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I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

If YOU ruled the world, what is ONE thing you would do to make the world more PEACEFUL?

I posed this question on Facebook recently, hoping for an onslaught of responses.

I got 3 comments from among my 1, 105 Facebook friends. This was not quite the level of participation I was hoping to receive.

Peace is something that we all need and most of us want, so, why is it so elusive?

I think that peace gets lost amongst all the other needs that people have.

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, all human beings have needs that are related to: the physiological (those without which the human body would cease to function), safety, love/belonging, esteem and self-actualization.

As a peacebuilder, I have been taught that considering these needs is important, because unmet needs is one of the root causes of conflict and violence.

Still, there are other salient causes of conflict and violence, like fear, greed and jingoism.

I feel that this phenomenology tends to be less about ‘needs’ and more about fear. Leaders manipulate people’s fears to inflame to gain and maintain influence, and people succumb to others’ agendas to protect their perceived interests.

So then my question becomes, even in the face of fear and greed, what can be done to make the world more peaceful?

The first thing I would say is that peace takes action. I’ll quote two Noble Peace Laureates.

Jody Williams stated:”emotion without action is irrelevant.”

Nelson Mandela has said “Vision without action is merely a dream, action without vision is merely passing time, but action with vision can change the world.”

They’re both right.

Peacemaking, peacebuilding, or peace mongering if you will, also takes conviction.

So what else does it take to make sustainable peace happen? Here’s my list…

The Top 20 Things Needed to Make the World More Peaceful

Personal Level
1) Increased Knowledge of Self. How do your actions intentionally and unintentionally affect others? People who are more self-aware and self-reflective are much more likely to be empathetic. If there is anything that the world needs more of it is empathy.

2) Increased Knowledge of History. The politics around national narratives can be very divisive. Minorities’ and the underclasses’ contributions and oppression in society are often omitted or minimally reported. This creates a disadvantage for the entire population because it prevents an understanding of how the world around them came to be.

3) Increased Skills in Communication and Mediation. Conflicts are going to happen, because people are going to disagree. That’s fine. What we need is more people who have the skills to work through their conflicts non-violently. Hint:Everyone on earth should know how to use an “I Message.”

4) Increased Creativity and Analysis. For peace to reign, you have to have more people who have the imagination to see past how the world is to envision how it might be. You also need more people to mull over the facts and see if they add up. If they don’t, and you haven’t given it much thought, you can end up supporting policies or practices that leave others short.

5) Increased Attitude of Service. The world needs more people who understand that it ‘isn’t all about them’ and are willing to try to make the world a better place for others. Gandhi, once said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” I agree.

Local Level/State Level
6) Elimination of Bondage. There are many people who still toil solely for someone else’s benefit. This modern day slavery is commonly known as Human Trafficking. Malcolm X notably has said “You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” It’s true talk.

7) Increased Access to Self-determination and Elimination of Oppressive Systems & Structures. There are still many people who because of their sex, national origin, ethnicity or family of birth face futures with limited opportunity. There are people who because of there gender identity or attraction to the same sex cannot live their lives openly. This creates despair and hopelessness. You cannot underestimate the importance of one’s right to self-define their personhood and life path.

8) Decreased Unemployment and the Elimination of Economic Exploitation.
Millions of people are paid only nominally, and it is insufficient for them to keep food on the table for themselves or their families. There are countless more who would do anything to have a job and the funds and esteem that come with them, but they face stagnant and/or corrupt economies. This creates large groups of people who are vulnerable to having their disenchantment channeled into other brewing hostilities, when they could be adding productive energy to their local economy.

9) Reduction of Hunger and Thirst. Despite the increasing amounts of food aid being distributed worldwide many people are still food insecure and do not have access to clean drinking water. Hungry bellies create a lot of temptation to be recruited into groups that have nefarious aims.

10) Increased Access to Healthcare. People need treatment when they are ill, no matter what form of health care provision they may seek. It could be an indigenous person of South America who needs access to their scared medicinal plants and are blocked by a multinational corporation, or a homeless man on the streets of North America who wants to enter a hospital, but lacks the funds. It takes healthy people to build communities.

11) Increased Literacy Levels. People who are literate are better placed to make informed decisions, advocate for their rights and not give undue credence to rumors and propaganda.

12) Increased Access to Mechanisms for Justice. You’ve heard people say ‘no justice, no peace.’ There is a lot of truth in that chant. People who feel aggrieved or have faced wrongs, but do not have access to mechanisms for justice e.g. with the police, the local courts, or their traditional justice practices are much more likely to lash out in the name of “avenging” wrongs.

13) Increased Access to Balanced Media. Our media needs to be improved. First, reporting should be more balanced. Strong and clear analysis that presents arguments from across the social spectrum can help with local and national dialogue. Second, media linked to entertainment that dehumanizes people needs to be drastically curtailed. This includes overly-sexualized portrayals of women, overly-simplified and stereotypical depictions of Arabs, Africans, Asians, Latinos and people who identify as LGBTQ.

14) Increased Access to Decision-Making. In many places, people feel that they have no control over the decisions that impact them. It’s important that people are included in decision-making because it makes people more accountable for what’s happening in their communities, rather than blaming it on an external actor.

15) Increased Women’s Empowerment. Women and girls disproportionately suffer from a lack of access to healthcare, literacy, decision-making, mechanisms for justice, employment and self-determination. They also have difficulty getting access to banks and claiming property and inheritances. All of these personal affronts towards women stymies national progress.

16) Reformed Notions of Masculinity. Gender as it relates to men and masculinity is often overlooked. There isn’t anything wrong with men being empowered. The problem is that these traits usually are only recognized in relation to lording their strength over others. Additionally, traditional notions of masculinity (worldwide, I dare say) do not create enough social space for men who are disappointed, hurt, mourning, or depressed. Anger is usually the only acceptable outlet for venting frustrations, which feeds into justifications for violence.

International Level
17) Better Mechanisms for International Intervention. When all else has failed and communities and countries have collapsed into violence there is a need to for a stronger and clearer mandate for the international community to intervene.

18) Better Mechanisms for Absorbing the Displaced. The number of conflicts that have been exacerbated by an influx of refugees or Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) cannot be underestimated. Refugee camps are increasingly turning into people’s permanent homes and resettlement remains a major issue. People have a right to be rooted in a community, whether it is their old one, or a new one. We need better mechanisms for facilitating these transitions.

19) Dramatic Reduction in the Number of Small Arms. It’s tempting to use arms when they are around; much less temptation when they are not. The use of arms almost always exacerbates conflict because small arms kill people and the death of loved ones justifies cycles of violence and revenge.

20) Better International Aid Strategies. Individuals, social groups, foundations, companies and governments all give money to alleviate the suffering of others. Aid could succeed more if there was greater coordination among donors to strengthen synergy and eliminate duplicate efforts. Donors also need to trust the communities they’re trying to improve. Beneficiaries should not only be consulted, but set the agenda for how they want to be ‘helped.’

Concluding Thoughts
You can argue that I should have addressed better care for the mentally ill, environmental issues, or the growing digital divide. These are all important issues that could have been added to the list.

Remember, I did start by asking: If YOU ruled the world, what is ONE thing you would do to make the world more PEACEFUL?

This is just what I think needs to be done.

I also won’t argue with you that this list does read a bit like the Millennium Development Goals.

In my defense, knowledge is rarely original, but the way that it is clustered and transmitted can be.

If I succeeded, even for a moment, in making you think more about your role as a peacemaker, than this post was well worth it.