Saturday, April 16, 2005
A few weeks ago I used a word in my column that not many people are familiar with, which is understandable as it is a relatively new term. The term was “justpeace”. It recognizes that there can be no true peace without justice and that pursuing justice without peace leads to more injustice. Traits of justpeace include a nonviolent approach to conflict, building relationships that recognize interdependence, and equal partnership in the peace process. Justpeace is but one tool available for addressing conflict and violence in our world, but I believe it is one of the best tools we have, and one that should be implemented far more often.
Conflict transformation through the use of justpeace can be used to affect positive change on all levels, from the family through the community to the global. Its focus is on healing and bringing understanding and cooperative commitment to both parties involved. Justpeace is characterized by four main categorical approaches that include a wide range of activities. These are waging conflict nonviolently, reducing violence if it exists, addressing the causes and effects of violence, and increasing the capacity for building justpeace. Justpeace builders seek to implement these approaches while following ethical guidelines of partnership with the parties involved, protecting all involved from further harm, and moving towards peaceful interdependence. Let us look at the four approaches to justpeace in an effort to understand its functions.
Waging conflict nonviolently has the same goals as secondary (retaliatory) violence, which are to expose injustice, increase the balance of power, gain sympathy, and achieve justice. To many, nonviolent approaches seem counterproductive, dangerous, and even stupid. It is no secret that people die while participating in nonviolent means of addressing conflict, but far fewer people lose their lives. By confronting the opposing side without armaments, the nonviolent protestors strip them of their justification for killing. Does this always work? No, but it has been proven by history to be far more successful than not.
If violence already exists, then a goal in the process of justpeace-building is to reduce and eventually cease that violence. The best ways to accomplish this are ceasefires monitored by international bodies (not international armies occupying the land), increasing the size of community safe zones, and increasing the presence of international relief and aid. Cessation of violence is the first and most important step towards a justpeace if the conflict is already raging. The use of more violence (or the threat thereof) to meet this end is not acceptable, as it does not fit with the principles of justpeace and is counterproductive to the goal of equal partnership. Reducing violence can and should be an immediate strategy utilized on both the macro and grassroots levels of society.
In order to prevent violence breaking out again or to preclude it before it even begins, it is necessary to be able to see and interpret warning signs. Such signs might include negative ethnic rhetoric, occupation, or perceived injustices by a group of people. Once those have been identified, diplomacy is the best tool to put to use, bringing all parties involved to the discussion table rather than the battlefield. If mediation is necessary, a third party should be introduced whose interests do not lie on either side of the conflict, but rather on achieving a justpeace. Community dialogues and community building programs should be employed to foster discussion and seek a win/win situation.
This leads into the final category, capacity building. Whereas the previous three categories have all been immediate strategies, this one is focused on the long term. The foundation of capacity building for justpeace is education. Begin educational programs on all levels from elementary to adult. A great example of this is found in the ethnic conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Several years ago at Azeri schools a food collection was taken for victims of an earthquake in Armenia. This type of program fosters understanding that “the other” is a person too, and moves towards healing and justpeace. Other means to accomplishing capacity building include fostering economic development, alternative criminal justice programs, and community and individual empowerment to affect positive change. Build the capacity for justpeace to be maintained; where once only violence existed, understanding and healing will then be evident.
As great of a nation as the United States is, I believe we should take a more proactive role in bringing justpeace to afflicted nations. A cartoon published during the Gulf War showed an aircraft carrier with the caption “90,000 tons of diplomacy”. In my opinion, this is the wrong answer. Violence only begets violence. Often the U.S. has been on the right track by instituting and presiding over ceasefires, but we have stopped there. By not addressing the causes of violence, the pleas of the afflicted, and the destroyed infrastructures, we have only committed halfway to a justpeace. Despite what the current and past administration have said, I believe the U.S. does need to be a nation building power. We have the ability, we have the means, but do we have the will? Justpeace is both the means and the end towards a better future for the entire global community. Let us use it and all can reap the rewards.