A search of the Thompson Reuters Web of Knowledge database on articles published in English since 2000 with “peace” in the their title reveals over forty terms distinguishing different types or aspects of peace. This is more than mere semantics; peace can differ by level (interpersonal to international to global peace), direction (internal and external peace), durability (from fragile to enduring peace), source or conditions (peace through coercion, democratic participation, economic incentive, etc.), type (negative, positive and promotive peace) and scope (local to global peace). However, arguably the most important type is sustainable peace.
Adam Curle, a conciliator, academic, and Quaker peace activist learned a great deal about the sustainability of peace. From his experiences in Africa and Asia working as a mediator, Curle observed that conflict can move along a continuum from unpeaceful to peaceful relationships. This movement is centered on restructuring the core of unpeaceful relationships to promote cooperation, and depends on two critical factors: the level of power between conflicting parties and the level of awareness of conflicting interests and needs.
In Curle’s work, the term “unpeacefulness” is particularly important, as it radically differs from more classical concepts of conflict and peace. Defined as a situation in which people are impeded from achieving full development, either because of internal or external factors, it encompasses overtly violent situations, as well as those in which conflicts are hidden from the sight of the parties (negative peace). In order to achieve sustainable peace, Curle found that the process of peacemaking needed to address the core nature of unpeacefulness: transforming relationships so that full development can occur.
In his model or sequence of peacemaking, he identified critical stages and processes that can affect the transformation of unpeaceful relations:
- In cases where there is lack of awareness of a conflict or insufficient power to address unjust situations, consciousness raising among disadvantaged groups through advocacy and education can open a road to effective bargaining and conciliation.
- As awareness is raised and less advantaged groups are empowered by it, various techniques of confrontation aimed at reducing power imbalances and enabling the low-power groups to negotiate are to be developed.
- When the recognition of the existence and the demands of the less advantaged by the more powerful is achieved, techniques of conciliation and bargaining can be applied to end the open conflict, agree a settlement, and allow for development.
- With the restructuring of the formerly unpeaceful relations, sustainable peace can be achieved.
In other words, reaching sustainable peace depends not only on ending overt hostilities, but on creating the necessary conditions for cooperative relations and development to maintain and renegotiate it over time.
Curle, A. (1971). Making peace. London: Tavistock.
Kyong Mazzaro is a Project Coordinator at the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity (AC4) at Columbia University and the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (ICCCR) at Teachers College.
Peter T. Coleman, Ph.D. is Professor of Psychology and Education at Columbia University where he holds a joint-appointment at Teachers College and The Earth Institute. He is also Director of the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (ICCCR) at Teachers College.