Uniting for Peace:Building sustainable Peace Through Universal Values

Parihaka 56-1

Uniting for Peace:Building sustainable Peace Through Universal Values

Kevin P Clements

The 25th General Conference of the International Peace Research Association is nearly over. 500 people came from all around the world to Istanbul Turkey to learn about ways in which we can all resist violence and oppression better; figure out  how to rehumanise the other  in the face of persistent dehumanisation and demonisation; and more optimally work out how we can foster unifying reconciling processes to heal this troubled world.

The good thing about an IPRA conference is that it represents a wonderful cross section of  academics, practitioners and hybrid “pracademics”.  It is also well balanced in terms of gender , nationality and culture with more or less equal representation from the Global North and Global South.   There were  lots of wonderful discussions and presentations  on the relationships between arts and peace;  conflict resolution and peace building; ecology, gender and peace; non violence and peace education. People came from all over and shared their wisdom but more importantly their experiences. There were people who had been traumatised by violence, people living in and with violence as an every day  reality. There were others who were working with those who had been traumatised by violence. Still others working on  short and long term development strategies to remove the root causes of violence.

I learned about ethical witnessing  and the responsibilities that flow from that. I learned about the high cost of patriarchies for half the world’s population. I learned about the multi-faceted  logic of non violence and the ways in which non violence generated  real solutions  to real problems. I gave a plenary on the costs of violence and  the benefits of peace which deliberately aimed at combining  the statistics of deadly quarrels with the political economy of emotion and the challenges of costing  the short and long term emotional consequences of war. I learned  a lot about resilience and how to  build this in collaboration with others. I learned about the intimate connections between humanistic and religious values and peacebuilding and was inspired by the new generation of peace scholars and practitioners who feel as  inspired as I did as young person to make sure that  we leave the world more peaceful than when we found it at our birth.

After listening to  my friends and colleagues I   feel  heartened by the the will for peace in the  conference. But  after watching the daily news about what is happening  within the Turkish neighbourhood in  Israel-Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, I feel somewhat pessimistic about the short to medium term prospects for a less violent world.

In one of the last sessions of the Theatre and Peacebuilding Commission, for example,  a presenter showed an incredibly violent film clip of 14 men being summarily executed by a mob in Aleppo. It was shocking and gratuitous and I did not consider it ethical witnessing.. We took some time to process it  but I don’t think we reached a satisfactory solution  about how much we have to experience and witness  violence in order to oppose it. If we shield ourselves from visual reports of brutality then how do we, as peace researchers and practitioners,  know what we are resisting? If we allow ourselves to watch such violence then  what are the short and long term consequences of this for our own sensitivity to  others. I objected to it because of the traumatising effect of the film on my consciousness . For those who had experienced direct trauma in their own lives, it was retraumatising…. anyway, It raised all sorts of ethical issues about how to contextualise such reported violence, how to process it positively and how to think about ways of resisting it in the future. There is no doubt that armed mobs  with a desire for blood revenge pose very deep challenges to those of us with a pacifist inclination.

In any case this 25th IPRA conference ( which marks the 50th anniversary of the development of IPRA) reminded me yet again that peacebuilding and peace making are never ending processes. It reminded me   of the importance of  confronting  the  biases, prejudices and violence in my own heart  and mind  if I am to help others confront theirs. It also reinforced my desire to understand and combat the sources of domination, exploitation  in all spheres of social, economic and political life ( and at all levels of human activity) as these  lie at the heart of much contemporary conflict and violence.

So even though IPRA is a very poor organisation and  there were a few  parts of the programme that didn’t work out , none of this matters in the end.  Each one of these conferences  enables me to meet people living and working in much more adverse circumstances than I do. I am humbled by their struggles  for survival , justice and peace. I am invigorated to do what I can to make sure that  the dark clouds of  total war never descend again  and that we eliminate all cultures and structures of violence  while building cultures and structures of peace.

Its right that we have done this listening and thinking here at the cross roads of Europe and Asia. It is clear that power, initiative and problems are flowing South and East away from Europe and North America to  the Middle East, North, South  and South East Asia. These places are becoming the  growth centres for the 21st century and it is there that peace will be won or lost.IMG_1990This is a photo of the very first recorded Peace Treaty between Ramses 3 and the Hittite Kingdom.  It comes from the Middle East. If they could do it then and carve their  intentions in stone we can do it again in the 21st century!!!


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!
This entry was posted in # Honouring the War Dead by abolishing War, #Ottoman Empire, Building Peaceful Community, China, Global North, Global South, IPRA, Trauma, Violence. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Uniting for Peace:Building sustainable Peace Through Universal Values

  1. Rene Wadlow says:

    The question after meetings, no matter how important to meet co-workers, is where do we go from here. Turkey is part of a conflict area as well as a Middle East power along with S. Arabia, Iran and Egypt, not great human rights States. What are the possibility of actions through “civil society” groups in Turkey? What role can the Kurds linving in Turkey play for those in Iraq-Syria?
    We can not wait for the next 51st anniversay meeting for action. Your advice is welcome!


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