Understanding Conflict with Prof. Johan Galtung


Asian Study Center for Peace & Conflict Transformation – TRANSCEND Media Service

Prof. Johan Galtung visited Nepal in February 2013. The main purpose of his visit was to bring to attention not only on problems but also on solutions and stimulate capacity of people, the human capacity to TRANSCEND conflict and find new concrete and positive realities.

The Media gave a priority to Dr. Galtung’s findings and these ideas were disseminated at broader public level. The reply by public has been really intense.

The people who benefitted most from his visit were general public, media and second tier of political leaders. The need of spreading his findings and studies about conflict and peace has been felt quite high among the general populace.

Furthermore, his visit stimulates understanding and interest regarding peace, with specific focus on Nepal but also with an international eye. Due to this interest the organizers prepared some papers regarding his lectures and make them available to the public through website, in order to make higher use of Dr. Galtung’s visit. Here we have the first outcome:


Understanding the conflict–with Prof. Johan Galtung

Peace and Inequalities

The major conflict in Nepal is between the centre and the rest of the country. Everything is centralized in Kathmandu. Politics does not reach people; it is a vertical and centric game. In this view, Nepal has failed politically.

Politics is like the engine of a car whereas the car is people. In Nepal, engine and car are decoupled. The result is no movement of the car. Political parties play games at the top; the indulgence in political games is such that Nepal is run by a so called partyocracy. The appointment of the Chief of Justice as Prime Minister will only turn partyocracy into a technocracy. This is the trend in different countries all around the world: Partyocracy- Technocracy-Autocracy-Bankocracy [TRANSCEND Media Service-TMS].

The system is not for people, not by the people; popular election does not serve the people. While multiparty elections do occur, it is organized from the centre. The election for local bodies has not taken place in thirteen years. Consequently, people away from the centre are at the suffering end.

Most miserable communities in Nepal are accused of being ethnical oriented. The Madhesis have been excluded, targeted for their shared identity with India. The centralized elite’ is manipulating the system.

Statement of Problem

Nepal is composed of 80% Hindus, whose characteristic feature is hierarchical caste system, 9% Buddhists who are less caste-oriented and people of more than 100 ethnic groups. These diverse groups have different living conditions in terms of social organization, access to resources and satisfaction of basic needs. These directly affect several aspects of their lives, one major indicator of this impact is health –how long (mortality) and how healthy (morbidity).

From peace studies point of view, inequalities are the target more than the framework of democracy theory, which otherwise remains empty of content.

Initiatives to improve the conditions should be prioritized and directly linked to reducing inequality. For example, can the financial expenses of $ 600 million to build the new international airport [government is planning to build one in Bara district; or for matter of discussion here, in any other district] be justified in relation to the extent of inequality?

What approach can the politicians take to tackle this problem? The use of distribution and retributive/restorative justice could be helpful. From 1999 – 2004, China’s distribution lifted millions of people (life expectancy + health) (WB). Nepal should take this example from China.

In the same way, the power of Indiaocracy has been underestimated. For example, given the spillover effect it can have, India is not willing that something will happen which they might not be willing to do in their own county, like initiatives in favor of Dalits or other disadvantaged groups in Nepal.

Constitution and Federalism

The Constitution of 1990 gave space for media, multiparty democracy. However, it did not specifically made provisions to address to lift the bottom up.

The desire to have provinces based on identity comes from the inherent desire in people to be ruled by one’s own people. There are 25 federations in the world, among which only 4 are identity based – India (based on linguistic identity), Malaysia, Switzerland and Denmark. In determining the nature of federation that Nepal could adopt, people should be given the right to self-determination through referendum.

In terms of a federal model for Nepal, a Swiss example could be useful which uses participative democracy with respect for diversity. For Nepal, fear is main problem, just as whites fear blacks in Virginia. Just like in Syria, the situation is such that minority dictatorship is afraid of majority dictatorship (Sunni, Shia).

One solution could be adopting two chambers of parliament: i) territorial ii) national.

Peace and health connection

The status of health offers the best opportunity to summarize/understand inequality. When there is direct access to health at local level indicates equality. Mortality and morbidity are significantly higher in the rural areas – life expectancy in rural areas is 10 years less than in Kathmandu (structural violence).

Health = Balance * Harmony

Chronic * Acute

Harmony = WHO defines health as a state of physical, mental, social well being Chronic Disease = reconcile your body to it

Acute diseases are related to pathogens.

Malign tumor can be used as a metaphor of exploitation in society (one grows other becomes thinner/diminishes).

Oxygen = cardiovascular system = essential in body

Information has to be transparent so that media have a role of controller, making visible each other, capital, state and people.

Solutions to health inequality

Every year thousands of doctors are produced in Nepal. But fully trained doctors choose to go abroad or stay in Kathmandu or other central areas. Creating mandatory provisions for the doctors to serve in the countryside could be one good strategy to help tackle this problem.

Another option could be a creating a dense network of polyclinic using generic medicine. Even though they are not fully skilled people, they know enough to act in complementary with big hospitals.

Addressing the health issue needs a multi-approach and multi-discipline. Financial security and capability is directly related to access to health, so enhancing the financial capability of rural community is imperative. Each village can save in a local bank and invest in local community thus creating a cycle of financial exchanges in the community. Now the loop goes from Kathmandu to abroad.

Self-employment could be a better choice. A better option is cooperative because it is employer, employee and consumer at the same time. It creates opportunities of self-employment by giving credit to individuals or group of individuals.

Another strategy could be implementing local health plan for each student. Networks could be built between local and central medical centers. It could be done with local resource. For instance, electricity could be produced through solar panels and doctors in Kathmandu or other parts could be consulted via internet.

Consequences for civil society (media/ long term):

2 million Nepalis are living abroad. From economic point of view, Nepal has failed. It is the western companies like Western Union, a US company, that acts as medium to transfer remittance to Nepal, and therefore are paid service charges that do not reach Nepal. At the same time, another consequence of emigration is that families are splitting, divided.

Inequality has worsened. Most unequal countries are in South Asia. If you want violence, increase inequality, from bottom or above (because afraid from bottom) in name of law and order.

Neocolonism is the control ideology of nation, too much admiration.

Development alternative- use own resources

In terms of economic growth, East is increasing while West is decreasing. The EU has faced financial crises and bankruptcy. The British and US imperialism is in decline. USA is facing economic stagnation has been demoralized internally. Israel, Japan, Australia, Canada are the only countries ready to kill for USA. In fact US is using drone, a new form of geo fascism.

Tibet- Dalai Lama on paying book of CIA (it was proclaimed by ex- American government official as controversial) Anglo American, India and China (in a softer way) are interfering in Nepal. In this context, for Nepal, China could be a solution. It lifted millions of people. Limit how much China can exploit (resources). China has limited resources (natural). That is why they are moving to Africa for that. It does not involve in military intervention (probably), they do not take shoes of USA.

USA provided training equipment to local people to train them as army in Afghanistan. They gave weapons to rebels and trained them to fight on behalf of US.

USA – as positive people and positive local initiatives- can be an interlocutor without forgetting the negative things. One weak point of US is to capitulate to finance capitalism. Very greedy. Chinese has/ does better than USA. Threat to USA dollars (reserve currency) = reason for military intervention. Cheap labour better thinking – comparative advantage. BRICS countries = trade among themselves with their own currency

USA took step from Spanish Empire (East Asia and Caribbean). Feudalism and imperialism bring resources to the centre, colonizing the rest. An example is tax collection, through which you could rule the place since you had political mandate in British imperialism.


ASPECT is an academic and policy-oriented non-government, non-partisan and non-profit autonomous institution registered with the Government of Nepal. ASPECT commits itself in the field of peace building and conflict transformation through knowledge production, management and dissemination. It has been established with the vision of building a peaceful, democratic society in order to fully realize and respect peace, justice and human rights.

Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgment and link to the source, TRANSCEND Media Service-TMS, is included. Thank you.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 29 Jul 2013.

Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: Understanding Conflict with Prof. Johan Galtung, is included. Thank you.

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