What Peace Research Would Be Like If Founded Today

EDITORIAL, 8 June 2009

#65 | Johan Galtung

On the occasion of the Peace Research Institute, Oslo-PRIO 50 Years – Oslo City Hall, 5 June 2009

Lord Mayor, friends: Incredible all that happened only 50 years ago!  Like PRIO, the institute we are celebrating today, In the English name there are four letters.  There was some thinking behind all of them, not only the hint at priority.  Let me start there.

The “O” stands for Oslo.  There is more than an address in the message.  The absence of Norway-Norwegian was intended.  It was a no to seeing the system of 200 states and 2,000 nations as the only arena for war and peace. The 2 million or so municipal systems, without armies, looked more promising.  But there was also a private reason: my beloved father was deputy mayor of Oslo in the 1920s, for Höire with i, at times functioning as mayor.  And the seed funds came from private sources, Sigurd Rinde, not from a state government whose Arbeiderparti education official said “peace–what a horrible word”.  Thanks, Oslo!

The “I” stands for Institute.  Our ambition went beyond a section of the pioneer Institute for Social Research where we were gestating and kindly nurtured by Erik Rinde; the spiritual father figures being Anders Bratholm, Torstein Eckhoff and Arne Næss from Norway, and above all Otto Klineberg, from the world.

The “R” stands for Research.   Basically social science research, but naively unaware of how they were shaped by the Westphalia nation-state system and by a Western history episode known as “Enlightenment”, now fading out with globalization.

And the “P” stands for Peace, with health studies as model. We came up against Western peace, that hobbesian structural violence pyramid with the West on top, and Rule of Law binding on the bottom but not on the top, with military intervention to handle the unruly, with security paranoia, pax romana etc. up to pax americana.  Only that we called it imperialism, not peace.

Our idea was research with peace policy implications, not just fundable research projects, RIO.  The idea was empirically and theoretically good peace proposals, not just “security”.  And cooperation East-West, not just studying East as a problem.  The reception in Norwegian media and politics was hostile– except for some very interesting inner circles–and included secret police surveillance.  As expected in a US client country.

So, what would I have done today, 50 years later?

Well, I would not have started in Oslo, in Norway, or in any other country that–like Faust–has sold its soul, its worldview, to a superpower bent on running the world as an empire.  That empire is now falling, hopefully with Obama whimpers rather than Obama producing more Bush bangs.  But it will take time to recover a soul from the ashes of those failed policies.

So, rather than fighting Norwegian windmills like a Don Quijote de la Noruega, with a wonderful Dulcinea, a handful of fine Sancho Panzas, and a motorbike as Rosinante, should I have worked it out at the center of the US Empire?  I got tenure at a leading university in 1960, but said “thank you, but no thank you, my task is peace research, and in my little home country”.

Or, should I have gone to some neutral-nonaligned country; to India with what was left of Gandhi, to the buddhism of sukha-dukkha, or to the China of daoism, Mo Tzu, the books 1421, 1434?

    No.  The alternative to one country is not some other country but all of the above, by going transnational.  The alternative to an institute is a network.  The alternative to governmental and private funding with strings attached, is to earn one’s way, not by selling mediation-conciliation that should be free for those seeing no in or out, but funding the network through training, education, information, books.

As to research
: to search, again and again, re-re, adding to Western empiricist research critical and constructive peace insights from all corners of the world.  And letting theory and practice grow hand in hand, not stopping at diagnosis-prognosis in the name of Weberian value neutrality, leaving practice to foreign office amateurs who jump from one disastrous failure to the next, like from Middle East to Sri Lanka to whatever. Peace faculties, like for health, and six years training, might help.

As to peace: an admirable peace created inside EU does not imply that the world is theirs.  But panch shila economics for mutual and equal benefit; creative conflict transformation, not aggression; negotiation-dialogue, not dictation; civilization dialogue for equity-diversity-symbiosis help. Peace is possible.

I have just described TRANSCEND: A Peace, Development and Environment Network; also to be judged on merits and demerits.  The program includes positive peace, how come that humanity by and large hangs together.  And SABONA, from Zulu I see you, peace in family, school and at work and how it can be taught at school, with major experiences from two Norwegian schools.  And Generals for Peace.  And conflict sensitive development, running the Millennium Development Goals so that not all is lost in violent conflict.  And Weltinnenpolitik, from national interest foreign policy to world interest domestic policy.  And economic alternatives to the hypercapitalism that failed, &c.  Hard work.

For me it started in 1951 as a calling to do fredsforskning på norsk, i Norge.  I am most grateful for the PRIO phase from January 1959 when we got the first grant, and for the world’s first Chair at the University of Oslo till I left in 1977, tired of police surveillance. 18 years. 16 years around the world, and from 1993, 16 TRANSCEND years.  A wonderful life, in gratitude.

PRIO was a fine start.  Since then PRIO and I have traveled different roads, also diverging, as it should be.  No founding father or family has a right to tie children and grand-children.  Smart people those who invested some money 50 years ago: they got two, PRIO and TRANSCEND, for the price of one!

I wish PRIO a future with more P for Peace, looking forward to the 60th anniversary.  And bid farewell, not in the language of the Empire:

Danke und Auf wiedersehen, liebe Freund-Innen;
au revoir et mille mercis, amies et amis;
arrivivederci e tante buone cose, amiche ed amici;
hasta pronto, amigas y amigos;
bolshoi spasiba, druzhba, dazvidanje;
obrigado e até logo, amigas e amigos;
domo arigato, sayonara;
xie xie, zaijian;
tusen takk alle sammen, og på snarlig gjensyn!

 

 

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 8 June 2009.

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