A textbook on peacemaking?

One of the frustrations I felt travelling this path is the lack of an off-the-shelf textbook on “How to Do Peace”. Seeing a link to the Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation raised some hope. A single reference book is what I have hoped for.

“The Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation offers a continuously updated online publication platform for both academics and practitioners to review the state of the art, discuss new ideas and exchange experiences in the field of conflict transformation.”

No, it’s not a handbook, it is a web site of articles and downloads.

About the Handbook:
The Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation offers a continuously updated online publication platform for both academics and practitioners to review the state of the art, discuss new ideas and exchange experiences in the field of conflict transformation.

Seemingly useful should be the Berghof Glossary on Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding which sounds promising ‘We first published this small and compact booklet as a guide to our interpretation of the cornerstones of peacebuilding and conflict transformation in 2012‘. However, it is ’20 essays on theory and practice’ in 170 pages. It may be useful, but it’s not really a glossary, is it?

It is another web resource of articles, not an off-the-shelf handbook which is what is needed by those wanting to participate.

Nobody talks about peace

A recurring theme when studying international relations and diplomacy is the need for secret talks between parties in conflict.  This allows concessions to be discussed without the leaders on either side losing face.  So we do not hear about moves made toward peace-making, what the methods are, how many are involved, how much work gets done and how successful it may or may not be.  This gives us the impression that there is no peace-making going on, merely a cessation of hostilities.

It also came up when I was researching The Troubles in Northern Ireland.  The ‘politics of research’ means information on security matters is not researched, not talked about, not documented and not publicised.  So we do not hear about the successes and achievements toward peace making.

I am now going through a list of case studies called ‘War Prevention Works’ published by the Oxford Research Group.  They say in their book that finding out about interventions in conflict is hard because they are kept quiet.

It is no wonder the general public think peace is an impossibility, war is inevitable and that peace-making does now work.  It receives no publicity for multiple reasons, whereas war is newsworthy every day.  And if you don’t talk about something, it does not exist.  There needs to be evidence for people to learn from and believe in.  If you don’t study your history, you can’t learn from it.  Keeping peace-making secret may be a short-term requirement, but it is a medium and long term hindrance.

We need to publicise methods and successes somehow, somewhere.  Which takes me back to where I started in 2012: where is the manual on how to do peace as a practitioner?  What are the methodologies?  What is the learned journal for peace?  What is the code of conduct?  What is the professional body?

Is a PhD a possibility for me?

So I am preparing for my Master’s in Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies at Lancaster University and reviewing my plan.  My intention was to get a Peace Studies MA then a job in conflict prevention somehow such that I could do my bit to stop the UK starting any new wars by providing evidence-based arguments that there are better alternatives.

A few people have – in jest? – asked if I am intending to do a PhD or suggested I do one.  Having looked again at the university I have chosen – a “triple top ten university” with a joint top best research library and one of the top 3 research universities in the UK – and it seems I have chosen well.  One that prides itself on the quality of its research.  I wonder if that applies to the social sciences too, specifically the politics and international relations?  If so, I would be in the right place.

I had an idea the other day regarding modelling of the kind done in IT, physics and maths: are there models for conflict resolution?  If not, fame and fortune awaits if I invent the first.  If so, there is the opportunity to learn about them and apply them in the workplace.  But an academic view might be to review them, compare them, evaluate them – that could be what I do with this MA.

But there is a further opportunity. I am a practitioner by nature, not an academic.  I have been seeking ‘the learned journal for peace’, the professional body for peacemakers, the text books, the methodologies, the best practice for the people working in the field.  Do these things exist?  If not, they need creating and there is the scope for a PhD.

If I could create or document a framework for peacemongery such that practitioners could take it off the shelf and use it, that would be a heck of a legacy.  If I could form a ‘professional body’ or a methodology, that would also be a great contribution.  Even creating something so that when someone says “There is no alternative to war”, I can say “Yes there is, I wrote the book!” would be an immense move forward.

I shall keep pondering on this idea…