Building positive peace

Building positive peace

As war keeps on changing, even the concept of peace is evolving. Peace today has not one, but two distinct definitions:

  • Negative Peace
  • Positive Peace

Negative Peace is the absence of violence and it fails to capture a society’s stability and harmony. Positive Peace, on the other hand, is defined as “the attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies”, and it is achieved through sustainable investments in economic development and institutions as well as societal attitudes that foster peace. Positive Peace a ‘transformational concept’ as it does not focus on the negative conditions to avoid peace, but instead it focuses on strategies through which peace can make society grow. The main aim of Positive Peace is to tackle structure and cultures of violence that make people violent towards each other or impose violent models.

The whole concept of Positive Peace was theorised by Joahn Galtung, an American sociologist and mathematician, born to Norwegian parents. Galtung decided to devote his life to preventing war after his father’s deportation into a concentration camp, even though he had saved many German soldiers. His father managed to return home one month before the end of the war, but his imprisonment profoundly marked him. Galtung decided to consider war as an illness and he believed that it is an epidemy that can be prevented by working on its causes, and not only on its effects.

To achieve Positive Peace the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) has established eight factors called the Pillars of Positive Peace:

1. Well-Functioning Government – A well-functioning government delivers high-quality public and civil services, engenders trust and participation, demonstrates political stability, and upholds the rule of law.

2. Equitable Distribution of Resources – Peaceful countries tend to ensure equity in access to resources such as education, health and, to a lesser extent, equity in income distribution.

3. Free flow of information – Free and independent media disseminates information in a way that leads to greater knowledge and helps individuals, business and civil society make better decisions. This leads to better outcomes and more rational responses in times of crisis.

4. Good relations with neighbours – Harmonious relations with other countries or between ethnic, religious, and cultural groups within a country are vital for peace. Countries with positive internal and external relations are more peaceful and tend to be more politically stable, have better functioning governments, are regionally integrated and have lower levels of organised internal conflict.

5. High levels of human capital – A skilled human capital base reflects the extent to which societies educate citizens and promote the development of knowledge, thereby improving economic productivity, care for the young, political participation and social capital.

6. Acceptance of the rights of others – Peaceful nations enforce formal laws that guarantee basic human rights and freedoms and the informal social and cultural norms that relate to behaviours of citizens.

7. Low levels of corruption – In societies with high levels of corruption, resources are inefficiently allocated, often leading to a lack of funding for essential services, which in turn can lead to dissatisfaction and civil unrest. Low corruption can enhance confidence and trust in institutions as well as improve the efficiency of business and the competitiveness of the country.

8. Sound business environment – The strength of economic conditions as well as the formal institutions that support the operation of the private sector. Business competitiveness and economic productivity are both associated with the most peaceful countries and are key to a robust business environment. [Positive Peace Report 2022]

The Positive Peace report describes the characteristics of Positive Peace as follows:

  • Systemic and Complex: progress does not happen in a linear sequence of events, but it can be understood through a net of relationships and communication.
  • Virtuous or vicious: as negative feedback forms loops and vicious circles, so does positive feedback.
  • Preventive: strengthening specific Pillars can help prevent violence and conflict.
  • Underpins resilience and nonviolence: Positive Peace increases resilience and nonviolent conflict resolutions.
  • Informal and formal: formal and informal societal factors are equally important.
  • Supports development goals: an environment characterised by Positive Peace makes it easier to achieve development goals.
  • Underpins progress more generally: Positive Peace can lead to better performance for the environment, well-being, economic development, and inclusion.

The IEP is committed to implementing Positive Peace all around the globe and it uses two main approaches to do so: Systems Thinking and Targeted Interventions.

  • Systems Thinking is a theory that originated during studies on biological systems and organisms. It sees a system as a product of the interaction of its single parts and it can also be applied to societal systems.
    The IEP uses Systems Thinking to design intervention programs in fragile societies and developing states.
  • Targeted Interventions are used through workshops and training to increase resilience in communities.

IEP has developed a series of Educational Programmes to build resilience and expertise all around the world.

  • The IEP Ambassador Programme gives peacebuilders and stakeholders the opportunity to gain concrete knowledge and resources that can help create peace in their communities. It was launched in 2016 and in six years it has counted over 3,500 participants from 105 different countries. The programme is made up of an initial online training followed by three webinars.
  • The IEP Peace Academy is an online academy that can be attended by the general public and people already working in the field. It gives participants the skills to develop peace and take action.
  • The Religion and Peace Academy is a course that explores the connections between religion and peace, with an emphasis on how cooperation between different religions can help solve conflicts and increase global peace.
  • Workshops are created with partner organisations, and they are adapted to local contexts and languages and group sizes. The main workshops that the IEP has carried out are:

Thanks to these solutions peacebuilders have shifted their focus from war to peace. The incredible results achieved by workshops and academies keep encouraging more and more people to participate in building peace for a better future.



Institute for Economics & Peace, Positive Peace Report 2022. (last access on 02/03/2022). (last access on 03/03/2022). (last access on 03/03/2022).

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