Peacebuilding Spotlight – Exploring a World BEYOND War

By Dr. Phill Gittins, Rotary Peace Fellow (Chulalongkorn University, 2012), Education Director for World BEYOND War

Peace is part of the mission of The Rotary Foundation and important to Rotarians worldwide. While debates on the most effective ways to build sustainable peace continue, there is no viable pathway to sustaining peace that does not consider the abolition of war. A more peaceful, just, and sustainable world rests, in part, on our ability to end war once and for all. This is because many of the world’s most pressing issues can be traced back to the war system. Some 180 million people died in wars in the 20th century. On top of its human costs, war is a major contributor to the environmental crisis. As an example, the U.S military is the world’s biggest polluter. War (and violence) costs the global economy an estimated $14 trillion a year, money that could be better spent on healthcare, education, mitigating climate change, COVID-19 recovery, and so much more.

There is a huge volume of work on war, much of which focuses on its negative impact on people and the planet. Much less attention has been paid to what we can do to replace the war system. This is perhaps our greatest task in peace work – to not only figure out how to end particular wars but also how to work toward ending all war by replacing it with an Alternative Global Security System – one in which peace is pursued by peaceful means.  

Towards this end, World BEYOND War (WBW) has developed an educational blueprint for ending all war. We have developed the book, “A Global Security System: an Alternative to War” (AGSS) and an online study and action guide to support this blueprint. Resting on a convincing body of evidence that violence is not a necessary component of conflict among states and between states and non-state actors, the AGSS relies on three broad strategies for humanity to end war: 1) demilitarizing security, 2) managing conflicts without violence, and 3) creating a culture of peace. These are the interrelated components of our system: the frameworks, processes, tools and institutions necessary for dismantling the war machine and replacing it with a peace system that will provide a more assured common security.

Strategies for demilitarizing security are directed at reducing dependency on militarism. At first glance these strategies seem to be only focused on “undoing” the present system. However, they also establish normative principles for pursuing and achieving security. 

Strategies for managing conflict without violence are focused on reforming and/or establishing new institutions of global governance, and the tools and processes for assuring security. These are the most outwardly functional components of our system. 

Strategies for creating a culture of peace are the most visionary, potentially transformative, and future oriented. These strategies are concerned with establishing social and cultural norms, values, and principles necessary for sustaining a thriving peace system and the means to spread it globally.  

WBW also offers online courses led by experts, and allied activists and changemakers from around the world. Past offerings that will be offered again include: War Abolition 101: How We Create a Peaceful World; War Abolition 201: Building the Alternative Global Security System; War and the Environment; Leaving World War II Behind; and Organizing 101 Training

Of course, knowledge is only useful when it’s applied. WBW, therefore, collaborates on a range of projects – with our chapters, allies, and other partners such as schools, universities, and peace-related groups – working together to dispel the myths of war, educate about its alternatives, and advocate for structural and cultural change. One of the most promising collaborations, for the purposes of this piece, is the Peace Project Incubator (PPI) initiative, which took place on the 2nd of November 2020, coinciding with Geneva Peace Week. The PPI aims to develop some 20 global grant ready peace projects, designed around 10 peace-related themes. As an example, the ‘Peace through Education’ theme is bringing Rotary Peace Fellows (RPFs), Rotarians, and other experts together to develop a range of projects aimed at contributing to a culture of peace through education.

Home - Rotarian Action Group for Peace

One of these projects will involve close collaboration between WBW, the Rotary Action Group for Peace (RAGFP), and other international experts. The project will follow a two-pronged approach of peace education and nonviolent direct action organising. 

First, it will equip 120 individuals (from 10+ countries, including 100 young people, half of whom may be from Rotaract) with foundational knowledge and skills for preventing war and promoting peace – i.e., strategies for demilitarizing security, managing conflict without violence, and creating a culture of peace, as well as ways to develop empathy and compassion for self and others. This stage will feed into the preparation for nonviolent direct action organsing. 

The second stage will support youth (and adults) to design, implement, and evaluate 10 peace projects (more numbers possible) – where youth lead and adults guide. The issues addressed in these projects will be tailored around the local needs and cover topics related to peace and war such as conflict, violence, security, justice, and climate change. The two-pronged approach to change-making adopted in this project can act as a model for others seeking to do similar work. The project also lays a foundation for ongoing collaborations between WBW and Rotary.

The PPI initiative is an important opportunity to bring RPFs, Rotarians, (Rotaract), and other international experts together to create projects that help to make the world a more peaceful and sustainable place. Like other PPI initiatives, the project described above is conceptualised as a collaborative venture. Here are some of the ways you can get involved:

  • Check out World BEYOND War’s books, courses, materials, and resources.
  • Reach out to Phill (phill@worldbeyondwar.org) to find out more about any of the above.