TMS INTERVIEWS JOHAN GALTUNG
EDITORIAL, 27 January 2009
by TMS Editor
The following is an interview with Prof. Johan Galtung, founder of TRANSCEND, about his recent visits to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the UK Department for International Development, in London. TMS also asked him about his talk at the All Parties Peace Committee in the UK House of Commons and the European Parliament in Brussels.
TMS: Professor Galtung, last week you were invited as a consultant to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for International Development (DFID), in London. What was your impression?
JG: In both cases the meeting was with their excellent people working on conflicts in general, and on some particular conflicts like Kosovo. I felt we had a lot in common and deep, fine dialogues
TMS: How does the FCO’s approach of conflict resolution differ from yours?
JG: In basic outlook. To me the key to violence prevention is to solve conflict, and the key to solving conflict is to recognize the validity in some of the truths of all the parties. Equality, equity. They did not disagree but gave me the impression that the problem might be with and at the more political level. A Minister of Foreign Affairs may be more interested in showing strength, even winning, than in searching for some way of accommodating all parties. And if he is not, for sure the opposition might make such points!
TMS: And the DFID?
JG: Much of the same, the basic outlook. You know, the classical approach to technical assistance was a flow of modern technology, with experts, from a more developed country to a less developed country, meaning governments in both cases, and then down to the villages for implementation. Of course it did not work; that kind of technology is not appropriate for a village – but the government in the less developed country wants nothing less and the sender has only modernity to offer. NGOs may be good for catastrophe relief work, but they are usually too monochromatic, one profession only, or one approach only.
So I suggested that DFID could bring together villages, local authorities, from various parts of the Third World to exchange experiences and learn from each other. Local authorities are the major part of civil society, and they are not monochromatic but have a lot of professions and approaches.
TMS: How did they react?
JG: Just the same – this is so different from the political perspective at the top: “We are superior, development comes from us”. Village to village would make DFID a medium more than an actor. Again, the Minister would most likely stand for the old approach, and if he does not, for sure his opposition will.
TMS: You also gave a talk in the Grand Committee Room of the House of Commons for the All Parties Peace Committee?
JG: Exactly, about solutions to current conflicts. Now the 100-150 participants, MPs, civil servants, NGO people, etc. had no difficulty with conflict resolution as the approach to overcoming violence rather than winning a war. But again, the difference in basic outlook between people like those in the room, and the people "out there".
TMS: Then you went to Brussels as expert in the European Parliament? What was that about?
JG: The right for professional soldiers to refuse orders – you can read my submission as this week’s TMS editorial. I ended by asking, why is the burden of proof on those who refuse to kill and to be killed, isn’t it rather the would-be killers who would have to prove the validity of their approach? Well, general thinking hasn’t come to that point. Yet.
TMS: And your general conclusion?
JG: That so much of what we are doing is actually at a level deeper than concrete solutions and suggestions. It has to do with the basic outlook, or inlooks if you will, how is the world actually running. Maybe that is where the real struggle is. Maybe we should devote more energy to more philosophical, basic problems — in addition to proposing solutions and having suggestions. Sort of starting by saying, you can look at this problem this way, but also a different way — to make people more aware of their assumptions. More attention to basics, in other words. And people like that approach even if or because they become very emotional.
TMS: Thank you very much for speaking with us.
JG: It was my pleasure.
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