Peace and Governance

  • Md. Jahidul IslamEmail author
Living reference work entry



Peace: Peace is defined in two senses: Positive Peace and Negative Peace. Positive peace refers to the absence of structural violence, which includes exploitation, hunger, malnutrition, corruption, and so on. On the other hand, negative peace is defined as the absence of direct violence like interstate war, civil war, and injury (Galtung 1969).

Governance: Governance refers to “the exercise of authority to implement rules and policies in an effort to bring order to social, political, economic, and judicial processes that allow a society to develop” (Snodderly 2011).


Peace is a holistic phenomenon and need to comprehend from different perspectives. Erasmus said so long ago that “peace is the mother and nurse of all that is good for humanity” (Gittings 2015). Human society has passed through three stages of knowledge. August Comte, one of the founding fathers of sociology states that human society passed through three stages of knowledge including the theological, metaphysical, and positivism. In the theological stage, all things were explained following the religious aspects. In the metaphysical stage, human largely rely on the philosophical understanding of the phenomena. In the latest stage of positivism- which refers only to the observable phenomena- social science is the latest science in this regard (Giddens and Sutton 2013).

Moreover, study and analysis of peace in social science is also a new trend in modern academic area. Therefore, conceptualization of peace from these three stages of knowledge is an integral issue. Otherwise, there will be an obvious gap to conceptualize peace. Jeong (2000) argues that “the concepts of peace have been rich in content across various religious and philosophical traditions. The search for inner and communal peace derives from the ideal sought in spiritual life.” This paper is intended to discuss the conceptual issues regarding peace, and it will also analyze the relationship of peace with governance from different perspectives and levels. The following part will discuss the concept of peace from three perspectives: theological, philosophical, and modern.

Theological View of Peace

According to religious view, peace is divine and eternal. But all major religions emphasize on justice, equity, nonviolence concerns for the well-beings of others, well-ordered state of mind, inner peace, compassion among living beings, and equanimity. Buddhism sees Nirvana as the highest and ultimate place of peace and happiness where all sufferings end, and Buddha said “peace begins when all suffering ends” (The Teaching of Buddha 1966). Vedic religion also emphasizes on peace in its original texts. Bible and Old Testament show the “message of mutual good will, unconditional love, wholeness and individual well being as well as cessation of enmity. In early Christian social utopia, there was a strong emphasis on a community of love. Harmony and fullness can be achieved by spiritual enlightenment” (Jeong 2000: 7–8). In Islam, killing of an innocent person is equivalent to the killing of the whole humanity, and it strictly prohibits creating anarchy on the earth.

Philosophical View of Peace

From the philosophical perspectives, the concept of peace is associated with justice, order, lack of civil disturbance, absence of military war, social contracts, and rights of sovereign state, social and political justice, and so on. Greek philosopher describes a “peaceful world” as the absence of “civil disturbances.” These philosophical traditions linked to unity based on moral substance of humanity and principles of world citizenship in each individual.” In the Hellenic civilization, the vision of peace was intended to a world free from all types of war. Peace was considered as the control of organized violence during Medieval Periods through harmonious relationship among social units. During the period of Enlightenment, political philosophers like John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau considered war as avoidable through establishing “social contracts.” Liberal reformist argues for institutionalization to prevent interstate warfare. In addition, Kantian philosophy laid the foundation of the rights of sovereign nation-states through treaties and international agreements and proposed several principles to refrain states from intervening in the affairs of another states. Moreover, anarchist thinkers like Tolstoy opposed the state institution arguing that state power is responsible for violence, oppression, and exploitation. Marxist’s argues that peace could be attained in a classless society through revolution and see class struggle and exploitation as intrinsic phenomena in the capitalist economy, which is great barrier for greater equality among people (Jeong 2000: 7–9).

The great Muslim philosopher Imam Gazzali in his famous book “Counsel for the King” argues that “justice is the only instrument upon which prosperity of a kingdom depends. The society which is more developed and prosperous and people livings under happiness depends upon the practice of justice of ruler” (Issacs 1964). In addition, Plato said that justice is the most fundamental basis of ordered social life (Plato cited in Ibeanu 2006).

Chinese Philospher Lao-Tzu argues against the use of military force. Confucius states peace is the ultimate vision of human which come from “social harmony and equilibrium.” Another Chinese philosopher Mo-Tzu radically argued position against war and mentioned love as the human virtue. He said that “those who love others will be loved in return. Do good to others and others will do good to you. Hate people and be hated by them. Hurt them and they will hurt you. What is hard about that?” (Barash and Webel 2012).

Gandhian view was that violence may not be a way of peace; rather peace should be achieved through peaceful way. Gandhi was influenced by major religious teaching including Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Jainism and invented the essence of sattyagrah. He mentioned about few principles including sattyagrah – “adherence to truth” or “commitment to truth,” Maya – love, Vaktiayga – reverence or respect, and Ahimsa – nonviolence (Gandhi 1983). Ambler made a comprehensive study on “Gandhian Peacemaking” from Western point of view and identified four principles of Gandhian view of peacemaking which includes: understanding the conflict, confronting the opponent, confronting oneself, and building confidence. In addition for successful peacemaking process, more important issues should be kept in mind which are: “making study of the other’s view point, rejecting to embarrass the opponent, accepting compromise rather than defeat, winning at a pace that all can follow and becoming more independent in practice” (Ambler 1990: 199–205).

Modern View of Peace

Apart from the religious and philosophical contexts, peace is no longer a utopia in modern thinking; rather it is a goal which can be attained following conscious efforts to “build a harmonious social order” (Jeong 2000: 9). Aron, the French intellectual firstly used the terminology of peace as the reduction of war in international relations (Barash and Webel 2012). But, Galtung (1996), a pioneer Norwegian peace researcher argues that peace is more than the absence of violence and to discuss the idea of peace we should start keeping three simple principles in front of us: “(i) The term peace shall be used for social goals at least verbally agreed by many, if not necessarily by the most; (ii) These social goals may be complex and difficult, but not impossible to attain; (iii) The statement peace as absence of violence shall be remained as valid.” He also states that there is a relationship between the term peace and violence in such a manner that “peace can be regarded as the absence of violence.” In addition, Galtung states that “violence is being present when human beings are being influenced so that their actual somatic and mental realizations are below their potential realizations.” He also distinguished between physical and psychological violence, negative and positive approach, having actor (direct violence) and without actor (structural violence), and intended and unintended violence.

Moreover, to define peace, Galtung states that peace and violence is the opposite side of a single coin. He distinguished between personal and structural violence. He argues that peace is the absence of direct and structural violence. Absence of direct violence called negative peace and absence of indirect violence is called positive peace. Personal or direct violence includes killing, genocide, and injuring. On the contrary, structural violence refers to the violence which “is built in the structure of society and shows up an unequal power and consequently an unequal life chances” like unevenly distribution of resources, health care facilities, national budgets, and so on.

Rumel (1981) states peace as the opposite of war. He conceptualized peace in positive term at different level. At social level, he states that “peace as a social contract occurs at different levels of social relationships” including international, state, group, and individual level. Jeong (2000) States that the notion of “ecological peace” from tribal communities means that the earth itself is the object of violence.

There are few theoretical traditions of peace. For example: the democratic peace theory, which states that democratic countries are less likely to engage in war with each other (See, Reiter 2015). Another theoretical aspect of peace is the game theory and balance of power theory. Boulding (1990: 3–5) cited an example of peace theory “involving a dynamic movement towards a possible equilibrium is the theory of arms race,” Another aspect of peace theory he mentioned is the “study of the impact of the different kinds of destructive powers of weaponry on the consequence of using them.”

Thus modern thinking on peace and theoretical tradition consider peace as the absence of direct and structural violence. Absence of direct violence like interstate war, civil war, and injury refers to negative peace and absence of structural violence like exploitation, hunger, corruption, malnutrition, etc., as the presence of positive peace. Thus, peace is a situation of stability and freedom where everyone is free from exploitation and marginalization: no one exploits other and is not being exploited by anyone else.

The Correlationship Between Peace and Governance

The issues related to peace are issues related with governance. There are mechanism of negative peace and positive peace. Issues related with negative peace includes diplomacy, negotiation, mediation, conflict resolution, peace through strength, disarmament and arms control, international organizations, international law, world government, ethics and religion. On the other hand, mechanism of positive peace includes ensuring human rights, ecological well-being, economic well-being; nonviolence and personal transformation. In addition, good governance includes few mechanisms including accountability, transparency, rule of law, responsiveness, equity and integration, effective and efficient, and wider participation in decision-making process (Good Governance Guide 2017), which are highly linked to the economic and social development of a country. There can be no peace without proper governance. Peace requires stability and freedom; justice and equity; absence of organized violence; social and communal harmony; interstate state, regional, and global peaceful relationship among states; prevention of crimes, terrorism, and conflicts; and so on. These are elements highly liked up with governance of different institutions including local to global and formal or informal. So, this section discusses the relationship between peace and governance at national, global, regional, and individual level, and it also analyzes how intuitions of different levels work to promote peace.

National Governance and Peace

One of the primary responsibilities of governance activities of states or governments is to ensure peace and security to prevent direct violence and structural violence. Galtung (1969: 168) rightly argues that “peace action is regarded as highly as the action against violence,” then the action must be highly linked with the governance activities and prevention of violence and terrorism is considered as one of key indicators of governance at state level (Kaufmann et al. 2010). In addition, governance is related with institutions to achieve certain objectives. For example, parliament plays certain role according to the constitution of a country. Judiciary plays role to ensure justice as per as the laws of the land. Police work to ensure security for people and to prevent crimes and violence. Military forces work to secure territorial integrity and sovereignty of a state, and public administration work with a broader goal to ensure development and to promote peace. One of the goals of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is the vision for peace, justice, and stronger institution, which is related with public service and good governance of states institutions.

Democratic practices, wider participation of citizens at the decision-making process, ensuring human rights and establishing rule of law foster to promote good governance and stability and order in a state, and these are possible through successful functioning of institutions. Political, economic, and social integration is necessary in a state to tackle marginalization and exclusion. Exclusionary policies of government against political opponent and ethnic groups can foment civil unrest and violence. Sometimes, state institutions cannot work with a broader vision of integration rather follow the policy of segregation and separation and use police and law-enforcing agencies against own people and state which become an instrument of violence. If state institutions fail to work properly, then violence, conflicts, and anarchy are obvious consequences. Failure of institutions: political or social or economic results in chaos and disorder. There could have numerous reasons behind the failure of governance including corruption, foreign invasion, sectarian conflicts, political instability, civil war, economic crisis, and so on. But, whatever the reasons of governance failure, the ultimate result is anarchy and violence which is the opposite of peace and stability. The examples of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, and Syria are best examples in front of us how these countries are beset with civil war and terrorism because of the collapse of institutions and governance.

However, national government of many countries successfully managed their internal conflicts. For example, the two-decade long insurgency in Chittagong Hill-Tracts (CHT) region of Bangladesh was ended following a peace accord in 1997 between the government and the insurgents’ organization. Previously, conflict in Northern Ireland and South Africa, which happened basically based on political, economic, and psychological division was successfully resolved (Jeong 2000). Instead of all out war and violence in some part of the world, Scandinavian countries, Europe, and North America is quite stable except few terrorist attacks. Boulding (1990) states that “we have seen in the last 150 years a new phenomenon, the development of stable peace between independent national states, in which neither of two countries has any plans to go war with each other. This begins in Scandinavia in the mid-nineteenth century, spread to North America by about 1970, and to Western Europe after the Second World War.” He also argues that “the condition of stable peace is fairly simple: both parties must take national boundaries off their agendas, except by mutual agreement; both parties have to have a minimum amount of intervention in each other’s affairs.

Ensuring justice in all aspects of an individual life is an important precondition of peace. In modern time, it lies as the responsibility of government and state. Weber (2015) argues that there is no peace without justice. Imam Gazzali states that “royal justice, on which depends the prosperity of the subjects. It appears to mean conscientious rule. Injustice is divided in two categories: which sultans to do with subjects, strong men to weak and rich men to poor; and that which men do to themselves, namely sin. God inflicts punishment in this world upon perpetrators of injustice and God accept penitence and rewards kindness” (Isaacs 1964). It is the responsibility of government and state to ensure justice at all level and should be started from the top of the society. As he continues, if ruler become just then subjects practice justice, if ruler is unjust, then the same is followed by subjects. So, justice depends upon ruler, the powerful group of the society primarily. In addition, Plato discusses justice in the “social context as the most fundamental basis of ordered social life. For him justice is the basis of peaceful social existence. He defines justice as giving each to his/her due. He argues that every society requires three functions to achieve harmony (peace): production, security and political rule. All these things related with the governance of modern nation state.” (Plato cited in Ibeanu 2006).

Global Governance and Peace

Global governance is a concept to regulate global challenges the nation’s states facing today from the spread of diseases to transnational terrorism and crimes. It is not possible for nation states to control the things like the spread of AIDS. Global governance is a concept “that aims to capture all those rules and norms, policies, institutions, and practices through which global humanity orders its collective affairs.” In this sense, global community has some regulations like international law, multilateral treaties, and norms of conflict resolution alongside institutions like United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and World Bank (Giddens and Sutton 2013).

International Organization like United Nations after the failure of the League of Nations following the Second World War was established to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. Though, there are widespread criticism about the legitimacy and failures of the organization, but its success stories shows effective initiatives to stop the Korean War in 1953 through the “Uniting for Peace” resolution in its General Assembly and successful negotiation initiative to stop India-Pakistan war (Gareis and Varwick 2005).

United Nations has two types of methods to resolve any disputes which endanger or threat to breach international peace and security: peaceful mechanism and coercive mechanism. Peaceful mechanism includes “negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resorting to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of the parties.” Moreover, in case of the failure of pacific measures of settlement of disputes, the Security Council decides to take coercive measures analyzing the level of threat and acts of aggression. “These may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.” In case of inadequacy of these measures, the organization can take military action through air, naval, and land forces by its member nations to restore international peace and security (United Nations 2016). The military intervention of United Nations in Libya against the Colonel Muammar Gaddafi on the basis of the gross violation of Human rights raised serious questions, whether its intervention promoted peace in Libya or forced the whole region for protracted sectarian conflicts including the safer heaven for terrorist organization like Islamic State.

The organization is operating peace keeping missions in 16 countries through the world by its Department of Peace Keeping Operations (DPKO). Peacekeeping Missions are working to maintain peace and security, to prevent conflict and mediation, peacemaking, and peace enforcement. In broader sense, peacekeeping operations are in principles working “to support and implement of ceasefire or peace agreements and peace building activities.” Moreover, today’s multidimensional peacekeeping operations are working “to facilitate political process including democratic transition, protect civilians, assist the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former combatants, support the organizations of elections, protect and promote human rights and assists in resorting rule of law” (UN Peacekeeping 2017).

Apart from the negative aspect of promoting peace, United Nations had taken vigorous initiatives to promote culture of peace through UNESCO’s Culture of Peace program and declared the decade of 2001–2010 as international decade for a culture of peace and nonviolence for the children of the world. The culture of peace is a “set of values attitudes and modes of behaviours and ways of life that reject violence and prevent conflicts by tackling root causes to solve problems through dialogue and negotiation among individuals, groups and nations.” For peace and nonviolence to prevail, culture of peace program includes: fostering culture of peace through education, promoting sustainable economic and social development; promoting respect for human rights; ensuring equality between men and women; fostering democratic participation; overcoming enemy image through understanding, tolerance, and solidarity; free flow of information and media, promoting international peace and security (UNESCO 2016). Achieving the objectives of the culture of peace, many government and nongovernmental institutions need to work together side by side other international organizations.

Regional Governance and Peace

In spite of the challenges and limitations of International Organization like United Nations, political and economic integration through regional institutions like European Union make any future war impossible among the previous rivals like Britain, France, and Germany. It is even difficult to think for today’s generations that those powers fought two major world wars (Friedman 2010). European Union emerged as the supranational regional entity which merged the European countries like a borderless zone and created a single market with single currency. Thus, it is maintaining the stability, promoting peace and development for the region, and playing vital role in world politics. In addition, African Union, Arab League, Organization of American States, Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) also playing dominant role in their respective region and working for economic and political integration. Thus, regionalism has been emerged as a regional governance mechanism which can prevent regional conflict and to combat transnational crimes and terrorism.

Personal Governance and Peace

How to achieve peace at personal level? There are two aspects of a human being. One is physical and another is mental, sometime nonphysical aspects refers to the activities regarding to soul or mind. Thus, the physical aspects of peace is concern with the absence of violence in negative term and absence of structural violence like exploitation, hunger, malnutrition, and other negative instruments from the social aspects. Sometimes, social peace like the complete absence of war, violence and confrontation, and sometimes direct exploitation do not indicate that an individual is living in peace or she/he is feeling happiness. Rather, they can feel anxiety and mental affliction. Thus, the second approach of mental or psychological or soul related happiness is absence in the direct materialistic academic discourse. A rich man can suffer from mental affliction, even who do not face any direct or indirect violence. Thus the answer of this question is not given from the modern perspectives of peace.

Hate bring mental affliction and destroy the peace of mind. If a man hates another one, who is closer, then the result is absolute mental affliction and lost happiness or at least suffers from anxiety. For example, an accidental divorce after 12 years of living together between a male and female can cause serious mental affliction and psychological disorder. On the contrary, love brings peace in mind. The meaning of love is to seek well-being of others without resorting to any return or exchange for that. Thus, love and lust is not the same thing. Love requires sacrifice. Love does not require or justify any retaliation, rather it is a sacrificial matter which is purely one sided.

War starts in mind first and its manifestation is bombardment. We talk about the absence of direct confrontation, but we have no programme to keep the leadership psychology in a pacific situation who always will think in a positive direction. Two boys may fight with an apple. But, they donot get the lesson to share with each other and surviving together. The phrase of the Constitution of UNSECO (1945) rightly mentioned that “since war begins in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men than defences of peace must be constructed” (UN General Assembly Resolution, A/RES/53/243 1999). Greed for resources and power destroy peace at all level including the individual’s state of mind and people fight with each other to establish control over resources. It happens because of the greed for resources and lack of willingness to give everyone his/her due. It requires the practice of justice at personal level. Rabea Bosri, a pious female Muslim women wrote rejecting her offer for marriage from an affluent businessman that apathy or lack of interest for worldly resources results peace in soul and bodily pleasure, but fascination or greed towards resources cause sorrow and unhappiness (Gazzali 2009).


Peace and governance is highly linked with each other. There will be no peace without proper governance. Peace is a violence free condition which is marked by the absence of all forms of violence including interstate war, civil war, genocide and ethnic cleansing, economic exploitation, and political marginalization or exclusion based on different ethnic or religious identity, corruption, hunger, and so on. It is a situation where no one exploits and nor being exploited. In addition, governance is a mechanism through different institutions which attempt to tackle these forms of violence with a broader vision to establish an egalitarian peaceful society. These institutions may be formal and sometimes informal. Thus, the relationship between peace and governance is well established in national, regional, and global level. Apart from these, proper personal governance and proper functioning of social institutions are also necessary to minimize violence. At national level, different government and nongovernmental entities are working for peace and development. At regional level, regional organizations are working for political and economic integration and promoting peace and development through different institutional mechanism. Moreover, international organizations like United Nations with its all organs working to promote global peace, security, and development. Finally, justice is one of the fundamental principles of governance which should be ensured to achieve peace at all level.



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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public AdministrationStamford UniversityDhakaBangladesh