“Ending Conflict” is a Misnomer

Of the approximate 200 countries in the world, about 150 countries have peace processes to end conflict or disagreements. However, Dr. Christine Bell points out that on average, it takes about 36 further agreements to reach the place where the parties in conflict have learned to live peacefully while still carrying their differences. [See a previous post about Dr. Bell’s research.}

The language that Dr. Bell engages to discuss peace and reconciliation, as well as human rights, is also important. She describes the peace making process as agreeing to carry disagreements in a peaceful manner, i.e. the idea of a final peace is misleading. It is an ongoing process and there is an art to it. Language is central.

Dr. Bell speaks about carrying our disagreements together but peacefully and making small agreements along the way of the process. This requires commitment from both sides to just agree to disagree and keep talking. We see this going on now writ large between Ukraine and Russia, and between Russia and NATO nations.

Dr. Christine Bell has much to offer all of us who are following the many conflicts that our own countries are involved in or those of us interested in harmony among nations in general. I am including several ways to follow Dr. Bell’s research and leadership in peace negotiations and human rights.

Corrymeela Podcast with Padraig O’Tuama

You Tube Lecture at University of Edinburgh.

Christine Bell at University of Edinburgh Website

Peace Processes and Their Agreements

Photo by Susan Feathers

Right will win, wrong will lose …

Whenever the cry for freedom rises in the world, we are called to consider just how much our own freedom means to us – whether a similar collective action such as we witness in Ukraine might happen here in America.

We are witness to free states coming together, at great sacrifice to some, to crush an outright seizure of a sovereign people and country.

Collectively, the western democratic societies and alliances have answered the wrong doings of Vladimir Putin with crippling sanctions on the Russian economy. The Russian people will suffer the brunt of Putin’s actions.

A wave of Ukrainians have spanned away from the war zone but are welcomed by allied countries in another outpouring of solidarity among nations and people who uphold the principles of democratic societies.

The period unfolding before us I name, “A Pulse Toward Right Over Wrong.”

The bravery of the Ukrainian people reflects the actions required of citizens to keep a democratic society. It reflects back on the soft stance of a previous president toward Putin and the autocratic elements of the current republican party that seeks to squelch the voice of democratically motivated leaders.

A common misunderstanding about peace agreements is that they finalize a new state of relationships. Experts studying peace agreements show the in fact it is AFTER a peace agreement that an average of 50+ smaller agreements take place in order to maintain the agreement. See the Peace Agreement Database.

Dr. Christine Bell at Edinburgh University leads the study of international peace agreements. Born and raised in Belfast, Dr. Bell has studied the difficult, prolonged process necessary to achieve final elements of peace that can last. Once this level of peace is achieved vigilance is required to maintain it. Trust is fundamental to making peace.

Dr. Bell explains how Brexit potentially threatens the Belfast Agreement between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Listen to an excellent discussion about peace agreements on Corrymeela Podcast.

This example shows that peace is not a static process. The peace agreements we make, such as those at the end of WWII, are dynamic. The invasion of Ukraine is a demonstration of that principle also.

The continuous process of peace-making, dependent on trust between peace makers and peoples – is what we are all involved in across the world. This process is incremental, as Dr. Bell points out.

Will Americans stick to this principle and be willing to negotiate across our differences, to take the hard and small steps together to maintain our democracy? I don’t know but Ukrainians are showing us they are willing to give their lives to live in a democratic nation. Can we discern that we are on the edge of possibly losing our democratic way of life?

Perhaps we need to convene a peace conference among democrats and republicans to renegotiate how we want to govern our society.

History and Justice, Photograph by Susan Feathers

Who do we want to be? How do we become that?

Christine Bell, Professor of Constitutional Law at Edinburgh University, in a recent interview on the Corrymella Podcast, states these two questions as fundamental to achieving reconciliation and peace.

Another key statement Dr. Bell shares is that Peace and Reconciliation process is not about solving a problem, but rather, agreeing to disagree and working forward to find ways that move us closer to agreement. A key part of it is getting to know each other on a nonpolitical basis, finding ways to be in dialogue about common experiences.

At one point in this interview, Padriag O’Tuama, a theology leader in Ireland and founder of the Corrymella Community, mentions that Joe Biden is searching for a process like this to help heal the divided nation of the U.S.A.

What can Big Data Add to the Peace Process?

Bell is involved internationally with states and groups that are studying big data collected from 200 countries of the world community from 1990 forward. 170 peace agreements exist among them, and data shows that at least 39 subsequents agreements after the declaration of peace were required to actually achieve peace. But, people came together who disagreed. They agreed to disagree to enter into a peace process. Dr. Bell states that you begin with the two questions, 1) who do we want to be,, and 2) how do we become that?

How can this information help Americans achieve national unity?

Clearly things are changing in the U.S. and we are bitterly divided with each side of the political divide distrusting the other. Listen here and think about how you could start a process to come together using these two questions in your local community. Who do we want to be and how do we get there? Listen here.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com