War requires only one actor, while peace requires many. This is a statement I keep thinking of after watching parts of Soldiers of Peace, a Global Voices documentary about the global movement towards peace. While we briefly discussed this phenomenon in a course last year, I had not examined it until a few weeks ago when I saw the documentary. And even after I wrote a post about the documentary, two questions still weighed on my mind: why has this movement come about? And will it last?
After some research, there appear to be a number of possible answers to my first question. One answer is economic feasibility. For example, an organization named Economists for Peace and Security, which is featured in the documentary, claims that non-violent policy is ultimately far-sighted and beneficial to all parties involved. A similar argument is that globalization encourages cooperation because of the web of connection it creates among countries and firms, making war (literally) unaffordable. Both of the arguments above have some serious flaws; however, as the documentary suggest, money can be an incentive for anything, even cooperation.
Another broad explanation for the era of peace is the democratic peace theory, which suggests that democracies do not engage in war with one another. And since many of today’s biggest powers are democracies, they are unlikely to engage in war with one another. This theory, while so far holding relatively true, also has many holes.
However, maybe the best explanation for this era of peace is the work being done by individuals and non-profits, many of which are highlighted in the documentary: from Iraqi War veterans against the war to an interfaith community in Kenya, from a victim of the 2005 subway bombings in London to a musician combating violence in Colombia. Maybe more than ever, individuals and groups are working towards peace, and through social networking these individuals are able to connect with one-another, connect with additional followers, and influence their countries. Just recently, hundreds of thousands of Iranians protested peacefully against what they believed was an unjust election. Think that would have happened 20 years ago?
Whatever the reason or reasons, it is clear that we are in one of the most peaceful times in human history. That is not to say that our world does not face countless problems and that we should be content with the status quo. Which brings me to my second question, will these times last and even improve? On the international level, there may be some hopeful signs with the election of President Obama. In his inaugural address, the President stated the US is committed to ushering in an “era of peace.” Hopefully the United States and other countries will find ways to work together in multilateral action to combat today’s and tomorrow’s problems, from nuclear proliferation to global warming.
On a more individual level, the future is really up to us! Only we can decide how much time, effort, and money we wish to spend trying to solve these global problems. While technology has increased the tools with which individuals and non-profits can work, it is up to them to use them correctly and effectively. We, at UNAGB, hope to educate our audience about the issues that matter and about the people combating these issues. As I said earlier, peace and prosperity require many actors. And while we might not have much power to influence US foreign policy and UN resolutions, we still can be one of the many actors who contribute to making these times the most peaceful in history.
Stay informed and enjoy the film!