For many people peace can seem boring; too well behaved, too quiet. These are usually the people who have never been in a war, never witnessed the terror of children watching their parents tortured, never seen a human skull exploding, never heard the screams of a grandfather trapped under concrete beams, never looked into the eyes of a woman who has been multiply raped.
I come from a military family. My father fought in the artillery in the First World War. My eldest brother was a paratrooper, my third brother was in the Royal Navy. He died in action when I was ten years old. I learned to shoot with a gun at 11, to fly aeroplanes at 26, and to parachute at 40. In Bosnia I sat at the bedside of a man whose eyes had been destroyed by a sniper’s bullet. In the Congo I quailed before the crazed terror of armed and drunken soldiers out of control. While in Japan I watched the faces of those who saw at first hand the untold horrors of the atomic explosion in Hiroshima.
The wounds of war take three generations to heal— at a minimum. Seven centuries are not enough to heal some. Even a ‘minimal’ action taken in war, for example one sniper squeezing a trigger, a decision of a millisecond, can kill an innocent baker and send an entire family into destitution on the streets.
What is Shared Security?
As a peace builder and supporter of other peace builders, to me shared security means above all taking responsibility for the forces that drive armed violence. That is because that action is essential if to curb those drivers. Then it means recognising what is already working to build peace effectively at both local and international levels. It also means scaling up such initiatives worldwide.
The work I do has involved me with people who seem to have a lot of power—physicists who design nuclear warheads, military officers in charge of nuclear weapons, manufacturers who produce and sell missiles and machine guns, strategists who design defense policies, as well as those who sign the cheques—not just in Britain, France, China, the US and Russia, but also in Israel, India and Pakistan.
This work involved bringing these key policy makers to meet each other and their informed critics. Together, we began to work out agreements to cut nuclear weapons production. It was undertaken by the Oxford Research Group, that I set up in 1982.
After 21 years I handed on that work to others, because I observed a phenomenon happening at the other end of the spectrum of violence. Namely, the growth of locally-led peace initiatives. These are people who risk their lives to stop other people being killed, trying their best to build peaceful societies.
People are risking their lives in locally-led peace initiatives. They are the new heroes, the unarmed heroes.
For this reason, I set up Peace Direct to support their work in areas of hot armed conflict in many parts of the world. I spend a lot of time listening to such people, because they are the new heroes, the unarmed heroes.
The change necessary
At this point in history, I am strongly aware that humanity has built up looming threats to our security that weaponry cannot even begin to deal with—climate change, the rich-poor divide, migration, over population, terrorism. Therefore, the time has come to take a hard look at both the military-industrial complex that drives war, and others for whom war means wealth. Now is the time to divert their skills and our skills to making what humanity now needs. It’s time to access a better kind of intelligence, to demonstrate how conflicts can be prevented and resolved without armed violence. It is time to build a Business Plan for Peace and to make peace profitable.
The time has come to take a hard look at both the military-industrial complex that drives war, and others for whom war means wealth.
The dream that gives me strength for this work is the capacity of feminine intelligence to come into balance with the masculine. For thousands of years major human decisions have been made by men, and the results are now proving disastrous. I see the possibility that humanity can evolve by recognising and employing the wisdom of the feminine. This is available of course to men as it is to women. That wisdom and intelligence includes compassion, inclusivity, caring for the planet that sustains us, outlawing armed violence, and replacing the use of force with mediation.
Finding the Strength to Go On
What keeps me going with this work is twofold. Daily, I am amazed and humbled by those facing terror, who nevertheless walk towards what they fear. Gulalai Ismael is one of them. She lives in NW Pakistan, one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman. Aged 15 she started an organization called Aware Girls to enable females to go to school; extremists shot Malala Yousefzai in the head for doing just this. Gulalai, undeterred, has now trained 20 teams of young men and women in Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent other young people joining extremist groups. Using the tools of listening and dialogue, they have reached and dissuaded more than 500 teenagers ‘at risk’ of becoming extremist.
I am amazed and humbled by those facing terror, who nevertheless walk towards what they fear.
Secondly, what sustains me is ultimately the ground. When I come home tired and dispirited, I go out to the garden. There I get my hands in the earth and think about nothing but helping vegetables to grow. I come back muddy and happy and peaceful.
Those who walk beside me are my family and a large, powerful, highly conscious contingent of friends and colleagues. What has recently inspired me was realizing that we can now, for the first time ever, estimate the costs of preventing war worldwide.
This means that we can also demonstrate the impact that ordinary people can have to prevent and resolve conflict. This will help make a peaceful world possible. There are skills that we can all develop that enable us to prevent conflict in the workplace, in the community, and in the family too. In The Business Plan for Peace I wanted to include these skills as well as the human side of things —the mistakes I’ve made, what a crisis felt like at the time, the incredible warmth and courage of the people I’ve been lucky enough to work with, and the times when it has been nourishing and inspiring and even a lot of fun.
Hope for Peace
What I have seen of war, and the building of peace, convinces me that human beings are well able to find better ways to resolve conflict than by killing each other. It’s not easy, but we now know how to do it. This short book is a first attempt to answer some of the tough questions involved. It is by no means complete or comprehensive, and your improvements and ideas will be welcome.
The response to The Business Plan for Peace has been remarkable. HH The Dalai Lama has welcomed the book. Oxford professors praised it and the founder of the Institute for Economics and Peace supported it. In addition, individuals and companies have come forward offering skills, assistance and partnership, with particular reference to 9 of the 25 strategies. That’s what I’m working on now.
Power Over vs. Power With
Doing this work the key thing I have learned is that power over others is the problem.
Power over is attractive to human beings convinced by the seductive idea that ultimate power brings ultimate security. That route leads to armageddon.
Doing this work the key thing I have learned is that power over others is the problem.
Einstein warned us that we cannot solve a problem using the consciousness that created it. So, humanity now has the chance to evolve our consciousness, and develop a different understanding of power, namely power with others. That means re-balancing feminine intelligence with masculine. It means up-grading the value we ascribe to qualities like compassion, inclusivity, caring for the planet, and wisdom. We need to insist that women sit at all decision-making tables, at all levels, equally with men.
It also means sharing power, and valuing the brilliance, courage and capacity of (extra)ordinary people to prevent suffering. It means trusting people to resolve problems, by understanding that local people know best what needs to be done in their own areas. Tomorrow I shall get up, S-T-R-E-T-C-H- (very important as I turn 75), and go out into my small garden. There I shall sit on a bench and encourage the vegetables as they grow. I shall listen to the bees as they work. Then I’ll be ready to work. Tomorrow that work is to help build a strategy to enable Women to Break the Cycle of Violence; training, connecting and mobilising networks of women, using their power to defuse bigotry, racism and armed violence.