Theater of Cruelty

Galtung's method of peace

CONFLICT RESOLUTION / : Johan Galtung turns 90 on UN Day 24 October.


[We have posted a recent video with Galtuing here. ed.]

This autumn, Norway has stationed special forces for the desert war in Jordan. At the same time, there is an escalating escalation along the Russian border – where NATO exercises include nuclear submarines and aircraft designed for nuclear missiles. NATO has claimed the right to "be the first to use nuclear weapons", and Russia has responded in the same way. China is preparing for war in the South China Sea.

But what helps the world's enormous war machine against climate change – or against a microscopic covid virus? If we are to become stronger in the work for alternatives to this militarism, we must understand peacebuilding og peacekeeping. We must have words and concepts that can be set up against strategy thinking from war schools around the world. We must have theories that show how conflicts can be overcome without the use of violence. Knowledge of conflict management and peace-building with peaceful means must be able to become public property.

Conflict management at 500 educational institutions

On UN Day 24 October, Johan turns Galtung 90 years. The father of peace research has had a long life journey. Before him, there were no peace studies. With Galtung's 160 books and a wealth of research articles, we now find peace and conflict studies at more than 500 educational institutions worldwide. Galtung himself took the initiative and helped to shape institutions such as PRIO: (Peace Research Institute Oslo), SIPRI (Stockholm Institute of Peace Research International) and Transcend International.

Galtung has mediated in many conflicts. For decades, he has pointed out an important experience: It is always, always, always a question to ask – such as what does the marriage, the work situation, or the Afghanistan you want to live in look like? It is about emphasizing the positive, being constructive, creative and concrete.

"Conflict hygiene" will be for fred the personal hygiene is for the body. Introducing and generalizing a toolbox for peaceful conflict management may be somewhat reminiscent of the work of introducing tooth brushing as one of the most important preventive measures for dental health. The fact that one could prevent cavities in the teeth had hardly struck anyone a hundred years ago.

As doctors have shared knowledge about washing hands and brushing teeth as "hygiene", the time is now ripe for conflict hygiene. Like our health culture based on social hygiene, we now need a culture of peace based on conflict hygiene. Like taking care of your own health, this is preventative.

For some, a vision of peace is a world without conflict. But life is characterized by tensions and contradictions – as in politics, society, nature and human interaction. People are different and they have different goals. Goals can and will collide. Therefore, conflicts are as natural as life itself.

It is not conflictis that is the problem. Galtung has taught thousands of students to avoid confusing concepts such as "conflict" and "violence." Contradictions are not a problem, but just as often a driving force for development. The best way to transcend (that is, transcend) a conflict is through collaborating on common goals – with reciprocity where attention to solutions replaces the idea of ​​victory.

Sabona School

In his book 50 Years – 100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives (2008) Galtung has touched on many concrete conflicts he has mediated in. But do we also have examples from Norway that the theories can be used in practice?

In Norway uses We sawgroup – with Åse-Marie Faldalen and Synøve Faldalen, Vigdis R. Faldalen Thyholdt and Lars Thyholdt – and the idea contractors Melvær & Lien Galtungs transcend method. Here we have something other than anti-bullying campaigns. As Synøve Faldalen puts it: "I was horrified at how 'wrong' I (and most people) think about conflicts, and how practical and almost mathematical Johan Galtung cleans up. For most of us, 'conflict' is synonymous with 'violence', and thus the measures are aimed at stopping and cracking down on violence. Then you miss the opportunity to solve the conflict. ». She is one of the initiators of the Sabona group and works to ensure that conflict resolution can (and must) be learned – as they contribute with courses in both schools, kindergartens and working life.

The pilot project with the first Sabona school started in 2005 at Sander school in Sør-Odal municipality in Hedmark county. Sabona is a word from the African language Zulu which means "I see you and recognize you". It is a tool for conflict management with the goal of avoiding both physical and verbal violence – and creating peaceful, positive togetherness in kindergartens, schools and workplaces in general. The main rule is to refrain from yelling, but rather ask: What is the problem? It is important to help the parties formulate this and then arrive at positive solutions based on as much cooperation as possible.

Sabona can be used for conflict resolution at all levels – from relationships between individuals to big politics. The principles are based on the UN manual for brokers and conflict workers (see reference below), developed by Johan Galtung. Key words are: positive future (dreams), negative past (wounds), positive past (was something good in the past?), And negative future (what is the worst that can happen?). This step-by-step process prepares a brainstorming session to find solutions together.

The Directorate of Education's new curriculum for upper secondary school highlights interdisciplinary topics such as diversity of perspective, socially critical thinking, citizenship and sustainable development. Allows for Galtung's method of peace on the syllabus? The corona virus has shown that it is possible to stop the world in order to achieve a common goal. So is another world possible now?


See also MODERN TIMES's two interviews with Galtung in Spain, av Jones og Lie, or texts by Galtung himself.


Urban has recently published the book The Little Popular Science Book Galtung's method of peace. This is a low-threshold entrance to peacebuilding, published by
Hardanger Academy for Peace, Development and the Environment.
See transcendante.

Susanne Urban
Susanne Urban
Leader of the International Women's League for Peace and Fertility (IKFF-Bergen).

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