Peace Scholar Post: Peace-building in a World Without Borders

This is part of a series of blog posts written by the 2014 Peace Scholars as they experience their summer program in Norway. This post was written by Nathan Detweiler from St. Olaf College. 

Peace-building is hard work in a world without borders. I refer simply to our shared reality of having more people dispersed throughout the world – in countries other than their native lands – than ever before. As a consequence we face numerous new conflicts. How we address these conflicts is accordingly complicated.            

earthAmong political theorists it has become increasingly popular to hear talk of “supranational actors”. These entities are often defined as parties or organizations that transcend the conventional boundaries of nations because they interact in multiple locations. Political theorists usually discuss the political and lobbying clout that these entities have, oftentimes to a greater extent than entire nations. I’d like to focus on how peace-building is challenged. For the purpose of this analysis, I’ll extend the term “supranational actors” to include people no longer living in their land of birth.                

Historically, peace-building has been localized to areas where conflict has happened. One has only to examine the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide and the fall of Apartheid in South Africa to understand that, in the past, where violence has occurred is where peace-building or reconciliation efforts were focused. This practice certainly contains much inherent logic. However, in an increasingly globalized world that witnesses increased human movement, it calls for reevaluation. To use the above cases, Rwandans and South Africans now live in many new places throughout the world. And without any doubt many of them must carry around unresolved issues.                

The question pertinent for both peace builders and governments trying to prevent violence and tension within immigrant communities is: how do we systematically negotiate these troubled waters and move towards reconciliation? Practically, there are significant time constraints involved in any peace-building work and never is there one formula applicable across various scenarios. This challenge has no easy solutions in a world without borders. 

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