are actors willing and able to realize them. Mary Anderson (Anderson, 1999, p. 35) refers to these actors as   community “Connectors” . There will be no stable peace anywhere without people who are committed to connecting across boundaries of difference and knowledgeable about how to solve problems peacefully and non-violently. Conversely, it is equally helpful to identify those who choose un-peaceful paths, namely the “dividers” and spoilers of peaceful processes.   Knowledge of   both sets of actors is critical to good “structural “ analysis and the building of sustainable peace. (Anderson, Olson, & Collaborative for Development Action Inc. Reflecting on Peace Practice Project., 2003).


Third, detailed contextual , stakeholder and issues analyses are likely to be more important to peace-building than the application of abstract theory. Text without context is pretext! Far too many peacebuilding interventions have foundered for lack of local knowledge and the application of exogenous theories/models that are inappropriate to locality. The importance of language and knowledge of local culture is  vital to being a successful peacebuilder. In fact acquiring this knowledge in itself is a peacebuilding act as it delivers cross cultural respect and acknowledgement. (Sending, 2009). These types of analyses are also salutary reminders that peacebuilding requires both heart (passion) and mind ( intellectual rigour). There is little point in desiring peace as an end   or   a process without knowledge of the sources of unpeacefulness and   impediments to realizing both peace and justice.


Fourth, it is vital that individuals/communities/nations/ states have some solid ethical and social rationale for promoting cultures and structures of peace. Without this there is little “reason” to opt for non violence and abandon the pessimistic reassurance of   realpolitik.(Russett, Oneal, & Cox, 2000) . Building peace requires   plausible and compelling ethical frameworks for non violence at inter-personal, inter-group, intra-national and trans national exchanges. This theme will be returned to below in relation to Emmanuel Levinas’ rationale for non-violence.


Fifth, although state systems and markets have important roles to play in the achievement of   sustainable peace, communities and civil society actors need to be given equal or greater prominence. These are the spheres within which individuals live most of the time and the quality of their interpersonal, group and inter-group relationships is a critical determinant of   whether or not communities will be   capable of fostering   trustworthy, reciprocal and   peaceful relationships (Saunders, 2005) .   Strong, robust and resilient communities are   essential to the well being of both states and   markets . During times of violent conflict and fragility the burden of care and responsibility for responding to uncertainty falls heavily on individuals, families and communities. The adequacy of the coping and survival mechanisms of these actors   will, to a large extent,   determine whether or not, and how soon, normal politics and commerce will regenerate after conflict. If community relations have been deeply broken during the conflict the prospects for rapid recovery will be slight. If strong   and inclusive community has persisted through the conflict then the prospects for post war recovery will be brighter.   This is one area within which social-psychological and sociological perspectives might     help illuminate the dynamics of peacefulness/ unpeacefulness.


In East Timor , for example, individual actors   and groups   demonstrated more resilience and hopefulness after conflict if their communities   had provided basic safety and welfare nets through the conflict   (Brown & Gusmao, 2009). The   independent role of community and civil society networks in determining stable peace is relatively under-theorised   and needs to be given greater attention. Just as Theda Skocpol called for the state to be brought back in when sociology focused too much attention on the role and significance of society and community in the 1970s and 80s, (Skocpol, 1985) maybe it is time to bring community back in for the 21st century This is especially so in   post conflict environments where   violence has destroyed trust, hope, identity and family ties. How insiders and outsiders work with civil society and community leaders to rebuild these relationships is a question that needs much closer attention.


Beatrice Pouligny, has written an excellent analysis of some of the challenges of doing this, especially in relation to outsiders engaging with insiders   to restore community and stimulate the social and political transformation of broken relationships. (Pouligny, 2005) Theorizing the role of community in generating the architecture for stable peace is clearly an area of critical social enquiry.


Sixth, peace researchers and practitioners need to understand   the ways in which cultures and structures of domination (at all levels of behaviour) generate adversarial behaviour     and impede or prevent     the development of reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationships. Resisting domination creatively is an important dimension of positive peace, especially in relation to hegemonic and sub-hegemonic power. It is a   problem   that needs to be analysed in its own right though, because   those who are dominant determine who is or is not included in their specific moral communities and their state centric ( often hegemonic) visions of peace crowd out those that highlight mutuality, reciprocity and community . (Opotow, 2001)




These philosophical arguments are reinforced by recent social psychological work on belonging. There is substantial evidence on the need to belong. Furthermore, once people are affiliated to others and   social bonds are formed people are very reluctant to allow them to dissolve. (Leary. Mark, 2008). Threats to such social bonds provoke strong defensive reactions while their strengthening generate high levels of happiness and joy.   All of these group bonds rest on trust, affirmation, reciprocity and support. Their continuity is only guaranteed if those within them do no harm to each other or more positively generate well being for all. Belonging theory represents a social psychological and neurological justification for Levinas’ ethics of care.


Focusing on the inter-subjective, pursuing peaceful relationships by peaceful means and paying as much attention to community well being   as the capabilities, effectiveness and legitimacy of state institutions, will go a long way towards the building of strong, resilient and peaceful communities, societies and polities. This is, however, a rather radical direction to move in when most pre and post conflict peacebuilding, as construed by the United Nations and related agencies, focuses primarily on governance rather than the building of peaceful relationships at all levels of social activity. The United Nations, for example,   stresses state building before community building; national security before human security; the disarming of warring parties and the decommissioning and destruction of weapons before processes aimed at social healing and reconciliation.


These objectives are important but it is equally important for external and internal interveners to work with the strengths of locality ( particularly community strengths) instead of focusing on deficiencies ( which normally means state deficiencies). This means a willingness to suspend “cooky cutter” exogenous prescriptions for development and peace and an expanded willingness to engage with the complexities and singularities of specific conflict sites. This demands a Levinasian sensitivity to particular individuals ( especially those with a reputation as integrators and connectors) and   an encouragement of what he calls “ small goodnesses” or individual and collective acts of compassion . These need to be accompanied by  the development of groups, organisations and institutions   capable of delivering goods, services and relationships that can satisfy basic human needs and generate a reasonable basis for social harmony and unity.   These may include state institutions but should not be confined to the state. What is absolutely important in conflict environments is identifying resilience and capacity in action and working with agents that have these qualities.


Establishing responsibility –to-and-for –the –other in conflict environments, and working with families, kinship groups, religious and economic organisations is crucial to generating effective counter-weights to predatory or oppressive state systems   seeking parasitic exploitative relationships with the community. Such a bias is also important to avoiding top down processes of development or primarily state centric notions of peace. Moving in a communitarian direction forces more attention on what could be called “horizontal integration” as opposed to vertical . In this approach attention is directed to the ways in which different sectors ( for example the family, village, friendship networks, religious, educational, health , economic and political institutions) intersect and what the positive and negative consequences of such connections are.


To do this effectively requires deliberate attention to the many different ways in which individuals and groups imagine peace and more sensitive appreciation of the ways in which locals see challenges to peace. This is challenging for internal and external peace builders. Political leaders, for example, see cultural and social differences-diverse perspectives on peace- through the lens of elite politics and national interests. External interveners see these differences ( if at all) from the perspective of official or unofficial bilateral or multilateral agencies. All of these actors will be applying very particular models of both change and politics to locality. One of the challenges of peacebuilding anywhere, therefore, is that of utilising endogenous and exogenous institutions to include as many locals as possible from as many different sectors as possible in the identification and solution of their own problems.


Far too many well intentioned   peacebuilding initiatives founder because they are based primarily on the interests of outsiders rather than insiders; elites rather than a broad cross section of the population and they impose very particular notions of development, peace and   community rather than working with local strengths and capacities.


The views from rural and urban areas, for example, are likely to be very different and separate strategies need to be established for each. It is pointless assuming that policies which might work in a metropolitan capital, for example, will work in a rural village. Tailoring programmes to locality is an important dimension of honouring the multiple others that exist in different conflict zones.


Similarly, incorporating women and women’s perspectives into peace processes is no longer just an optional extra but key to the development of peaceful relationships. Security Council Resolution 1325, for example, established specific international benchmarks for women’s engagement in peacekeeping missions and deeper involvement in the design and implementation of   development and peacebuilding programmes. But there are many instances where women have played absolutely critical roles in brokering ceasefires and in persuading warring parties to negotiate solutions to violence. ( For example, it was the determined actions of women in Bougainville and the Solomon Islands who created the ripe conditions for ceasefires and settlements). It is   simplistic to promote “ essentialist “ arguments for women’s engagement in peace processes but there is a growing body of social psychological and neurological evidence to suggest that women are better equipped for relationship than men and that they understand the central importance of relatively equal communities for personal and social security. To some extent this is based on women’s empathetic superiority and instincts for fairness and justice. ( see Tania Singer, (Singer, 2006)and E.J. Hermans (Hermans, 2006) for discussions of male-female differences in relation to empathetic awareness).

The incorporation of women into peacebuilding processes, therefore, makes both micro and macro sense in terms of generating programmes that are inclusive, fair and likely to generate integration rather than separation.


Youth and children are also normally excluded from peacebuilding processes . Effective peacebuilding will ensure that they, too, are acknowledged and that their voices are heard in decision making processes . While it might seem culturally inappropriate in high context cultures which value age over youth to develop special mechanisms for listening to children and youth. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests children and young people bring novel and fresh perspectives to a variety of adaptive problems. Elise Boulding, for example, has written of the importance of thinking about and developing new children –adult partnerships in the development of peaceable communities where children can “gentle” adults and share their own distinctive perceptions of the world around them (E Boulding, 2000, pp. 139-158).


Most importantly, however, it is important that outsiders ( and insiders) wherever possible go with the grain of locality rather than impose external solutions, most of which are likely to generate considerable cultural, social and political dissonance. What this means in practice,is a willingness to reject universal solutions and   develop programmes based on very systematic locally based contextual analysis. Wherever possible such analysis needs to be based on  total system strengths rather than explorations of vulnerability and weakness. For too long beneficiaries of aid and development assistance have bridled somewhat at the deficit models applied to their societies and polities. A focus on strengths and on what is working rather than weaknesses and what is not working is useful for developing culturally appropriate peacebuilding strategies.


In the first instance this means   broadening peacebuilding perspectives beyond the functions of the machinery of government and focussing more attention on strengths of non-state institutions as sources of resilience and order particularly at the community level. State functions are not an end in themselves, but a means to provide citizens and communities with development, internal and external peace and human security. In this perspective social psychological relational strengths are as important to peace building as the political economy.


Even on issues of internal security and law and order, which are considered the exclusive preserve of the state, it is vital to acknowledge the relevance of non-state, particularly customary, actors and institutions and what their contribution to internal security might be. Similarly in relation to the provision of basic social services(particularly health and education), these too are not the sole preserve of the states even if state systems have important co-ordinating and accountability roles. More attention needs to be given to the capacities of non-state actors and to indigenous modes of providing such services (e.g. customary education) and their interplay with introduced institutions.


When it comes to enabling economic environments, supportive of economic growth the perspective of interveners in conflict zones also has to be widened to include the strength (or weakness) of the local subsistence/exchange economy and its relation to the formal market economy .


Non-state sources of social safety have to be included in the analysis of welfare also. Customary, mostly kin-based, social networks are often highly effective sources of social safety in many conflict zones. They are major sources of resilience but at the same time they are coming under increasing pressure from migration, the youth bulge, unemployment and urbanisation.


The ability to make collective decisionshas to take into account that—beyond the institutions of the state—there are often other decision-making bodies and procedures that are of major importance for the governance of the everyday affairs of people on the ground. In many instances these are as effective and legitimate as constituted authorities.


Grounded contextual analysis has to consider all the informal processes that generate community and which might enhance the accountability of the state to its citizens. These potentially may be as important as the formal state mechanisms. Focusing exclusively on state mechanisms excludes important social “reputational” systems of control. These non-western indigenous structures and processes of ordering social life are often much more important to social survival in conflict zones than western colonial/post colonial institutions. Such a comprehensive and inclusive analysis could provide the basis for practical political advice on how to assist state formation in socio-political environments characterised by socio-cultural and political hybridity i.e efforts to combine the formal with the informal, the exogenous with the endogenous. . For a detailed analysis of these issues see (Clements, Boege, Brown, Foley, & Nolan, 2007)


The central argument of this chapter is that building sustainable peace is not just a question of enhancing the power and effectiveness of the state, the economy or civil society, rather it is an enhancement of positive peaceful relationships at all levels of social engagement. There are some important disconnections between communities and state institutions, frictions between liberal modes of governance and local practice, and corresponding challenges to legitimacy and citizenship in most conflict zones of the world. At the end of the day, however, the extent to which state systems are rooted in society and community is decisive for their strength, effectiveness and legitimacy. Hence engaging with communities and non-state customary institutions is as important as working with central state institutions and governments.

Peacebuilding processes which take account of the constructive potential of local community, including customary mechanisms where relevant, are likely to be much more effective than those which simply aim at strengthening central state functions and the political will of state representatives. For example, instead of perceiving kinship-based societal formations as sources of corruption, nepotism and hindrances to accountability and transparency, one can also look at them as valuable social support networks which have their own checks and balances. Accordingly, through engagement and mobilisation of these networks, they can positively contribute to political order. The best outcome of such a novel approach to peacebuilding would be that new forms of post colonial governance emerge: combining state institutions, customary institutions and new elements of citizenship and civil society in networks of governance which are not introduced from the outside, but embedded in the societal structures on the ground.


To build and rebuild community where it has been fractured by violence requires particular types of actors ( both local and external). The reality is that all societies ( whether rural or industrialised, poor or wealthy) are afflicted with   some level of spontaneous and organised violence. Those emerging from organised armed conflict ( civil war or trans national war) have very particular sets of post conflict needs but all communities have to develop mechanisms for dealing with hyper masculinity, violence, militarism, and dominatory cultures.


An acknowledgement of the commonality of violence should induce a certain amount of humility on the part of individuals and “Donor” states/organisations seeking to “bring peace and justice” to those in conflict. There is a growing recognition on the part of many states and peoples emerging from conflict that outside interveners would be more effective if they were prepared to engage the sources of violence at home while addressing sources of violence abroad.


As argued above, in terms of intervention design, if “humility” is a pre-requisite for negotiating effective relationships with those in conflict it must also be accompanied by deep respect for local actors as well.   External actors tend to make sense of local complexity by simplifying, totalising and in many instances stereotyping those that they are working with. In Rwanda, for example, old Colonial stereotypes of Hutu and Tutsi were transferred into many external perceptions of these same groups. Respect and honour for the Others in crisis ( in all their complexity and difference) is another important characteristic of an effective intervener. Without such basic respect the prospects for developing emancipatory partnerships between internals and externals is very slight indeed.


External interveners also need to work out ways in which they can see beyond the faces of elites-especially political elites- so that they can see the less visible faces of the people behind the elites. This is very challenging in most peacebuilding environments since most development assistance is given on a state to state basis. Focusing on the state, however, often impedes or prevents an engagement with community and   it is at this community level that sustainable peace and development is most likely to be built. Focusing on state institutions also means that external actors miss a lot of local texture and nuance as they design programmes and projects for development and peacebuilding.


External interveners also need to develop “trustworthy” relations with locals so that the locals receive the resources they need to solve their own problems. There are very few, if any, organised conflicts that are solved by external actors. Outsiders can design different processes for bringing conflicting parties together and   catalyse particular types of conversations but the solutions will emerge from the parties themselves. This means spending much more time in relationship building rather than programme planning; paying more attention to culturally and conflictually sensitive development strategies than those which are developed outside and working with local institutions wherever possible in ways that enhance rather than subvert their effectiveness . To develop these sorts of relationships requires more attention to linguistic and cultural competence than is currently the case but it also requires high levels of emotional maturity. Many external interveners in conflict zones tend to be relatively young, inexperienced, and emotionally immature. These are not qualities that add much value to the age and indigenous wisdom of many of the key players in conflict.


Doing good work on the ground certainly means not doing harm and doing this with humility,respect, and emotional intelligence as well. What it also requires is long term commitment. Peacebuilding is a marathon and not a sprint.   No individual, group, or nation emerging from violent experiences can expect to address their traumatic consequences quickly or frivolously. This long term commitment is not something, however, that external interveners   contemplate easily. States want quick fixes. They want to be able to secure insecure communities, shore up fragile states, develop sustainable development and build resilient communities within 3-5 year time frames. This places impossible burdens on those seeking to make sense of traumatic experience. We need to think long term rather than short and we need to develop processes which celebrate small, incremental and cumulative changes rather than pin hopes on systemic transformation over night.


The building of sustainable peace is something that challenges every human being on the planet. It is not something that is the exclusive preserve of those living in zones of conflict. It demands   everyone’s attention as we work our how to accept responsibility for the welfare of others; radically re-individualise the Other while building just and caring communities; re-humanise those who have been demonised; resist efforts to disrespect and debase others and create the conditions whereby peaceful processes are seen as a dimension of all human relationships and   not the exclusive preserve of states .





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[1] Johan Galtung coined the terms ‘negative peace’ and ‘positive peace’ in the late 1960s. (J Galtung, 1971). Negative peace refers to the absence of violence and positive peace refers to the restoration of broken relationships, cooperation, equity, equality and the removal of the structural and cultural sources of violence.

[2] These relationships look very much like those that Susan Opotow describes as “Moral Inclusion” i.e “relationships in which the parties are approximately equal, the potential for reciprocity exists, and both parties are entitled to fair processes and some share of community resources” (Opotow, 1990)

[3]See (Slote, 2007)(Held, 2006) for elaborations of both these positions.

[4] See the following URL for discussion about the GPI

[5]See the latest version of the Global Peace Index 2010 for examples of the drivers of violence and unpeacefulness (Humanity, 2010).





About kevinclements2012

Short CV Professor Kevin P Clements. I am the Foundation Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies and Director of the New Zealand Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, Dunedin New Zealand and Secretary General of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy. Prior to taking up these positions I was the Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Foundation Director of the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland, Brisbane Australia . I went to Queensland from International Alert where I was Secretary General from January 1999 to September 2003. International Alert is one of the world’s largest NGOs working on conflict transformation. It pioneered innovative policy and practical approaches to conflict prevention and transformation in Africa ,Eurasia and Asia . It has also made a major contribution to the mainstreaming of conflict prevention within European Foreign and Development Ministries, the EU and a variety of UN institutions. During his time there I was on the Board of the European Centre for Conflict Prevention and past President of the European Peace Building Liaison Office in Brussels. Prior to becoming Secretary General of International Alert I was the Vernon and Minnie Lynch Chair of Conflict Resolution at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University Fairfax Virginia USA 1994-2000 and Director of the Institute from 1994-1999. My career has been a combination of academic analysis and practice in the areas of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. I was, for example, formerly Director of the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva and Head of the Peace Research Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra .Prior to this I was Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Coordinator of Peace Studies at Canterbury University, Christchurch New Zealand . My first academic position was as a lecturer in Sociology at Hong Kong University . I took up this position from a Post Doctoral Fellowship at Oxford University where I worked on development issues with Paul Streeten and others. I have been an advisor to the New Zealand, Australian , British , Swedish and Dutch governments on conflict prevention , peace, defence and security issues and advised the German Government and the OECD on States and Violence. I was, a member of the New Zealand Government’s Defence Committee of Enquiry in 1985 and I currently conducting Problem Solving Workshops in North East Asia with high level participants from Japan, China and Korea. Iwas President of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) from 1994-1998, President of the IPRA Foundation from 1995-2000 and Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Peace Research Association. I was Secretary General of the International Peace Research Association 2008-2010. I got my B.A, B.A Hon ( First Class) and Ph.D in Sociology from Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand. and held a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford from 1970-1971. I have been a regular consultant to a variety of non governmental and intergovernmental organisations on disarmament, arms control, conflict resolution, development and regional security issues and I have written or edited 7 books and over 160 chapters /articles on conflict transformation, peacebuilding, preventive diplomacy and development with a specific focus on the Asia Pacific region. Research Expertise 1. Peace Research Theory- Conflict and Conflict Resolution Theory . Preventive Diplomacy , Development and Peacebuilding 2. International and Regional Regimes-APEC, ASEAN, the ARF, ECOWAS 3. Political Sociology-International Organisations. Multilateral/bilateral negotiating processes. 4. Fragile States, Legitimacy and Political Hybridity 5. Alternative Defence and Security Policies-Peace and Security in the Asia-Pacific region. 6. The politics and ethics of international humanitarian intervention 7. Altruism and Compassion In my spare time I like to paint with acrylics or pastels, go to the theatre, listen to classical music, visit art galleries etc!
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