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A ‘New Normality’ Needed for Post-Pandemic Peace

The UN General-Assembly declared 16 May the International Day of Living Together in Peace, as a means of regularly mobilizing the efforts of the international community to promote peace, tolerance, inclusion, understanding and solidarity. Matt Meyer, Secretary General of ISC Member, the International Peace Research Association, explores what this day means for peace research.

In a Manifesto launched last year by the Latin American Peace Research Council (CLAIP), one of the five core affiliate organizations of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA), our colleagues asserted that beyond any tragedy which COVID-19 was manifesting:

“The virulence of the crisis is magnified by a civilizing model that puts particular interests before universal rights, that privatizes profits and socializes losses, that stimulates the accumulation of a few at the expense of the dispossession of many, and that imposes a political culture predator of life. No good is safe from the clutches of selfishness exacerbated by privatizing policies posing as public: not the water we drink, not the air we breathe.”

As we breathe together on this annual celebration of the International Day of Living Together in Peace, IPRA affirms the beauty of this moment – longing as we are for increased connections and reaffirmed relationships. As we rebuild the social and scientific institutions which matter most, let us strive to create a “new normality,” conspiring to resist the old paradigms which led us to the health, economic, and racial crises we have endured this year and for so long before. From across the political spectrum, 2020 has been marked as a “year of social justice mobilizations,” with action and reaction facing against one another in hopes that the lessons of the past can lead our collective communities to new beginnings. There seems little “new” however, as 2021 has already seen continued waves of coronavirus coupled with growing authoritarianism in some states, including repression against human rights defenders that especially target Indigenous populations and migrant communities.

For those who value international law, and who joined in joyous celebration as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force, there remains concern as this article shows, about the situations in, for example, Western Sahara, West Papua, Puerto Rico, Tibet, Kashmir, Palestine and Amazonia, and what this implies for global peace and justice. Can we still be shocked at the militarization of police which seems to criminalize protest and intensify near-genocidal practices for marginalized peoples?

ISC Board member Saths Cooper, in a keynote address to IPRA’s 28th Biennial conference last January, noted that the concept of “peace” has become differentiated within the scientific fields. The complexity and multiplicity of issues involved in bringing about lasting peace and an end to structural violence requires a more rigorous integration of approaches from across our academic disciplines. The work together which ISC and IPRA are poised to do “require a systems perspective,” argues Cooper. “Violence and peace,” he added, “are a result of interplay of experiences and process across individual, relational, and structural levels.”

Not only are lives and work being threatened, our very ways of knowing, preserving and developing knowledge, are under attack. These International Days, therefore, need to be less about simple re-dedication to heady goals, but about concrete plans to redefine our fields and redouble our study and struggle. Peace is but a product of our scientific pursuits, brought together, as is the ISC’s vision, for a universally shared “global public good.”

Let me conclude these brief remarks with an invitation. It is essential to note that the inter-disciplinary fields of peace and conflict research and study have rarely been at a greater high point. Our oldest and most distinguished continuous peer-reviewed journal, Peace and Change—now formally co-published by IPRA in conjunction with the Peace History Society, joins with the new Journal of Resistance Studies, as a multigenerational network of scholars and students dialogue with fresh ideas and energy. Our networking and conferencing capabilities made the most of our social distance by utilizing social media and technology to be better in touch than ever (without actually ever touching!). Our successful hybrid conference, held online and with in-person meetings at Nairobi’s Multi-Media University, helped birth a new IPRA YouTube channel and paved the way for an exciting planning committee for our 2023 convergence in Trinidad and Tobago. Rarely has there been a more opportune or urgent time to come together in this work. What better way to affirm our “living together” than in positive, collaborative and mutually beneficial endeavors.

The authors of ISC guest blogs are responsible for the facts and opinions expressed in their contribution, which are not necessarily those of the ISC or its partner organizations.

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