(UNESCO / Japan Young Researchers' fellowships programme)

An Anthropological Approach to Conflict Theory and its Relation to the Culture of Peace

Summary of research carried out: 
An Anthropological Approach to Conflict Theory and its Relation to the Culture of Peace

Project I: “An Anthropological Perspective on the Culture of Peace and the Role Played by the State in its Development”.

This research project will examine the origin of the concept of peace, which initially was based on the analysis of violent behaviour and was considered a negative peace. Nevertheless, peace cannot only be viewed from a negative perspective, such as in polemology (the study of human conflict in different sectors of society that can itself lead to war). Peace is also positive, based on justice and the democratic values of countries, which should in principle look to cover the basic needs of citizens and thus avoid creating future conflicts. This positive approach towards peace was introduced with irenology (the study of peace). Our research, which is based on irenology, is founded on anthropology, the comprehensive study of human beings, with particular emphasis on human dignity. In his book, “Repensar la Paz” (Reconsidering Peace), Jesús Ballesteros covers the anthropological bases of peace, covering aspects such as: recovering the concept of humanity and universal human rights versus cultural relativism and ethnocentrism, liberal democracy, based on the division of religion and politics as the best system for achieving peace, covering both national and human security, the rule of law and ontological human dignity, democracy as information transparency, democracy versus technocracy and ecumenism, and respecting the United Nations as a third party against asymmetric warfare. Delegitimizing killer identities avoiding emotions of shame and hatred, the role of religion, the need for forgiveness and finally, bases for intercultural dialogue. As is evident, the issue of peace is a complex one, but the concept of peace is unambiguous. It has been studied by different disciplines converting it into something holistic. Peace is immersed in every social dimension and appears in everyone in their daily lives. Nevertheless, peace can also be constructed and maintained by States, which is why it is worth asking: do States seek peace? Do they live in peace through their institutions? Do citizens feel safe and protected by States? These are questions and responses that are not easy to answer and will depend on the States in question.

This is why it is important that the State should bestow protection on its people (human security) as one of its core values. This protection exists when there is a rule of law, which is expressed when citizens have access to justice, when they live under legal certainty and a common good, when they have decent living conditions, etc. In summary, if a State does not fulfil its role of guaranteeing social justice in the broadest terms, it will be the catalyst that foments violent protests and a positive peace will not exist. To conclude, we must firstly ensure that peace is perfected and experienced on a personal level, and then contribute and demand that the State carry out its role to protect our human rights.

Key words: Peace, Anthropological approach, Positive peace, Negative peace, State.


Project II: “The Controlling Role of the State in Administering Justice and its Decentralizing Role on Individuals”.

This research project will examine the historical role of the state as a controlling entity in the administration of justice, and how this legal authority was passed on to individuals to resolve conflicts peacefully through other means. These included mediation, conciliation and arbitration. These means for peaceful conflict resolution are old, but have been revived as efficient mechanisms, which function in tandem with State-administered justice to resolve conflicts encountered in societies. These methods or means are part of a response to justice without there being a consensus that has been experienced before. This response, through the coercive power of the State that safeguards the law, seeks to resolve disagreements. This is not done by the collective wishes of both parties, but by imposing the rule of law to resolve the case. Over the last few years in countries such as Mexico and Venezuela there has been an increase in these methods for conflict resolution, which in 1999 were incorporated into the Venezuelan Constitution under articles 253 and 258. This has also been the case in Mexico where articles 17 and 18 from the Political Constitution of the United States of Mexico were amended in 2008. The regulation of the means for conflict resolution in both legal systems is a response to the problem of the administration of a traditional justice system that is inefficient and tardy. There are many critics of the system, which is characterized by its inability to quickly and adequately resolve conflicts between individuals, who turn to the judicial system in search of answers that conform to the legal system. There are also serious accusations of corruption attributed to many of its officers. Therefore, the purpose of these means is to streamline justice and allow a large number of people access to it who were or are excluded from it. The justice given should be quick, impartial, effective, independent and fair. Some of the questions to be asked are: Is it possible to speak of a different form of justice other than traditional justice? Who gives individuals the authority to administer justice? Some parts of these questions have been answered previously, nevertheless, let us expand the answers. The answer to the first question is yes, it is possible to change the paradigm of the traditional approach of justice without consensus, for one based on agreement and consensus, or a transformative or restorative justice in terms of criminality. To the second question we can answer that the State that grants authority to administer justice to individuals must also set the limits, for example, in cases of law enforcement where individuals cannot intervene. In conclusion, it is important to understand why the State decentralizes justice and places it in the hands of individuals and also to understand the positive effect of the means for social conflict resolution.

Key words: Conflict resolution measures, State, Traditional justice, Justice through consensus.