The Concept of Peace

            The idea and search for peace is as old as humanity. Human societies have been fraught with conflictual contradictions that have necessitated the desire for peace. Such efforts have over the years found expressions through anti-war sentiments and the development of peace movements or peace ideas.

There is a tendency in peace and conflict studies to conceptualize peace as the conserve of war. War and peace are two sides of the same coin. In other words, peace is defined as the absence of war.1 There is peace because there is no war and there is war because there is no peace. Many philosophers see peace as a natural, original, God given state of human existence. Peace from the philosophical stand point is the pre-corruption state of man in the society as God has established it. Consequently, peace is a state of perfection, an earthly expression of God’s kingdom that is yet to be corrupted. St. Augustine of Hippo distinguished between two cities, namely; the city of God, which is founded on perfect heavenly, peace and spiritual salvation, and the earthly city of man, which is founded on appetitive and possible impulses which is corrupt and torn with strife.2

            Sociologically, peace refers to a condition of harmony where there is no social antagonism. In other words, peace is a condition in which there is no social conflict and both individuals and groups are able to meet their needs and expectations.

            Politically, according to the University of Peace, peace is a political condition that makes justice possible more strictly.3 Politically, peace entails political order that is, the institutionalization of political structures. As political order, peace entails that government minimally employ the right means, such as the police and the armed forces in dealing with citizens usually because there is no threat to the interest of the ruling class by the underprivileged class.

            After giving these definitions from different aspects, what then is peace? Peace is a process involving activities that are directly or indirectly linked to increasing development and reducing conflict, both within specific societies and in the wider International community.4

Forms of Peace

We can identify four forms of peace process namely; peace keeping, peace enforcement, peace making and peace building.

A.    Peace Keeping: The concept of peace keeping was developed by the United Nations at the start of the cold war in the 14th century because of the failure of the original collective security system, envisaged by the organization and the decreasing disagreement among the major powers. Peace keeping operations are essentially a practical mechanism developed by the United Nations to contain and control armed conflicts and to facilitate their resolution by peaceful means.

        The function of peace keeping is carried out by lightly armed soldiers. Such forces play several roles. They can interpose themselves physically between warring parties to keep them apart. They can also be peace keepers who often try to negotiate with military officials on both sides. This channel of communication can bring about tactical actions and understandings that support a cease fire.5 Peace keeping deploys an international military force which under the aegis of an international organization such as the U.N to prevent fighting usually by acting as buffers among combatants.6 Peace keeping is a process whereby a group of soldiers are sent to a country where there is fighting in order to prevent more violence. Peace keeping forces are usually made up of troops from several countries. Peace keeping forces have generally been unable to make peace, only to keep it.

B.    Peace Enforcement: When we talk about enforcement, we refer to the process whereby people in authority enforce a law or a rule. They make sure that rule is obeyed usually punishing people who do not obey it. Peace enforcement is somehow related to peace keeping but in more serious terms. With all the contributions that peace keeping efforts have made, they have sometimes been able to halt fighting quickly or to keep the peace permanently. The mounting fractions with the reactive, passive peace keeping approach led to an upsurge of support for the idea of proactive peace enforcement. Peace enforcement involves heavily armed forces with great authority to restore and maintain the peace. Such forces do not just only intervene where fighting has already broken out. They could also be deployed to imperiled countries before trouble starts, thereby putting the aggressor in an uncomfortable position of attacking. It is important to note that the concept of peace enforcement was also brought into play by the United Nations. C.       Peace Making: According to Webster dictionary, peace making are efforts and attempts to persuade countries or groups to stop fighting with each other and embrace peace. It is the process of forging a settlement between the disputing parties. While this can be done in direct negotiation with just the two disputants, it is often also done with a third party mediator, who assists with the processes and communication problems and helps the parties to work effectively together to draft a workable peace accord. Usually, the negotiators are official diplomats, although citizens are getting involved in the peace making process more and more. While they do not negotiate final accords, citizen diplomacy is becoming an increasing common way to start the peace making process which is then finalized with official diplomatic efforts. D.       Peace Building: Peace building refers to efforts and interventions aimed at overcoming the root cause of conflicts. Peace building is about attempts to overcome the structural, relational and cultural contradictions which lie at the root of conflict in order to underpin the process of peace making and peace building. In theoretical terms, peace building is a combination of the fields of development studies and conflict resolution.

            The debate on peace building is divided into two schools. On one hand, the top down peace building refers to conflict intervention efforts by powerful outsiders acting as experts, importing their own conceptions and prescriptions and ignoring local cultures and capacities. On the other hand , peace building from below which favors the respect, promotion and use of local human and socio-cultural resources in building the peace.7

 The Middle East

The Middle East generally has an arid and hot climate with several rivers providing for irrigation to support agriculture areas, especially in Mesopotamia and the rest of the Fertile Crescent. The region centers on the junction of Africa, Asia and Europe where the land mass is deeply penetrated by the sea. Land and sea routes tie the region into the rest of the world. Along them, came people ideas and plants as well as the trade which nurtured Cities and enriched empires. A true map of the Arab world would show it as an Archipelago state, a scattering of fertile Island through a void of land and sea.8 Human activities throughout the region, is closely adapted to climate conditions. The region is one great transit zone, major crossroads in the world. The Middle East flourishing economically and politically depended on its geography. The Middle East flourished economically and politically as long as the ancient routes were used, but decayed when they were either closed by political change or bypassed.9 Although the region is now both the source and destination of important commercial and passenger movements, the ancient transit routes     


The history of the Middle East dates back to ancient times and throughout its history, the Middle East has been a major center of world affairs. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Middle East was still dominated by the Ottoman Empire, a world empire that has existed for about 400 years. The very term, Middle East, indicate the central location of the area in the geography of the eastern hemisphere. The term came into use in the days when the sun never set on the British Empire. The term Middle East may have originated in the 1850s in the British India office.10 However, it became widely known when America naval strategist, Alfred Thayer Mahan used the term in 1902 to designate the area between Arabia and India. During this time, British and Russian Empire were trying to dominate the central Asia, a rivalry which became known as the great game. Mahan realized not only the strategic importance of the region, but also of its center, the Persian Gulf. He labeled the area surrounding the Persian Gulf as the Middle East and said that after the Suez Canal, it was the most important passage for Britain to control in order to keep the Russians from advancing towards British India.

            Some persons especially sir Ignatius expanded the definition of the Middle East to include those regions of Asia which extends to the border of China.11 The description “middle”, has also led to some confusion over changing definitions. Before the First World War, near east was used to refer to the Balkans and the Ottoman Empire, while Middle East, refers to Iran, Afghanistan, central Asia and the Caucasus. With the disappearance of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, near east largely fell out of common use in English, while Middle East came to be applied to the re-emerging countries of the Islamic world. 

Peoples of the Middle East

The term Arab referred to the peoples that inhabited the northern and central portions of the Arabian Peninsula. Following the spread of various Arab-Islamic Empires throughout the Middle East and into Europe and south Asia, the term Arab has come to be synonymous with those who speak Arabic. Presently about 60 percent of the total population of the Middle East speak Arabic. In addition to the Arabs, there are a number of other ethnic groups in the Middle East. Another significant ethnic group would be the Kurds who exist as a minority population distributed through out Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey. About 20 minority languages are spoken in the Middle East.12 Examples are Turkish, Berber and Persian.

Religion of the Middle East

            Peoples of the Middle East are differentiated by their religions. Most people of the Middle East practice Islam. They are referred to as Muslims. Islam is the dominant religion in all of the Middle East states except Israel and Palestinian areas. There are a number of different sects within Islam. Most people in the Middle East belong to the Sunni sect while some others belong to the Shiite or Shia sect of Islam.13 In addition to Islam, other religions are practiced in the Middle East. For example, in Israel, 82 percent of the populations are Jews who practiced Judaism. Israel is the only state in the Middle East where Islam is not the majority faith. Christianity is also practiced in other regions especially in such states as Lebanon, Egypt and Israel.

Economy of the Middle East

            The Middle East has experienced a growth and decline cycle over the last thirty years. The Middle East has noticed and experienced a time of tremendous growth. This growth was seen from the period of 1965 – 1985.14 This growth was facilitated by the dramatic rise in oil prices. Many countries in the Middle East have large quantities of crude oil which has resulted in much wealth particularly for nations in the Arabian Peninsula. As oil prices rose to new highs, most states benefitted from heightened revenues. The large producers of oil are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, the United Arabs Emirates and Qatar. Due to the production of oil, these states had many jobs opportunities available as a result of the booming economics of the Gulf. The non-oil producing Middle Eastern states also benefits from the oil producing states.15

            As a result of this new found wealth, enormous social achievements occurred in the Middle East. For example, infant mortality was halved and life expectancy rose by more than ten years. As time went on, there was a drop in the prices of oil. The huge foreign export earnings that had driven the growth of the last decades were drastically reduced. This decline in exports earnings affected the states and the Middle East as a whole.

            Two factors are currently affecting the economic growth and development in the Middle East. The first factor is the high rate of population growth. The Middle East has the second highest growth rate of any region in the world, exceeded only by the sub-Saharan Africa region. The second factor affecting the economic future of the Middle East is fluctuations in either direction in the price of oil. In an effort to reduce the reliance on oil revenues, many states in the region are making major efforts to develop alternative economic activities. Efforts are being made to further develop sectors such as banking, tourism, light manufacturing and agriculture.

            Most economists do predict continued economic growth for the Middle East, though not evenly spread across the region, moderate economic growth rates of around 3–5% are expected even though the actual rate will be heavily dependent on such things as the fluctuating price of oil, the rate of foreign investment, the efficiency of the large number of state owned industries and the population growth.

Endnotes1.    Lawrence A. Onja, Peace Keeping and International Security in a Changing World (Jos: Mono Expressions, 1998), p.2.2.    Shedrack Gaya Best, Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies in West Africa (Ibadan: Spectrum Books Limited), p. 9.   3.    G.H. Sabine and T.L. Thorson, a History of Political Theory (New York:  The Pryden Press, 1973), p. 183.4.    Christopher Miller, A Glossary of Terms and Concepts in Peace and Conflict Studies (Geneva: University for peace), p. 29.5.    Joshua S. Goldstein and Jon .C. Pavehouse, International Relations (Kendallville: Courier Corporations, 2010), p. 248. 6.    John T. Rourke, International Politics on the World Stage (New York: Macmillan Inc, 2008), p.632.7.    Ibid., p.634.8.    Desmond Stewart, The Arab World (Nederland: Time-Life International, 1967), p.9.9.    Peter Beaumont, Gerald H. Blake and Malcolm Wagstaff, The Middle East: A Geographical Study (London: John Wiley & sons, July 1977), p.7.10.    Borthwick Bruce, Comparative Politics of the Middle East, an Introduction (Englewood cliffs: Prentice-hall, Inc, 1980), p. 14.11.    Ibid., p.17.12.    Graham P. Champman and Kathleen M. Baker, The Changing Geography of Africa and the Middle East (Canada: Routledge,1992), p.2213.    Roger Owen, State Power and Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East (New York: Routledge, 2004), p.5.14.    Beaumont, Blake and Wagstaff, The Middle East: a Geographical Study, p.1. 15.    Owen, State Power and Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East, p.154.



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