The following blog was written by Social Value International’s Membership Coordinator, Lukia Nomikos.
Although the absolute number of war deaths globally has been in decline since 1946, conflict and violence are currently on the rise. The pursuit of peace, unity and harmony therefore remains as crucial as ever.
However, peace is about more than just the lack of conflict – it also requires the existence of some positive force. In the memorable words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” The UN embraces this principle, recognising that peace also requires “a positive, dynamic participatory process, in which dialogue is encouraged and conflicts are resolved in a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation.”
16th May marks the UN’s International Day of Living Together in Peace – a day dedicated to the promotion of peace, tolerance, inclusion, understanding and solidarity. The Day “aims to uphold the desire to live and act together, united in differences and diversity, in order to build a sustainable world of peace, solidarity and harmony.”
But how do we realise this vision? And how can the social value movement support this utopian objective?
- By tackling inequality and reducing environmental degradation
Inequality and the scarcity of resources exacerbated by climate change are both significant drivers of instability, tensions and conflict. In recent years, protests around the globe – from Colombia to Lebanon and from Hong Kong to France – have all demonstrated the link between inequality and political unrest. While climate change, in turn, does not currently directly cause conflict, it may indirectly increase the risk of conflict by fuelling existing social, economic and environmental factors. The Syrian civil war is an oft-cited example of this: the extreme drought experienced within Syria prior to 2011 is said to have led to large-scale migration which in turn compounded the socio-economic stresses that underpinned Syria’s descent into war.
Tackling inequality and reducing environmental degradation are therefore vital if we are to live in peace. They are also the ultimate goals of the social value movement and our work here at SVI, and we believe that the best way to achieve them is by changing the way the world accounts for value. Key decisions about resources and policies should be made using a broader understanding of value, one that goes beyond economic considerations and places social and environmental effects at its centre.
- By eliminating all forms of discrimination and intolerance
“Living together in peace is all about accepting differences and having the ability to listen to, recognize, respect and appreciate others.” In a world still beset with racism, misogyny and other forms of discrimination, this wide-scale appreciation of diversity and mutual understanding and compassion between different groups of people may sometimes seem like a distant dream. Only by eliminating all forms of discrimination and intolerance – which is certainly no easy feat nor something that can be achieved overnight – is this attainable.
Social justice and the eradication of discrimination are central to the social value movement – without them, we simply cannot hope to achieve our vision of an equitable, fair and just world for all. Therefore, we must
- continue to call out and speak against discrimination and injustice when we see it;
- challenge discriminatory laws and policies and hold those in power to account;
- be willing to self-reflect and recognise our own (sometimes unconscious) biases;
- educate ourselves; and
- listen to people who are different from us and respect differing views.
- By working together
International cooperation is crucial to creating a world-wide culture of peace and non-violence. As a member-led global network, we as SVI recognise this vital need to work together to achieve our collective goals. The International Day of Living Together in Peace “invites countries to further promote reconciliation to help to ensure peace and sustainable development, including by working with communities, faith leaders and other relevant actors, through reconciliatory measures and acts of service and by encouraging forgiveness and compassion among individuals.”
Realising this utopian vision of a world of peace will be a long uphill battle, but it is not one we can afford to give up on. For many, it is a matter of life and death. SVI and our global community will continue to work towards a better future for all. To end on an encouraging note, in the powerful words of Arundhati Roy: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”