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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 1 .


Sustainable peace
Connie Peck

(Lanham, MD:Rowman & Littlefield, 1998)
297pp. Index. bibl. Hb.: 47.00; ISBN 0-8476-8560-8. Pb.: 16.95; ISBN 0-8476-8561-6.


Connie Peck is co-ordinator of the Fellowship Program in Peacemaking and Preventive Diplomacy co-sponsored by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and the International Peace Academy. In this book, she argues strongly, almost passionately, for the establishment of new, decentralised and intrusive structures and programs for removing the sources of conflict before they break out into violence.

The book is in three parts, the first of which examines the nature of contemporary conflict and the need for sustainable peace through active peacemaking. The second is mainly descriptive of the efforts of various global and regional structures, both inter-government and non-government, that work towards peacemaking. The third makes a number of specific suggestions for effectively expanding these structures and their activities.

The author's approach is highly idealistic and strongly assertive of what should be done rather than what is realistically possible. The overall lack of analysis is disappointing and the book would be more valuable for a more sceptical approach. The second and descriptive part of the book is possibly the best containing as it does a wealth of valuable and interesting information for the student of conflict and conflict prevention but there is little attempt at analysing why the contemporary European and Latin American experience is more effective than those of other regions. That experience suggests that the reasons for success may lie in those regions' overarching cultures or even concepts of peace and security.

Similarly, the author conveys an impression of a touching faith in the effectiveness of structures and processes, often those that are themselves interventionist, not necessarily democratic and certainly not truly accountable. Despite an unqualified hostility to colonialism, she seems not to perceive that legitimising the intervention of her proposed regional peacemaking bureaucracies may well be seen as simply a new form of colonialism. The apparent dismissal of the importance and relevance of domestic and international political processes certainly detracts from the value of the book.

In looking at the causes of conflict, especially intra-state and ethnic conflict, the author accepts popular liberal views too uncritically. Thus, she indicates a readiness to accept minority claims as legitimate in all circumstances.

The author makes a strong case for developing programs of peacemaking and conflict prevention but, to a realist reader or practitioner, her solutions will appear both facile and dogmatic. They have an underlying value but demand much more critical study than has been offered here.


Michael O'Connor, Executive Director, Australia Defence Association



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