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Professor lectures on peace-building

Vienna Wagner | Friday, October 7, 2011

The key to resolving civil and territorial conflicts lies in footwear, Peter Wallensteen, professor at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, said Thursday.

“The outside world should wear moccasins rather than boots,” Wallensteen said in in the “Narrow Path to Peace Building” lecture. “We should approach peace building [by] walking very lightly.”

Wallensteen said conflict resolutions should be based on local initiatives with an emphasis on security for and respect of local populations.

“In resolving conflicts, we need to provide not just for security, which could be very repressive in nature, but also for the dignity of the inhabitants,” he said. “There must be dignity through the rule of the law. The people should not be afraid of their government.”

Local involvement is important for economic development in countries where conflict has stunted economic growth, he said.

“Job creation is another important factor,” Wallensteen said. “If we are going to improve employment, it will have to be based on local initiatives.”

To maintain peace, Wallensteen said long-term international involvement is crucial for local populations.

“Peace building takes sometime between 15 and 30 years after a war,” Wallensteen said. “Normally the international community is not willing to commit for longer than a year or two. There will then be new tests of conflict or economic problems as well,” Wallensteen said.

The process of walking lightly is not an easy one, he said.

“Peace building is a narrow path because it is not easy to get the results that we want,” Wallensteen said. “The problem is not just trying to stop conflicts or contain them, but to build lasting peace.”

Wallensteen said in order to achieve peace, citizens must not only build, but demolish some things as well.

“The world has created too many walls, and we should tear those down,” he said. “These walls are not just physical ones, but also [economic ones].”