Cyprianus Jehan Paju Dale
Instead of generating higher living standard, alleviating poverty, and creating sustainable peace, many development practices under the neo-liberal policy framework creates more social injustice and structural violence at the cost of majority of the people especially in developing countries. There are social injustice and structural violence both at local and national or local level, not because of lack of development but through, by, and because of development. This short essay is (1) an attempt to “read” this structural violence and social injustice in development as conflict; (2) and hence, propose conflict transformation as alternative (to that kind of) development. Without pretending to go into detail, the essay will focus on the mapping of the Conflict Transformation to overcome structural violence and social injustice in development.
It is obvious that globalization brings a great economic advancement across the globe through trade, investment, technology, information flow and communication. However a close scrutiny to the social dimension of globalization shows that “it has exacerbated inequalities both within and between countries because of the sharply diverging experience at individual and country levels; and it has increased economic and political insecurity …” (Gunter and Hoeven, 2004). The neoliberal policies and practices have created not only inequality in wealth between the privileged rich and the marginalized poor; but also inequality of power between the Powerful and the Powerless. This concentration of economic and political power in the whole of privilege elites over the marginalized majority, both at global and local level, underlying the reality of structural violence (Prontzos: 2004).
The term structural violence is widely used by Johan Galtung(1996). He argues that structural violence strikes four groups of basic human needs: survival needs, well-being needs, identity-meaning needs, and freedom needs (197). The archetypal violent structure, in Galtung’s view, is characterized by exploitation, in which “some, the topdogs, get much more out of the interaction in the structure than others, the underdogs” (198). In this perspective, poverty, hunger, disorientation, and un-freedom are not caused by lack of resources or faults of the poor countries or people, but because of the economic, political, and cultural structure.
The notion of structural violence helps us to understand the relation/interactions between Developed – Developing, Rich – Poor, Global North -Global South, First World – Third World or other categories as ‘state of conflict’, where the privileged powerful groups get more benefit in the cost of the marginalized majority of human beings. In this conflict, there is asymmetric zero-sum game, where the winners take all, and the losers get suck (cf. Fontagne, 2009, Winners and Losers of Economic Globalization)
If the neoliberal development caused and strengthened the structural violence, there should be any alternatives (of) development (s) or (even alternative to development) which transformation of structural violence and alleviation of social injustice as its ultimate goal as well as main strategy. In other words, we need to shift from a practices of development that create structural violence to a new developments which transform the existing conflicts and violence caused by wrong types of development. In other words there is a need of development as conflict transformation practice.
The emergence of global justice movements— in forms of simultaneous local actions and global web of joint-actions— is part of this new practice of conflict transformation. In this movements, the people resist against the violence insist by the exercise of power by the powerful, not though counter-violence, but through peaceful resistance and constructive actions. As stated by Hintjens (2006), “global social justice movement offers many people an exciting sense that they can do something constructive”. In this constructive manner, global social justice movements organize themselves in collective actions and exercise powers both at domestic level and transnational level (Sanjeev Khagram et.al.,2008)
Conflict Transformation requires not only resistance to the violent exercise of power by the political and economic elites, but also negotiations in decision making process where the local communities, marginalized groups, “weak” counties can present themselves, raise their voices and contribute to the decisions.
In short, genuine development is nothing less than a structural transformation toward social justice. For developing countries, development as conflict transformation means consolidation at national level to (1) protect their national interests, (2) identify the “enemies”, (3) exercise their power to maintain their rights and the rights of their people, though (4) negotiations and dialogs at global level. For advanced countries, the development as conflict transformation is (1) readiness to end the zero-sum game of injustice and (2) openness for negotiations towards win-win solution game, where the justice and peace be the common and ultimate goals of our shared civilization. For civil society groups development as conflict transformation (1) in some cases can be exercise through resistance for unjust decisions at national or transnational level, but in most cases should be practice through negotiations and active participation in all loci of decision making process.
The future of our global civilization depends on our ability to transform this conflict, not through wars and domination or counter-domination, but through a new practice of development with transformation of structural violence and social injustice at its centre.
Fontagne, L. (2009), ‘The Winners and the Losers in Economic Globalization’, in Olaf Cramme and Patrick Diamond, Social Justice in the Global Age, Cambridge: Polity Press, pp 61-76
Galtung, J. (1996) Peace by Peaceful Means: Peace and Conflict, Development and Civilization, Olso: International Peace Research Institute.
Hintjens, H. (2006), ‘Global Social Justice in a Cold Climate’, Peace Review, 18:3, pp 369-378
Khagram, S. Et.al. (2008), ‘From Santiago to Seattle: Transnational Advocacy Groups Restructuring World Politics’, in V. Guggeiro and n. Montagna (eds), Social Movements: a Reader, London-New York: Routledge, pp 327-338.
Prontzos, Peter G. (2004) ‘Collateral Damage: The Human Cost of Structural Violence’, in A. Jones (ed.), Genocide, War Crimes and the West: History and Complicity, London-New York: Zed Books, pp 315-324