Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Alternatives to War: Just Peacemaking Practices

“War is Not the Answer!” So What IS?

  1. Support Nonviolent Direct Action. Has toppled many dictators.
  2. Reduce Threats. In situations of conflict, both unilateral disarmament and escalation are dangerous. What is needed are unilateral, independent (often surprising) initiatives to reduce the threat to the adversary. This allows breathing space and can create new dynamics for negotiation. Because the adversary may well suspect motives, the initiatives need to come in a series of “confidence building measures” that invite reciprocation.
  3. Cooperative Conflict Resolution. Principled negotiation that speaks truth boldly, but attacks the problem rather than the adversary. Numerous cross-cultural works on this now. The Carter Center is excellent at this process.
  4. Acknowledge Responsibility/Seek Repentance & Forgiveness.
  5. Advance Democracy, Human Rights, and Religious Liberty. Because of the way the Bush administration has called its warmongering “promoting democracy,” it is necessary to add that democracy cannot be forced on people at gunpoint. One encourages indigenous movements for democracy, and democratic reforms in governments–setting examples in one’s own. Lack of voice in political decisionmaking is a major cause of war–as are human rights violations and the denial of religious liberty.
  6. Foster Just and Sustainable Economic Development. Many future wars could be “resource wars.” Lack of access to healthy food, clean water, a decent home, good education, and healthcare, are sources of conflict and internal dissent that can turn violent. Unjust and ecologically unsustainable trade patterns breed wars too.
  7. Work with Emerging Cooperative Forces in the International System.
  8. Strengthen the United Nations and International Efforts for Cooperation and Human Rights. The most dangerous longterm action of the Bush administration has been the way it has weakened the UN and the system of international law which has developed since WWII. The UN is far from perfect. It needs democratic reform itself. But the UN and its relief and human rights agencies make the world more just and safer. So does the International Criminal Court and the system of treaties which work toward arms reduction, human rights protection, environmental protection, etc. These institutions need strengthening, not undermining.
  9. Reduce Weapons and the Weapons Trade.
  10. Encourage Grassroots Peacemaking Groups and Voluntary Associations. Don’t leave it to the policy “experts.” We need networks of non-governmental organizations spanning the globe working for peace and pushing governments to do their part. A few good groups like that are found on the links to this blog.

For more on all this see Glen H. Stassen, ed., Just Peacemaking: Ten Practices to Abolish War.
Or see Stassen’s own website: Just Peacemaking Theory.

April 27, 2005 - Posted by | just peacemaking


  1. Great summary Michael. Potent. Brief. Comprehensive. My friends will still want the answer to “but what do we do about this genocide currently under way?…” You have thoughts on an international police force/peacekeepers?

    Comment by Dan Trabue | May 5, 2005

  2. Dan,
    The authors of Just Peacemaking were divided over an international police force under the UN. The problem as I see it (other than its reliance on violence) is that nations won’t surrender enough sovereignty to the UN to give such a police force real authority and independence. That’s why it takes so long to get UN peacekeepers in place, etc.
    Nonviolent alternatives are still in the development stage: nonviolent 3rd party intervention of the kind done by Christian Peacemaker Teams, Peace Brigades International, Witness for Peace–all on a small scale. Nonviolent Peaceforce is the first attempt to create a large-scale, independent force dedicated to nonviolent 3rd party intervention. But it is still in the development stage, working with a test project in Sri Lanka. Until it is large enough and well-financed enough to respond to multiple crises all over the world, we won’t have an answer to crises like Darfur. We also have to work on preventing such crises from occurring.
    Point out to your friends that violent interventions haven’t been that successful, either. There are no instant solutions. We can’t abolish war overnight.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 5, 2005

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