Scoping a Peace architecture

Creating a Common Peace Architecture in and among countries

1. Why a peace architecture is necessary

We live in a time, where the aspiration of eliminating the “scourge of war”, which was the leading idea of the UN Charter adopted in 1945, is constantly under attack. The peace architecture of the UN Charter became the foundation of the UN system, but the system was not sufficiently further developed to respond adequately to many other changes, such as decolonisation, end of the cold war, economic globalisation and digitalisation. There were add-ons to the system but no rigorous assessment and political and institutional changes which allowed the system to perform at a level, that would guarantee international peace and stability. As a result, we seem to be faced with a global pandemic of violence. Fighting a pandemic successfully demands containment and vaccinations, like in the case of any other disease. The pandemic of violence needs as containment a domestic and international peace architecture, which is robust enough to withstand military and armed conflict resolution, and the general public needs to be “vaccinated” against violence through civic education.

Some promote deterrence as the path to avoiding war. However, peace and security are inherently contradictory: one is built on trust, the other on mistrust. A security architecture also knows some elements of trust, but only among like-minded political leaders. A peace architecture also knows some elements of mistrust, but politicians committed to peace will work to overcome any existing mistrust. Lasting peace requires acknowledging conflicts and utilizing political and legal processes to find mutually acceptable solutions. Pursuing security through deterrence fuels arms races, draining resources from pressing challenges like climate change, inequality, poverty and hunger. Fundamentally, we need peace to realize the Sustainable Development Goals. SDG 16 aspires to „peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, access to justice for all, and effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.“

A peace architecture and culture are necessary, because political leaders and agreed political arrangements have repeatedly failed us.[1] Most recently in Ukraine and Sudan. In particular, the UN Security Council has not succeeded in being the stalwart of international peace and stability. While we need institutional reform of the multilateral institutions, this will not suffice. A culture of peace needs to be defined, established, and nurtured from early on in education, as well as in government and parliamentary institutions, as UNESCO has done for many years with its Culture of Peace programme. But as so often with UN programmes, their outreach is limited, and they cannot grow into a worldwide binding policy for all member states.

The New Agenda for Peace by the Secretary-General, while global in its intention, it will remain short-sighted and short-lived, if it did not include a vision for cultivating a culture of peace throughout society in all member states. This New Agenda for Peace will fail, if it does not provide an outline for well-developed political and legal mechanisms in each country, and for the peaceful resolution of international conflicts. Articles 33 through 38 need to be activated, and the New Agenda for Peace should show how it can be done. There will be a lot of controversy and confusing debates around such proposals, but the UN secretary-general and UN staff cannot shy away from such controversy,as they are presently doing. The current silence of the UN secretary-general regarding a possible way forward to resolve the Ukraine and the Sudan conflicts in line with the letter and spirit of the UN Charter, is a severe breach of the UN Charter and a neglect of his mandate.

Multilateral initiatives do not preclude peace initiatives by individual member states, but the UN secretary-general needs to be seen as monitoring these and undertaking efforts to bring any of these initiatives in line with the letter and spirit of the UN Charter. There are not always clear solutions in the offing, hence a careful assessment of which compromises are not violating UN Charter principles is a demanding task for the UN secretariat, and possibly the International Court of Justice.

[1] A very good description of such inadequate adjustments can be found in Paul Kennedy “The Parliament of Man. The Past, Present and Future of the United Nations”, 2006

2. The differences between a peace architecture and a security architecture

As earlier mentioned, security in peace times often takes the form of deterrence. But instead to deter the opponent from using violence, it reinforces mistrust and then leads to increased investments in armaments and technologically new weaponry rather than to grow the commitment to collaborate on common issues, such as climate change.

The causes for employing military means in a political conflict are not addressed by a security architecture. They freeze political conflicts and can eventually lead to military confrontation, if some other parameters change, e.g. in the economic field. It would be very illuminating, if the UN could commission an analysis how the military build up in the Russian Federation, the political hubris in the USA over its role as the one remaining superpower after 1991, and the unethical actions of financial institutions driven by the sole motive to gain maximum return on investments and pay the lowest possible taxes, could escape political checks and regulations, within countries, but also between countries. A security architecture will not address these issues, while a peace architecture points to them as conflict triggers.

Ever since 1945, the major powers, who became the 5 permanent members of the UN security council, never shared a common vision for a peaceful world. The Western countries under US leadership advanced the protection of human rights as a universal vision, but it never gained universal acceptance to this day.The rift over guiding values thus fuelled confrontational geopolitics during the Cold War.  Although a large number of former colonies in Asia, Africa and the Middle East opted out of this equation and formed a block of non-aligned countries, they never established beyond the UN General Assembly a viable global vision for peace and stability. Thus a security architecture emerged since the late 1940s, which reflected the mistrust and the competition between the two blocks. NATO and the Warsaw Pact were formed as military alliances. As the British and French governments retreated from their overseas territories, the USA stepped in by taking over former colonial military bases forming a string around the Soviet Union and China. Both countries responded with a tight political rule and control over their territories and immediate neighbours.

The bloc leaders compromised only on nuclear non-proliferation, driven more by fear of total war than trust.

In the 1960s/70s, alongside limited disarmament a fierce race in outer space arose and economic rivalry went on unabated, leaving many newly independent countries very limited room for the formulation of their own policies and determination of their international and national political agendas. Only for a very short period of time were the leaders of the USA and the SU trusting each other in the early 1990s, and achieved some important agreements, as for instance the forming of the OSCE. But the trust was not broadened, and overtime, the rivalry between the US and now the Russian Federation as the successor of the Soviet Union reemerged erupted in full force after 2000, and around 2010 China entered the world stage as a global power. Michael Gorbachev’s heroic, and in the end tragic failure, to lead the Soviet Union into a new era, still awaits a more critical assessment. With hindsight, we can only say, a pivotal chance for peace was missed!

While a security architecture defends the nation state and the powers that lead it, a peace architecture defends human well-being. Consequently, a peace architecture runs through the whole society, potentially through all state and non-state entities. It is thus organisationally a demanding challenge to define a peace agenda and bring all relevant stakeholders together to implement it. Besides, national and international peace efforts transcend national boundaries, as do the threats to peace. Many more wars experienced since the 1990s have been intranational as opposed to international, but often with spillovers into other countries, by supporting different national factions, and civilians taking refuge in other countries to escape the violence and destruction at home. In sum, a security architecture tends to be clearly delineated in geographic and political terms. The secrecy around military decisions is a weakness of any security architecture. By contrast, a peace architecture has only loosely defined boundaries, it has an open organisational make up with not always clear lines of authority. The strength of the peace architecture is the commitment to a well-defined set of values, normally human rights, and the rule of law, which through due processes leads to authoritative political decisions.

Security arrangements aim never to be used. Peace efforts require constant, proactive pursuit. Early warning systems and rapid response teams are needed to contain emerging threats.

3. Peace means solving conflicts with non-military means

The culture of peace and a peace architecture accept that there are conflicts, but that the parties to a conflict trust each other’s adherence to the rule of law, or at least to arriving at decisions which are of mutual benefit. Such trust leads to conflict resolution through dialogue, negotiations, mediation, arbitration and is supported by the willingness to compromise with regard to the respective interests. Such compromises then allow for peaceful coexistence; they are open-ended and may need to be reviewed and revised over time. Regrettably the rule of law knows loopholes, which are being exploited by unscrupulous actors for the benefit of their personal gains. Political checks have been weak, and there have been many instances of double standards. In the interest of advancing and strengthening the international rule of law these situations of double standards must be identified and corrected.[1]   

Trust requires commonly accepted values. Most countries have since 1948 accepted the universality of human rights protection as common values. But right from the start, ideological differences existed, and so problems abound, and they are not always handled with needed sensibility and care. As a consequence human rights (HR) violations are not always rectified. There is no country, which does not face HR violations, however, violations in one country do not justify the violation in another. Corrections need to be done by each country, the blaming and shaming by others should be replaced by monitoring the violations and by recording the corrective action being pursued. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR) as an impartial organisation, should do the monitoring, and communicate the status of HR protection in each country in a neutral and factual language. If national authorities request support, then this should be granted using the best available practice known in any of the member states. This approach could promote universal human rights acceptance regardless of history or politics.

[1] One of the most telling descriptions is Oliver Bullough “Butler to the World. How Britain Became the Servant of Tycoons, Tax Dodgers, Kleptocrats and Criminals”,2022

4. The meaning and relevance of a political compromise and the need for periodic reviews

Right from the beginning the UN were founded on political compromises and at a time of violent conflicts.[1]A peace architecture and a peace culture do not deny the constant danger of violence to break out in a country and between countries, nor does the UN Charter deny these threats. It attempts to manage them.The causes for outbreaks of violence are manifold, and differ in each case. It is thus accepted, that a security architecture remains in place in order to respond swiftly and effectively to the outbreak of violence, when all other means have failed of maintaining peace. The emphasis is on “swiftly and effectively”. Yet, a body like the security council, which is run on a  day-to-day basis by career diplomats stationed in New York, raises serious questions about the council’s capacity to react to violent threats geographically far removed. Formerly there were times and areas where violence was prohibited, e.g. during the Olympic Games, or specific places were designated as safe havens, such as holy groves and other sanctuary places. We may want to revitalize this practice, to give us time and the opportunity to contemplate the causes for the outbreak of violence, and help us identify solutions without military means.

The ending of an armed conflict will invariably lead to political compromises, although excessive violence and brutality during the war make reaching compromises often very difficult. Yet, as long as such compromises are more beneficial to all conflict parties than a military confrontation, a peaceful settlement will hold. Compromises, by definition, are time-bound, and their validity needs to be assessed regularly and, at times renegotiated, as overall conditions may have changed. Political compromises are thus a constant demand for political leaders to ensure that the benefits continue to justify the costs. If such assessments are not made in good time, they will lead to an inability to take realistic and rational decisions. The underlying assumption is, that compromise is a better solution than attempting victory with military means. Compromises make sense, if seen from a broader and longer-term view, as a means of enabling peaceful coexistence towards shared objectives and outcomes.

[1] For this see the vivid and detailed book by Stephen C. Schlesinger “Act of Creation. The Founding of the United Nations”. 2004

5. The make up of a peace architecture

A peace architecture tends to be less clearly organized than a security architecture, which often is built around armies and police forces with clear lines of command and authority. A peace architecture is built around multiple stakeholders and the process of reaching decisions can at times be full of contradictions and involve lengthy debates. To bring order into such a complex process political leaders are needed, who are committed to creating and maintaining a peaceful political environment. For this to happen, they need to be made familiar with the existing peace architecture, as described in the UN Charter. The UN Charter offers already many provisions and processes, which can be activated, e.g. Chapter VI, but there are also provisions which need to be added or amended. As an investment into such a global community of political leaders well versed in the demands of a global peace architecture, the UN could use the network of Resident Coordinators and other diplomatic channels to initiate peace education in each country, for instance for politicians entering the stage of national politics. Politicians normally do not enter the political stage with comprehensive knowledge of how to handle conflicts in a peaceful way, often they are representing clientelistic interests. Political education in full compliance with the UN Charter on the one side, and country-specific traditions and structures on the other, a heightened respect for the otherness of countries’ history and governance system may create a global culture of peace, and strengthen over time the adherence to the UN peace architecture by all member states.[1]

[1] Proposals for UN Reform abound. But one of the most thought-provoking books is Joe Leinen/Andreas Bummel “A World Parliament: Governance and Democracy in the 21st Century”, 2018. It was first published in German in 2017, with in my view a better title: Das demokratische Weltparlament. Eine kosmopolitische Vision.

6. The peace architecture and disarmament

While contradictory in aspiration, peace and security are linked: growing a culture of peace enables disarmament agreements through diplomacy. So far, limited deals have focused on reducing nuclear dangers, but not arsenals. Far too little has been done to curb small arms falling into the wrong hands, often fuelling armed conflicts. Beyond protests, more is needed to effectively limit armaments globally, like activating and amending Article 26 of the UN Charter toward measurable arms reduction in legal and illegal trade. Political decisions are needed to reduce weapons access by unauthorized actors, including ethnically based armed groups. There should also be stricter control over private armies’ engagement in conflicts to ensure public oversight of their use.

7. How do we eliminate wars and get to peaceful conflict resolution?

Effectively implementing this requires a global pax unensis policy. The U.S. relinquished its pax americana agenda under President Obama without transferring responsibility to the UN or other multilateral bodies. China’s recent Global Security Initiative assigns the UN major roles in peacekeeping and coordination. But a pax sinica will not gain global acceptance either, even with a strengthened UN. Big powers like the U.S. and China must first agree on a shared peace architecture and bring Russia in line with a global vision. Lacking political will among major powers to jointly pursue peace, despite economic and cultural rivalries, other UN member states will not adhere to the Charter nor see the need for meaningful reforms of the UN structure and processes, where required.

Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asian countries will have to join forces at the state and non-state level to bring about the political change to make peace the overriding political philosophy and practice. Peace movements need to step up their public advocacy, well-known scientists and opinion leaders need to raise their voices to stop ongoing wars and rethink the international global order.

 The UN Secretary-General has a vital role to form this political will and walk the talk on a multipolar world aligned with the UN Charter. Using Article 99 fully can stimulate dialogue and momentum for finding suitable, acceptable peace solutions and architecture. This will require sustained political efforts and courage to continually reassess compromises. All must be willing to question their political approaches and philosophies.

The US and Europe respond too slowly to geopolitical changes, focused excessively on containing China rather than on collective action. NATO’s rationale will likely require recasting, it will need to transform into an open global alliance under Security Council auspices, needing coordinated geopolitical rethinking. UN staff at all levels must stimulate these debates internationally and nationally to make human security the global goal, not national state security.

This version incorporates many comments from colleagues and friends, foremost from members of the Peace-Making Reflection Group (PRG) under FOGGS. For more information on this group see

Berlin, 4 August 2023

Autor: Kerstin Leitner

siehe Webseite

Schreibe einen Kommentar

Deine E-Mail-Adresse wird nicht veröffentlicht. Erforderliche Felder sind mit * markiert

I accept that my given data and my IP address is sent to a server in the USA only for the purpose of spam prevention through the Akismet program.More information on Akismet and GDPR.

Diese Website verwendet Akismet, um Spam zu reduzieren. Erfahre mehr darüber, wie deine Kommentardaten verarbeitet werden.