Professionalization in Peace Research

EDITORIAL, 7 Oct 2019

#607 | Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND Media Service

Keynote Speech, International Peace Research Association (IPRA) – 7 Jan 2006

On Professionalization in General

Generally, the sociology of professions identifies three characteristics of a profession:

  1. There is a range of Skills with which a range of professionals will handle a range of problems for a range of clients, with proven competence. The clients have an idea of what to expect from the professional, and the professional of what to expect from a client.
  2. There is a professional Code of Conduct, defining the relation of a professional to the clients, other professionals and others. The code of conduct may be supported by an oath.
  3. There is a pattern of Accountability of the professional to the clients, to other professionals, and to others. Professionalization of peace work moves us beyond peace research and studies, both indispensable for skills.

The purpose of peace research is to produce intersubjectively communicable and verifiable KNOWLEDGE according to the general rules of research.

Thus, research is incompatible with secrecy, as research has to take place in public space. And one purpose of peace studies is the communication of the findings of peace research, in line with general rules for education, another public space activity.

The free access of the rest of society to what happens is of the essence. As peace workers are not planning to hurt or harm, in other words to exercise violence, s/he has nothing to conceal.

In the following a person exercising the peace profession will be referred to as “peace worker”, like “social worker”, or “peace professional” like “health professional”.

Others may find “peace specialist” more dignified. “Manager” must be avoided as active participation of the clients, those seeking professional advice, is of the essence. “Facilitator” is much better.

Government realism versus peace movement idealism: tertium datur?

To understand better where peace research may be heading, let me juxtapose governments and one special non-government, the peace movement.

The governments of the state system of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia in a Eurocentric view of history were successors to feudal lords, kings, emperors. They entered violence-war-peace with Ultima Ratio Regis, the King’s last argument, the gun, with frequent use; to he who has a hammer the world looks like a waiting nail.

But that also holds for the negation of the government, the peace movement: to he who has a mouth the world looks like an attentive ear.

Realism as a doctrine is based on the “ultima” above, force–neither on persuasion from basic principles, nor bargaining offering incentives, nor decision-making by authoritative bodies. A derivative of this thesis would be that the final word belongs to whoever has superior force, the big sticks of the big powers. In the present world Anglo- America; a peace proposal unacceptable to them is not “realistic”. The supreme goal of the realist will be security, meaning low probability of being hurt/harmed by the violence of any Other. The underlying philosophy is that Evil exists, ready to turn violent for violence’s own sake, and that the only counter-measure is sufficient strength to deter and/or crush Evil; thereby producing security.

Idealism as a Doctrine is based on persuasion from basic principles, particularly principles held to be universally valid, even self-evident. Such principles tend to be of the ought to–rather than the is–variety, like the sacredness of (human) life, meaning (human) life should be considered sacred. But what if Other does not share that noble view? Or, “in a war there are only losers”.

But what if winning can be defined as losing least? An endless debate, with strong statements about human nature. Words, words, words.

Let us try to present the two positions along some dimensions, in no way claiming that the juxtaposition is complete, nor that there is not a solid range of variation. What we are looking for is, of course, a way of bridging the gap, even contradiction bolstered by solid hatred on both sides, and the use of violence, or nonviolence.


  1. For more on this and most of the topics mentioned in this paper see the author’s Transcend and Transform, London, Boulder CO: Pluto, Paradigm Press, 2004; published in many translations.
  2. See Johan Galtung: “Conflict Transformation by Peaceful Means” in Charles Webel and Johan Galtung, eds., Handbook of Peace and Conflict Studies, London: Routledge.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of TRANSCEND International and rector of TRANSCEND Peace University. He was awarded among others the 1987 Right Livelihood Award, known as the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize. Galtung has mediated in over 150 conflicts in more than 150 countries, and written more than 170 books on peace and related issues, 96 as the sole author. More than 40 have been translated to other languages, including 50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives published by TRANSCEND University Press. His book, Transcend and Transform, was translated to 25 languages. He has published more than 1700 articles and book chapters and over 500 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service. More information about Prof. Galtung and all of his publications can be found at

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4 Responses to “Professionalization in Peace Research”

  1. Poka Laenui says:

    As I read Professor Galtung’s article on Professionalization in Peace Research, I found his juxtaposition of government, state system of the Westphalia-Eurocentric model, the King’s last argument, the gun on the side of Realism while on the other end, persuasion toward universal principles such as the sacredness of life (human) we have Idealism.
    I wonder how we have progressed since the formation of the United Nations and moved from the side of realism toward idealism. I think the world has made great strides from the peace researcher viewpoint in the sweep of decolonization of much of the world such that the majority of the state members of the UN are the result of the decolonization process set up by the idealism of the United Nations. The ought principles of self-determination of the non-self governing territories, of the secured trust territories, the resolutions on decolonization, the establishment of the special committee on decolonization, are all part of that progress toward idealism. While there are still many territories which have not yet attained the goal of self-determination is more a statement of the entrenched position of those who had previously only acted on the realism side of the equation.
    Question- if a people must resort to the use of the gun in order to bring about their freedom – eg. Rhodesia to Zimbabwe, Cuba before Castro and after Castro, Nicaragua before Somoza and after, China before and after Mao, . . . how do we categorize them along the rail of peace studies and peace facilitators? Some argue that the pen is mightier than the sword! A client of mine asked me once, “But is it not the case that at times the gun is necessary to protect that pen and secure sustenance for the immediate needs?” Is there an answer for all times or does the times and circumstance determine the answer?
    As the United Nations pushed the agenda of decolonization around the world, another process has been taking place in its General Assembly, the work of human rights and fundamental freedoms, on a somewhat parallel track with the decolonization movement. We see the leap forward with the development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) which took up the fight not necessarily of states but of humans whether organized as states or not. So widely accepted was that declaration that many regards it as part of the body of customary international law. A decade later, second generation of human rights was developed (1966), the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and of Economic Social and Cultural Rights, adopted by the UN General assembly but receiving a slower acceptance by member states. Following in that line of rights development came other grand statements against genocide, racial discrimination, apartheid, discrimination against women, on religious belief, and torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In 1989, the rights of the child was stated in a convention which has since become the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history! These are sometimes considered the third generation of rights. Such a declaration of rights of the environment is still struggling for acceptance by that international body.
    We saw the fourth generation of rights — the rights of indigenous peoples, sometimes referred to the fourth world people (sometimes located in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd worlds) with its early roots in the work of the International Labor Organization and followed by the United Nations so that by 2007, the General Assembly adopted it.
    What progress peace mediators have made as we see the march of these generations of human rights develop! They were generally adopted not by the realism of superior force but more by the idealism of moral persuasion as to what ought to be. To all peace facilitators of the world and over all those decades, congratulations!
    And yet, with all the progress we seem to have made, there is still so much inhumanity around the world and in contradiction of so many of these principles. Children around the world continue to suffer and die by wars, famine, disease, etc. Indigenous peoples continue to lose lands and are run over by governments or capital. Women continue to be discriminated and rights disregarded.
    Have we been distracted by the field of human rights that we have not given enough attention to the field of human care? How do we move a people, a government, a society not only from the formality of rights and “enforcement” under the law, to move the struggle down to among people in the government and in the general society to actually care about the conditions, needs, and integrity of women, children, of all peoples and their nation?
    To reach that level of the people, we need to work in another field – that of culture! We need to reach deep within societies and address the deep cultures within such societies. We need to understand those cultures and begin the work of changing such cultures to be more caring, more aware, more inclusive, more “humane”.
    Professor Galtung has made excellent strides in his analysis of various major cultures of the world. His work is an excellent starting point and a wonderful framework for us to use. I wish he would elaborate again on this analysis and share with us what are the fault lines, what are the possible alternatives or solutions we could consider in bringing about to reality the principles spoken of in the various generations of human rights.
    Poka Laenui

    • Dear Poka, gratitude for your informative and insightful comment. I have a remark in relation to this passage of yours:

      “Question- if a people must resort to the use of the gun in order to bring about their freedom – eg. Rhodesia to Zimbabwe, Cuba before Castro and after Castro, Nicaragua before Somoza and after, China before and after Mao, . . . how do we categorize them along the rail of peace studies and peace facilitators? Some argue that the pen is mightier than the sword! A client of mine asked me once, “But is it not the case that at times the gun is necessary to protect that pen and secure sustenance for the immediate needs?” Is there an answer for all times or does the times and circumstance determine the answer?”

      This is a most debated theme throughout history. A view that comes to mind–among many others on both sides of the isle–is St. Augustine’s Just War:

      Augustine is the founder of Just War Theory in the Western tradition (The Islamic world has its own based on the Koran). A body of thought that seeks to provide guidelines for when it is justified for a country to wage war on another.

      The purpose of Augustine’s (and Aquinas’) doctrine or theory is to ensure war is morally justifiable through a series of criteria, split into two groups: “right to go to war” (jus ad bellum) and “right conduct in war” (jus in bello).

      1. The war must be for a just cause (i.e. defense of vulnerable, weak, children, women)
      2. The war must be lawfully declared by a lawful authority.
      3. The intention behind the war must be good.

      At stake: State’s right/duty to defend citizens; Right to kill (monopoly of violence by States); Defense of Justice; Morality of taking human life—sacredness of life.

      Much room for debates–happening for centuries on end. And no definitive, normative, value or principle-forming agreement or understanding among experts and public alike. I guess under Capitalism the ‘Interest’ factor takes precedence over other considerations. But same could be argued about Feudalism. Food for thought…

      I do not subscribe to the Just War theory, doctrine, philosophy. I believe a more appropriate answer to the conundrum is to be found not in Sociology but in Psychology: HUMAN EMOTION, primitive as it remains throughout the ages. Not intelligence, cognition, values-systems, principles, cultures–all adaptable to wars just of unjust. But an intangible: emotion.

      As Tom Clancy famously pointed out in his novel The Sum of All Fears: If you put all generals from both sides in one room, what you get? The sum of all their fears (paraphrased by me). Ditto!


      • My own (brief) take on the issues raised in this discussion pick up on different threads raised by each of you.

        The knowledge that I believe we need in far greater quantity in peace professionalization is to understand the critical role of feelings (emotions) in shaping deep culture and conflicts, including violent conflicts. See ‘Why Violence?’

        To understand and deal effectively with those emotions that are dysfunctional and/or projected in a particular context, we need what I call ‘nisteling’. See ‘Nisteling: The Art of Deep Listening’.

        Otherwise, that most fundamental of emotions – fear – will continue to drive most cultural predispositions and conflicts in all contexts and make genuine resolution of conflicts virtually impossible.

        If people are not afraid, then discussions about ideas in relation to making culture evolve as we want (rather than unconsciously) and to resolve conflict nonviolently, become easily possible.

        Doctrines such as realism therefore (and emotions such as hatred) have their foundation in fear. If we want people to perceive the potential for outcomes not limited by this realist perspective, then we need to give them time and space to feel their fear – see Putting Feelings First – and, preferably, to not acquire their fear in the first place as a result of the violent parenting they suffered. See ‘My Promise to Children’

        In essence, it takes courage to create peace culture and to deal with conflict, including violent conflict, nonviolently. So we need to raise children in a culture that does not involve terrorizing them (so that they end up perceiving violence as the way to address conflict because they are too scared to simply perceive the power of, and use, nonviolent options).


      • Poka Laenui says:

        Dear Antonio,

        Mahalo for your response and the explication of the “Just War” discussion.
        Your turn to Psychology – Human Emotions, not intelligence/cognition, values-systems, principles, cultures-all adaptable to wars just or unjust. The Clancy description is bothersome, because what you will have when you put all these generals from both sides in one room, is the sum of all their fears!

        All the generals and war planners are working from the same DIE book of Domination, Individualism and Exclusion no matter what side of the war they stand. We need to find a way to find new voices to enter the room, carrying new/old books of `Olu`olu (caring, sharing, respected for the integrity to one another), Lokakhi (seeing the sacredness in groups, in families, in an inclusive approach to people and nature, and Aloha (a commitment to human kindness, of love, of proper action.) OLA in most Polynesian languages mean life and health.

        That is an example of a world cultural shift which we should begin to make.

        a hui hou,