What is Peace?

A Third World Perspective

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who are hungry and not fed, who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone; it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists and the hopes of its children.”
                                                                     -President Eisenhower

This holds true when we talk of third world countries where peace holds a different meaning altogether from most other perspective. Realists argue that if one is not a peace with oneself he strives for both physical as well as ideational power. Liberals define peace largely as harmony in international relations. Harmony assumes that conflict should not only be tranquilized but also banished. System theorists define peace as equal to order accepting a minimum level of friction. Constructivists accord that peace is not harmony or order but justice having a universal appeal.

Third world perspective talks more of what Raimo Vayrenen would call “integrated peace” It would emphasize more on developing the composite culture of the countries especially in South Asia. A culture that keeps people together and which assigns a higher pedestal to accommodation than to coercion.

Peace in third world perspective would generally mean absence of interstate conflict. But it also means absence of intrastate conflict in the form of genocide, riots, pogroms, foeticide and other forms of violence as happened in Rwanda, Darfur, Somalia, and Gujarat due to economic despair, social injustice and political oppression. But peace is no longer absence of war/conflict only as even the preparation of war dismantles the whole peace process as is happening in most cases. Peace would connote recognition of autonomy and sovereignty of the new states for example East Timor. Peace would mean evolving mutually agreed norms, trying to codify them and legitimize them and making constant efforts at war prevention without discrimination and biases. It would also mean evolving a culture of mutual and equal security so as to combat other internal issues of structural violence to use Utne Brock’s terminology.

Peace comprises of checking the ‘first’ and ‘second'(if we can still use the term) world forces to assert themselves in different combinations of coercion and intrusion which includes humanitarian intervention, use of article 2(4) of the UN Charter etc. that has been used only in the third world countries.

But these highlight the negative dimension of peace. A more positive picture of peace in the third world perspective will include raising the human rights standards, having a democracy and proper rule of law with free and fair elections and freedom from poverty, hunger, refugee problem, illiteracy and so on. In short movement towards a sustainable development. So the quest for peace in the third world would require a comprehensive, concerted and determined approach that addresses the root causes of conflicts, including their social, economic and cultural dimensions.

But we cannot altogether ignore the international aspect as both the national and the international are interlinked. Boutros Boutros-Ghali observed “Respect for fundamental sovereignty and integrity are crucial to any international process. It is the task to find a balance between the needs of good internal governance and the requirements of an interdependent world.”

This is the endeavor that is to be undertaken by the Third World.

 – Siddharth Tripathi

Siddharth  is a Core Group Member of Beyond Borders India ( Delhi Core Group) and currently reading for a MA in international relations at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.


Posted on 08/24/2007, in India, Opinions, Peace-Conflict-Governance. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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