By Laurie Smolenski
The fourth Positive Peace Conference, co-hosted by the Institute for Economics & Peace and the Stanford Center for Latin American Studies, was held at Stanford University on October 29. The conference opened with welcoming words and the acknowledgement that Stanford campus is located on the Muwekma Ohlone territory, followed by the launching of the 2019 Positive Peace Report, which monitors and analyzes the factors that underpin the world’s most peaceful nations. The latest report presents new analysis indicating that global improvements to Positive Peace are mainly due to advances in the structures domain of Positive Peace, whereas the attitudes domain is deteriorating. The implications of the latter - from the weakening of press freedoms to widespread vilification of immigrant communities - served as seeds of discussion throughout the conference.
The conference provided a space for reflection on Positive Peace and how it is operationalized in various economic, political and social sectors. The themes of the panels encouraged participants to engage in discussions around dimensions of Positive Peace in their unique contexts, and how the index can be a tool to complement their own work. A key message was the systemic nature of Positive Peace, coupled with the importance of collaborative and locally-led investments in peace.
The Positive Peace Index was discussed as a neutral platform around which to convene government and civil society actors. Panelists spoke about the importance of data to influence policymakers, including specific cases illuminating the relevance of Positive Peace to enacting more holistic security policies in Latin America. The panelists put on the table global issues that are mobilizing international organizations and governments today, and showed potential opportunities for integrating peace into broader political agendas.
Panels and participants shared views on how issues of faith and identity impact notions of peace and conflict resolution, and the ongoing need for stronger bridges between different cultures, beliefs and religions. The conference closed with a conversation about how Positive Peace can be analyzed and operationalized, including through the use of technology and social media to reduce levels of structural violence and discrimination. This included an acknowledgement of actions individuals can take within their own communities - local and global, physical and virtual.