All human activity has environmental consequences. Some types of activity are highly destructive, while other activities can be sustainable. On the one extreme hunting animals to extinction, leveling forests, and disregard for the proliferation of toxic materials and industrial wastes is activity that makes the world inhabitable for human beings. At the other extreme is the call to depopulate the earth through forms of genocide so the environment is undisturbed by humans. Living in peace with the environment, and with each other, lies somewhere in the middle. A sustainable world requires both conscientiousness toward nature and other human beings, and continuous learning and adaptation with the help of science. Each of the articles in this issue touch upon some aspect of the environment and peace.
The first article, “Connecting Peaces: TBCAs and the Integration of International, Social, and Ecological Peace,” looks at the idea of transboundary conservation areas (TBCAs), which often serve as buffers between hostile nations. This is a concept that has been promoted in recent years, particularly after observing how natural life rebounded in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. However the authors argue that TBCAs have been vulnerable to social, international, and environmental conflict, and the there is little evidence they have contributed to international peace.
The world has changed a lot since World War II. Science gave us the nuclear bomb, the internet, and the means to more than triple the world’s population—from 2.3 billion to 7.9 billion. The articles in this issue address how these developments have changed deterrence, diplomacy, and refugees.
Our first article, “Southern Asia Strategic Triangle: Deterrence Then and Now,” by Muzammil Ahad Dar both describes the evolving nature of deterrence and its nuances and reminds us that there are regional strategic relations within the larger global system. In South Asia there is a strategic triangle between the nuclear states of China, India, and Pakistan, with China providing an umbrella for Pakistan as a deterrent against Indian aggression. With the changing configuration of power internationally, and the threat of terrorists getting hold of nuclear weapons, former deterrence strategies are less effective. Dar also raises the concept of the need to defend civilizations, not just states.
Our second article, “Resolving the Conflict on the Korean Peninsula by Preventive Diplomacy,” by Kitsuron Sangsuvan, focuses on “preventive diplomacy” a term introduced by UN Secretary General U Thant (1960) and further developed by his successors. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has focused on preventive diplomacy, highlighting conflict prevention as the basis for a modern peace architecture for the UN. Sangsuvan analyzes the conflict on the Korean peninsula and applies the principles of preventive diplomacy to the task of resolving it.
This issue of IJWP marks the first time that our authors have used a constructivist approach to international relations. Constructivism begins with the premise that international relations are socially constructed and that states behave more on the basis of the identity of other states than on their material resources. In an excerpt from International Relations Theory, Sarina Theys, citing Alexander Wendt, explained constructivism as follows:
Alexander Wendt (1995) offers an excellent example that illustrates the social construction of reality when he explains that 500 British nuclear weapons are less threatening to the United States than five North Korean nuclear weapons. These identifications are not caused by the nuclear weapons (the material structure) but rather by the meaning given to the material structure (the ideational structure). It is important to understand that the social relationship between the United States and Britain and the United States and North Korea is perceived in a similar way by these states, as this shared understanding (or intersubjectivity) forms the basis of their interactions. The example also shows that nuclear weapons by themselves do not have any meaning unless we understand the social context. It further demonstrates that constructivists go beyond the material reality by including the effect of ideas and beliefs on world politics.
Using the example of Bhutan, wedged between Tibet and India, Theys shows how constructivism better explains that country’s posture towards India and China than conventional IR theories. She concluded her article stating “it is not only the distribution of material power, wealth and geographical conditions that can explain state behavior but also ideas, identities, and norms. Furthermore, their focus on ideational factors shows that reality is not fixed, but rather subject to change.”
This issue of International Journal on World Peace has three articles related to peacemaking and peacekeeping in Africa. The principles discussed apply to peacemaking and peacekeeping anywhere in the world. The first step is the creation of negative peace, the absence of fighting, and the second step involves positive peace, dialogue, negotiations, and a legal framework in which to work together for the common good.
There is first an important role in the use of military and police power in the creation of negative peace—the physical separation of warring parties to prevent bloodshed, and the creation of an environment in which dialogue and negotiations can take place. However, if the military force is not neutral, and sides with one party or uses excessive force, structural violence is created that impedes the possibility of dialogue and positive peace. This is a main difference between a peacemaker/peacekeeper and a conqueror who would impose their own kind of peace.
Secondly, there is an important role in fostering a consensus and higher cultural consciousness on common social goals. To develop positive peace, religions, the media, and schools have a role to play communication of knowledge for well-being of the entire society.
Guest Editor: Norman K. Swazo, North-South Universtiy, Dhaka, Bangladesh
On 27-28 July, 2019, the Department of Political Science and Sociology and the South Asian Institute of Policy and Governance (SIPG) of North South University (NSU) in Dhaka Bangladesh, together with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), sponsored and convened an international academic conference—International Conference on Rohingya Crisis in Bangladesh: Challenges and Sustainable Solutions.
This special issue includes four papers that together provide background information on the history of the Rohingya “refugee” crisis, including perspectives accounting for bilateral relations and negotiations between the government of Bangladesh and the government of Myanmar, as well as recommendations related to multilateral engagements such as by UNHCR, regional organizations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and by diplomatic missions from the USA and China in particular.
This issue of International Journal on World Peace has three very different articles: one on utopianism and peace, one on the nature of “enlightenment,” and one on the history of power struggles and human rights in Colombia. All of these articles are, nevertheless, related to the idea of social progress. Some ideas of “progress” are based on group advancement, where power is used by one group to conquer a group who has something they want, while others are based on a vision of production and development in which all people live together peacefully with abundance.
In our lead article, “Places of Peace: Utopia and a World Without War,” Dennis Hardy states that “Few would dissent from a general thesis that the human condition can be improved.” Utopian writers speak of an alternative place where life is better for them than what exists at present. However, no two individuals have exactly the same idea of what utopia is. “Utopian writers approach their subject with different assumptions. Fundamental to these is how they view human nature.”
For some visionaries, utopian societies employ slaves to carry out menial work to make life comfortable. For others, utopia involves the glories of war, the destruction of traditions, museums, and anything opposing the utopian vision. Most people today, however, would hardly call such utopias “progress.” There are more utopian visions in favor of peace than war.
The relation of religion to governance is one of the most important yet disputed aspects of the modern state. Should a state merely administer services on a territory or should it use its force to impose a specific set of religious beliefs and values on all of its citizens and residents? And, if a specific set of values is imposed, should there be limits to what the state is allowed to impose? For example, should it merely define crimes as harmful to a citizen’s life or property, or should it be criminal to hurt someone’s feelings or express a view different than state policy? And, who determines state policy on religion: the ruling family, the will of the majority, or some constitutional process?
This issue of International Journal on World Peace contains three articles that relate to creating peaceful states in a world where many religions, belief systems, and schisms exist in almost every country. The first article on “The Syrian Conflict” by Nasreen Akhtar and Hala Nageen shows what can happen when the ruler, Bashar al Assad, favors government jobs and financial contracts for members of his own family and his minority religious group, the Alawi, who make up 11 percent of the population.
Religious favoritism always leads to the exclusion or second-class citizenship of others. Or, in a worst-case scenario, genocide. In the case of Syria, the Arab Spring created hope among these less-favored groups that a new system could emerge that either treated citizens of all religions equally, or reversed the tables and installed some other religious group, and their religious values, in power. This led first to civil war and secondly to foreign states and interest groups aligning with and supporting various factions. As in other historical wars, most contestants in Syria expect to impose their values on all citizens after their victory.
The authors of the four articles in this issue are contributing to the scientific study of political economy. Many contemporary political and economic policies are guided by beliefs, suppositions, passions, and interests, rather than historical analyses and scientific measurements that correlate policies and desired outcomes. In this environment there is endless partisan argumentation, name-calling, and attempts to use political or military force to impose the will and the opinions of one group on others.
Our first three articles are about measuring the impacts of different incentives on political economy. We are in a position today to move beyond the simplistic assumptions of Marxism, Capitalism, and other ideologies that describe political economy in terms of single assumptions, rather than a larger set of variables.
Today we can study the lived experiences of the United States, the USSR, Communist China, Norway, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and many other countries that have had different types of political and economic systems. Aristotle’s great treatise The Politics became a great classic because it comparatively analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of over 150 constitutions. But in Aristotle’s day, the economy was largely agricultural. Contemporary societies, whose economies include industrial, and information-age social institutions need comparative studies that will move us beyond ideological assumptions.
“One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is a saying that reveals the ambiguity of an emotionally charged word, “terrorism.” The word “terrorism” evokes fear in members of the group that might be attacked. A “terrorist” is a label used to classify a person as evil, dangerous, outside the law, and a target for removal from the streets. People often become so concerned for their security that they will cede more and more power to the government to remove the threat of terrorism, and to allow governments to suspend the human rights of a “terrorist.”
Many emotional labels or stereotypes are imposed on others to distinguish “good” and “bad.” Labeling a group a “terrorist group,” a “radical group,” a “racist group,” a “hate group,” a homophobic group,” an “extremist group,” or countless other terms, is a way of calling others the opposite of your group. Such labels cause social division and are used to justify tribalism, revolution, and government repression. They are a linguistic tactic used to deprive others of equal rights. The mass media often reports on these divisive and fearful labels because they sell “news.” People who normally consider themselves good, moral, and peaceful can be swept up into this group division and end up supporting acts of violence against members of enemy groups that they would never normally consider perpetrating on another individual in their own group. Reinhold Niebuhr poignantly initiated an academic discussion about this problem in his book Moral Man and Immoral Society (1932).
Social science research methods are able to produce verifiable knowledge about society that is more reliable than the seemingly arbitrary suppositions of religious traditions based on prophetic revelation or sacred texts, or on ideological belief systems based on other suppositions.
Auguste Comte, “father of sociology,” proposed a threefold view of the evolution of social consciousness: (1) the theological stage, in which gods and spirits control our fate, (2) a metaphysical stage, in which existence is governed by laws and processes that can be described by rational abstract thought, and (3) a “positive” stage that is based the scientific method. “Positive” implies more certain and verifiable truth: truth as something that is known rather than belief based on suppositions or claims.
However, such technically obtained knowledge only explains what is observed, not what ought to be. When social scientists make value judgments about what ought to be, those values arise in one of three ways, based on the stage of consciousness: (1) religious beliefs the scientist developed during social upbringing, (2) philosophical or ideological beliefs extended from rationalizing ideas like social justice, and (3) normative beliefs that argue that observed norms are what ought to be. Continue reading →