Book reviews - Role of Non-Governemental-Organisations.

Nicholas Kittrie, Rodrigo Carazo, James Manchan
The Future of Peace in the Twenty-First Centry
(Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2003, 2003, 1197 pages)


The rise of a world civil society can be considered as the organizing framework of this important collection of essays brought together by Nicholas Kittrie, Rodrigo Carazo, and James Manchan. As Oscar Arias, former President of Costa Rica, writes in his Foreward "Civil society must continue to raise its cry against the madness of arms buildup and officially sanctioned violence as means of resolving conflicts…The bottom line is that we must all do our part to create a world in which the values that predominate are generosity, tolerance, and respect, rather than greed, hatred and cynicism. The transformation of values is a change that spreads slowly and silently, but surely, around the world."

The end of the Cold War (1945-1990) saw the end of a certain form of interstate relations based on the balance of power among certain key actors - the USA and the Soviet Union in particular. With this end of the Cold War, also ended an approach to the study of the power relations among states - an approach marked by such writers as E.H. Carr, Frederick L. Schuman, and Hans J. Morgenthau. This was a realist school of analysis in which the moves of states were likened to a deadly game of chess: any move by a state required a counter move by the other states on the board.

The shift away from the chess game analogy to a more complex one which takes into consideration transnational, non-governmental, social and economic currents had begun before the end of the Cold War among some international relations writers as James N. Rosenau but had not yet been translated into policies for governments and non-governmental organizations. With the end of the Cold War, new types of actors became visible to the wider public - although many of these actors had been around for a long time, such as ethnic groups and religions.

The conflicts in Yugoslavia brought to the fore the concept of "ethnic group" although all the Yugoslav protagonists used the word "nation". Charles King's important analysis "The Myth of Ethnic Warfare" is a short, useful introduction to the field. Ted Robert Gurr and Hurst Hannum who have written much on ways of dealing creatively with ethnic conflicts present some suggestions of "attaining peace in divided societies" - the title of Gurr's essay.

One of the major surprises of the Yugoslav conflicts was the way religion was used in the conflict as an identity bond. Thus, the role of religion in conflicts is a theme that runs through the book. Samuel Huntington's much discussed "Clash of Civilizations" is here along with Edward Azar and Chung-in Moon's more subtle analysis of "The Many Faces of Islamic Revivalism". Probably the most helpful essay on the role of religion is Marc Gopin's "The Religious Foundations of a More Peaceful World" for he shows how the interpretation of scriptures can change, and more peaceful and harmony-producing teachings can be given of the same stories or myths.

As Nicholas Kittrie notes in his introductory essay "The quest for peace must, therefore, search out and seek to overcome not merely the discontent of nations, but the discontents of people, and the various categories, organizations, classes and groups to which people belong."

The concept of 'civil society' was largely developed in the study of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to indicate those areas of life that fell outside the state and the Communist party's attempt to organize all aspects of life: political, economic, social and cultural. These states had a 'totalitarian temptation ' wanting a totally organized society under State-Party control. Nevertheless, there were always aspects of society which fell outside the area of control - some forms of family life, of religious belief, of artistic efforts. These areas were the basis of 'civil society' . The expansion of the civil society and the resulting retreat of the state was one of the factors that led to the break up of the Soviet Union and the growth of pluralism in Eastern Europe.

Now, the analysis of 'civil society' is used in a broader way to include both the areas of life outside of state control within a single state but also, more broadly, to look at transnational global networks Strong civil society networks foster communication and reconciliation within divided societies and across battle lines. Such networks keep open channels of communication and can help to build trust. They are able to look at problems which governments neglect or push under the rug. Such efforts can slowly minimize negative stereotypes and perceptions, especially when linked with education and the use of media.

As John Prendergast and Emily Plumb note in "Civil Society as a Facilitator of Peace" "The development of civil society makes the transition to peace more comprehensive. A holistic approach is needed. The building of civil society should be done simultaneously with humanitarian assistance, economic development, refugee and internally displaced person resettlement, human rights and justice, institution building and restoration of the rule of law."

However, governmental authorities are not always open to efforts by civil society groups which have been often harassed, intimidated or undermined. The concept of civil society is an important part of the study of globalization. While the processes of globalization have been building for a long time - some see the start in 1492- it is in the 1990s that globalization became a 'household word'. Globalization and its impact on peacebuilding is a major theme which runs through many of the essays. One of the most interesting is William Garrett's "Family, Religion and Globalization: The Implications for World Peace."

With globalization, we see the rise in common cross-cultural values which provide a framework for world civil society. There is a strong emphasis among many authors in this collection on common values. As co-editor James Mancham, the first President of the Seychelles, writes "Today, it is clear that the fundamental response to the prevailing world crisis must be based on a consensus of universally shared values and a unity of vision that the leaders of the world can agree upon." The theologian Hans Kung tries to spell out these values in his "The Need for a New World Ethic" and Bernard Swan makes a useful contribution in his "Peace Search: From the Secular to the Christic."

This fine collection written by those active in peacebuilding is a call to join their ranks. As Jehan Sadat,former Fist Lady of Egype, writes in the Preface, "Dream of peace, pray for peace, work for peace, long for the day in which peace will prevail. And remember those words written by Anwar Sadat, 'When the bells of peace ring, there can be no hands to beat the drums of war."

Rene Wadlow