by Johan Galtung, 17 Feb 2014 – TRANSCEND Media Service

Known as IPRA, founded in 1964 in London–and this author, 34 at the time, is the only surviving founder.  IPRA rotates every two years from one peace research center to the other, and is now in very competent Turkish hands.  And what is more natural than having the 50th anniversary for the hub of peace studies in that hub of the world, Istanbul, 10-14 August this year!!  Hurry up, register!!!

Today it is hard to believe, but to get IPRA started was as problematic as to launch peace studies in general.

The Western establishments did not like “peace”; their favorite was security, absence of violence against themselves in particular and their elites even more particularly.  Security studies became academically institutionalized Western paranoia

And the peace movement establishments did not like “studies”–what was there to study?  Each one knew the one correct answer!

Like world government (what kind of government?), world law (in favor-disfavor of whom?), disarmament (hand guns, knives, scissors?–how about the ease of rearmament?), democracy all over (and when they go to war against each other, and against non-democracies; what kind of democracy, multi-party national election only?), end of capitalism, end of socialism (how about non-economic conflicts, over identity for instance); psychoanalysis, at least of leaders (what kind? and how will they treat the non-psychoanalyzed?).  And so on.  And so forth.

May be some research might help, like it did for health?  For instance exploring all of the above, and their combinations?

Back in 1964 there were not much more than three centers of academic studies of peace: the Peace Research Institute in Oslo-Norway (PRIO) also focused on Gandhi and nonviolence; the center in Ann Arbor, Michigan-USA, more focused on game theory and mathematical models; and the polemology approach associated with George Bouthoul in Paris-France, focused on war.

All three were in London; Ann Arbor led by the indefatigable Elise Boulding who played a major role in keeping IPRA alive through some crises, PRIO by me, and polemology from the institute in Groningen, Netherlands directed by Bert Röling, the youngest judge at the Tokyo Tribunal who became IPRA’s first, very competent, Secretary General.

The French actually had a very special approach.  Their foreign office was less interested in peace and more in French as official language of IPRA on par with English, fully willing to cover all expenses.  We said no, given the French focus on war, not peace, and on strategic studies, not peace studies (the situation is about the same 50 years later).  As opposed to the Soviet Union which at least had a concept: Litvinov’s “peaceful co-existence” from the 1930s.

There was general agreement that we had to meet more often to compare notes and to get more peace centers around the world.  How?

One model that often came up was a social science Pugwash–the conferences across the superpower and bloc divide against nuclear arms. I knew them with much love and sympathy, brilliant nuclear scientists–among them Germans and Jews who had worked on a bomb against Hitler and saw it hijacked to kill Japanese–brilliant, but not in social sciences.   That broadening of Pugwash came, but the focus was still advocacy and we felt the need for research, not advocacy.  Above all for pluralism, having different concepts and hypotheses and approaches meet in mutually enriching dialogues.

The other model was to found IPRA and apply for membership in UNESCO’s International Social Science Council, together with psychologists, sociologists etc.  Very important was a high level UNESCO civil servant, Saul Friedman, very devoted to peace studies.

John Burton, the former head of the Australian foreign office, was conspicuously absent from the founding of IPRA.  His approach was diplomacy.  He was against social sciences, a view he later changed.

The first meetings were in the Netherlands, Sweden, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia–one NATO-North Atlantic Treaty Organization, one WTO-Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance often called the Warsaw Pact, two neutral-nonaligned.  IPRA played a role as a forum acceptable to many during the cold war exactly because there was no divisive resolution-making.

IPRA was liberated from the state system, from East-West and North-South divides, but not from the peace movement system with their single factor, often highly moralistic positions.  Put differently, the factual level was low, the moral level high.  Gradually this has changed, but it took time to identify researchable problems and a methodology to explore them.  IPRA at 50 is very different from the early decades: deeper academically, more pluralistic in approaches. It has much to contribute to a world with much violence, mostly from the states and governments, but also from non-states, non-governments.  Victory is their goal, so they dictate solutions.  Peace studies have produced insights in conflict resolution, unlike the diplomatic pursuit of national interests, hoping for an equilibrium somewhere.  Statesmen and -women of the world, just come to IPRA, we are ready.

Problems of health were in the hands of another big institution: the church.  The problem was moral, not factual: disease as punishment for sin, and sin as opposition to the Supreme Power, the Lord. Health studies brought in empirical facts and connections, but one moral aspect remained: we must will health, not only know how to get there.

The problems of peace are still to a large extent in the hands of the successor to the church, the state.  In their view the problem is moral more than factual.  An aggressive war may be just punishment for the sin of being uppity, opposing superpowers or other warlords. Peace studies have brought in empirical facts and connections, with one moral aspect: we must will peace not only know how to get there.

IPRA is international: no country dictates anything. It is for, by and of peace. And associative; your new friends are waiting for you.

Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.