Peace is more than the absence of war. Modern (violent) conflicts have not only direct but also indirect and structural causes, such as poverty, hunger, political discrimination or social inequality. They are multi-layered and complex, with direct, e.g. political discrimination, human rights violations and distributive injustice, and indirect aspects such as consequences of climate change and environmental damage or competition for sales markets and global resources playing a role. The term “positive peace” takes these aspects into account and aims at a lasting peace in which not only direct violence is ended, but also indirect and structural forms of violence are eliminated preventively and sustainably.
Positive peace means not thinking about peace only when shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. The causes of conflicts must be taken into account. Conflicts usually only receive attention when they have become violent. Often, however, conflicts are already there long before they become openly violent. Often they are then reduced to being religious or ethnic conflicts or purely geopolitical or regional conflicts. Mostly, however, these conflicts begin as conflicts of distribution or liberation, which are then fought out along confessional or ethno-regional borders as well as at the international and regional level. Critical conflict analyses must therefore analyse the causes of conflicts and examine the various actors, national and international, conflict profiteers and conflict sufferers, and their interests.
The conflict analysis is followed by the question of conflict transformation, i.e. peace policy. Positive peace policy thus starts with the causes of conflicts, which must be eliminated preventively. A positive peace policy must therefore consider, analyse and criticise these causes of conflict, e.g. political discrimination, human rights violations, unjust socio-economic distribution, competition for sales markets and global resources, geopolitical interest politics or climate change. All these things fall under the concept of causes of conflict, which must be addressed preventively if peace is to be more than just the temporary absence of war.
Sari Harb and Munir Nuseibah
Eva Wuchold and Jan Leidecker