Peace Studies Research Paper Starter

Peace Studies

This article examines university-based peace studies programs and their evolution. The influence of peace movements and activism during the 1900s on the definition of peace, peace organizations, and peace studies programs are reviewed and a brief history of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) is provided. The role of peace research in determining how to maintain a lasting peace is reviewed as is the need to move beyond research and into peace practices in order to achieve peace. Several examples of peace studies programs are presented including the United Nations Peace University in Costa Rica.

Keywords: Arms Traders; Conflict Resolution; Environmental Sustainability; League of Nations; Militarization; Military-industrial Complex; Peace Education; Peace Research; Peace Studies; United Nations


War and armed conflicts, whether global or regional, cause damage to societies, communities, individuals, and ecologies. Even though it is clear that militarization in general has become the most destructive human activity on the world's ecological systems (Gould, 2007) the tendency towards war seems to always override movements toward peace (Opotow et al., 2005).

In the 20th century the nature of war and weapons evolved to the point where humans had the ability to destroy every person and probably most other living creatures on the planet (Mason, 2002). The 20th century also brought the rise of the military-industrial complex that is economically, politically, and socially intertwined with modern life in industrial nations, making the business of war one of the primary businesses of many economies (Hartung, 2001; Fitzgerald, 2004).

As the power and organization of the former Soviet Union declined in the 1990s, there was renewed hope for peace. However, as we enter the new millennium many nation states, religious zealots, and separatist factions view war and violence as a legitimate means of achieving their goals (Cook-Huffman, 2002). Internal struggles for power, or civil wars, have become almost commonplace in many parts of the world (Brandt et al., 2008). After the terrorists attacks of 2001 a new threat was labeled and recognized and the global war against terrorism began. The weapons manufacturers of the military-industrial complex and the arms traders on the fringe of this global complex are ready and willing to provide all sides with the destructive capabilities they desire (Laurance et al., 2005; Hartung, 2008; Stohl & Tuttle, 2008).

Peace studies, an academic discipline encompassing the study and resolution of conflict emerged as World War II was ending (Steinberg, 2007). Peace studies and peace education gained considerable momentum during the cold war period as the former Soviet Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) faced off on a daily basis (Johnson & Johnson, 2005). The goal of peace studies is to establish theories that can be used to help create peace. Peace studies are often centered in critical analysis and applied social sciences, both of which are influenced by the cultural background of the researcher (Baumann, 2008). Peace education as a discipline is inherently diverse and often a viewed as a controversial area of education. Peace education is designed to facilitate conflict resolution and the reduction of war activities (Brown & Morgan, 2008; Evangelista, 2007). Issues faced during post-war reconstruction are also addressed by some peace studies programs (Chantrill & Spence, 2002).

In North America, numerous universities have established some type of peace studies program. Many of these programs are built on interdisciplinary perspectives. Peace studies programs established right after the end of World War II were relatively apolitical and nonthreatening. However, as the United States entered the Vietnam War many peace studies programs took on a more radical nature opposing the war (London, 1988).

In addition to encountering some political opposition, many peace studies programs have also encountered intellectual criticism and some observers believe that too many programs have been established without solid theoretical foundations or research directions (Johnson & Johnson, 2005). On the other hand, the relative young age of many peace programs may explain some of the inconsistency in structure and focus, because most courses are designed and taught based on the expertise of participating faculty members (Fahey, 2002). Peace remains a very broad area of study and as programs evolve there have been subfields established such as human rights, disarmament, treaty development, and peacekeeping operations (Brock-Utne, 2000). In addition, conducting research about peace does not create peace without the research being translated into meaningful and actionable education for those that desire peace (Galtung, 1997).

Examples of Peace Studies Programs

Peace studies programs are offered at the bachelors, masters, and certificate levels. One of the key components of peace studies programs is experiential learning which is frequently achieved through internship or fieldwork. Program content and emphasis are very dependent on the philosophy of the school offering the programs.

The University for Peace (UPEACE) was established in 1980 when the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) passed Resolution 35/55. The mission of UPEACE was to establish education, training and research on peace-related topics. UPEACE has its headquarters in Costa Rica and is developing mission activities in Asia and the Pacific, Central Asia, Africa and Latin America. Education activities are accomplished through a series of short courses and conferences and graduate programs lead by international faculty (

In the United States the oldest peace studies programs, Manchester College's Peace Studies Institute and Program in Conflict Resolution, was founded in 1948 as the first undergraduate peace studies program. Concentrations are available in interpersonal/intergroup conflict, religious and philosophical studies, and international and global studies. Several courses are offered on peace, war, and conflict resolution ("Manchester College…," 2010).

The University Of North Texas offers an interdisciplinary Peace Studies Program that focuses on why violence occurs with conflict resolution through nonviolent structural mechanisms. Courses offered cover a wide range of topics including terrorism, genocide, government sponsored killings, and religious inequality (

The Peace Studies Program at Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois offers a wide range of course from different disciplines in three major areas: International Conflict and Peacemaking, Societal Violence and Conflict Resolution, and Environmental Violence and Ecological Concerns. Courses cover war and peace, genocide, Arab-Israeli conflict, the Vietnam War, violence, gender, race, propaganda, human impact on the environment, and global environmental politics (


Developing a Peace Research

The institutional structure of peace research was fairly well established before the academic discipline became established after World War II. Behind most academic disciplines there is a research infrastructure that supports the development of theory and empirical research to test theories and provide a basis of action in the application of the discipline. The ultimate goal of peace research is to develop means and methods for establishing and maintaining peace around the world (Fuller, 1992). Peace research gained independence and legitimacy after the end of World War II (Chatfield, 2007). As the field of peace research expanded, so did the number of professional journals that focused on peace research or provided peace research wider distribution (Rogers & Ramsbotham, 1999).

Advocacy Efforts for Peace

The emergence of the organized peace movement in various countries of the world has certainly helped foster an interest in peace and provided a foundation for peace advocacy (Chatfield, 1995). The peace movement in the United States has historically had a very strong social justice and reform orientation (Meerse, 1998). This may be attributable to the involvement of African American women in various peace organizations in their early days of development (Blackwell-Johnson, 1998). The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) was founded in 1915, less than one year after the start of World War I ("Women's International," 1996). Between World War I and World War II the WILPF, and the United States section The Women's Peace Party in America was active in lobbying for total disarmament and the creation of a global organization to support international cooperation (Rainbolt, 1977). African American Women were allowed to join the WILPF shortly after it was founded and they had a profound influence on establishing the organization's definition of peace (Blackwell-Johnson, 1998).

Two leaders of the WILPF, Jane Addams and Emily Greene Balch, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 and 1946, respectively (Alonso, 1995). These women, like the other members of the WILPF, helped to develop global networks of peace organizations and to take positions on issues that were fundamental to peace. The right to read, for example, was supported as a basic factor in the achievement and perpetuation of peace at the WILPF convention in 1953 (Brown & Fee, 2004). Currently the WILPF has affiliates all over the world ("Women's International," 1996).

The WILPF supports the United Nations and maintains a consultative relationship with United Nations agencies including the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The WILPF is also involved in promoting human rights and focuses special attention on women's rights ("Women's International," 1996).

In August 1995, a Peace Train sponsored by WILPF left Helsinki, Finland, with women passengers from numerous countries. The train departed the day after the WILPF international conference closed in Helsinki to travel to the United Nation's World Conference on Women being held in Beijing, China. The international group of women made stops in St. Petersburg, Kiev and Odessa, Bucharest, Sofia, Istanbul, Alma Ata, and Urumchi ("WILPF Peace Train," 1995).

Other peace activist organizations that have existed in the United States include the Woman's Peace Party (WPP) of which the New York City branch was particularly active (Alonso, 1996). The Woman's Christian Temperance Union, based in the United States was also involved in transnational peace activities. In 2002, CODEPINK was established to organize efforts to oppose the war in Iraq (Deitch, 2008).

The Growth of International Organizations for Peace

The League of Nations was formed as a result of World War I and remained in existence until 1946. In the United States, Woodrow Wilson advocated that the country participate in and support the League of Nations. The United States senate ultimately rejected his proposals and the League became a predominately European organization in the 1920s (Gorman, 2005). The meetings and efforts of the League of Nations were most often dominated by various countries in Europe attempting to protect their own interest (Van Alstein, 2007). Without the United States as a member to balance interests and to provide an endorsement of legitimacy, the European states continued their infighting while several of them worked to rebuild their military forces in preparation for World War II (O'Connell & O'Connell, 2007). Although The League of Nations was not successful in all of its goals, it did set the foundation for the development of the United Nations.

The international relationships that helped to officially launch the United Nations (UN) in 1945 were forming during World War II (Plesch, 2008). After two major wars during the 20th century the UN was formed with the basic goal of "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war" ("Preamble," 1945) and is subsequently involved in numerous peace building and peacekeeping activities.

Member states of the UN are represented in the General Assembly which is designed as a parliamentary system (Langmore, 2009). About 190 countries are UN members (Weiss et al., 2009). The UN is comprised of numerous sub-organizations that work in the areas of health, education, conflict resolution, and telecommunications as well as numerous other areas that contribute to the quality of life and social order around the world.

Peace Institutes

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), for example, was very active just after World War I in working to prevent future wars. The CEIP was founded in 1910 by Andrew Carnegie which provided a substantial endowment to support research and advocacy (Winn, 2006).

The Peace Research Institute (PRIO), founded in 1959, is a subsection of the Institute for Social Research located in Oslo, Norway. The PRIO supports research projects and conferences as well as working to build relationships with other peace research organizations around the world ("Norway," 1965).

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), established in 1966, focuses much of its efforts on recording and analyzing activities in the trade of arms and military spending around the world (Gearon, 2006).

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) was established in 1986 by the United States Congress. The USIP was established as an independent yet government funded nonprofit organization. The mission of USIP is to provide peace and conflict-resolution research, education and training to people in governments, nonprofit organizations, and private companies (DeVolpi & Wernette, 1985).


Aligning Peace with Related Issues of Study

Peace studies education programs have evolved considerably since they were established after World War II and have changed even more since they grew in popularity after the Vietnam War (Steinberg, 2007). There are many factors that influence the direction that peace studies have taken. Just as African American women helped to expand the definition of peace in the early 1900s (Blackwell-Johnson, 1998) to include equal rights and freedom, new participants in the peace movement are influencing the present day definition of peace.

One of the biggest influences is new environmentalists, who contend that peace is not sustainable unless there is appropriate environmental management which in turn contributes to long-term economic stability. Such stability is a positive factor in maintaining regional (and potentially global) peace. It has also been noted that many participants of the anti-war movement during the Vietnam War turned their attention to the environmental movement after that war was over. This helped to set the stage socially for the convergence of environmental issues and peace issues (Matthew & Gaulin, 2002).

The content and direction of peace studies programs was once again influenced during and after the collapse of the former Soviet Union. That event opened the way to look at peace from more directions and to invite interested parties from the newly formed states or emancipated countries to more...

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