Johan Galtung’s Conflict Transformation Theory for a Peaceful World
FEATURED RESEARCH PAPER, 5 Oct 2020
Top and Ceiling of Traditional Peacemaking
The principal founder of the peace and conflict studies Johan Galtung was born in Oslo on October 24, 1930 at a medical doctors’ family. Someone congratulated his parents saying, “Today a new doctor is born!” Johan indeed became a new kind of doctor, but not limiting himself to individual patients alone. He invented diagnosis, prognosis, and therapy for pathological societies as a whole. While Johan’s father was taken into a Nazi’s concentration camp, that incident became a turning point and determination towards the works for a peaceful world. Johan’s quest for peace research was further strengthened while he asked librarian of Central Library in Sweden for books about peace research, but they had none. Thus, he decided to work on such a missing discipline ‘research for peace’ and devoted his entire life for peace and freedom.
Some of the major ideas put forwarded by world’s eminent peace philosopher Johan Galtung are: Direct, Structural and Cultural Violence; Conflict Transformation by Peaceful Means (Transcend Method), Transcend Method in Conflict Mediation Across Levels, Mahatma Gandhi as the Master of Masters, Peace Journalism, and from a 20th Century of War to a 21st Century of Peace. Democracy for Peace and Development, Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution, the Six and Fifteen Contradictions of USSR and USA respectively, and Reconciliation are some of the other key parts of Galtung’s findings. Galtung frequently refers the negative vs. positive peace and peace-conflict lifecycle and their structural, institutional, individual, procedural, and political levels of relations.
This paper is particularly drawn from the findings of Dietrich Fischer (a long standing and devoted friend and colleague of Johan Galtung) edited book on Johan Galtung: Pioneer for Peace Research in 2013. The paper highlights how the contributions of Johan Galtung has been able to change the institutional and individual attitudes, conviction systems, psychological understandings, and lifestyle of behaviors through applying transcend technique of conflict transformation. Being an honest learner of Galtungian peace theory, author tried to analyze it through different aspects of freedom: of associations, from want and fear, for experiment, to inherit peace, from violence, from contradiction, of criticism, and of mediation (Also see Galtung: September 1967). These aspects of freedom cover the peaceful world in a whole in author’s understanding and Galtung’s meaning.
Freedom of Association
Galtung founded the TRANSCEND non-profit and apolitical network for Peace, Development and the Environment in 1993 and world’s first online TRANSCEND Peace University (TPU) in 2000. TRANSCEND has now over 500 members in more than 70 countries around the world. TRANSCEND has already established Media Service, University Press, Peace Service, and Research Institute. The TRANSCEND has 14 regions with 26 conveners. The region includes Latin America, North America, Euro Latina, Europe Deutsch, Europe Nordic, Eastern Europe, CIS-Commonwealth Independent States including Russia, Africa, Arab World, Middle East, Southeast Asia, East Asia, Pacific Oceania and the South Asia. The Peace and Conflict Studies Center (PCS Center), Kathmandu Nepal or author himself is one of the conveners in South Asia. TRANSCEND denotes going beyond or overcoming conflicts or contradictions through mediation, education, journalism, (action) research, and publication.
Galtung has been received more than one dozen honorary doctorates and an alternative Nobel Prize: Right Livelihood Award in 1987 including many other peace awards because of his tireless and dedicated efforts. The Galtung Institute (GI) is established in Grenzach, Germany, bordering on Basel, Switzerland in 2011 for further materialize peace theory and its practice. Galtung truly advocates freedom of association as a tool of a person’s own choosing to join or leave in group for the collective action to fulfill both individual right and collection rights on the course of attain, maintain, study and restore peace.
Freedom from Want and Fear
In early 1969, while Galtung was working at the Center for Gandhian Studies in Varanasi, India, he observed homeless people sleeping in the street, children suffering from hunger, and sick waiting to die. The deficiency of basic needs as basic rights and fundamental freedom from fear struck their mind no less than violent crime or war. The situation was a slow death from hunger and preventable and curable diseases. It happened in the lack of freedom and liberal democracy to assist people’s lives. If per capita income or state resources had been equally distributed among the people across all states in India, 14 millions lives could have been saved during famine in 1965. Galtung observed that a total of 140,000 died in international and civil wars during the same year. In this case, his understanding was that synonym of structural violence is famine and hunger which is at least one hundred times greater than direct violence. However, little humanitarian assistance from killings economy (cost) could save those children and people from hunger, and other preventable or curable diseases.
Galtung on the freedom from want said “neither in the life of the individuals nor in the life of the nations should major, primary needs remain unsatisfied or unsatisfiable. Thus, we mainly refer to such needs as hunger, thirst, shelter, sex, basic security”. On Freedom from Fear, Galtung states, “a state of affairs such that individuals, and nations, predict with relatively high probability a major negative event in the future, an event with relatively high negative utility, and this expectation dominates their life and existence – whether they live in the shadow of floods, earth-quakes, hunger, war (internal or external) or other calamities” (Galtung: September 1967: 15).
Freedom from want ensures human security eradicating hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender justice and equality, empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, and other preventable and curable diseases (Pathak: September 2013: 170). Freedom from want leads second generation of human rights of economic, social and cultural rights unlike civil and political rights stated in the freedom from fear which is also known as first generation of human rights. Both are fundamental human rights instruments which are developed obligatory human rights mechanism in terms of compliance by the State. The compliance of human rights promotes and maintains international peace and security in this universe.
Freedom for Experiment
Peace experimentalist Galtung has contributed innovative research and insights to many areas of intellectual inquiry publishing 165 books and over 1600 book chapters and articles in scholarly and popular journals during 1953 to 2014. The books and papers cover direct, structural and cultural violence; theories of conflict, peace, development, and civilization; peaceful conflict transformation; mediation; peace education; reconciliation; development strategies; international relations; deep culture and deep structure; non-offensive defense; federalism; globalization; human rights; peace and religions; social science methodology; a life-sustaining economy; macro-history and negative and positive peace. Forty of his books have been translated into 34 languages, for a total of 134 book translations. He has been so far the most quoted author in the field of peace studies. His recent publication The Fall of the US Empire and Then What? (US empire will decline and fall by 2020) has created a huge public and intellectual debates internationally, particularly in USA and its satellite ruling countries and territories.
While Galtung was sent to jail for six months as a conscientious objector, he first wrote a book on Gandhi’s Political Ethics in 1955 under the mentorship of Arne Naess, a deep ecologist. He considers Mahatma Gandhi as master of masters for peace and freedom. Galtung experimented several trademark concepts such as attitude, behavior, and contradiction (ABC) triangle; the classification of peace strategies into peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding; and direct, structural and cultural violence which have been widely used as academic course in International Relations, Peace Studies, and Development Studies, and have become official UN language. Several hundred thousand students have already benefited from the short-term and long-term peace studies throughout the world in which over 500 peace programs are running at colleges and universities in the United States of America alone.
Galtung’s peace experiment is an innovative and scientific act or procedure that demonstrates the known truth that social cohesion and harmony are maintained by law and order. Galtung examines the validity of this hypothesis to avoid organized violence through collective cooperation and integration between human beings. Now, the peace experiment is variably succeeded to apply in all family, community, institutional and national levels across the world.
Freedom to Inherit Peace
The peace treaty held between Peru and Ecuador at Rio de Janeiro in 1942 over the border of Andes Mountains. The border should run along the watershed in the upper Amazon basin, but watershed changed the original course because of rainfall and glacier shifted. Ecuador and Peru have fought three wars over 500 square km territory during 1942 to 1998. At a Peace Conference in Guatemala in 1995, Johan Galtung was invited to meet with Ecuador’s chief negotiator (with Peru), a former President. Galtung patiently listened to him where negotiator claims each square meter of territory must belong to one and only one country. Galtung asked what he thought of the idea of making the disputed border territory into a jointly administered ‘bi-national zone with a natural park’ that attracts tourists to bring additional income to both countries. Former President agreed and said that in 30 years of negotiations, he had never heard such a good proposal. He proposed it to Peru at the next round of negotiations, and Peru surprisingly accepted it with some minor modifications. Both finally signed the Peace treaty in Brasilia on October 27th 1998. This zone has since been implemented as free trade zone where countries can exchange goods duty-free. That initiative was completed at cost only US $125 that was including a ticket from Bogota and $100 for one night at the hotel and a dinner. Fischer writes, “By comparison, the 1991 Gulf War to expel Iraq from Kuwait cost $100 billion, not counting the destruction it caused. The best of all, if peaceful conflict transformation begins before violence it can save many lives” (2013: 14-15).
This is just an example of how cheap the peace agreement is. If world’s authorities are ready to inherit peace across the continent, they should feel comfortable to stop manufacturing, supplying, trading, and selling arms and ammunition. Galtung’s freedom to inherit peace strives for individual and institutional efficacy on the course to implement rights, duties and obligations for the benefit of human societies. According to him, there are no definite rules of implementation of the peace inheritance between societies, but they can be changed peacefully in accordance with the needs of people.
Freedom from Structural Violence
Galtung says that violence tramples the basic human needs, rights, and fundamental freedoms (Galtung: September 2007). Structural violence causes direct violence and direct violence reinforces structural violence which are interdependent of one another (Galtung: undated: them.polylog.org/5/fgj-en.htm). The Galtung Institute states that structural violence is physical, emotional, verbal, institutional or spiritual behavior. Galtung stresses that structural violence is a cause of premature death and avoidable disability that effects people in various social structures closely linking with social injustice. There is a relation between direct, structural and cultural violence as a violence triangle (Galtung: August 1990).
Human rights violations lead the extrajudicial and arbitrary execution; custodial death; torture including rape and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment; arbitrary arrest and detention; enforced and involuntary disappearance and kidnapping; reduction to slavery etc. The violence terminology includes discrimination, intolerance, exploitation, oppression, suppression, and extortion with violence (Pathak: 2005: 27). Galtung connects structural violence with the political domination of one social group over others: elitism, ethnocentrism, racism, and also with class, gender, or age-related suppression and etc., where a regime restricts individuals from realizing their full potential. Besides, the violence refers to latent or manifest, intended or unintended, physical or psychological suppressions of humans’ feelings. There has been a cross-cutting and interdependent relation between structural and direct violence that includes family to racial violence, crime, terrorism, genocide, and war.
Galtung mentions that the cultural violence assembles direct and structural violence with legitimized and internalized one. Galtung focuses for triangular direct-structural-cultural violence that contrasts human mind. Facilitation, mediation, and negotiation attain cultural peace and these initiatives produce structural peace with symbiotic relations among diverse partners through the acts of cooperation, friendliness, and love (Fischer: 2013:47). Galtung severely criticized structural violence led by US and Western countries. Violence lowers the people’s needs and freedom of their satisfaction. It leaves deep wounds and traumas in society which is difficult to heal. Violence can start from any corner in its triangle.
The freedom from structural violence definitely assists to restore and maintain peace. It promotes positive peace to move a society toward a fair justice transforming the conflict by peaceful means. Freedom from structural violence enhances dialogue and discussion discourse for peace to oust physical to emotional violence in individual, family, societal, institutional and state-levels. Freedom from structural violence preserves peace and tranquility advocating freedom from exploitation, repression and separation (Galtung: 2013:117).
Freedom from Contradiction
Galtung states that conflict is initiated through attitudes, physical behavior, and contradictory goals of enemies. Galtung in 1980 predicted that there shall be end of the Soviet Empire within ten years beginning with the fall of the Berlin Wall. He studied the decline and fall of the Roman Empire preliminarily. Galtung developed six contradictions applied to the Soviet Empire: the working class wanting trade unions, the bourgeoisie wanting something to buy, the intellectuals wanting more freedom of expression and impression, minorities in search of autonomy, and the peasants wanting more freedom of movement (Fischer: 2013: 139). The former Soviet broke down on November 9th, 1989 almost two months before of Galtung’s time limit 1990. His prediction to financial crises and recessions in 2008 was exactly happened in early 21th century.
The decline and fall prediction of US Empire was developed by Galtung based on the synergy of 15 interlinked contradictions, and the way to decline and fall was estimated at 20 years from 2000 (Fischer: 2013). The US Empire is being more complex and more sophisticated. The economic, military, political, social, and cultural dimensions cover all 15-point contradictions. Among contradictions, three belong to overproduction relative to demand; unemployment and global warming. Second, the military contradictions are based on US-NATO as led military allies. Third, political contradictions describe the role between USA and the UN and between USA and the EU. Fourth, the cultural contradictions focus between US Judeo-Christianity and Islam; between US and the oldest civilizations i.e. Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, Mexican, etc., and between US and European elite culture: France and Germany. The last is the social contradictions that tend US‑led world elites vs. the rest: World Economic Forum, World Social Forum, middle class, etc. These are contradictions between the US myth and reality.
Galtung loves the American republic, but hates the American empire, similar to the Soviet empire. It will be remarkable if the honest and conscious Americans who are outside of the state power, politics, and large property would thank him for his courageous analysis. But US government strives to suppress many countries, individuals, and institutions, branding them enemy in the name of the peace, justice and human rights.
Freedom of Criticism
Some of Galtung’s statements have drawn criticism. For example, Bruce Bawer says, “Galtung is in fact a lifelong enemy of freedom” (2007). Bawer strongly refuted Galtung’s judgment “structural fascism to West and killer country and neo-fascist state terrorism to America” (2007). Even though, Galtung called criminal political violence to September 11 attack at twin tower in US. Besides, America is both a republic and an empire country according to Galtung (Ergas: April 24th 2006). His thesis is that American empire will ‘decline and fall’ in seven years (2020) from now, Barbara Kay, a columnist in the National Post criticized over the opinion “structural fascism of rich, Western, Christian democracies” and “admires Fidel Castro and Mao Zedong” of Galtung. Kay also criticized Galtung’s proclamation to Hungarian resistance against the soviet invasion in 1956. The Jerusalem Post on 8 Sep 2012 stated that Swiss World Peace Academy suspended Johan Galtung because of his allegedly anti-Semitic comments. However, Galtung through Antonio C. S. Rosa in TRANSCEND International’s statement refuted the allegations (May 2nd 2012). Whatever the criticism Galtung received, he takes them easy and constructively and often says, it happens because of level of understanding, culture of society, attitude, behavior, and contextual factors.
Freedom of Mediation
Galtung has not only developed peace, conflict and mediation theories, but also put them into practice similar to medical doctor utilize his/her efforts of diagnosis, prognosis and therapy to patients. Rather than following traditional and unsatisfactory ways of conflict resolution of two parties handled such as A wins, B loses and vice versa; Galtung follows the method respecting realities and human basic needs such as survival, well-being, freedom, and identity.
For this, Galtung has developed the TRANSCEND Method & Manual UN (conflict theory and practice, violence theory and practice, peace transformation, dialogue, and negotiation) to transform the conflict by peaceful means constituting a three-step approach, generally called TRANSCEND or Galtungian method.
Confidence Building: The mediator should first understand the conflicting parties’ goals, fears, and concerns involving directly or indirectly on the course to win their confidence.
Reciprocity Relations: The mediator should grant time to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate goals and human needs of both parties. Self-determination of the mediator shall play a pivotal role to improve the reciprocity relations with them.
Identification of Gap: The mediator should try to bridge the gap between all legitimate but seemingly contradictory goals of parties through mutually acceptable, desirable solutions for sustainable future that embodies creativity, empathy and nonviolence, building a new reality.
More important is that the TRANSCEND method shall focus not merely on identifying who is guilty and punish them unlike the traditional legal process, but to create an attractive new conducive reality and creativity acceptable to all involved in the conflict. This shall be applicable at all family, community, and institutional levels within them and beyond.
Galtung has already mediated in over 100 international conflicts, sometimes successfully in perspective of their peace transformation. Some of the important mediations are: East-West Cold War I, Cuba, Norway-Poland, Chile-Peru-Bolivia, Cyprus, Israel-Palestine, Israel-Palestine-Middle East, Zimbabwe, Korea, Malvinas-Falklands, Pax Pacific, Gulf, Kurds, Japan-Russia-Ainu, Japan-USA-Ryukyu, Somalia, Yugoslavia 1991-1998, Kosovo, Sri-Lanka, Hawaii, Ecuador-Peru, Mayas, Argentina, Tripartite Europe, Six Chinas, Ulster, Caucasus, East-West Cold War II, Okinawa, Hostage Crises in Peru, Rwanda-Great Lakes, Albania, Lebanon, Kashmir, Colombia, Christian-Pagan Relations, Angola Civil War, the USA-West and the Rest, USA-UK vs. Iraq, Nepal, Indonesia vs. Timor Leste, European Union (Peace and Democracy), Pattani-Aceh/Bangkok-Jakarta, USA-UK/Arabia, USA-UK/Iran, Myanmar, Japan-China-Korea, Germany/Herero, West-Muslim, Turkey-Armenia and Cambodia (Galtung: 2008).
While he worked at Columbia University in 1958, he mediated his first conflict, over desegregation in the school system in the USA southern states. His Transcending technique assisted to prevent from further intra-and-inter-state wars and saved many lives. Galtung shared his technique wherever and whoever is sought either by Presidents or Prime Ministers. He never thought what they like to hear, nor the opposite, but inspired them by redirecting positive approaches and proposals they do not hear elsewhere without criticizing what they did wrong.
Freedom to Construct Peace Theory
Johan Galtung identifies 35 theories of peace comprising world with interpersonal harmony, heterogeneous nation, cultural-structural dissimilar and similar nations, minimum and maximum interdependence, polarized, depolarized and mixed nations, class division, power balance and monopoly, arms control and disarmament, negative and positive non-violence, treaty and convention, negative and positive sanctions, NGO and IGO, supranational peace thinking, and superstate and state (Galtung: 1967: 67-185). Peace theory leads both associative and dissociative narrations. Johan Galtung writes, “…for any one theory there is almost no limit to how deeply one can penetrate… one can pursue conditions and consequences in all directions” (1967: 67). Both dissociative and associative pairs of peace theory usually select and start with a typology following research method, analysis, theory and its validation and factual and potential peace thinking (Galtung: 1967: 67-68). The effort to explore the use of entropy and energy overrides the approach to theories of peace.
Galtung in his recently published book on A Theory of Peace: Building Direct, Structural and Cultural Peace (2013) stated that there is no eternal peace and there will never be, stated under the grand peace theory (2013:16). In his theory of peace, he defines peace as a relation between two or more parties and the parties are inside or between persons, groups, states or nations and regions or civilizations. And the relation defies into negative and disharmonious, indifferent and positive and harmonious dimensions. The relation further focuses toward the negative peace which is the absence of violence, like a cease-fire, like keeping them apart, no more negative, but indifferent relations and positive peace relies on the presence of harmony, intended or not (2013: 18-19). Relation characterizes into structural peace which initiates along with equity, reciprocity and integration. Peace intends to fulfill the suffering from sukkha and dukha which uses as a generic term for negative and positive goals (2013: 21).
Johan Galtung compares the peace with human security, “human” as positive connotation and “security” as negative connotation (2013: 36). The major road to peace is conflict transformation where conflict uproots along with goals in contradiction and conflict triangle – attitude, behavior and contradiction. The conflict transformation restores peace attaining empathy, nonviolence and creativity (Galtung: 2013: 50). Transformation changes the attitude and behavior applying creativity to contradictions at all levels of conflict including global, social and inter-and-intra personal ranging from mega to macro, meso, and micro (Galtung: 2000: 3). Peace transformation also presupposes a peaceful context as provided by peace education/journalism, the continuation of the work after violence, and readiness to reopen peace agreements (Fischer; August 2013: 50). Peace dwells in social formations based on positive sanctions, violence in formations based on negative sanctions; and violence deprives people of basic needs due to elite politics (Galtung: 2013: 69). Peace politics is about the promotion of creativity and reduction of violence (Galtung: 2013: 65).
Focusing on Gandhian nonviolence philosophy, Galtung developed three basic types of peace interrelating typology of castes and sanctions. First, Bahun-peace focuses less on obedience and fear and more on cooperation and compassion with all forms of life; second Chhetri-peace gives attention on nonviolent forms of control where the sanctions would be very soft; and third, Baisya-peace attains less on competition and more on basic needs in producing and distributing goods and services. Peace satisfies all of them. War is mainly waged on people. And peace is defense of people (Galtung: 2013: 69). Peace as a threat to the warrior, a promise to the rest (2013:96). A more pragmatic and dynamic conceptualization of peace is to transform the conflict creatively and nonviolently. Peace is a context (inner and outer) for a constructive way of handling conflict while human condition serving as a Creator and as a Destroyer. The humane becomes creator, preserver and destroyer of society due their understanding on culture of peace. Galtung often uses to say, “Tell me how you behave in conflict and I’ll tell you how much peace culture you have” (2013:127).
Galtung beautifully presents both peace transformation and conflict transformation in theory and applies practically over 100 mediations in 60 years of his contributions in the world peace. The conflict transformation, in principle, happens at all levels of conflict: global, regional, national, social, inter‑ and intra‑personal. The peace transformation also presumes a peaceful context as provided by peace education, peace journalism, and human security studies that achieve through the works during and after violence in different dialogues for peaceful solutions. The transformation, in general, changes attitude, behavior, and contradictions creatively. Galtung’s some writings and suggestions for conflict transformation by peaceful means and peace research are not easy to understand and act them because of the depth of knowledge of peace transformation, its philosophy, multidimensionality and variability.
For Galtung very important is the Conflict Lifecycle. He divides the Conflict Lifecycle into three phases: before violence, during violence and after violence following attitude (hatred), behavior (violence) and contradiction (problem). He wants to say that there is a definite Peace Lifecycle and Conflict Life-cycle (Galtung: 2008:1).
However, Galtung did not analyze the Peace-Conflict Lifecycle together with the Conflict Life-cycle in one dimension of pyramid. Conflict occurs in the emotional human mind and reaches a violent climax after passing up through several stages: discussion, appearance of conflict, escalation, segregation, outbreak of violence, and destruction. From the violent climax, the conflict steps down towards peace through other stages: …. (see Pyramid I at Pathak: http://www.gandhipeacefoundation.org/gandhi1002/pdf/Chapter-10_16.09.2013.pdf). This author absolutely agrees with Galtung what he states: “a conflict and a peace has its own life‑cycle, almost something like organic” and similar to a pyramid.
Over 6 decades, he introduced peace studies as an academic domain at various universities all over the world. He has presently holds several positions in international arena including the advisory councilor post of the Committee for a Democratic United Nations.
He devotes his life to peaceful freedom, which increases global interdependence and diversity in ethnic, gender, cultural, religious and other communities. Thus, Galtung is right that the constraints of peaceful freedom are challenges to peace and harmony everywhere.
Galtung’s theory of peaceful conflict transformation is one of the highest and most significant achievements of traditional peacemaking, we can say – its top and ceiling. Therefore, it is a worthy part of Global Peace Service, which integrates this theory in itself and enhances its by a new theoretical foundation – a global harmonious structure of SPHERONS ensuring global peace at all levels. It turns Galtung’s theory from intuitive and subjective art to objective scientific method, keeping it as a subjective art. Galtung’s peace and freedom are required for everyone; no matter who you are, where you live, what is your gender, ethnicity and profession, and whom you choose or love.
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A former Senior Commissioner at the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP), Professor Pathak has been a Noble Peace prize nominee each year from 2013 for his noble finding of Peace-Conflict Lifecycle similar to ecosystem. Mr. Pathak holds Ph.D. on Conflict Transformation and Human Rights. He is the President and Director of the Peace and Conflict Studies Center (PSC Center). He is a Board Member of the TRANSCEND Peace University and also a Board Member of TRANSCEND International for Nepal. His book on Politics of People’s War and Human Rights in Nepal (2005) is widely circulated volume. He has over 100 international publications comprising Transitional Justices including Generations of Transitional Justice in the World (July 2019), Jurisdictions of The Hague Court (February 2020), A Comparative Study of World’s Truth Commissions: From Madness to Hope (2017) and World’s Disappearance Commissions: An Inhumanious Quest for Truth (2016), Human Rights, UN, Human Security, Peace, Civil-Military Relations, Community Policing, and Federalism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: Conflict, Conflict Analysis, Conflict Resolution, Conflict Transformation, Culture of Peace, Education for Peace, Johan Galtung, Mediation, Peace, Peace Building, Peace Journalism, Peace Research, Peace Studies, TRANSCEND Method
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 5 Oct 2020.
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