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The Peace Tax Seven

Peace is Strength

A report by Simon Heywood

Here is a purely personal overview of some of the basic techniques involved in the art of peace, both shorter- and longer-term, with examples of their often un-noticed - and certainly under-researched, under-staffed, and under-funded - successes, and set alongside some better-known counter-examples of war. Also appended are some suggestions for ways of promoting specific methods; and ways in which a peace tax pool could be used to fund such work.

1 Crisis management: three possibilities

The most immediate and obvious way of preventing wars is to manage the inevitable crises in international relations which lead to outbreaks of war.

1.1 Anticipating crises
Successes: the EU from 1945
Failures: Nazism in Europe, 1930s
Rwandan genocide, 1990s
Yugoslavia, 1980s
How to promote: improved monitoring by governments and multilateral institution; permanent staffs at the UN and governmental levels
Uses of peace tax: research and environmental protection by governmental and non-governmental agencies;
increased funding for the UN and other multilateral institutions

As the conflict analyst Dan Smith writes, "even some wars in recent years that have been confidently predicted by every expert seem to take international political leaders by surprise." By contrast, in postwar Europe, the precedent of World War 2 has been so powerful that Europe has massively adapted its political and economic institutions in order to prevent further crises. The UN was originally founded to have a similar impact on a global scale. It is chronically underfunded and undersupported, and also loaded in favour of present and former great powers. If these problems were addressed, it could come closer to fulfilling its original purpose. Current global flashpoints include Korea, Taiwan, and Israel/Palestine, and there are many smaller, regional flashpoints.

1.2 Mediation, and negotiation, as soon as possible after the emergence of a crisis
Successes: Estonia 1993
Northern Ireland 1995
How to promote: improved monitoring by governments and multilateral institutions;
permanent staffs of expert, rapid-response mediators at UN and government level
Uses of peace tax: funding for expert mediators
Max Van Der Stoel

If a crisis actually flares up, rapid-response mediation can stop it collapsing into violence. During the Soviet period, Russian populations were built up in the Baltic states. After independence, these ethnic Russians became minorities in the Baltic states, subject to increasing legal discrimination. Russia threatened to intervene on behalf of the ethnic Russians. This situation was comparable to the collapse of Yugoslavia, which led to years of appalling violence. The crisis flashpoint was a technically illegal referendum on secession, planned in Russian-dominated cities in northern Estonia. However, a deal was brokered by the High Commissioner for National Minorities (HCNM) of the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), Max Van Der Stoel.

According to this deal, the Estonian government allowed the referendums to go ahead, with the predictably pro-Russian result, but declared them illegal at the national level. This compromise defused the crisis and allowed the HCNM to broker reforms of the discriminatory laws. Thus a widely-predicted, Yugoslavia-style regional war was averted. A similar collapse of the northern Irish peace process following disturbances at Drumcree church was also averted by teams of mediators headed by Brendan McAllister and Joe Campbell. Similar third-party action can be undertaken by diplomats and others in the form of 'good offices' missions to reduce tension. There are many examples, but wars which don't happen don't make headlines, and this obscures the frequent and substantial success of rapid-response mediation and diplomacy at the highest level.

1.3 Internationally supported nonviolent community and civil society groups
Successes: India 1946
South Africa 1989 - 1990
Eastern Europe after 1990
Liberia 1993 - 1997
Colombia 1995 - 1999
Serbia 1998 - 2000
Failures: Kosovo 1999
How to promote: recognise and fund humanitarian organisations, NGOs, activist groups and interest groups in and around the potential conflict area
international political and diplomatic support
Uses of peace tax: government funding for these initiatives
An OTPOR demonstration

If action at the top is effective, so is nonviolent action at the grass roots - especially in concert with it. The end of British colonial rule in India, and of Soviet communism in Eastern Europe, was largely nonviolent, and legitimised by the approving attention of the world. Despite violence on both sides in South Africa, the public recognition of Nelson Mandela and legitimation of the ANC as a political force contributed to a transition to democracy, rather than the expected slide into civil war. In 2000, a nonviolent civil society network, Otpor (Resistance), did what years of war had failed to do: depose the Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic.

Otpor used graffiti, education, direct action and civil disobedience, demonstrations, T-shirts, stickers and slogans, election monitoring, and other nonviolent methods. Once the culture of fear was openly challenged, Milosevic's credibility, which rested on nothing else, vanished. Otpor's success is instructive because it contrasts with the failure of a similar direct action anti-Milosevic network in Kosovo, which lasted for two years but eventually proved ineffective because it did not receive the international support and recognition that activists had expected. It finally foundered when NATO began bombing Serbia in 1999. After the bombing, attitudes polarised among both communities. The Kosovar Albanians despaired of nonviolence and founded the very violent Kosovar Liberation Army.

Supported nonviolent civil society action can work even in the darkest circumstances. Unarmed Peace Brigades International volunteers accompanied threatened anti-government activists in Colombia in the 1990s, and undoubtedly saved their lives. Similar accompaniment programmes are currently in operation in Israel/Palestine. In Argentina, between 1977 and 1993, Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo - the 'mothers of the disappeared' victims of the US- sponsored dictators - began a series of actions and demonstrations based around the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires.

This movement lowered the rate of abductions or 'disappearances' of dissidents by the government, and was the beginning of a civil society movement that eventually overthrew the dictatorship. Direct action often empowers hitherto disenfranchised groups - in this case, as also in Liberia (1993 - 1997), women. Nonviolent resistance works, especially when resourced and recognised as legitimate at an international level, often through the personal respect accorded to prominent activists such as Gandhi and Mandela. It requires resources and external support. It is often highly dangerous to activists. In these respects war is the same, but worse.

The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo

Page 2 - Long Term Peacebuilding
War is Weakness
Further reading and research