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What is peace?

What is peace?

Peace, in the sense of the absence of war, is of little value to someone who is dying of hunger or cold. It will not remove the pain of torture inflicted on a prisoner of conscience. It does not comfort those who have lost their loved ones in floods caused by senseless deforestation in a neighbouring country. Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free. True peace with oneself and with the world around us can only be achieved through the development of mental peace. The other phenomena mentioned above are similarly interrelated. Thus, for example, we see that a clean environment, wealth or democracy mean little in the face of war, especially nuclear war, and that material development is not sufficient to ensure human happiness.
Dalai Lama, Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1989.

In setting up this blog, we take a very broad view of peace. Peace is more than no-war. In political terms, peace is positively identified by well-being, happiness, security, justice and freedom. Prominent peace activists have included religious and spiritual teachers, lawyers and human rights activists, international bureaucrats or global statespersons. Each one contributes to this composite picture of what peace is and should be.

Religious and spiritual teachers speak about interdependence (interbeing in the Buddhist tradition), forgiveness and reconciliation, and peace work begins with personal and community transformation for them. For lawyers and human rights activists, peace work centres around impunity, reparation and justice. Peace obtains with human rights, freedom and justice. The UN community in particular has contributed to the development of central concepts like human development and human security, both of which delineate the connection between well-being, social justice (including gender justice) and peace.

Human security focuses on the protection of individuals, rather than defending the physical and political integrity of states from external military threats – the traditional goal of national security.

Ideally, national security and human security should be mutually reinforcing, but in the last 100 years far more people have died as a direct or indirect consequence of the actions of their own governments or rebel forces in civil wars than have been killed by invading foreign armies. Acting in the name of national security, governments can pose profound threats to human security.

From the Human Security Gateway

Some resources on peace and conflict:

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