‘Peacekeeping and (the Pursuit of) Positive Peace’

Is positive peace at all applicable and how is it best defined? This page highlights some responses from students in Dr Malaka Shwaikh’s IR3048 and IR3038 courses. The questions are purely reflective, and it was recommended to not use academic or non-academic resources and rely solely on the discussion done within class and in external speakers sessions. The answers, as can be seen, are intriguingly varied. While some show hope, others are far from optimism. But certainly, a great contribution in all those responses, is how they provide a more critical, decolonial and intersectional approaches and lens to understand the questions, challenging the more conventional ways of examining peace.

By Charlotte Perkins

Positive peace is achievable, but we need a more flexible way to think about it. I propose that we define positive peace as the existence of conditions within which all peoples are free to choose peaceful ways of being in the vast majority of situations.

By Isabel Paris

Positive peace is applicable and feasible; however, negative peace must take place first. The removal of violence will free up the space for dialogue and discussion rather than trying to fix root causes while there is still animosity between the actors. Furthermore, there needs to be an extensive time of negative peace that eliminates all possible recurrences of violence.

By Isabel Remers

In my classes studying peace and conflict, it is a correct assumption to make that we all, young and optimistic, want and believe in rose-tinted possibility of future peace. When I was asked this question, it reminded me of our discussions on the thin binary between the need for peace and the creation of peace, and above all, a question of for what purpose an attempt at ‘peace’ has been made and for who is this ‘peace’ truly for.

By Akane Sato

Is positive peace applicable? I disagree for now thinking of ongoing binary categorization of population involved in peacebuilding as ‘peacekeepers’ sent by donor states and ‘locals’, engaged by states, institutions, scholars who believe in great relevance of neo-liberalization to sustainable peace development, but also academics who take ‘critical’ approach to peacebuilding as ‘paternalistic master’ or ‘neo-colonization’ as they still cannot escape from the trap of categorization despite they take ‘critical’ lens. Hereby, I would like to give a notion that academics should now take the initial step of avoiding adopting dualism in the population but rather recognize they are equally peacebuilders on ground in order to essentially achieve positive peace.

By Jacqui Kaplan

Despite communities like the Semai existing and living peacefully in a conflict and violence-free society as a semisedentary ethnic group that lives largely like prehistoric societies did, it is impossible for positive peace to exist on a large-scale when states exist within the ever-present and thriving Westphalian system.

By Anezka Ferreira

Positive peace is the absence of direct and indirect violence, which is not realistic for the world we live in today. This does not mean that we stop trying to build such a peace. While discussing positive peace it is important to question, who is implementing that peace? In most post-conflict environments, peace is rebuilt by interveners based on existing model of “liberal peace democracies.” Hence, the unjust structures and power relations that underline these systems are rebuilt, preventing positive peace from being implemented.

By Charlotte Corbett

As peace studies as has developed and become more diverse as a discipline, it has become apparent that traditional peacekeeping methods have had mixed successes, implying that they are no longer applicable for every case. In turn, positive peace has become more applicable in creating long-term sustainable peace.

By Ella Matza

Positive peace means long-term, sustainable peace, which can only be achieved by addressing the deep-rooted causes of physical, as well as structural, violence. Simply eradicating surface level violence, as opposed to neutralizing it, will never be enough to leave the conflict zone better than it was before. This is why it is called ‘positive’ peace, because it is not about negating, but rather adding to. I think this is why positive peace tends to be rare, because it demands so much of those who are mandated to bring it about.

By Kate MacLachlan

While ‘positive peace’ is the ideal outcome in a post-conflict environment, I think in a world dominated by the state system that we see today, it is often completely unobtainable. The UN and other regional organisations face an uphill task with regards to convincing states and actors to contribute towards peacekeeping efforts.


By Mia Elena Hansen

I believe positive peace can be applicable, but it needs to be the end goal from the start. To fully create and apply positive peace, peacebuilding needs to start with the goal to create justice on the ground. It is when peacebuilding has the original goal of simply relieving tensions with non-violence that negative peace is created, and the applicability of positive peace is almost impossible to achieve.

By Han Lin

To answer this question, one should recognize what is ‘positive peace’. ‘Positive peace’ is usually defined as a peaceful society which is sustained by the values, institutions, and social structures in the long term. It is a positive sign to see the UN starting to adopt this idea in its peacekeeping agenda, it shows that the UN is shifting from a reactive peacekeeping to a proactive one.

By Sara Ballag

The notion of positive peace in an immediately post-conflict environment may be a less relevant strategic goal, but it must be kept in mind as a final objective. While the elimination of physical violence is rightly the priority in peace operations, to ensure the long-term maintenance of negative peace, positive peace must be strived for and worked towards.

By Sandra YoungJu Seo

Positive peace is applicable in a post-conflict environment if it has supporting elements such as supportive attitude, institutions, and structures with a long term plan. It is important to plan and carry out a long-term plan because meeting short-term goals does not necessarily lead to a positive impact over a longer period. Therefore, the establishment of order with the combination of short and long term plans and the accomplishment of the mandate are the two essential dimensions of success.

By Olivia Phillips

Today we live in a world in which conflict and violence is the norm. We see conflict everywhere. There are those who are directly involved and affected while others bear witness by watching the news, listening to the radio, or scrolling through social media. Consequently, conflict and violence is the subject of much debate in academia, particularly International Relations. The question that lies behind conflict studies and recent peace studies is how do we create peace?

By Lincoln Png

Thinking about Peace: the Hedgehog and the Fox

Peace is both a simple and a complex idea at the same time – it is simple in essence, but complex in reality. This paradox has not been lost in conflict studies — scholars spend their time attempting to define peace before trying to resolve conflicts. The introduction of positive and negative peace by Johan Galtung helps us in this endeavour, by providing a useful definitional distinction to analyse systemic causes of conflict and violence. However, most scholars have taken the ‘positive peace’ paradigm beyond the realm of analysis, attempting to incorporate positive peace as a framework for conflict resolution.

By Serena Chow

In light of failed peacekeeping missions as well as persistent reports of rape and sexual exploitation perpetrated by UN personnel, the international community has witnessed a striking collapse in trust of the organization’s capabilities and commitments. The notion of ‘peace’ within the context of UN peacekeeping often seems limited to interpretations of the absence of conflict or violence on the ground. However, if we are to begin prioritizing efforts that strive for a more sustainable peace, there needs to also be the presence of justice, restoration, and resolution.

By Isabelle Houghton

“Where people’s lives are at stake there is little more that can be done than try, learn, and try again, aware, but unaware, enlightened but still blind.” (Richmond 2005: 204). Richmond speaks to the void between theory and practice that is glaringly prevalent in Peace and Conflict Studies. In theory, the ideal is clear, but often the reality is much different – a field filled with a multitude of actors trying to understand conflict, unaware of what really needs to be addressed, trying again, more aware, but not quite aware enough.  In theory, positive peace is the way forward, however in practice, negative peace tends to be the result of the many failed international peacebuilding initiatives. However, this doesn’t mean that positive peace is inapplicable.

By Saira Momen

In a post-conflict environment we haven’t seen a case where “positive peace” extends. According to me, this is because positive peace is a far-reaching goal. It requires stability and security in all areas of life. Positive peace should be the aim of post-conflict areas. However, this would require the international actors, such as the UN not just to set wide goals but to delve deeper. The UN, along with the leaders of the country, international and local NGOs, MNCs and local businesses and several other stakeholders would need to come together to make sure that this would be possible.

By Elisabeth Speyerl

Positive Peace is attainable if we choose to change how we measure it

Positive Peace, which was defined by Johan Galtung in contrast to negative peace (the mere absence of direct, structural or cultural violence) as the presence of cooperation, equity, equality, a culture of peace and dialogue, has been dismissed by many as yet another type of utopian peace project, unrealistic to be achieved on a global scale.

By Dagny Tepper

Positive peace targets a multitude of key elements of society: structures, institutions, and attitudes. Therefore, the attainment of positive peace involves restructuring these major constituents to create and sustain societies in the face of conflict. In thinking about whether or not positive peace is attainable, I began to separate this major undertaking into multiple parts. More specifically, I began to think about the restructuring of institutions, widespread alteration of attitudes, and the lessening of violence (negative peace) separately. On their own, each of these reconfigurations struck me as being questionable in their own ways.

By Maxi

Judging whether a peacekeeping mission is successful is a rather difficult and vastly subjective task. The problem lies both within the perspective from which success is assessed and within the time frame applied. An intervention can be evaluated by solely focusing on the course of the operation. The concern here is essentially the fulfilment of the terms of the mandate: Do the means employed produce intended ends? Thereby, a short-term verdict is found. On the contrary, it can be argued that successful peacekeeping must extensively engage in long-term post-conflict peacebuilding. Hereby, verdicts will draw on wider judgements about the breadth and depth of the long-term peace achieved.

By Mani Devendran

The unprecedented challenges that humanity faces surface in the form of climate change, migration, biodiversity and even pandemics. These issues are global in nature, transcend boundaries and demand high levels of international co-operation. Peace is an essential prerequisite to resolve these challenges, because 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 required to help address them.

By Zainab Magzoub

I do not believe that a positive peace is achievable in the near future, however, that being said, it does not mean we should not take steps to aim for it anyway. The reason it seems unattainable to me in the near future is that the effects of the current international system that we live in, one that is built on exploitation of the many by the few, governed by racial capitalism, has meant that some few individuals and corporations have amassed immeasurable power and resources, while the many are divided into imaginary, and exclusionary unhelpful categories, unable to negotiate a rearrangement of unequal power relations, be it because they are too caught up in a daily struggle for survival, lack the access to education or the means and voices, or have enough and do not see the need to rock the boat, something we have all been guilty of at one point or another.

By Drew Knauss

Positive peace is the process by which a conflict is transformed, and the underlying causes are removed or mitigated. This is in contrast to negative peace, as that refers to a cessation of violence only. In many traditional conceptions of inter/intranational conflict, negative peace is seen as the only cure as the violence is the only aspect of conflict seen as a major issue. This leads to a ‘peace’ which generally contains the foundations for future conflict without taking the reason for conflict into consideration. This ensures that the conflict will return.

By Jaanvi Sachdeva

Currently, the majority of actors conducting peacemaking initiatives have a heavy bias towards the creation of negative peace. Negative peace refers to the absence of violence, whereas positive peace refers to the creation of social systems that serve the needs of the entire population and deter violence from continuing to occur in the future. However, positive peace initiatives tend to focus on limiting violence in a very narrow sense. Violence is not just physical conflict. There is structural violence, epistemic violence, etc. Violence is perpetuated in so many ways, and is often perpetuated in the peacemaking process itself. Positive peace is a shift from reactive to proactive in conflict resolution, and includes fostering justice in communities and keeping factors that have caused the violence to occur in the first place at the forefront of the peacemaking process.

By Kerry Grumka

Positive peace certainly is possible in a post-conflict environment. To say areas previously impacted by war cannot achieve peace is dismissive of the nation’s integrity and agency. While positive peace is possible, it is not likely with the current systems employed by the UN. The major reason positive peace is hindered by the UN’s current system is that it does not address underlying issues that cause persistent flare-ups of conflict. Obviously, every single nation is very different. Not only are all nations different, most nations contain a multitude of different factions that have their own needs and issues.

By Brock Burton

Based on the cases detailed in this course and the readings I have done, I would argue that positive peace is not achievable in practice. If one defines positive peace as a peace that achieves justice for all and eradicates structural violence, it is not achievable. Therefore, positive peace is applicable only as a goal or standard to strive for. That said, I believe that peace efforts should continue to strive for it, as while positive peace may not be achievable in totality, implementing elements that promote its principles will benefit efforts at peace creation.

By Emma H.

UNAMSIL: A Success Story?

The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) was established in October 1999 following the Lomé Peace Agreement and the prior UNOMSIL mission. Sierra Leone at the time was mid-civil war after rebels had attempted to overthrow the government in 1991. The mission was mandated to monitor security following the peace treaty and provision of humanitarian aid and was, in the beginning, aided by troops from the Economic Community of West Africa Military Observer Group (ECOMOG) whose involvement would be later deemed controversial.

By Maria O.

An analysis on the efficacy of the UNMOGIP

The Kashmir and Jammu (K&J) territories have long been considered one of the world’s top global hotspots for international conflict, or as President Bill Clinton puts it “the most dangerous place in the world”. In 1947, the princely states of Kashmir and Jammu experienced an intense rise in Muslim nationalist sentiments and a push for the creation of an Islamic state, igniting a conflcit between Pakistan and India over the future of the territory.

By Catriona R.

The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL): A Success

The civil war in Sierra Leone began in 1991 and ended officially in 2002. UNAMSIL was in the country from 1999 to 2005, though the mission officially ended in 2002. The war began when the Revolutionary United Forces (RUF) crossed the border from Liberia with the intention of overthrowing the government. Initially they were popular, but through a campaign of widespread mutilation and kidnapping children to be child soldiers, they terrorised the population. The government failed to protect the people, and the army turned on them. In 1999 the UN officially established UNAMSIL and entered the country.

By Katherine C.

MINUSTAH: A UN Mission to Help or Harm?

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) website proudly proclaims that this peacekeeping mission successfully completed its mandate October 15, 2017 (United Nations “Mandat”). While reading through the countless reports of sexual abuse and exploitation (SEA) that took place during its installation, however, I cannot help but wonder how the United Nations (UN) ignores these cases in its definition of success.

By Jasmine H.

« Peux ce que veux. Allons-y. » (Dallaire, 1994)

A call for help; a lack of response. Major-General Dallaire’s infamous ‘Genocide Fax’, and the United Nation (UN)’s insufficient response, shows the astounding indifference of the UN concerning the Rwandan genocide.

In 1994, 100 days of ethnic conflict between the Tutsis and Hutus led to the death of 800,000 people and ten UN peacekeepers (Scheffer, 2004). The UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), 1993-1996, failed to keep the peace. UNAMIR’s unfeasible mandate, ill-equipped mission, and the international community’s misjudgement of the situation (Dallaire and Poulin, 1995) were amongst the reasons for this failure.

By David A.

The United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) was one of the UN’s first missions in the 21stCentury. New conflict, however, did not translate to new solutions. In fact, UNMEE’s legacy is one of tremendous potential slowly decaying to endless stalemate.