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Concept file Dossier : Conflict Transformation

, Saint Martin d’Hères, May 2007

Negative versus Positive Peace

Johan Galtung, the father of peace studies often refers to the distinction between ‘negative peace’ and ‘positive peace’ (e.g. Galtung 1996). Negative peace refers to the absence of violence. When, for example, a ceasefire is enacted, a negative peace will ensue. It is negative because something undesirable stopped happening (e.g. the violence stopped, the oppression ended). Positive peace is filled with positive content such as restoration of relationships, the creation of social systems that serve the needs of the whole population and the constructive resolution of conflict.

Peace does not mean the total absence of any conflict. It means the absence of violence in all forms and the unfolding of conflict in a constructive way.

Peace therefore exists where people are interacting non-violently and are managing their conflict positively – with respectful attention to the legitimate needs and interest of all concerned.

The authors of this dossier consider peace as well-managed social conflict. This definition was decided on during Irenees’ Peace workshop held in South Africa in May 2007.