Positive Peace a Step Forward to Liberty

by Parwiz Mosamim

Peace has always been the number one priority of world nations. Every citizen of the world (can be exceptional) is thirsty for peace and sick of violent conflict. Today, the global citizens are trying to live in a world where there is freedom, liberty and mutual respect. However, the world witnessed two World Wars and other brutal conflicts in different parts of the planet, but the ending came to the word of PEACE. The word of “Peace” mostly has appeared as the absence of war and violence. However, peace has different concepts which include positive peace and negative peace. Peace seems to be an “umbrella concept”, a general expression of human desires. In this essay, I aim to define the concept of positive peace and its relationship with liberty. Finally, how much do we need to ensure positive peace in our societies to keep the dream of liberty alive?

Positive Peace Concept and Definition

In 1964 in the first issue of the Journal of Peace Research, Johan Galtung, regarded as one of the founding fathers of studies for peace, alluded to an alternative concept of peace that would mark rapture in the way of conceptualising and making peace. He called this perception of peace “positive” (in front of its minimum negative version associated with the absence of war) and suggested a more comprehensive itinerary of social construction that could provide a creative transformation of political, economic, cultural, religious conflicts as well as other forms of social renewal and proximity that come out of the variants of violent opposition. Galtung conceived a process of collective construction that sought balance and social justice, denying violent structures that were the basis of more visible violence that assumes, in its limited shape, the contours of war.

Galtung believes that Positive Peace represents an ambitious and forward looking conceptualisation of peace that moves beyond conflict and violence. It creates better economic and societal outcomes, as well as lessening the number of grievances and the levels of violence associated with them. In addition to the absence of violence, Positive Peace is also associated with many other societal characteristics that are considered desirable, including better economic outcomes, measures of well being, levels of gender equality and environmental performance. Institute for Economic and Peace defines Positive Peace as the “attitudes, institutions and structures which create and sustain peaceful societies.

The Pillars of Positive Peace 

The Institute for Economic and Peace has cleared 8 pillars for positive peace (see figure 1) based on the definition of it which identifies that Positive Peace describes the attitudes, institutions and structures that underpin peaceful societies. Each of the positive peace pillars has a direct connection on a welfare and well-connection society with well function of the government, economy, human capital, human rights, and low level of corruption, business, and freedom of expression and access to information as well as equality in the community. The pillars clearly show that a community can have positive peace which there is not any current violence and war at the moment. These pillars of positive peace in countries which are at war or possess violent extremism are a big challenge and will not have any favourable feedback. For example, if we see Afghanistan in the positive peace context, it is at the bottom of the list which clearly indicates a very unsavoury situation in trying to implement positive peace within that community. 

Figure1: The pillars of Positive Peace

Source: IEP (Institute for Economic and Peace)

Positive Peace has been empirically derived by IEP (Institute for Economic and Peace) via the statistical analysis of thousands of cross-country measures of economic and social progress to determine what factors have a statistically significant association with the absence of violence. It is measured by the Positive Peace Index (PPI) which consists of 24 qualitative and quantitative indicators that capture the eight factors of Positive Peace. Covering 163 countries or 99.5% of the world’s population the PPI provides a baseline measure of the effectiveness of a country’s capabilities to build and maintain peace. It also represents a tangible metric for policymakers, researchers and corporations to use for effective monitoring and evaluation purposes.

According to the positive peace index 2019, Iceland, New Zealand, Portugal, Austria and Denmark are recognised as the top countries where the pillars of positive peace are implemented more than other countries. Whilst, Afghanistan, Syria, South Sudan and Iraq came at the bottom of the list. Afghanistan due to the current conflict, bad economic situation and unacceptable human rights record is recognised as the poorest country where the positive peace pillars are not implemented well. If we have a look at the PPI list, we can see visibly the pure definition of positive peace. In this case, the positions of the countries in the positive peace index are measured based on the 8 pillars of positive peace by IEP (see figure 1).

The differences of Positive Peace & Negative Peace and how the nations can be transformed from Negative peace to positive

Johan Galtung argues that Negative peace refers to the absence of war, fear, direct violence and conflict at individual, national, regional and international levels. It requires institutional reforms to prevent acts of direct physical violence committed by individuals or groups. During the period of negative peace, there is no emphasis on dealing with the causes of violence or conflict. Rather, it is limited to addressing the manifestation of factors that led and lead to violence. One of the good examples for negative peace can be a ceasefire situation. For instance, on Eid days of Ramadan, the Taliban agreed to ensure a three-day ceasefire with the Afghanistan government. According to Galtung’s definition, we can call this situation negative peace where the violence has ended for a short time, but could start again. 

On the contrary, Galtung says that Positive peace refers to the absence of indirect and structural violence, the absence of unjust structures and unequal relationships. Positive peace is filled with positive contents such as the restoration of relationships, the constructive resolution of conflict and the creation of social systems that serve the needs of the whole population. Positive peace encompasses all aspects of a good society that one might envisage for oneself: universal rights, economic well‐being, ecological balance and other core values. It describes a situation where justice and fairness reign, it seeks to promote and improve the quality of life. The countries recognized as the top ones in positive peace index have implemented the pillars of positive peace in their societies.

Now let’s discuss how nations can be transformed from negative peace to positive peace? Since we know the definitions of both concepts, it looks easier to differ them. In my point of view, every transformation between these two concepts can be identified by direct violence and indirect violence.  Also, the functions of the liberal countries which aim to ensure a better life for their citizens. The countries which are at war, they first need to ensure a ceasefire and come to a peace negotiation so the process of negative peace starts. After that, the country can work on the positive peace pillars to transform itself from the bottom of the PPI list to the top. In countries where there is no war, it is required to implement the pillars of positive peace correctly and take care of the citizens’ rights, so it is possible to be transformed very soon. 

Conflict prevention and Positive Peace are two sides of the same coin. Countries with high Positive Peace are more likely to maintain their stability and adapt and recover from both internal and external shocks. Low Positive Peace systems are more likely to generate internal shocks, with 84 percent of major political shocks occurring in these countries. Similarly, there are 13 times more lives lost from natural disasters in nations with low Positive Peace as opposed to those with high Positive Peace, a disproportionately high number when compared to the distribution of incidents. In the 2019 Global Peace Index Iceland stands in first position (ranked 1st) and Afghanistan has ranked 163rd out of 163 nations. It shows that the nations that are burning on the fire of conflict and war do not have a good situation of positive peace. However, Afghanistan has experienced around two decades of a democracy after the fall of Taliban in 2001, but it is seen that still the country could not be successful in implementing liberty of the citizens as it was expected. I do believe that liberty and positive have close relations since the pillars of positive peace clarify it very well.  Liberty is a necessity in countries where there is welfare. Liberty matters where there is access to information. Liberty comes to minds where there is freedom of speech. 

Relationship of Positive Peace & Liberty 

Liberty is the freedom to live your life in the way that you want, without interference from other people or the authorities. Clearly, there are some common things between liberty and the concept of positive peace both as they emphasise happier and freer societies. Additionally, the concept of positive peace somehow completes the definition of liberty in the countries which chase the path of democracy. The lovers of liberty thus should support the concept of positive peace. 

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