Intellectual Rocks

In your desire to understand the right,

you relate to the harmonious inside.

From words of others you apprehend their wisdom,

from its comprehension you make our kingdom

You learn to fight, you learn to defend,

you like to believe that is your only real strength.


I Ask,

Why this loudness and the closeness inside,

why this desire to prove i’m not right?


Dialogue with me, don’t debate

let me learn from your learned plate

I’m not here to deny every word from you,

I’m just in search for the union of the two.

Don’t let the rocks of your intellectual majesty,

crush this tender flower of humility.


I Ask,

Why defend and not share,

what is knowledge without care?


The journey of the curious ignorant is mine,

I have no answers, is that my crime?

In conflict we grow, in violence we deny,

let us give difference, at least a try

Games of the mind are of such trick,

the more close, the more thick.


I Ask,

Invite me to walk a few steps with you,

why not nourish our two points of view?

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The Palestinian Bid: Which (State)Hood?

“Israel”… “Palestine”. The utterance of these two words in the same sentence has been one of the most challenging realities post WW2. A reality of conflict that started with the United Nation General Assembly Resolution 181 on the 29th of November 1947,  which recommended the partition of the British Mandate into Jewish and Arab states (UN QoP), and whose most recent development came on the 66th Session of the General Assembly.

On the 23rd of September 2011 the Chairmen of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the President of the State of Palestine, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, submitted an application to the Secretary-General of the United Nations requesting the membership of the State of Palestine (Palestinian Application, 2011, p.2). What is the meaning of this application? What are its legal implications?

In this essay, by comparing the two theories of statehood under international law, I will analyze the kind of statehood approach that the State of Palestine is aiming at by submitting its membership application.

Statehood: Constitutive vs. Declaratory

What are those attributes that, when attributed to an entity that entity can be recognized, or declare to be, a State?

Along the historical continuum various definitions answering the question have been proposed. However, with respect to the subject of International Law there has been a well described and fairly unchanged formal definition since the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States in 1933. The Convention states that: “The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) the capacity to enter into relations with other states.” (Montevideo, 1933). The unchanged formal definition of statehood does not however imply the rigid and immutable concept of statehood (Higgins, 1994, p. 39) and as such the interpretation of what the definition means is also subject to the circumstances and the contexts in which the claim of statehood is made.

According to Rosalyn Higgins “there is a dispute on whether the recognition by significant number of states of a state is a requisite for statehood” (Higgins, 1994, p.42) or not. This idea is essential to analyze the Palestinian bid. When the majority of the world has recognized Palestine as a State (The Guardian, 2011), why does Palestine need the United Nations’ recognition? And if the United States of America decide to veto the Palestinian bid, does the non-recognition of one state deny the existence of a State?

Before trying to analyze where the Palestinian claim stands, let us first understand what, in the international law arena, are the two main theories with regard to state recognition: (a) the Constitutive theory, and (b) the Declaratory theory


The constitutive understanding of statehood was developed in the 19th century (Hillier, 1998, p. 201) and according to its adherents, it is only by the recognition of other Sovereign States that a State can become a legal person of international law; and if “recognition is discretionary, the rules granting to an unrecognized community ‘a right to statehood’ are excluded” (Crawford, 2006, p.5). This means that by proclaiming statehood a state does not gain automatic membership to the international community but it is only through recognition of other states that it is granted a legitimized membership – only by recognition of other states does a state exist as an international legal person.

Declarative Theory

The adherents to the declaratory understanding, on the other hand, claim that statehood is a legal status independent from recognition (Crawford, 2006, p.4) and in that sense it is a matter of fact rather than a matter of law (Hillier, 1998, p.203).  The early expressions of the Declaratory understanding are found in Art. 3 (existence of a state without recognition) and Art. 6 (recognition as accepting international personality) of the Montevideo Convention in 1933 and the criteria for the capacity to self-declaration in Art. 1 (criteria for a state to be a person of international law) (Montevideo, 1933).

In other words, the criteria to claim statehood is effectiveness rather than legitimacy (Crawford, 2006, p.4) and if a State has the elements of statehood according to the Montevideo Convention, then it has the capacity to declare itself a State, whether other state recognize this fact of not. The international legality, however, comes from recognition of other states

Oppeneihm briefly and clearly explained this position when stating “the formation of a new state is … a matter of fact and not law. It is through recognition, which is a matter of law, that such a new state becomes subject to international law” (Oppenheim, 1955)

State of Palestine – Where does it stand?

According to J. Crawford there is no “generally accepted and satisfactory contemporary legal definition of state” (Dixon & McCorquodale, 2003, p.134). The declaratory and the constitutive theories provide a foundation to start upon, but then the legal dialogue for statehood is in reality much more elaborated concept; especially in contexts, like Palestine, where there are border disputes and where there are entities which have some, but not all, of characteristics of an undoubted State. What happens then?

In order to analyze the the Palestinian bid let us first look at the history of Palestine after 1947 in the context of its relation with the UN, the UN methodology for membership and finally the speech delivered by the Palestinian head of state during the 66th General Assembly meet this year.

History of Palestine and the UN Resolutions

Palestine was among the several former Ottoman Arab territories which were under the administration of Great Britain, in accordance to the mandate of the League of Nations in 1922.  All of these territories are today independent states; the exception being the State of Palestine (UN QoP).

In 1947 the UN, in Resolution 181 (II), proposed the partitioning of Palestine into two independent States with Jerusalem internationalized. Israel proclaimed its independence in the 1948 and after the 1948 war with neighbouring Arab States it expanded its territory to occupy 77 per cent of the territory of Palestine. In the 1967 war, Israel occupied the remaining territory of Palestine (the West Bank and Gaza Strip) including East Jerusalem. Hostilities followed again in 1973. (UN QoP)

The continuous hostilities and the Palestinian refugee situation led to the Security Council resolution 242 in 1967 – principles for a just and lasting peace, including the Israeli withdrawal from territories it had occupied – and Resolution 338 in 1974 – inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, national independence, sovereignty, and to return. (UN QoP)

In 1974 the General Assembly, under Resolution 3210 and 3236, recognized the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as the “representative of the Palestinian people” and in Resolution 3237 it gave them an observer status at the United Nations (UN GA, 1974)

In 1987 the first intifada began in the Occupied Palestinian Territory protesting the Israeli occupation. The Israeli forces responded with methods that led to mass injuries and huge numbers of civilian deaths among the Palestinians population. This led to the 1988 proclamation of the establishment of the State of Palestine during the Palestine National Council meeting in Algiers. That same year, 1988, in Resolution 43/177 the General Assembly acknowledged the proclamation of the State of Palestine by the Palestine National Council on 15 November 1988 and replaced the designation “Palestine Liberation Organization” in the United Nations system with “Palestine” (UN QoP).

In 1991 a peace conference was convened in Madrid, which culminated (in Oslo) with PLO’s acceptance of the Security Council’s Resolutions 242 (1967)  and 338 (1973) (the “land for peace” formula) and the subsequent recognition by the Government of Israel and the PLO of each other. (UN QoP).

In  mid  1998 the General Assembly adopted a resolution which allowed Palestine additional rights and privileges of participation that had previously been exclusive to Member States: right to participate in the general debate, the right to cosponsor resolutions and the right to raise points of order on Palestinian and Middle East issues. In fact, later in the year, Mr. Yassir Arafat addressed the 53 rd General Assembly (UN QoP).

Between 1991 and 2011 there have been various failed attempts to find a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The unsuccessful results and the 2010 failure of the new round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, led the Palestinian State’s decision to submit an application for membership to the UN on the 23rd of September 2011 (UN QoP).

UN Membership: Process and Forms

The eligibility and the process to become a member state of the United Nation is explained in the Charter and the Rules of Procedure. Article 4 (1) of the Charter states that membership is open to all “peace-loving states, which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter” (UN Carter).

The applicant entity must at first submit the application to the Secretary-General stating that it accepts the obligations contained in the Charter (UN SC, 1983) and then the factual admission to the UN “will be effected by a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.” (UN Charter, Article 4 (2)). T

The above state process entails: (i) the favourable decision by the Security Council for the admission of the new state, which means no “vetoes”, and (ii) the positive vote of two-third majority of the General Assembly members present at the time of voting (UN Charter, Art. 18 (2)).

Mahmoud Abbas: We are ready!

The speech that Abbas delivered at the 66th General Assembly debate had one aim: convince other member-states to vote positively towards the application and lobby for their membership. In his speech, Abbas spoke about the failed peace processes and negotiation, the continuous suffering of “his people” and, most importantly for our analysis,  the infrastructural and governmental developments of Palestine (Abbas, 2011).

In the speech Abbas stated “during the last two years our national authority has implemented a program to build our State institutions”; programs that “enhance and advance the judiciary and the apparatus for maintenance of order and security, to develop the administrative, financial, and oversight systems, to upgrade the performance of institutions, and to enhance self-reliance (Abbas, 2011).” A statement which aimed at convincing the member States that Palestine is not just an entity capable of declaring Statehood but now, also an entity that had constructed those institutions that allow it to function like a State.

The Palestinian Application: Declaratory and Constitutive Elements

On the 23rd of September Mahmoud Abbas submitted the State of Palestine’s application to the UN. It is  “the Palestinian people’s natural,  legal and historic rights and based on United Nations General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947 as well as the Declaration of Independence of the State of Palestine of 15 November 1988 and the acknowledgement by the General Assembly of this Declaration in resolution 43/177 of 15 December 1988.” (Abbas Application, 2011) to become a member of the United Nations.

What kind of Statehood approach does this application aim at? And, what does it mean for the Palestinian State?

According to Brownlie, “the better view is that the granting of recognition to a new state is not a ‘constitutive’ but a ‘declaratory act” since “it does not bring into existence a legal state that did not exist before” (Dixon & McCorquodale, 2003, p.155). With such a view, let us first examine the pre-bid Declaratory elements of Palastine and then the Constitutive ones.

In 1988, the Palestine National Council declared the Statehood of Palestine (UN QoP) in exercise with the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination. This declaration was recognized by the United Nations Resolution 43/177 of 15 December 1988 and many resolutions were passed by the General Assembly and also the Security Council, all of whom accepted a two state solution (Abbas Application, 2011). With such facts, it looks very strange to assert that the Palestinian State was looking for a Declarative statehood. However,  before making such a straight-forward conclusion let us examine if the State of Palestine fulfills the four parameters set by the Montevideo Convention of 1933.

The first element is Population. Under international law there is no minimum requirement of the number of inhabitants for an entity to qualify as a State apart of their need to be permanent (Dixon & McCorquodale, 2003, p.136). International practice suggests that the concept of permanence does not imply a static number but a temporal continuity of inhabitants. Palestine today, according to me, full fills this criteria.

A defined territory is the second element. The Palestinian and Israeli conflict has its roots in border issues and since 1947 Israel has been, mostly, increasing its share of territory with the expense of the Palestinian one. However, the fact that boundaries are contested or are subject to change is not a barrier for statehood. The important element to define a territory is that there must be a ‘coherent territory effectively governed’ (Dixon & McCorquodale, 2003, p.136). In the case of Palestine, with some doubts over the effectiveness but with surety over the existence of a governing entity, we can conclude that the State of Palestine has a defined territory.

The third element is the government. In the international legal doctrines little concern is given on the form of the government; what must exist is an organized and effective government (Dixon & McCorquodale, 2003, p.136). This point, i believe, is a little more complicated to answer. The PLO is considered to be the sole representative of the Palestinian People by the UN (Abbas Application, 2011) but at the same time the PLO is not the entity that governs all the Palestinian territory, since Hamas governs Gaza (BBC, 2007). In addition,  the PLO does not represent, in the required degree, the Hamas party, which in the 2006 election won 74 out of the 134 seats (BBC, 2006). However, the West Bank governmental institutions are managed by the PLO. Does the State of Palestine have a Government? At one level I would say “no”, if we consider that there must be one sole entity governing the whole Palestinian territory effectively; but at an other level “yes”, if we consider that two entities are governing, to a great extent, two territories and their respective populations.

The last element is the international capacity, which  is made of two components: the competence to act in the international arena and the exclusive jurisdiction in internal matters (Dixon & McCorquodale, 2003, p.137). It is difficult to deny that the Palestinian State has not entered into the international arena as the entity representing the Palestinian people and we can see this by the various treaties it has signed and its diplomatic missions and relations with various other States (Palestinian Embassies, 2011). However, the question of the exclusivity of jurisdiction over internal matter is a complex question. The Palestinian territory is occupied by both, the Israeli settlements and the Israeli army (Abbas, 2011); however Netanyahu, in his speech, insisted that Palestine could still become a State even if there was  an Israeli military presence and gave the example of Japan after World War 2 (Netanyahu, 2011).

The other theory is the Constitutive one, which according to Bronwlie, is the “political act of recognition on the part of other States” as  “a prerequisite of the existence of legal rights” (Dixon & McCorquodale, 2003, p.155). According to this statement, the very fact that a State declares itself a State on the sole basis of the Montevideo convention does not imply that it is a legal entity in the international arena. The State of Palestine has diplomatic relations and more than 120 States have recognized the Palestinian state (The Guardian, 2011). In a context where more than 60% of the world has recognized the Palestinian state, would the UN membership application have any significance for the constitutive recognition of Palestine?

The Palestinian Application: Declaratory or Constitutive?

The statehood-ness of the Palestinian State, according to me, has gaps in both the Declaratory and Constitutive theories – it does not perfectly fit in either one of them – and the aim of the application is to close these gaps by elaborating further both aspects.

The Palestinian bid does not fall exactly into one of the statehood theory but reinforces both the theories. The very fact that the bid was accepted by the United Nations meant that, according to the UN, the State of Palestine has, or most probably has, the elements for being a member state. The question now is, will the actors in the process of membership accept the membership or not and this debate is shifting more towards the political aspect of it, rather than the legal aspect.

What does this mean? According to me it means that the question of “Government” that arose from the analysis made above is becoming more blur and the element of effective and organized governance is becoming stronger, something that Abbas also emphasised in his General Assembly speech. It also means that the element of the international capacity is becoming more evident: a greater voice in the international arena and with it a greater push for juridical sovereignty on internal matters.  At the same time, the application is also looking for greater recognition by other member states. The public debate which the application aroused may lead to greater support, or even recognition, even if informal, of States which previously did not recognize the State of Palestine.


In the understanding a statehood-ness of a State,  the Declarative and Constitutive dichotomy, according to me, is a very dangerous one; for it consider statehood an “either-or” and not a “either-and”.

I do agree with the greater importance of the Declarative theory, as Browlie states, but i would not see it hierarchically but on a horizontal temporal basis. The process of statehood is not a fight between the two theories but a reciprocal support that each theory give in the recognition of the other – statehood comes from the conjunction of the two theories. If possible, however, the self-declaration of a state should occur before the recognition of other states. Why this? As Brownlie stated, the constitutive theory brings the entity into a legal existence (Dixon & McCorquodale, 2003, p.155) and how can this be done if the entity itself does not consider itself a State?

Goodwin-Gill believes that we have moved beyond the Declaratory theory, particularly where representation in the UN is concerned. (Al Jazeera, 2011) I agree, but i would also keep in account  the possibility of the existence of sovereign state which are not a member of the UN, like Switzerland was for many years, or being a UN Member State without being a fully independent state, as India was prior to achieving complete independence from the United Kingdom (John Ceron, 2011). This very different and opposing thought, according to me, shows the very dual nature of the UN membership: it is both a process to recognize the elements of statehood and a method to re-affirm the elements of statehood, even if it is not the mechanism itself that declares statehood.

What are then the legal implication that this application? If the membership is accepted, which is quite improbable, the State of Palestine will be not only entitled to a vote in the United Nations but also will become a recognized subject of international law by the highest international tribunal, the International Court of Justice. On the other hand, the rejection of the membership will leave the legality of the Palestinian State as a subject of international law at the same blurry level. But the negative outcome of the application will not come without a large public opinion and debate against the decision, and as such it will give greater international voice to the State of Palestine, a faster resurface of peace negotiations and re-emphasize the necessity of stronger political structure within the Palestinian State.


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U (Communicate) Peace

When a peace builder decides to enter into a mediation it means that s/he accepts the relationship among the parties and legitimizes their identity and position within the conflict. If to mediate is to legitimize, what do we do when we are asked to mediate a conflict where we completely deny the position of one of the parties involved in this conflict? Do we enter the mediation to work towards a solution or do we take a step back to show our stand within the conflict? If our desire is to see a conflict resolved, how do we choose between our ethics and values against having the possibility to open the channels of communication between the conflicting parties?

This is a short reflection on why I think this dichotomy is more a self-made position of the mediator rather than a real problem in the process of conflict resolution.

The Upeace Decision on the Libyan Youth Mediation

Dr. Amr Abdalla, the vice-rector of the University for Peace, told us that in the beginning of August a Libyan student of his, from a conflict resolution workshop he did in Egypt a few years back, had contacted him to explore the possibility of having Upeace as a mediator between the youth group of the Rebels in the Libyan war and the youth group of the Gaddafi government. The student belonged to the pro-Gaddafi youth.

The Upeace managing committee was now faced with a challenging dilemma: do we facilitate or not the mediation. Now, if Upeace decided to enter the mediation, they might be capable of providing the two parties with tools to work towards reconciliation, but at the same time they would be legitimizing the Gaddafi Government – a thirty year long Government of a tyrant who is known for crimes against his people. On the other hand, if they decided not to be the mediators then they would make their ethical position firm and let the Gaddafi youth be aware of their beliefs, however this would mean not providing the two parties with a platform for interaction where their inputs could have been very valuable.

Upeace decided not to become the mediator. They did not want to legitimize the Government of a tyrant and they wanted to make sure that the pro-Gaddafi regime knew of their beliefs and stand. Prof. Abdalla also mentioned to us that he replied to the email send by the Libyan person mentioning something similar to “We do not want to see tyrants in the world”.

Upeace decided not to mediate and as such not to be player in the Libyan war. Making sure that their stance was known to the pro-Gaddafi youth, according to them, was more important than opening some channels of communication between the conflicting parties.

I understand the position taken by Upeace, however I disagree with it and also with the reasoning behind it, especially if it comes from an institution which believes in finding paths for reconciliation and not paths which imposes one party as right and one as wrong, as Dr. Ambdalla had said “no one wakes up thinking they are wrong”.

Channels of Communication

“Communication should never be broken between two conflicting parties” and “if we are to work towards a solution we need dialogue” were the concepts that Dr. Victoria Fontan, professor at the University for Peace, explicated during her classes at the university around the 28th of August.

I agree with Dr. Forlan. Dialogue and communication are essential towards reconciliation, especially when we have learned through history that there has been no conflict in the world which has completely erased the opponent from the face of this earth. Somehow, someone always remains and it is this someone that then creates the dynamics for conflict to re-escalate.

In deciding to not enter the conflict, Upeace not only decided to deny the opening of some channels of communication, but also affirmed that the mandate of the Gaddafi government is so ethically wrong that any person involved in a pro-Gaddafi ideology should not be helped. Somehow, I felt, this would implicitly mean that the pro-Gaddafis are a priori “just wrong” and as such we must ensure their defeat and their non-involvement in post-conflict rebuilding. To deny communication, according to me, is not only to deny to the “wrong party” the legitimacy to be part of post-conflict Libya (which assumes that all pro-Gaddafi are useless and should not exist) but also to deny the very mandate of the University, which is the creation of dynamics for sustainable peace, for how can sustainability come without communication?

Does the Mediator Legitimize?

One of the important reasons for Upeace not to accept the mediation was to not legitimize the pro-Gaddafi party. It is true that the mediator legitimizes the parties, however, the question that comes to my mind is: “who is the mediator to really legitimize the parties when it is the parties which have decided to confront each other?” According to me the parties legitimize each other’s position, for they are the ones who have decided to work upon the position of the other. In a sense Upeace would give international recognition, but then how can “you” suddenly take away the recognition of a government which has existed for more than thirty years and who the rebels even recognize, even if they are going against it. And what if it was the rebels who had asked them to mediate?

The decision of Upeace not to mediate, I think, also was in line with the concept of ‘liberal peace’ that they do not advocate. In not mediating they conveyed the massage that “this is not the way we think peace should be achieved, even though it is the way you think it should be achieved”.

If the parties want to open the channels of communication, who are we as mediators to decide not to mediate? On whose mind do the dichotomies that we started this essay with really exist?

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20th Century: Let Us Start Resolving Conflicts?!

“Conflict resolution […] first defined itself and then expanded its remit during what we are calling its foundation period in the 1950s and 1960s, and its period of further construction and expansion in the 1970s and 1980s.” wrote Oliver Rasbotham, Tom Woodhouse and Hugh Miall in their book “Contemporary Conflict Resolution”

The authors of this book then further elaborate this statement by differentiating three consequential periods (the three generations) in the development of this field. The first generation, who they call “the precursors”, developed the academic (establishment of International Relation as an academic field of studies, etc.), institutional (League of Nations, etc.) and intellectual (Gandhi, Quakers, etc.) thoughts which provided the space that made possible the creation of “conflict resolution” as a separate academic field.

The second generation, which they call “the foundations” (1945-1965), started with the creation of the United Nation. The immediate threat of nuclear power that came after WW2 also brought the “necessity” (as the authors say) to develop a separate field of academic research on the dynamics of conflict and peace, which led to the establishment of the first journals and institutes dedicated only to this field of study.

Through the research developed by the second generation, the Third generation, the “consolidation” (1965-1985), ware conflict practitioners who tried to wed the theories of peace and conflict studies with its practice. In this process they shifted the focus of their research from a “nation-state” oriented approach towards considering the “individual” as their locus.

The 20th Century’s Great Idea?!
“From today we start doing tourism! Was the sentence of the new Assessor to Tourism of Grosseto, as he entered the tourism department on his first day at office” told me Cristiana Ciacci, a government employee at the Ministry of Tourism in Grosseto (a province in Italy) as the Assessor was coming on the stage to give out his speech. With her slightly annoyed and a bit irritated face, she continued “how can a politician, who just entered the tourism ministry, assume that all the workers at the department have no idea of tourism and that finally, because of great inteligencia, we will finally know what tourism is and how it is done?”

This desire of wanting to show oneself to be the inventor, of being the first person, or community, or society in history to suddenly have innovative thoughts and tools, the arrogance of their intelligence and inteligencia and the disrespect and non-acknowledgment towards the contribution of various people in the course of history, which contributed to the formation of one’s tools and thoughts, were the constant feeling I had as I kept reading the article of the above mentioned authors. The authors narration about the development of conflict and peace studies continuously made me draw a parallel between it and the new Assessor of Grosseto’s statement. Interestingly the views expressed by the authors in their article are shared by many other people in peace and conflict studies.

As I kept reading the article I kept asking myself “how true is it to state that conflict resolution as a field of study started in 1945 or 3 decades before that? And that too, only by the ‘western’ schools of thought?” It somehow felt strange for me to be able to assert with conviction that conflict resolution is an academic field of study that was developed in the 20th century and that resolving international conflict was a problem that was finally tackled only in the 20th century.

Other Schools of Thought
“This is the perennial law: it is not trough violence that we can end violence; it is only love that has the power to terminate violence” – Dhammapada 1.5.
Questions of ethics, inter-state/empire/kingdoms diplomacy, managing societies, rights and duties, justice, violence, peace processes and many other concepts which we tackle in conflict resolution have been asked by many scholars across ages. How do we create more justice as to enable more peace? How do we create more internal harmony which then can be expressed externally in society? How should power relation work with respect to intra-state or inter-state relations?

Buddha spoke about the four noble truths, the middle path and also about the importance of non-violence. The Yogic schools speak about the importance of internal harmony and its external expression. The Zen thought emphasizes on the importance of flexibility, “to be like water” when confronted with an “immovable obstacle”. In “The Republic” Plato tried to conceive of a just society where he thought of justice as the most importance element to achieve a society with intra-state peace. Kautilya in the “Arthashastra” explained how to manage inter-state diplomacy.

Conflict resolution is said to be a multi-disciplinary subject drawing by facts and events to which all us as human beings are confronted with, and thus have an opinion of. This is probably also the reason why many schools of thought have analyzed in depth the dynamics of peace and conflict.

From the little research I have done I have not found any study on “only” the subject of peace and conflict, it has always been in relation to other fields of study. In this sense it may be partially correct to state that it is only after 1945 that the study of peace and conflict became a separate academic field with its own structure and niche and thus it was the start of “Conflict and Peace Studies”. However I would be very doubtful of such a separation, especially because of the a priori idea of peace and conflict studies – it is a multi disciplinary subject. Being multi-disciplinary means that it is always understood in relation with other fields so it is not possible to write about just peace and conflict without any element of psychology, management, sociology, religion, etc.

I think the differentiation though various stages can be made, but we need to incorporate many more factors and thought before the classification is done.

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Syria – The Protests and the Media Games

The summer of 2007 was my first real introduction to the Arab world. I had once visited Jordan in 2002 for a week, but the only thing I remember is football and trying something interesting, which they called Nargile. As I told my mother of this new interesting thing I tried with my newly made friends, with her half shocked and half curious voice, “You smoked?” she asked. Having no idea that that was tobacco, I grinned in reply; “It was good”.

In 2007 I was on a family road journey by camper, and Syria was among the countries we visited. It was the pre-election time and in my travel memoir, I remember writing “Syria is a republic… well they say so…there are going be elections in a few days and there is only one candidate, the current president, who is also the son of the previous President. His photos are everywhere; when I say everywhere I mean it. On car windows, posters, photos inside shops, t-shirts, everywhere!!! The only time you might escape from his sight is when you sleep”.

I vividly remember that, and I also remember the peculiar sight at the border crossing between Syria and Jordan, of assisting at only men dancing in ecstasy to loud Arabian music, holding flags of Syria, posters of the President and shouting his name.

We had come in into Syria through Turkey, an experience which I described in the following words: “It is strange how only a small territorial change can make big difference, in culture as well as in geographical scenario. The whole cultural atmosphere had changed. Entering Syria was like putting on tighter underwear. You could see many more covered women, a feeling of orthodoxy and the openness to other cultures was much more limited.”

In the past two years I’ve had the opportunity of visiting Syria more often, understand better its culture, its people, its policies and its neighbors. An experience which has changed my understanding of Syria. When I went to Damascus in 2009 I was surprised to see so many banks, ATMs and foreign clothing and food chains. This was just the surface view, of what I could imagined must have been the outcome of a change in the foreign and economic policy. I breathed space, both special, since I was coming from cemented Beirut, and social, as I could sense a change in the freedom of expression and opportunity of the youth. I felt Syria was on the path of being capable of holding to a healthy and strong Arab identity and yet finding openness and integration of the western ideals and market structures.

On the 28th of April 2011, in between the scary news being reported by the non-Syrian media, I was on my way from Beirut towards Damascus. With no idea of what would await me, I was on a taxi with two young Syrian ladies and camera in my bag. No journalists were allowed in Syria. I was not a journalist but I did not know if my camera would be allowed or not. At the border I was stopped for 10 minutes and enquired about. I met two different officers, one for my visa and one for my luggage. They were doing their duty, but surely with the most polite voice that an enquiry permits,. By the end we were joking in broken English. The camera also passed. I was a tourist, not an opinion maker of the western media.  If I imagine how developing country citizens are often treated when they visit the developed country embassies, I can only say that this was an enquiry on a red carpet.

As we entered Syria, the young girl turned around and said, “There are problems in Syria, but it is safe. Just try not to go out late at night”. Then after a few seconds she turned back again, this time with a curious look, she asked, “I am Christian and he [the driver] is Muslim and there are no problems. Why do the Westerners, who are facing so much problems in accepting a multi-cultural life and society, wish to attack us, who live in perfect harmony?”

I smiled, I did not know what else to do for I could not agree more. Syria is among those countries where people found space to express and explicate their religions. Home to various Muslim schools, Syria is also home to many Christian schools. Christianity today is homed in the Vatican, but its nurturing come from the lands around here, we have all heard of the famous story of Saint Paul on his voyage to Damascus.

Syria today is witnessing a popular uprising since more than 2 months and with over 1,000 demonstrator dead – according to the statistics given by various local civil society organizations. No facts can be confirmed, no death toll verified and this is partly due to the restrictions issued by the Syrian Government on any foreign media– none of them can enter the country. In fact an Al Jazeera journalist, who tried her luck, was arrested on arrival.

We know that journalists are not allowed. Surely the negation of a free flow of information is always wrong and will always put the authority improvising such restriction in a bad light. But have we asked ourselves why such restrictions have been imposed?

On Sunday, 5th of May 2011, more than 20 peaceful Syrian protesters were shot dead by Israeli forces during a protest on the border between Israel and Syria. Have we ever asked ourselves why when Israel shoots peaceful protesters, it’s called self-defense, and when the Syrian authority shoot peaceful protestants, it’s called oppression?

It is this change in words, this bias of the most western medias: to change facts, to narrate half the story, to find the dramatic news, to find the easy story and the easy narration. It is this kind of news that I think the Syrian Government is scared of, and they have all the right to be so, for surely there are many examples of bias reporting, especially when it comes to this region of the world.

When seen from the news, Syria looks like a permanently under attack country, but life was completely normal during my stay in Damascus, from the 28th of April to the 14th of June. Young boys and girls met around in cafes and went out during weekends, shops were open, schools were open, cars and taxis were moving across the city, businesses never stopped and nor did government institutions. The only time I came to know that Syria was [supposedly] a dangerous place was when I watched TV and occasionally on the quite Fridays.

There is a public opinion rising in Syria but not a desire to see their country’s political regime being completely overthrown. There is no desire to see foreign troops bombing them to “liberate” them; there is no desire to have a power vacuum. Syria is not Libya. Syria was probably the most stable country in the whole region, in the recent past, and, somehow, a potentially dangerous state for the West. Today Syria, Turkey, Iran, Lebanon and Jordan have strong alliances, both economic and political, with no visa requirements and work permits, and this surely can be a reason of worry for the West and their strong ally, Israel. 

I think that what we see in the Syrian political scenario today is the division of two major ideologies: those who would like to implement reforms and those who belong to the former Assad regime and are scared of such reforms – and since they were used to the military power to suppress any agitation, they still believe it to be the only real solution. I assert this conclusion from the fact that Syria is not a dictatorial monarchy, in fact we saw very little of President Assad speaking to the public, meaning that there are many other players in the game. For sure the Syrian Government has exaggerated in its measures against the protest, but this does not mean that we are not careful of the power games in the region.

Public opinion is very important, but only an intelligent and aware public opinion, both in the country and outside the country, can bring create intelligent decisions. Syria is a very strategic country for the whole Arab region. It connects the Persian, the Turkish and the Arab world and it is a very strong power against Israel, a reality one needs to be aware of when discussing these protests. Then the fact remains that we do not know how peaceful all these protests are, for we have seen images of burned Syrian Government offices and on the 6th of May 2011, we were given the news of more than 100 killed soldiers.

More over, in a sectarian country like Syria, if the regime suddenly falls, who will fill it in? Would a power gap lead to sectarian violence? Probably it will. But with no government in place, who will protect the people? Surely Israel will be the happiest country if Syria enters a social and political turmoil, with more control over the Golan Heights, a weaker Hezbollah in Lebanon and a weaker Iran-Turkey-Syria alliance. A weak Syria would also mean a weaker Palestine struggle, and with the Palestinian authority appearing in September in front of all UN to ask for recognition, what more could Israel ask for?

Syria has seen great economic development in the recent years, and now what many people are demanding, as young Syrians told me, is to see the same change in the political reforms. A stable society, according to the Human Development approach, requires “Civil, Social, Political and Economic Freedoms” as Prof. Shiva Kumar, a development economist, says. The Syrian people are demanding all these freedoms and not the creation of an instable country with a power gap, leading them back to a situation where the total “freedoms”  maybe much worse than the one before the protests.

When talking about the Syrian protest one forgets why the media is not emphasizing on the revolt in Baharain (where the Saudi have send their army and the F1 GP is still going to happen), the revolt in Saudi Arabia (where everyone who revolted was killed) and of how many human rights violations have been done by Israel, of how many Palestinians are dispersed as refugees. We do not talk about the fact that Syria educates all the children of the Iraqi refugees (a reality caused by the American invasion) in Syria. One forgets to see what would happen if the government is overthrown, since there is no real political opposition Syrian leader.

I am not here to assert what the reality of the Syrian protest is, but just to ask you to reflect before making opinions about the Syrian situation and about the western media’s reporting. It is important to realize that democracy is a process for which people need to be empowered to have the capacity to live in a democratic society. I did not see the current regime as a power hungry regime like Libya or Tunisia, but a regime which was paving a path towards a real republic, which often needs a phase of inteligent monarchy before it. How many years of monarchy did we have in Europe before attaining democracy? Let us allow the Arab world also to go through this process, for surely, democracy cannot be imposed by an external agent.

I trust the intelligence of the Syrian people, we should help that intelligence to achieve real freedom and not give them, or us,  a false promise of a perceived freedom. 

Posted in Essays, Peace Research, Travel Journal | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Vagueness of Security – on what factors does it really depend?

This paper wants to investigate the current opinions about achieving “security” and how much these opinions are consistent with the main theories regarding peace building.

“Security” is a theme of which we hear very often and it is surely linked with the public communication from opinion makers and political leaders especially during electoral campaigns. There is also in general an agreement among international policy makers that they need to create more security (in the community, in the Nation, in the region, etc.) So we keep hearing about national and international security but the terms itself seems to remain a bit vague. We know that promising more security is instrumental to gaining public support; but what does the word really mean? And what are the policies that really ensure this security? How can we differentiate between those which create a perception of security and those which create real security?

Most world governments try to prove to their citizens that they are actively engaged in building greater security by devoting a big section of national resources to police and military spending. But is there a direct link between the capacity of availing of violent means and security? And what are the linkages between “obtaining security”, ‘ensuring justice’ and ‘creating peace’? But are peace and security related? And if they are, do they have a virtuous relation or a vicious relation? Can a policy on military strengthening really ensure a sustainable security in international relationships?

In this research we made a survey of the current opinions about achieving “security” and we have found out that there exists in the media an opinion that over simplifies security and not only takes away the link between security and peace, but it often argues that military strength guarantees security. This opinion seems to be in clash with the human security approach which the social sciences and arts teach us.

In this essay I will have a look on current thoughts and policies on security, put them in relation with observation and conceptions I have gathered from my research and with some theories on peace, justice and development developed till date.

What is Security?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, Security is “the state of being free from danger or threat”. Wikipedia, very interestingly, gives a very different meaning and states that Security “is the degree of protection against danger, damage, loss, and criminal activity”.

This difference in words is not as small as it may seem; for the psychological outcomes coming from what the meanings convey, are completely different. The feeling of security is psychological and as such, the meaning we understand by this term will determine the approach we have on how to ensure the security of something.

If my security is a “degree of protection”, it means that there is something of mine that someone wants to take away from me. How can I stop him? “I will ensure that he does not have the capacity to lay his hands on it! I will make it so secure that there can be no infiltration.” This approach leads to a defensive way of looking at security which is based on a continuous lack of trust in others and a presupposition of jealousy and desire of appropriation.

“A state of being that is free”, conveys a psychological understanding which is not bound towards the protection of something through enclosure but sees security as a logical outcome of openness. To be secure is be capable of creating contexts that enable you to be in a state of freedom. When security is seen as a state of being, it is taken from a purely psychological level to a level where it is a harmony between different forces, both internal and external, converting the defensive attitude of protection (protecting that one factor which ensure security), to understanding security as a something enabled by a combination of factors. Factors which per se don’t ensure security but when cooperating and acting together enabled the possibility of a secure society, a secure home.

I think both the meanings given above have a problem. If we define security as a “the state of being free from danger or threat” it feels that we have defined security in spiritual terms and when we bring this understanding to political policies, we might get lost in a beautiful utopia. The second meaning is making the mistake of reducing security only to material terms and only influenced by one factor that needs to be protected.

Theories and Promises of Security – Capitalism, Afghanistan and Human Security

Different systems, different economic models, different people, give security a different meanings, which depends on the standpoint from where they look. In the financial sector, securities refer to bonds with a financial value, in the IT sector you have network security, data security, and then you also have food security, airport security. In the social and political sphere, there is a tendency of looking at security at two levels: (1) Traditional Security, which is divided in International Security and National Security, and (2) Human Security

Traditional Security: Many social scientists define traditional security as a state-centric view of security. Policies and action must ensure the security of the state, once the state is secure its citizens will automatically be secure. By conceiving security as having the nation state as locus, this view on differentiates between two territorial spaces and the people residing in this territory: the “us” (the territory, resources and the citizens inside the nation state) and the “them” (territory, resources and people outside our nation state) in relation with the “us”. The security concerned with the former dimension is linked with National Security, the one concerned with the latter, is linked with International Security.

National Security: is often understood as the requirement to maintain the survival of the nation-state through the use of economic, military and political power and the exercise of diplomacy. The best example of national security methods are exemplified in the American policies, where a major focus is given to military security, which is achieved through ‘escalation domination’ – atomic bombs, disinformation, intelligence agencies, strategic alliance and maintenance of status quo.

International Security: is instead understood as measures taken by nations and international organizations, such as the United Nations, to ensure mutual survival and safety of all nation states. These measures include military action and diplomatic agreements such as treaties and conventions.

The prevalence of this view on security reached a peak during the Cold War. For almost half a century, since the WW2, major world powers entrusted this type of security. As Cold War tensions receded, it started becoming clearer that the security of citizens was threatened by hardships arising from internal state activities as well as external aggressors. Civil wars were increasingly common and compounded existing poverty, disease, hunger, violence and human rights abuses. Traditional security policies had effectively masked these underlying basic human needs in the name of state security. Through neglect of its constituents, nation states had failed in their primary objective, to secure the individual.

Human Security: Human security holds that a people-centred view of security is necessary for national, regional and global stability. This concept was articulated in different forms since many centuries, but its strong advocacy in today’s world emerges from a post-Cold War, multi-disciplinary understanding of security involving a number of research fields, including development studies, international relations, strategic studies, and human rights.

Human security is an emerging paradigm for understanding global vulnerabilities whose proponents challenge the traditional notion of national security by arguing that the proper referent for security should be the individual rather than the state. But who are these individuals, how large is that community which the term ‘individual’ connotes? Global threats today, are poverty, environmental degradation, and terrorism and not the traditional security threats of interstate attack and warfare. But whose poverty are we looking at. Does poverty have a regional boundary? Does security have a regional boundary?

Traditional security is founded on the idea that I must defend myself, where the “me” is more important and comes before the “them”. Before analysing the above questions I would like to first look into the promises of security which were made by certain people in the context of an economic policy, capitalism, and in the context of war, Afghanistan.

The Promises of Capitalists and the Afghanistan War

One of the ways to define Capitalism is to say that it is an economic system in which the means of production are privately owned and operated for maximising profit. What is the promise that many believers in this system give? That it is possible for everyone to be rich if they only work hard enough and utilize resources to their best potential. How do they promise security in this system? Well, if you have money and control over resources you are safe, you can ensure your security (your nation state’s security); and the more money and control you have the safer you are. What do I do then? I gather and gather, accumulate and accumulate as much monetary funds as possible and enforce and ensure my authority over the resources that allow me this accumulation. But wait, didn’t the very economic basis of this system teach us that resources are limited? Well, then the only way to accumulate beyond my necessity is to take resources from other people’s resources. What a great idea! I make myself more secure by making the other less secure. But of course, no one except me likes or wishes to have security.

On a bright early winter day in 2000 the crash of two planes into the symbol of the American power and dream unscrewed the nuts of the laid back rocking chair. “I did everything” reflected some USA policy makers. “I have control over most of the world resources, out of which most of them are not even in my territory, I have control over the policies of most nation states outside mine, I have the greatest military straight, I have the strongest and most powerful weapons, I have the latest technology, the richest economy … I have the power to destroy the whole world, to destroy existence. How could MY bolt get unscrewed? It is just not possible; I did everything right, so right that the very chapter on the best practices towards National and International security of the Capitalist manual is me”. Something somewhere failed. Was there a failure of the Capitalist promise of security?

The non-acceptance of a failing approach to security lead to the most obvious excuse. “It is not because of us, it is because of their madness, theirs! And we need to save ourselves from such madness!” The choice made by Bush was the most obvious, the easiest, the most automatic one out of all of those, which his intellect could have chosen. “They attack us, we will take revenge. We will ensure our safety by attacking them in their country.” This brilliant idea paved the path the only war in the world history that was never really visible to all of us. We just knew it was there. The war on Terrorists and their ideology “Terrorism”, a drama which had only us as the actors on this stage. “It is interesting” says Tiziano Terani on an online interview of his “how in old Greek tragedies when stories of war were narrated to the public, both sides conveyed their arguments, their emotions, their feelings and the public was able to relate to them” and then conceptualize what the ‘right’ decision was. But now we are much beyond that, our civilization has reached levels where the ‘right’ is known “a priori”; so we don’t need two sides to a story. “We are the public, we are the directors and we are the actors. We are the story, and ours is the only story!” as he says.

From this research, the failed promise of capitalists is that safety of a person and a nation state cannot be ensured through maximising individual profits (accumulation of resources, military power and control over resources), for we can never ensure our safety by negating the safety of others. The failed promise of Bush on Afghanistan is that revenge, hate and war on your enemies have not created a safer USA nor a safer world, not for ‘them’ nor for ‘us’.

The whole Afghanistan operation was advertised as a great revenge where the promise was to ensure security to all western citizens. But is revenge the greatest expression of our civilization, it is one of those attributes we call virile? No. All our tradition, from the Greek tragedies or Buddha, civilization is overcoming our vengeance and ensuring justice, peace and security in all the people in society.

Internal Security vs External Security – can we really differentiate?

In the interviews that I did two very interesting points came forward. Most people differentiated between internal security and external security. Now, when they spoke about internal security they believed that military strength was not a factor which lead to such security, but on the contrary, it could sometimes play a negative role, as Malini Gupta says, “for what the military conceives as security may not be what people understand security as”, just like in Kashmir, I could add. What I understood was that Internal security was dependent on Human Security, by creating a social and political structure where people have “freedom from fears” and “freedom from wants”, in Amaratya Sen’s words. Basic human liberties, rights, dignities, access to resources, equal opportunities, access to quality education, were among some of the factors which lead to internal security, according to my research. “The Constitution asserts the relationship between public order and the liberty of a citizens”, said Marta Ferrari, but it is important to understand that “there cannot be public order if we do not ensure the liberty of an individual”.

But what happened when they started talking about External Security, about that security which is dependent on external forces and nation states and which is directly related to our resources and our territory? They moved from a human view of security to a structural view of security, and the whole prospective changed. External security did not depend anymore on an inclusive view of resource sharing, of opportunities and of liberties. A dichotomy was been established here; there is ‘us’ and there is ‘them’. Human security can only work among ‘us’, but when security enters a dimension of ‘us’ in relationship with ‘them’, “military strength” becomes one of the most important factors, if not sometimes the ‘necessary’ factor. This means that the stronger ‘our’ military threats the more external security ‘we’ have.

My question here is “what is the boundary of the ‘us ”? In a globalizing world, were we are divided by legal boundaries but where we share a common home, a common environment, and a world where international systems are too interconnected for the state to maintain an isolationist international policy, can we really distinguish between internal and external security? Or does the ‘we’ encompass a web of relationships which we may be larger than the nation state, that maybe we could call the ‘human community’?

Does our success to maintain security dependent on our capacity to ensure the security of others?

Perceived Security vs Real Security

The fear of earthquakes has been reported to be more common than the fear of slipping on the bathroom floor although the latter kills many more people than the former. Similarly, the perceived effectiveness of security measures is sometimes different from the actual security provided by those measures. For example, two computer security programs could be interfering with each other and even cancelling each other’s effect, while the owner believes s/he is getting double the protection.

Perceived security is a concept that the advertising industry uses very often to seduce people to buy a product. I use the word seduce because the add targets a lack knowledge and awareness on the product and emphasis on emotional or sensual appeal. There is in fact a term known as “Security theatre”, these are measures aimed at raising subjective (perceived) security in a population without a genuine or commensurate concern for the effects of that measure on real security. To give a perception of security is to create a feeling in the individual of security, a feeling which does not depend on real data, real contexts, real causes, effect and reasoning, but like all advertisement, depends on how the individual feels. On how best can you appeal to her emotions, reduce awareness and emphasise less on rational thinking.

During history most political policies and official speeches that have argued to explain why a country must enter into war have been based on creating a perceived feeling of security and of how to be safer we must enter into war – just like in Afghanistan. It is true, there have been wars which were believed to be fought for ‘justice’, for a more truer, just and sustainable future, but for who? For us in the nation state or for us as a human community? Can real security focus only on nation states and its citizens or must it look at the interdependence of humanity and human beings?

All the wars in the world have been started with the promise to create justice, enable peace and promise security. But a security from whom, justice for whom, peace for whom. And, if we win the war, will we be really ensured all these three promises? Will we create a society capable of ensuring these three promised?

The difference between Perceived security and Real security seems to be that the former is a feeling and rational which enables non-sustained contexts of security which are only subjective. The latter instead tries to aim at creating sustainable contexts, which do not facilitate the emergence of violence and foster a feeling of security that grows with time. Real security needs to be both tangible and emotional.

The Endless War for the Endless Peace

Na hi verena verāni sammantīdha kudācanaṃ , Averena ca sammanti esa dhammo sanantano -Dhammapada 1.5
(This is the perennial law: it is not trough violence that we can end violence; it is only love that has the power to terminate violence)

Have we ever seen in history a great violence giving end to great violence? Maybe it is true, violence is not the solution to end violence, maybe hate can really only create hate. Roberto Basile, a psychoanalyst and psychotherapist, in his interview told me “ I feel uncertain and frightened in front of weapons and their power of destruction.” Is this a feeling of security? But more importantly, whose security is it fostered through war? Prof. Paul, a scholar in the field of peace and conflict studies, said to me that “Human security has little to do with military strength”. The question which then comes to my mind is: whose security are we looking to promote? The human security or the notion state security? And, does human security enable nation state security or does the nation state security enable human security?

Till 1945 men and women have always killed people who were their similar. Wars were always among civilizations, kingdoms, of people vs people; but from 1945 men have had the possibility to destroy the very balance of nature and her elements and our war has expanded. Now we are not anymore able to just chop heads, but we are now able to destroy the very environment that keeps us alive. We are now in conflict with all that on which we depend, we have even come to a point where we are able to destroy ourselves as a species.

In such a scenario, the protection of nation state makes very little sense to me. If India and Pakistan go to war to ensure the safety of their nation state, both will probably annihilate each other with their nuclear power. Slowly the all the relationship between nation states is reaching this balance of “its better for me not to attack, if I want to be safe”. 9/11 is only one of many examples to show how we cannot use force to ensure our peace.

Marta Ferrari, who lived through WW2 in Italy, said, “War leads to the loss of all moral values, it infiltrates like a virus and slowly eats up all personal, social and political spheres”. How can a loss of moral values lead to greater security, when morality is an attribute that fosters security? How can an illness be a representation of security? If this is what war leads to, and if war can only be fought with military strength, how can military strength lead to security?

Security in terms of Justice and Peace

In the world today, military spending in the world is five times higher than spending on development, according to the documentary ‘Home’. When we look at a world where we are inter-dependent on survival and growth, where we have the possibility of annihilating ourselves, where we share a common environment and its limited resources, security seem to depend more on peace than on military strength. In my interviews everyone agreed that security depends on peace and when asked about security as dependent military strength 50% said that it does not depend at all and 50% said it partially depends on military strength; but all of them believed on a relationship between Justice, Peace and Security. What does this relationship mean?

“Applying justice is the very first element from which the other two descend” said Roberto Basile; and Prof Paul added that “Peace without justice in not sustainable, and peace without human security is cold peace”.

Justice seems to be a fundamental element of security. But what is justice? Wikipedia defines justice as the concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, fairness, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics. “Justice is important because security must be holistic and to all levels of society” said Madhav Tankha, a student of Sociology; “State actions (and policies) devoid of justice will only escalate insecurity and further conflict”, said Sunitha Rangaswami, a Development Professional; “ justice and security are connected because of the legal system” said Radhe Jaggi, a classical Indian dancer.

When people believe in Justice it seems they move towards sustainable processes, actions and decisions. Sustainability comes when each individual feels and sees that the world is providing her with a chance to live life, in its challenges and joys. Just policies aims at creating freedoms for people, in giving them equal opportunity, in sharing resources and profits, creating environmental balance, in ensuring that people and structures are accountable, in seeing people and nation states in the world as equals and with the same right to live. When we act justly we create a joy for life, it is this joy for life which creates peace, for peace, as Marta Ferrari said “peace needs the capacity to forgive”, to see the our life in relation to theirs.

According to Tiziano Terzani, “we understand war when we are able to relate with the person affected by the war, the direct victim or her mother, her father, her lover. When we are able to relate to the love, the humanity that was destroyed by the war”. It is when we relate to this humanity, when we put ourselves in that position that we see the need to forgive, to be just. “There is enough in the world for every man’s need and not greed” said Gandhi; it is this capacity to see the necessity of others which enables peace. When we have peace, can we achieve security

As Roberto Basile said, “Only peace guarantees that atmosphere which we truly experience as peace as a sense of freedom for the mind, our initiatives and creativity. Otherwise we live more in a state of constant apparent calm which is in fact a perennial state of tension of control of the enemy” and coming from a psychoanalyst is very important, since security is a psychological feeling.

Public opinion, Opinion makers and Policy Makers

If the above opinions and arguments are correct, then security of a state depends on its people and the security of the people are interwoven across the world and depend on the society’s capacity to be just.

Why then, when we hear the word ’security’ being spoken about we never hear the word ‘peace’ in conjunction with it? Why don’t the opinion makers and political leaders make such relation even if most social scientists of today agree that human security must be at the centre of policy making? Why do we only hear the word military strength in conjunction with security? And if opinion makers don’t do this, how will the public opinion be empowered with the knowledge to influence political leaders correctly?

Luca Vicenzotti, an Ingeneering student in Italy says that “The public is not well informed”. If public leaders are taking decisions that may lead to perceived security and not real security, how can an uninformed public influence such decisions intelligently? As Tehmina Abbas, a young Development Professional, says “you need public pressure to change political leaders“, a pressure which comes, as believes Luca “though good journalism and education”. We need to take the public from the ‘security theatre’ cause by ignorance to the ‘house of awareness’.

“Opinion makers need to use a strategic campaign across the nation to raise awareness in the public of the costs of war and the consequences. And since what is said is as important as who says it, these opinion makers must not belong to one class but different social structures, dimensions, contexts must have their opinion leaders communicating to their public. Only the awareness of people can influence the foreign and military policy” Sunitha Rangaswami told me. Madhav Tankha said that “they need to expand the scope of security”, by also “providing lived examples of alternatives to war and conflict and by highlighting that security, justice and peace not as lofty ideals that sit in courts and behind closed doors, but as issues that are experienced and lived through the daily lives of people.” said Malini Gupta.

Public opinion makers have the responsibility to bridge the gap of communication between the public and the decision makers, this responsibility must come from their capacity to also deal with these issue. “They need to communicate much more thought schools, TV programs, films, printed media, articles, theatre and poetry” said Marta Ferrari. Opinion makers must make leaders more accountable to the consequences of their actions and policies , and must raise the awareness in the public, so that the greater knowledge of the public leads to a more intelligent public opinion, which subsequently creates pressures and can lead to a change in the way political leaders tackle the problem of security.

Peace as a Process

One day I wake up in the morning and say, “It is such a nice day, why shouldn’t all days be so. Why not?! From today I like peace, so I want peace”. Have I then achieved peace? I think you are still quite far. Neither personal nor communal or international peace has defining/declaring moment. Both internal and external peace are a process of continuous dynamism where different problems, factors, situations, confrontations are explored with a proactive approach to peaceful solution.

Many assume that peace is an ‘absence’ – if this is not there we have peace – and they always connect it with direct violence. Peace however is not an absence, for an absence implies stagnation, but a dynamic process in which conflicts would occur but violence will cease.
If you go to a warlord, or to a government that has just declared war or a rebellious group and ask them: “why are you fighting?” Most of them will have the same answer “to have/be-in peace”. But violence has never brought positive and lasting peace but only an illusion of security.

There are three outcomes to a conflict: either we both loose, one wins and the other looses or a third more creative outcome – we both win. History has taught us that no violent conflict, neither latent or open, has ever had a winner and a looser in a long term; ultimately both loose, just some at a lower degree than the other and now in this interrelated world we have reached a point that either we all win or we all loose.

War before being outside, is inside us. The real roots of violence are inside us. They are in our arrogance, in our way of approaching life, of understanding life, in our desires, in our desire to grab and even in our relationship. The last century has seen an increase in the degree of violence even if the number of wars decreased, and this increase in violence has come in the countries which had the least wars in their nation state. This, according to Tiziano Terzani, “has come from our isolation from the others, from life, from ourselves and nature. If war is ignited from within us, then we need to start working from there”


Buddha said “hate only creates hate. Only love can terminate hate”. Maybe he was right. According to Terzani, the love of which Buddha speaks about “is not that outward directed feeling towards that who did violence, but it is that inward search of the humane in us. It is in this feeling that comes from understanding our uniqueness in a larger web of relationship; it is in the understanding of interdependence, of a relationship between us humans and us humans with nature, and the joy of life which is created by this relationship, that we can really generate in us the love for life and the love to see life grow around us”

There is a knowledge gap in the awareness of the public opinion on the causes and effects of war, of the meaning on security and as such the capacity to differentiate between sustainable measures of security or non-sustainable and what factors create such security. Opinion makers have the responsibility of educating the public, of bringing the public opinion to a higher level of understanding and make them understand the necessity of creating peace through justice and the overcoming of fears. Without this, security will only remain a promise of the political system, which will often lead to the path of covering injustices, increase fears and instruments of violence and finally we will reach war; which is the destruction of all securities and values of peace. When the public opinion is well informed the political system will make more just choices.

Peace creates life, violence leads to death. Security must promote life and share the joy to live this life. The real foundation of security is education. Isaac Asimov said “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent”, i would say, “violence is the first refuge of the ignorant and the last for the knowledgeable.”

“The only revolution which we must work for and hope for is the one starts within, it is our our path of being human again” – Tiziano Terzani.


Special thanks to all my friends who took time off to asnwer questions which gave me the possibilty to write this paper and to Stefano De Santis for his guidence and very important thoughts 🙂

1. Youtube – (Tiziano Terzani)
2. Dammapada
3. My Experiments with Truth – M.K. Gandhi

5. Bruce Schneier, Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly about Security in an Uncertain World, Copernicus Books, pages 26-27

Posted in Essays, Peace Research, Thoughts and Concepts, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Introduction to Buddhism

Buddhism is a way of life, a path of life, a philosophy of life, and spiritual development, which aims at the cessation of ignorance and suffering.

This Darsana was founded by Buddha, around 550 BCE, in India. Today Buddhism is spread over the world and there are around 370 million Buddhists. This number is growing day by day and most of them are Westerners. This increase in Buddhist belivers, I believe, is a sign of rediscovery of human harmony and the importance of ethical life in a world which it seems has forgotten it. I say this because Buddhism does not include the idea of worshipping a creator god, some people do not see it as a religion in the normal, Western sense. The basic tenets of Buddhist teaching are straightforward and practical: nothing is fixed or permanent; actions have consequences; change is possible. Thus Buddhism addresses itself to all people irrespective of race, nationality, or gender. It teaches practical methods (such as meditation) which enable people to realise and utilise its teachings in order to transform their experience, to be fully responsible for their lives and to develop the qualities of Wisdom and Compassion.

It is believed by many scholars that the Samkhya and Yoga represent the earliest speculations of Indian Philosophy; but the systematic Samkhya and Yoga treaties, as we have them today, have been written after the emergence of Buddhist Philosophy. However, there are many other scholars who believe that Buddhism drew much of its inspiration from Samkhya and Yoga, as Buddha was a disciple of Samkhya Gurus. The truth? Still to be found out.

Buddha: His Life

Gautama, the Buddha, was born in, or about, the year 560 BCE around the Lubini Groove, near the ancient town of Kapilavastu, in the now dense tarai region of Nepal. Son of Suddhodana, king of Sakya, and queen Mahamaya.

According to the legend, it was foretold that Gautama would become a great king or a great ascetic; an ascetic, which would change the philosophical discourse, of its time, and would be remembered along with the progress of history. His father, wanting him to become a great king, rather than an ascetic, kept him as far as he could from the suffering of mankind. On successive occasions, issuing from the palace, he was confronted by a decrepit old man, a diseased old man, a dead man and a monk. These pictures filled him with amazement and distress and making him realize the impermanence of worldly objects. Determined to understand life he left home and the rest is history, Gautama became the Buddha, the enlightened.

Buddha taught by conversation, his teachings were also imparted orally by his disciples to the successive generations. Our knowledge about Buddha’s teaching today, depends chiefly on the Tripikas, which is believed to contain Buddha’s teachings written down by his most intimate disciples. The Tripikas are divided in three works, Vinayapitaka, Suttapitaka and Abhidhammapitaka. The first deals with the rules of conduct (Sangha), the second contain Buddha’s sermons and dialogues (teachings) and the third contains expositions of philosophical theories.

Buddhism today is spread all over the world, chiefly in south-east Asia, India, China and Japan, and the number of followers is growing as days pass by. Maybe after a century of much caused suffering we are finally realizing the importance of ceasing suffering, or at least reducing it.

The Four Noble Truths

The message of Buddha’s enlightenment is a way of life (a path) which leads beyond suffering. Before finding the path, Buddha believed, one must accept four truths of life, which are known as the Four Noble Truths. In the world there is suffering (Dukha), suffering has a cause (Dukha-Samudaya), it is possible to cease suffering (Dukha Niroda) and there is a path to cease suffering, a way of life which ceases suffering (Dukha Niroda Marga).


Life is suffering. “This is the noble truth concerning suffering. Birth is painful, union with the unpleasant is painful, painful is the separation with the pleasant and any craving that is unsatisfied, that too is painful1”. In the Dhammapada, it is said: “Nor in the sky, nor in the depth of the ocean, nor having entered the caverns of the mountain, nay such a place is fund in the world where a man might dwell without being overpowered by death”. Death is the law o all life.

Dukha Samudaya

It will be discussed in detail later on.

Dukha Niroda

Suffering depends on conditions, which logically brings us to the conclusion “if the conditions causing suffering are removed, suffering ceases”. This state of mind can be attained in the present life, but only by following the path which ceases suffering.

Dukha Niroda Marga

It teaches the way of life which must be led in order to cease suffering and attain Nirvana. This path consists of eight rules or steps to be followed by a person over his lifetime.

1. Right knowledge of the four noble truths (Mithyadrsti)
2. Firm determination to reform life in the light of the noble truths (Samyakankalpa)
3. Ethical speech; control of speech (Samyagvak)
4. Ethical conduct; absence from wrong action (Samyakarmantha)
5. Ethical livelihood; sustaining life by honest means (Samyagajiva)
6. Right effort; constant endeavor to maintain moral progress by banish evil thoughts (Samyagvyayama)
7. Right mindfulness; constant rememberance of the perishable nature of things (Samyaksmrti)
8. Right concentration; stages of meditation required to attain Nirvana. (Samyaksamadhi)

Dukha Niroda: The Cause of Sufferin

A wonderful philosophy of dynamism was formulated by Buddha 2500 years ago. A philosophy which is being rediscovered, recreated, for us by the discoveries of modern science and the adventures of modern thought. Impressed by the transistoriness of objects, the ceaseless mutation and transformation of things, Buddha formulated a philosophy of change. He reduced substances, souls, monads, things to forces, movements, sequences, and processes and adopts dynamic conceptions of reality. Life is nothing but a series of manifestations of becoming and extinction1. It is a steam if becoming.

“There are three things, O king, which you cannot find in the world. That which, weather conscious or unconscious, is not subject to decay and death, that you will not find. That quality of anything (organic or inorganic) which is not impermanent, that you will not find. And in the highest sense there is no such thing as being possessed of being”.
1 Milinda, N 7.12, see also Bhikkhunisamyutta; Dhammapada, v. 47-48

Desires cause suffering, since we desire what is impermanent, changeable and perishable. It is the impermanence of the object of desire that causes regret and disappointment. All pleasures are transient. Nothing is permanent and if the permanent deserves to be called Self or Atman, then nothing is Self; everything is Anatta or non-Self. Ignorance is the main cause out of which false desire springs. When knowledge is attained suffering is at an end; which is why ignorance and false desire are the theoretical and practical sides of one fact.

The becoming of all is the central philosophy of Buddhism. To make us understand the ceaseless flux of becoming, the world; Buddha gives us the example of fire. Through the flame maintains itself unchanged in appearance, every moment it’s another and not the same flame. “Everything is, this is one extreme, O Kaccana. Everything is not, is another extreme. The truth is in the middle” (Samyutta Nikaya, Oldemberg Buddha p249). There is no static state when the becoming attains beinghood; it is a becoming without beginning or end. Life is a continuous movement or change. Identity of objects is only another name for continuity of becoming. A child, a boy, a youth, a man and an old man are on. It is the succession that gives the appearance of an unbroken identity.

“I will teach you the Dharma” says Buddha “that being present, this becomes; from the arising of that this arises. That being absent, this does not become; from the cessation of that, this ceases” (Majjhima Nika, ii 32). For Buddha, as for the Upanishads, the whole world is conditioned by causes. While the Upanishads say that things have no self-existence as such, but are the products of a casual series which have no beginning or end, Buddha says things are the products of conditions.

To account for the continuity of the world in absence of a permanent substratum, Buddha explains the law of causation and makes it the basis of continuity. Existence is transformation. All things undergo changes indicated in origination (Utpada), staying (Sthiti), growing (Jara) and destruction (Nirodha). That which constitutes being, in the material realm of things, in Pratityasamutpada, the origin of a thing is dependent on another. Causality is always self-changing or becoming.


What being, what else is? What happening, what else happens? What not being what else is not? By the being of this, that becomes. By the happening of this, that happens. By the not being of this, that is not. Pratityasamutpada (dependent origination). The coming into being of life, which is suffering and its cessation is accounted for by the doctrine of Pratityasamutpada.

From ignorance spring the samskaras (conformations), from the samskaras spring consciousness, from consciousness springs name and form, from name and form spring the six senses (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, touch and mind), from the six senses springs contact, from contact springs sensation, from sensation spring desire, from desire spring attachment, from attachment spring becoming, from becoming spring birth, from birth spring old age and death, grief, lamentation, suffering, dejection and despair. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering. Again by the destruction of ignorance, which consists in the whole absence of lust, the samskaras are destroyed; by the destruction of the samskaras, consciousness is destroyed […] by the destruction of birth, old age and death, grief, lamentation, suffering, dejection and despair are destroyed. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering’ (Mahavagga, i. I. I-3; S.B.E., xiii; see also Malinda, ii 3. I.)

Those due to past life
1.Avidya (ignorance)
2. Samskaras (predisposition, tendency, conformation)

Those due to the present life Sparsa (contact)
1. Vijnana (consciousness)
2. Namarupa (mind and body)
3. Sadayatana (sense organs)
4. Vedana (sensation)
5. Tanha (craving, desire)
6. Upadana (clinging, attachment)

Those of the future life Jati (birth)
1. Bhava (comings to be, desire to become, becoming)
2. Jaramarana (old age and death)

Life is sorrow because of death, which is a cause of ignorance and the false sense of ‘I’ is the central support of Avidya. Individual existence is an evil; desire is the outer expression of it. Humans are unhappy because they exist, they are alive. The affirmation of life is the source of all sorrow.

Avidya is so strong that in spite of life being the worst suffering, men exhibit a tenacious clinging towards it. The second link in the chain is Samskaras. The word comes from the root which means to prepare or arrange; it stands for the product as well as for the process of making and it’s usually translated as ‘synthesis’ or ‘conformation’. It also means action, pure and impure, action possessing merit to be rewarded or guilt to be punished, here or hereafter. The dependence of Vedana to Spara, Sparsa to Sadayatana, Sadayatana to Namarupa and Namarupa to Vijnana is easily understandable. Explaining from Tanha; we are because we thirst for being. ‘Whomsoever thirst holds is subjection to that thirst, that contemptible thing which pours its venom through the world, his suffering grows as the grass grows. Whosoever holds it in subjection […] suffering falls off from him as water drops from the lotus flower’ (Dhammapada, v 335). From thirst (Tanha) comes clinging (Upadana). The flame of thirst clings to the fuel of Upadana. From clinging comes the desire of becoming (Bhava); which is also interpreted as the Karma which brings about rebirth. From Bhava comes birth (Jati) from which old age and death.

The whole scheme is dogmatic. It aims at showing that consciousness of ‘I’ does not reside in an eternal soul, but it is a continuous phenomenon arising by cause and effect. The individuality to which we cling is only a form, an empty appearance occasioned by ignorance, the root cause. The persistence of ignorance is indicated by the persistence of individuality. The sense of ‘I’ which generates an illusion is itself an illusion. Individuality is the symptom as well as the disease.

It is the cause as well as the product, the deceiver as well as the deceived. Individuality means limitation and limitation means ignorance. Buddha recognizes that ignorance is nothing absolute. We cannot say ignorance is real, for it can be sublated. Nor it is unreal, for in that casa it could not produce an effect (remember that for Buddhism, that is real which can cause an effect). For Buddhism Avidya is the source, the cause of all existence.


“According to the Buddhist everything has momentary existence. So, when the second moment arrives, the thing which was existing in the first moment ceases to exist, and an entirely new thing springs up. Accordingly, you cannot maintain that the preceding thing is the cause of the succeeding thing, or that the latter is the effect of the former. The preceding thing, according to the theory of momentariness, has ceased to be when the succeeding moment comes into being, and therefore cannot be regarded as producing the latter, since non-existent cannot be the cause of existent” (V.S., chap. ii. II ff.). The validity of this objection is admitted by some later Buddhists who argue that there is a permanent element underlying all changes. Even though the surface of a wheel which is touching the ground changes every moment, the locus of the wheel is permanent, never changing.

I cannot help feeling that Buddha overemphasizes the dark side of things. Its emphasis on sorrow is neither true nor false and so is also the predominance of sorrow over pleasure. After all, the value of life seems to rise with the evanescence. If the beauty of the youth and the dignity of old age are transient, so are the travail of birth and the agony of death.

If pessimism means that life on earth is not worth living unless it is purity and detachment, then Buddhism is pessimistic. If it means that it is best to be done with life on earth for there is bliss beyond, then Buddhism is pessimistic. But this is not true pessimism. A system is pessimistic if it stifles al hope and declares that life is suffering and there is no escape from it, no liberation. Some forms of Buddhism do that, but as far as early Buddhism is concerned it is not pessimistic. It is true that is considers life to be an unending succession of torments, but it believes in the liberating power of ethical discipline and the perfectibility of human nature.

Desire is there to impel us to the supreme effort to abandon all desire. Each man has his own burden to bear, and every heart knows its own bitterness, and yet through it all goodness grows and progress becomes perfection. Buddha does not preach the mere worthless of life. He asks us to revolt against suffering and attain a life of finer, real, quality; an Arhata state.

A History of Indian Philosophy – S. Dasgupta
Indian Philosophy – Radhakrishnan
An Introduction to Indian Philosophy – Dutta & Chatterjee

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