PRIO Excursion and the Decline of Armed Conflict
Week 5 at the ISS has proved to be one of the most interesting weeks so far in terms of our Peace Studies. We began this week by discussing multiculturalism, integration, assimilation, and the differences between these attempts at managing immigrant populations within Norway and a broader global context. Furthermore, we visited the offices of PRIO (Peace Research Institute Oslo) where we had an enlightening conversation/lecture with researcher Henrik Syse who discussed what his organization does, the origins/ethics behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and finally how and why our world is seemingly moving towards a place of less armed conflict.
Syse talked about how PRIO, along with Uppsala University in Sweden, have been tracking conflicts around the world and how we have seen a general decline, which he correlated to democracy movements, open markets in the form of Capitalism, and the rule of law. I agreed with most of what Syse discussed with us, in particular his knowledge and application of ethical standards to nation-states actions and corporations was impressive and interesting (we could’ve had a whole other discussion regarding Kant), however I took slight issue with the notion of a Capitalist peace. While I have grown up and seen how capitalism and democracy work in the United States, I have a strong feeling that the relative “peace” we find today is not necessarily a result of these specific theories and economic systems, but more rather a “victor’s peace” (that of the US and its allies against the USSR).
Is it possible that such a peace would exist and be similar had the USSR and communism won and continued to spread? That question is probably unanswerable; I merely raise the question as devil’s advocate, as I am hesitant to directly link capitalism as a cause/effect for world stability and peace. Granted, open markets and free trade do play a role in opening up dialogue and communication between states, something essential as the starting point for peace, so it is a complicated task sorting out what parts of our Western political systems and economic practices lead to peace, and what doesn’t. Overall it was a very interesting discussion as we wrap up our week on “Expanding the Rubber-Band, a Multicultural Norway”.