An introduction to Positive Peace

Positive Peace provides us with a framework to first understand, and then to address the multiple and complex challenges the world faces.

Humanity is now facing challenges unparalleled in its history. These problems, which include climate change, ever decreasing biodiversity, and over-population, are global in nature; they call for global solutions and require cooperation on a scale unprecedented in human history. In a globalised world, the sources of many of these challenges are multidimensional, increasingly complex and span national borders. For this reason, finding solutions fundamentally requires new ways of thinking.

Without peace it will not be possible to achieve the levels of trust, cooperation or inclusiveness necessary to solve these challenges, let alone empower the international institutions and organisations necessary to help address them. Therefore, peace is the essential prerequisite for the survival of humanity as we know it in the 21st century.

Positive Peace provides a framework to understand and then address the multiple and complex challenges the world faces. Positive Peace is transformational in that it is a cross-cutting factor for progress, making it easier for businesses to sell, entrepreneurs and scientists to innovate, individuals to produce and governments to effectively regulate.

What is Positive Peace?

Positive Peace is defined as the attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies. The same factors that create peace also lead to many other positive outcomes that societies aspire to, such as thriving economies, better inclusion, high levels of resilience and societies that are more capable of adapting to change. Therefore, Positive Peace can be described as creating an optimum environment in which human potential can flourish.

Positive Peace has been empirically derived by IEP via the statistical analysis of thousands of cross-country measures of economic and social progress to determine what factors have a statistically significant association with Negative Peace. Positive Peace is measured by the Positive Peace Index which consists of eight domains, known collectively as the eight ‘Pillars of Positive Peace’. These eight domains provide a baseline measure of the effectiveness of a country’s capabilities to build and maintain peace. It also provides a measure for policymakers, researchers and corporations to use for effective monitoring and evaluation.

Positive Peace can be used as the basis for empirically measuring a country’s resilience, or ability to absorb and recover from shocks. It can also be used to measure fragility and to help predict the likelihood of conflict, violence and instability. There is a close relationship between Positive Peace and violence as measured by the internal peace score of the GPI.

Positive Peace & resilience

Positive Peace is also strongly linked to resilience. Countries with high Positive Peace are more likely to maintain their stability and adapt and recover from both internal and external shocks. Low Positive Peace systems are more likely to generate internal shocks, with 84 per cent of major political shocks occurring in these countries. Similarly, there are 13 times more lives lost from natural disasters in nations with low Positive Peace as opposed to those with high Positive Peace, a disproportionally high number when compared to the distribution of incidents.

Countries with stronger Positive Peace have restorative capacities and as such are more resilient in the face of civil resistance. Movements tend to be smaller, exist for a shorter period, have more moderate aims, be more likely to achieve their goals and are far less violent. The differences between countries can be striking: 91% of all civil resistance campaigns that were primarily violent have been waged in countries with weaker Positive Peace. In 2016, the economic impact of containing or dealing  with the consequences of violence was 12.6% of the world GDP or approximately $14 trillion, highlighting that improvements in resilience and peace have substantial economic advantages to the global economy.

Positive Peace in action

In partnership with multi-lateral organisations, IEP undertakes Positive Peace workshops in countries such as Uganda, Zimbabwe, Mexico and Tunisia. The primary goal of the Positive Peace workshops is to facilitate local communities and individuals to develop practical and concrete actions that can strengthen peace through enhancing the attitudes, institutions and structures at the sub-national and community level. A secondary goal of the Positive Peace workshop is educative – that all involved stakeholders understand Positive Peace and commence a process of seeking to grow Positive Peace in their society and involve an ever-widening network of people in understanding and pursuing Positive Peace.

Example: IEP coordinated a workshop on Positive Peace in Harare, Zimbabwe, in partnership with the National Peace Trust, a Zimbabwean organisation. The workshop was supported by IEP and led by the National Peace Trust. Over 50 participants attended, including senior government officials such as Zimbabwe’s Vice President, the Honourable ED Mnangagwa, who made introductory remarks, followed by civil society leaders, church leaders, academics and NGO representatives. The workshop took place over two days and included presentations by identified experts in each of the eight Positive Peace factors. The workshop brought together representatives of the ruling party, opposition parties and civil society aligned with both sides of politics. The outcome of the conference was agreement on areas where they could tangibly work together, a rare achievement. The overall objective of the workshop was to set up an actionorientated steering group to identify and analyse possible initiatives on the Pillars of Peace, as well as support efforts to bring those initiatives to fruition. Through a shared understanding of peace in the wider southern Africa region, complex systems and social processes can be explored using innovative tools and methods to find patterns of Positive Peace across communities.