25th IPRA GENERAL CONFERENCE on the OCCASION of the 50th ANNIVERSARY of IPRA
Uniting for Peace: Building Sustainable Peace Through Universal Values
(ISTANBUL, TURKEY – August 10-14 2014)
During the Cold War ideological confrontations, inter-state conflicts and extremely costly and risky arms races were seen as the most dangerous threats against peace and security. Since with its end much of these threats seemed to have disappeared, it was widely expected that a new, more peaceful era could begin. Peace dividend, comprehensive conversion, sustainable development, global peace and justice in a civil society were the key words. The 1990s experienced reductions of troops, arms and budgets, resources that were available now for civil purposes. Today we see more non-military approaches included in international conflict management such as in UN and EU peace activities, or through the increased participation of NGOs/CSOs, as well.
However, the end of the Cold War also witnessed a change in conflict patterns and the world faced a new generation of challenges for peace and security. Regional conflicts with ethnic, religious and/or economic-political background appeared in the Balkans, East and Central Africa, the Middle East, Caucasus or Central Asia. Recently the world is experiencing violent and non-violent mass upheavals, overthrow of authoritarian governments and militant quests for better democracy, livelihood and peace as in Northern Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Thailand or Ukraine. Other novel threats – real like the World Trade Center terror attacks or purposefully staged as in the case of alleged WMDs in Iraq – had a strong impact on changes in the security, conflict and peace environment, as well.
It was this kind of changes that caused or were paralleled by according adjustments particularly in the international security and defence sector. One effect was that after a drop in the aftermath of the Cold War – global military expenditures have been going up since 1998. In 2013 they reached a level that even topped spendings at the peak of the Cold War. A related result has been that military instead of civil, non-violent procedures remained dominating in international conflict intervention. In stark contrast to that, and despite the strongly increased role of the UN after the Cold War, its peace-related activities have remained dramatically underfunded. The UN budget total covers not even 2% of what is globally spent for military purposes.
Addressing and connecting these two contrary developments may be considered as a responsibility and an opportunity for the peace research community: To raise political and public awareness of this extreme misbalance, to develop alternatives and to show ways how to change this imbalance. Multifold empirical evidence that fundamentally questions the alleged success and costs of military conflict management are at hand already. In order to move forward we definitely need more studies of this kind that show, quantitatively and qualitatively, under which circumstances, with what targets and limited resources non-military dealing with conflict may be more effective, more efficient and sustainable – and hence, superior to military interference. This includes a redefinition of its role and extent, as well.
Such objectives are all the more important since the emergence of other threats jeopardizing the survival of our civilization as such. First and foremost global warming and its effects on violent conflicts require a similar fundamental re-thinking of security concepts and practical-political handling. What these interrelated and overlapping problems have in common is the fact that they cannot be stopped, let alone resolved by military means – and that they notoriously lack funding to put solutions into practice. Appropriate approaches require all the available scientific, technical, social, humanitarian and financial means of a globalized civil society.
Many of these dimensions have been addressed in the concept of ‘Human Security’. It is a complex and multidisciplinary approach which has evolved during the post Cold War era, transcending the narrow concept of military state security on grounds mentioned. It stands for what hopefully might become one of mankind’s most challenging projects. According to the United Nations Development Program’s 1994 Human Development Report, the seven dimensions of human security are economic security, food security, health security, environmental security, personal security, community security and political security. However, grown awareness about the nature of new security threats, conflict patterns and how to address them across the globe, human rights, human security, humanitarian intervention, democracy, prosperity and peace building initiatives also have become new values which may serve as leitmotivs for according policies – both for states, national, international and civil society organizations. Since then the Human Security project has been continuously updated and substantiated through the participation of distinguished scholars and politicians. In 2000 it culminated in the UN 8 Millennium Development Goals 2015 MDG project, the continuation of which is currently under intensive international discussion – and at risk, not least again for financial reasons. All these efforts encourage the insight that without bringing human security on the way, and all the more by impeding or undermining its preconditions, sustainable peace cannot be established.
Not just history but notably psychology and evolution theory teach us that conflicts and violence have to be considered as an innate part of human behavior. But so are communication, cooperation and learning. Since quarrels about conflicting interests apparently are inevitable and everlasting, we are only able to change the way we deal with conflicts. If this holds true, we have to learn more to which extent group conflicts, be they intra- or inter-state, can be managed appropriately, including how conflict escalation into violence and its sparking across borders can be prevented. In order to improve our knowledge about the dynamics of conflict useful for security and peace policies much can be learned from mistakes and success stories.
In pursuit of building sustainable peace based on universal values, aiming at further contributing to the academic debate and on the occasion of the IPRA’s 50th anniversary the 25th IPRA General Conference will focus on issues related to post Cold War political ideology, geopolitics, geoeconomics, international and regional cooperation on intra-state and cross-border conflicts. The conference will be hosted by the Sakarya University and venued in Istanbul, Turkey. This venue is all the more significant since Turkey is the link between three continents and currently surrounded by hot conflict zones in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel-Palestine and North Africa.
We welcome paper, poster and panel proposals from the international peace research community related to the following IPRA Commissions. Participants have the option of suggesting additional panels or sessions.