The Link between Peace and Sustainable Development

While it may not be obvious, peace is a key component of sustainable development. In conflict-ridden communities, social problems such as poverty, hunger and inequality often exist, and this conflict has the potential to disrupt business operations and the delivery of basic social services. In order to escape direct, structural and/or cultural violence, businesses may be forced to close down and move to safer locations. The people remaining in these conflict-ridden areas may then experience poverty, hunger and decreased opportunities.

The traditional notion of peace—the absence of conflict—is not enough to bring about sustainable development. If a government ends armed hostilities by issuing a ceasefire without addressing the underlying factors behind the armed hostilities, conflict may resume, exacerbating poverty, hunger and inequality in communities.

Two Types of Peace: Negative and Positive

Johan Galtung argued that there are two types of peace: negative peace and positive peace. He defined negative peace as “the absence of violence, absence of war,” and identified three major categories of violence: direct, structural and cultural. Structural violence refers to the unjust systems that marginalize certain groups. Cultural violence pertains to social norms that justify direct and structural violence. Direct violence, such as war and crime, is an outcome of structural and cultural violence.

Negative peace ends only direct violence; not structural and cultural violence. It stops overt conflict, without addressing its causes. A government, for example, can enforce laws prohibiting freedom of expression and peaceful dissent. Conflict might end as a result because people would rather remain silent about that government’s shortcomings in order to avoid reprisal, and there is peace in the sense that conflict has been suppressed. The government would still be free to continue enacting and enforcing restrictive laws, potentially hindering its society’s development.

Galtung described positive peace as the “integration of human society.” Positive peace involves preventing or ending direct violence as well as structural and cultural violence. Unjust social structures and social norms are corrected to avert the occurrence of direct violence.

In a society where positive peace prevails, there is an emphasis on promoting human dignity. Human rights of all members of the community are respected, and all have access to basic social services such as education and healthcare. They have opportunities for a decent livelihood, and there are avenues for peaceful expression and conflict resolution.

With conditions that safeguard the security, economic wellbeing and political liberty of the people, marginalization, corruption and oppression are lessened, preventing direct violence without requiring state, police or military intervention. Such a holistic approach to preventing direct violence leads to development.

How Does “Positive Peace” Ensure Sustainable Development?

The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) considers positive peace essential to sustainable development. It refers to positive peace as “the attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies.” Focus is placed on the ways in which peaceful societies can emerge and thrive. Factors that lead to peaceful societies are identified, developed and maintained.

The IEP identified eight specific factors that lead to positive peace which have favorable economic, political and social characteristics. They are able to generate peace as well as the desirable outcomes that are connected to peace, such as diversity, economic equality and a healthier environment―qualities that are linked to sustainable development.

The eight factors behind positive peace―also known as the Eight Pillars of Positive Peace―are:

  • Well-functioning government – According to the IEP, a well-functioning government is measured by a society’s democratic political culture, judicial independence, revenue collection and service delivery. A democratic political culture refers to whether a society’s political processes and government functions are conducive to secular democracy. Judicial independence pertains to the ability of the courts to carry out their duties without interference from state or private bodies or representatives. Revenue collection and service delivery allow a government to effectively collect taxes and deliver social services to its citizens.

    A democratic political culture ensures peace and sustainable development through greater accountability, as well as stronger citizen participation and checks and balances. When citizens are able to hold their leaders accountable, there may be fewer instances of corruption and political instability. Judicial independence supports peace and sustainable development by strengthening the rule of law in a society. Effective revenue collection and service delivery promote peace and sustainability by helping to alleviate poverty.
  • Sound business environment – A sound business environment denotes “the strength of economic conditions, as well as the formal institutions that support the operation of the private sector.” Strong economic conditions counter economic inequality by providing all groups with adequate access to employment. The formalization of the economy creates a reliable source of tax revenue for the government, which can then be invested in the creation of social services, spurring peace and sustainable development.
  • Equitable distribution of resources – This factor determines the distribution of key resources and opportunities in a society. Uneven distribution of resources and opportunities can greatly reduce human capital and promote the exclusion of certain groups, triggering social conflict.

    Equitable distribution of resources, in contrast, may provide the foundation to create peace and sustainable development. When everyone has access to basic social services and livelihood opportunities, social energies can be directed towards productivity instead of conflict.
  • Acceptance of the rights of others – This factor refers to the “attitudes, institutions and structures that facilitate tolerance and respect between groups within a society.” A society with a high level of positive peace promotes peace at both formal and informal settings. Effective laws prohibiting all forms of discrimination are created and enforced. The public is educated about the detrimental effects of discrimination.

    When the rights of all groups in a society are respected, marginalization can be avoided. All individuals have adequate access to resources and opportunities, decreasing the likelihood of conflicts amongst different groups or communities.
  • Good relations with neighbors – As it pertains to “both the relations between communities within a nation and to the relationships between neighboring states,” this factor demonstrates that a country that is hostile to its neighbors tends to have a higher military expenditure. To be able to have a large military budget, a country’s government may have to reduce its budget for basic social services. Budget cuts in basic social services could lead to uneven distribution of essential resources and opportunities.

    Good relations with neighbors, in sharp contrast, may reduce the need for a bigger military budget. The amount that a government will potentially save on this expenditure can be instead invested  in basic social services. Good relations with neighbors have the potential to lead to foreign investments that can create new businesses and jobs.
  • Free flow of informationDescribing “the degree to which citizens can easily access and exchange information while being free from restrictions or censorship,” this factor calls for open access to information, as it plays a crucial role in keeping governments accountable. A lack of transparency on government expenditures, for example, can increase the risk of corruption and lead to a lack of trust in government, which, in turn, may destabilize societies and impede development.

    A free flow of information provides access to knowledge that will help citizens improve their society. When they are able to monitor government expenditures, corruption may be lessened, if not completely removed. When corruption is addressed, government can become more effective in delivering basic social services.
  • High levels of human capital –A highly-skilled population has the capacity to bring about a peaceful, prosperous and stable society. When their “overall skill base” includes the necessary skills for running profitable businesses, citizens are empowered to hold governments accountable and develop innovations that will improve society.
  • Low Levels of Corruption – This factor represents “the extent to which society’s attitudes, institutions and structures prevent corruption or hold individuals and organizations accountable when corruption does occur.” High levels of corruption can lead to shortages in basic social services such as education and healthcare, which can then lead to inequality and conflict.

Achieving Peace and Sustainable Development by Strengthening Society

Positive peace acknowledges that ending conflict is not enough to attain peace, which requires a more holistic approach. Society must be strengthened from within by promoting positive economic, political and social factors. These factors, when promoted, bring peace as well as sustainable development.

All sectors of society can help bring about the positive economic, political and social factors that create peace and sustainable development. Businesses, for example, can pay their workers competitive wages, use responsibly-sourced materials and not participate in bribery. With decent wages, workers can afford basic needs, allowing them to become more productive. When manufacturers use responsibly-sourced materials, they contribute to positive change. And when companies do not engage in bribery, they help discourage employees, other businesses and governments from resorting to corruption.

These outcomes help ensure greater profitability for enterprises in the future. Promoting peace and sustainable development reduces poverty and prevents conflict, translating to a healthier business environment that allows for a more effective delivery of products and services.

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