The significance of Peace Studies in 2011

My increased collaboration with the Graduate Institute for Peace Studies at Kyung Hee University, and my work with the Global Peace Festival Foundation in planning the November Global Peace Convention in Seoul has led me to think more deeply about the term “peace” and its significance in our age.

Two things are clear:

First, “peace” is growing in influence as a critical concept for responding to the challenges of our age and an idea with immense intellectual and emotional appeal.

Second, the concept of  “peace” will require a thorough redefinition in light of significant changes in human society that have taken place and the new challenges that we face. We need to build a discourse on peace that is at least as nuanced and authoritative as that used for “security,” or for that matter that used for “economics.”

We are facing unprecedented challenges in terms of the explosion of technology and the onset of climate change that will require a profound redefinition of the term “peace” as the centerpiece for a new global security system. Although terms like ” global governance” and “world peace” may strike many as fuzzy idealism, the time has come for us to recognize that current trends in economic and technological integration will create an unprecedented reality in which peace will be absolutely essential.

“Peace studies” may strike some an impractical remnant of out-dated idealism. Those who dismiss peace studies for its lack of “realism,” however, are those who are unable to come to grips to how profoundly the world has changed.

Peace and peace mechanisms are a practical necessity in an age of radically different challenges . We live in an age in which a nuclear accident such as that resulting from an earthquake at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant  can precipitate a crisis in which humans creates problems beyond the range of current technology to solve.

The Fukushima crisis is serious, but let us imagine what would have happened if there had been an active military conflict going on in the region at the time.

Nothing would have been done to alleviate the meltdown or reduce the emission of radiation in a military conflict because of the danger of attack. The nuclear power plant itself could have become the target for attack and, as a result, precipitate  a crisis on a scale unimaginable. Although the risk of conflict in Fukushima is low (although not zero) there are plenty of places in the world with nuclear power plants, or other dangerous technologies, that are at serious risk of conflict. We cannot afford to have military conflict.

War can participate  a crisis that will end human civilization as we know it.

Creating a global system that assures that relations between humans will be controlled and peaceful is an imperative for our age. Our capacity to anticipate future challenges and propose solutions to head off conflicts is essential. Peace is a global security imperative, not an idealist dream.

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