The Lifelong Peace Advocate: A Portrait of Marek Thee (1918–1999) by Marta Bivand Erdal

 

Marek Thee as head of Polish Consulate General in Tel Aviv in 1950–1952. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic of Poland Archives

Marek Thee (1918–1999), a portrait written by Marta Bivand Erdal

The opposite pole of globalisation is fragmentation – the exclusion of a majority of the world’s population from the benefits of human development, generating a frustrated drive to defensive postures in violent and suicidal ideologies of nationalism, ethnicity and political-religious fundamentalism. Fault-lines are erected across the globe both vertically and horizontally by economic and military power relations on the one hand, and by gross inequalities between the rich and the poor on the other hand. (Marek Thee, personal, unpublished memoirs)[1] 

In his personal and unpublished memoirs My Story: A Journey Through the 20th Century, Marek Thee, in the late 1990s, soon before his death in 1999, reflects on the state of the world. He does so as a child of twentieth century Europe, but also to a significant extent as a child of the twentieth century world. His twentieth century perspective, as a historian by discipline, and a truth-seeking activist at heart, are strikingly accurate comments on the present, some twenty years after they were written.[2]

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Congo and Structural Violence: Helge Hveem Interviewed by Per Olav Reinton

Helge Hveem, ca.1981. Photo: PRIO Photo Archive

Helge Hveem, interviewed by Per Olav Reinton

There is no country that illustrates large-scale violence better than the Democratic Republic of Congo. That is why the Nobel Peace Prize to Denis Mukwege is so well deserved, and why it also affirms the validity of structural violence as a concept. Even if the causes may vary – and physical violence may also breed structural violence – I believe that the DRC demonstrates that physical violence follows from structural violence. Or rather: the two types are interrelated; structural violence makes physical violence easier.

Helge Hveem: My experiences in the Democratic Republic of Congo put me on a path towards the type of theory-driven, but also policy-oriented, empirical research that I followed at PRIO and the University of Oslo, and still pursue. It was a significant day for me when the Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018.Read More

A Historian’s Paths to Peace: Reflections from Stein Tønnesson

Stein Tønnesson in the early 1980s, when he held a student scholarship at PRIO. Photo: Stein Tønnesson’s archive

When looking back, I find nine paths I have explored in a quest to understand war and peace: War as war, war as horror, outbreaks of war, severity of wars, war endings, peace viability, regional transitions to peace, peace practices, and peaceful “utopian moments”, such as 1948, when the UN Declaration on Human Rights was adopted. A possible tenth path is one I have mostly shied away from: major peaceful utopias, such as a Harmonious or a Classless Society. While I have walked on all nine paths, the three I have travelled the most are outbreaks of war (in Indochina), transitions from widespread war to relative peace (in East Asia), and a peaceful utopian moment (the 1973–82 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).

My studies of revolution and war in Indochina (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia), and also elsewhere, have led me to a conviction that peace, almost any kind of peace, is preferable to war. War rarely leads to any positive improvement, and entails enormous suffering. I define “peace” as absence of war and violence, and I see such absence as desirable in almost every situation. Since war and violence are negatives, the mere absence of war and violence is already positive peace. The term “negative peace”, I think, is a misnomer. If the absence of war is “negative peace”, then violence – the opposite of peace – would be positive, which is absurd. A mere absence of war is already positive peace. Yet it may be just a minimal, fragile or shallow peace. Peace building, as I see it, is about transforming a minimal peace to a deep and viable peace.

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Eid Celebrations and Muslim Generosity

Sudanese muslims from El Fasher, North Darfur, attend the morning prayer at the outskirts of the city to celebrate the Eid ul-Fitr, the feast marking the end of the fast of Ramadan in 2012. Photo: Albert González Farran – UNAMID

Today is Eid, the Muslim festival that marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. Families and friends will gather today to enjoy good food and each other’s company. Many Norwegian Muslim children look forward to celebrating Eid, and for many people the social aspects are just as important as the festival’s religious significance. In addition, many Muslims use Eid as an occasion to help those who are less fortunate, by making their annual payment of obligatory alms (zakat in Arabic), which in Sunni Islam are equivalent to 2.5 percent of annual income after living expenses. Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam, together with the Declaration of Faith, Prayer, Fasting during the month of Ramadan, and the Pilgrimage to Mecca.

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A Social Democratic Peace: Nils Petter Gleditsch Interviewed by Hilde Henriksen Waage

Nils Petter Gleditsch. Photo: PRIO

Nils Petter Gleditsch, interviewed by Hilde Henriksen Waage

If you read my older publications, you will find very little about democracy, but a lot about equality, justice, and peace. The idea of a liberal peace, built on ties through international trade, became a major theme in peace research at the end of the 1990s. I was actually skeptical in the beginning, even after I had embraced the idea of a democratic peace. But I have come to realize that economic cooperation and development are important drivers of peace. … Thinking of all the crimes committed in the name of socialism, I find it difficult today to call myself a socialist. However, I have no problem calling myself a social democrat. … I have actually tried to launch a new formula for stable peace, ‘the social democratic peace’, combining democracy, a strong state, economic development, international political and economic cooperation, and a policy of non-discrimination of minorities. I think this makes a lot of sense as a policy, but I must admit that as a slogan it has fallen flat.

The above programmatic statement comes from my long-standing supervisor and colleague at PRIO, Nils Petter Gleditsch. In connection with PRIO’s 60th anniversary, I was asked to interview him.

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Will There Be Peace in Westeros?

Photo: HBO

In my last Game of Thrones blog post I looked into whether there were any similarities between the War of the Five Kings and modern war in the real world. I found a surprisingly large number of similarities. Now that we have seen the end GoT, and we know who sits on the (non)-Iron Throne (and other thrones), the question remains: can we expect peace to last in Westeros? To answer this, we need to know a bit about how conflict ends and what makes peace stick.

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Pitfalls, Policy, and Promise of the UN’s approach to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and the New Resolution 2467

Photo: PBS CC

Since 2012, April has been the traditional month of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) open debate to discuss the annual Secretary-General’s report on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence. And while for the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) community it is always a major event on the calendar, with the prospect of a US veto of a new resolution, the debate this year suddenly became a must-watch event in New York and around the world.

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Uniting Nations for Peace: Ingrid Eide Interviewed by Stein Tønnesson

Ingrid Eide at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) in 1968. Photo: Henrik Laurvik / NTB / Scanpix

When people ask what peace is, I urge them to tell me what they associate with war. They answer death, destruction, battles, arms, hatred, uniforms, suffering, fear, anxiety, loss, misery, and much else, all of which are bad and sad. Then I suggest that peace could be the opposite: life, construction, debates, tools, friendship, a colourful dress, thriving, safety, serenity, gain, prosperity, all of which are good and enjoyable. The exact meaning of peace will differ from one person to the next, but it is always the opposite of war. This is how I saw it after the War, and this is how I see it today.

Ingrid Eide, interviewed by Stein Tønnesson

Ingrid Eide receives me at her home in Bjerkealléen (The Birch Alley) at Grefsen, Oslo, the neighbourhood where she grew up. She sits down in front of a painting of her mother, the teacher and peace activist Ragnhild Hjertine Haagensen Eide (1901–91), who also grew up at Grefsen. They resemble each other. I get a feeling of listening to both at the same time, speaking to me with a warm, firm, compelling voice.

Stein Tønnesson: When you say, ‘the War’, I suppose you mean the Second World War, when Germany occupied Norway. You grew up with that war. How did it form you as a sociologist and peace researcher?

Ingrid Eide: I had turned seven when the war came to Norway, and had started school at Grefsen. I was twelve before the war was over. Those five years gave me so many memories. I believe they were decisive for my later dedication to the mission of the United Nations and my enthusiasm for developing peace research.

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The Battles over Peace in Afghanistan

The battles over leadership of the peace process in Afghanistan are intensifying. It seems increasingly likely that there will be a peace agreement, in one form or other, between the United States and the Taliban. But an Afghan peace settlement that is not based on dialogue between parties within Afghanistan – between the Taliban and other groups – will have scarcely any hope of survival. The international nature of the conflict means that agreement is also needed with Afghanistan’s neighbours, as well as unanimity among global powers. Coordinating this process, between all the different parties, and at many different levels, is a challenging task. Right now, there is reason to fear that the struggle over leadership of a process is taking up more energy than the peace process itself. At worst, this could result in the whole process hitting the rocks.

A scene in Kabul. UN Photo / Eskinder Debebe

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Inspiration from a Father: Johan Galtung Interviewed by Henrik Urdal

Johan Galtung at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) in 1968. Photo: Henrik Laurvik / NTB / Scanpix

The Second World War had a lasting effect on me. Especially because my beloved father was imprisoned at Grini (west of Oslo). And we were informed that every time there was a British bombing, prisoners would be shot. So, every night the air raid siren went, my mother and I would run out to the air raid shelter and sit there with only one thing on our minds. And my mother never wanted to go and get the paper the day after in case the headline read: ‘Dr Galtung shot this morning in retaliation for last night’s bombing raid’.

Johan Galtung, interviewed by Henrik Urdal

Henrik UrdalYou were born six years before the war came to Norway. Could you tell me a bit about your childhood? What sort of influence did your father and mother have on you?

Johan GaltungMy father’s educational background had a real influence on me. He’d attended the Norwegian Military Academy and received top marks in tactics, something he was very proud of. So he knew quite a bit about war and that sort of thing. And, of course, he’d completed a medical degree. And, on top of that, he’d studied political economy. As a politician in the 1920s, a deputy mayor and acting mayor at one point, he’d felt he needed a better understanding of economics. All of which is to say that he was, in effect, fully qualified in three distinct fields. And I suppose I’ve copied him to some extent. Studying one subject shouldn’t stand in the way of studying another. So, when I chose to take both a cand. real. degree in mathematics and a mag. art. degree in sociology, you could say I was following in my father’s footsteps.

It all comes back to my beloved father – he always supported me. He also had a daughter, of course, my sister Ingegerd, who was a strict conservative. She idealized people like Salazar and Franco, while I stood for the complete opposite. She wrote in Morgenbladet and I wrote in Dagbladet. My father would try to reconcile this conflict by praising our writing: ‘You both write such elegant Norwegian!’ You might say he was a bridge builder. But there was, of course, also something of the politician in this approach. At the same time, he supported me completely when I terminated my membership of the state church. He was a devout Christian and went to church every Sunday, but he understood that when I left the state church, it was the state and not the church I was rejecting. It was my view that the state and the church should have nothing to do with each other.Read More