Online Toolkit

Part 4 - Key Concepts, Models, and Tools


How is youth work related to peace education and intercultural dialogue?

As mentioned in Part 1, mainstreaming peace education and intercultural dialogue is about moving beyond the notion that they are necessary only in areas where there is conflict or cultural clashes. It is about recognising that preventing violent conflict, respecting human rights, promoting diversity, and opening a dialogue is the business of everyone – parents, teachers, governments, religious and cultural leaders, and most importantly young people.

Youth work opens up many spaces and opportunities for us to conduct activities that integrate peace education and intercultural dialogue. Youth work revolves around a wide range of themes relevant to young people; from migration to active citizenship, human rights and sustainable development, interfaith understanding and gender equality, anti-racism and social inclusion, as well peace building and nonviolence. All these themes are, in one way or another, related to the topic of peace, and all of them have an intercultural dimension that should not be taken for-granted. As youth workers engaging in different fields of action, this makes us powerful peace educators. The challenge of mainstreaming peace education – and the larger goal of ensuring sustainable peace among the youth – lies very much in our hands.

By beginning to understand different concepts and key themes, we hope that you will become more aware about how the issue of peace is related to the specific issues that your organisation is working on.

People have different interpretations of the term peace. It is a word that is uttered almost as frequently as "truth", "beauty" or "love." It is sometimes equated to "harmony" and "tranquillity" – a state where there is no chaos. Yet for some people, the word peace has been over-used to the extent that it no longer has meaning. While some of these descriptions are appropriate, they are still limited in describing both the nature of peace and the role of the peacemaker. Any attempt to articulate the nature of peace must address the conditions related to it – conditions such as freedom, human rights, nonviolence, and disarmament, among others. Also included are proactive strategies such as conflict transformation, nonviolence, and community building.

Early secular writings indicate that peace was defined merely as the absence of war or direct violence. The simplest and most widespread understanding of peace was that it was the absence of death and destruction as a result of war or direct violence.[69]

In late 1960's, however, attention started to shift from direct to indirect or structural violence, i.e. violence through social, political and economic systems [70] , giving an alternative view to the definition of peace. It was realised that it was not only war that caused death, but also conditions such as discrimination, starvation, extreme poverty, violations of human rights, and avoidable diseases, among others. It was further realised that a world with the conditions of structural violence breeds anger and generates tension that leads to armed conflict and war [71] . Peace workers have increasingly challenged the conventional view of peace and declared that "peace is not simply the lack of war or direct violence, but also the eradication of all facets of injustice." [72]

Toward a holistic definition of peace ...

Some scholars have divided peace into two separate categories: "negative peace," which refers to the absence of war and other forms of physical or direct violence; and "positive peace," which refers to the presence of positive social and political phenomena such as justice, human rights, equality and well-being.

It is suggested that positive peace provides the essential conditions for negative peace, by creating the systems and structures that help prevent war, armed conflict and political violence. To give a more concrete idea, Johan Galtung describes positive peace as "more than the absence of violence; it is the presence of social justice through equal opportunity, a fair distribution of power and resources, equal protection and impartial enforcement of law." Similarly, Ian Harris states, "Positive peace is a condition where non-violence, ecological sustainability and social justice remove the causes of violence." [73]

Peace as an aspiration – and a way to that aspiration

We believe that peace is a goal we all seek.. We also often hear people say peace may never be achieved in our lifetime. Yet while we see it as a goal, it is also the process to that goal – the road towards that objective. We cannot reach sustainable peace by violence. Contrary to the traditional (perhaps widespread) belief, war is not necessary to reach peace. The long lasting effects of wars around the world bear evidence to that.

Peace as action

For many people who are dedicated to peace-building, peace implies activity, not passivity. It is a commitment that is put into practice every day, in all of our interactions. Peace is reflected in the way we live – the way we treat ourselves and others, and the way we address our conflicts. Respect for human dignity, fundamental freedoms, democratic participation, economic equity, and the fulfilment of basic needs are just some of these actions. Rejecting physical violence and being responsible consumers are more concrete examples.

Peace as a relationship to be built

Peace also exists in various levels of relationships, as you will see in the diagram on the next page. Understanding, acceptance and respect of others who are "different" from us contribute to building peaceful relationships, which then allows us to coexist with each other.

There is no way to peace, peace is the way. - A.J. Muste

Figure 1 (below) summarises the discussion on a comprehensive concept of peace and it also describes the types of violence that corresponds with the ideas of "negative" and "positive" peace. [74]

Figure 1: Defining Peace

Figure 2 (right) represents the different levels of peace, beginning with personal peace.
It demonstrates how peace is expressed within us, and in our relationships with other people and our environment.