Wednesday, 25 February 2009

In defence of peace studies | Letter to the National Post

Filed under: News Watch Blog — administrator @ 10:10 PDT

Barbara Kay’s February 18 argument that the field of peace studies endorses terrorism is nonsense. Dedicated peace theorists and researchers are distinguished by their commitment to reduce the use of violence whether committed by enemy nations, friendly governments, or warlords of any stripe.

Peace and conflict studies explore strategies for preventing, ending and recovering from the horrendous effects of armed conflict, and building justice and good governance to reduce the likelihood of recurrent violence. Topics of study range from conflict analysis, negotiation, mediation, international human rights, humanitarian action, development, early warning strategies and the role of media in conflict and peacebuilding.

Ms. Kay attempts to portray advocates for peace as naïve and idealistic, but the data shows that the large majority of armed conflicts in recent decades have been ended through negotiations, not military solutions. In the contemporary world, violence is less effective than diplomacy in ending armed conflict. Nothing is 100% effective to reduce tyranny and violence, but domestic and foreign strategy needs to be based on evidence, rather than assumptions and misconceptions from a bygone era.

As human societies evolve, so do our assumptions about political institutions of force and power. During the 1980s, the idea of using conflict resolution to resolve disputes outside the courtroom was ridiculed in Canada as “trendy, naïve and soft” by commentators who knew little about this emerging field. Over the past three decades, conflict resolution
processes are or are becoming mainstreamed in court systems in most regions of the world.

In the past two hundred years, other “givens” such as slavery, patriarchy, segregation, colonialism, dueling and beating children no longer seem as necessary or realist as they once did. The visionary people who worked to outlaw slavery, give women the right to vote, or end racial segregation were once considered naïve “idealists.”

Peace studies takes a hard, realistic view of armed conflict and other forms of human violence, and what really works for preventing or reducing it.

This is the full version of letter submitted to the National Post.

© Peacemakers Trust, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007

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