Today, 21 September, is the International Day of Peace. Established in 1981 by a unanimous United Nations resolution, International Peace Day “provides a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace.” The theme this year is sustainable development goals to improve living standards across the globe. These goals include: ending poverty, achieving gender equality, promoting sustainable economic development, and ensuring quality education for all. To commemorate Peace Day and encourage deeper thoughts about these issues, we’ve compiled a reading list that explores peace movements, policies, strategies, and global issues.
Sustainable Development by Dorothy N. Gamble
The viability of long-term human social systems is inextricably linked to human behavior, environmental resources, the health of the biosphere, and human relationships with all living species. Dorothy N. Gamble explores new ways of thinking and acting in our engagement with the biosphere, with attention to new ways of measuring well-being to understand the global relationships among human settlements, food security, human population growth, and especially alternative economic efforts based on prosperity rather than on growth.
Global Gender Inequality by Melissa B. Littlefield, Denise McLane-Davison, and Halaevalu F. O. Vakalahi
Mechanisms of oppression that serve to subordinate the strengths, knowledge, experiences, and needs of women in families, communities, and societies to those of men are at the root of gender inequality. At the core of gender equality is the value of womanhood and the need to ensure the health and well-being of women and girls. Littlefield, McLane-Davison, and Vakalahi examine how challenging traditional notions of gender is the basis for achieving gender equality. This process attends to the way in which the behavioral, cultural, and social characteristics that are linked to womanhood or manhood govern the relationship between women and men, as well as the power differences that impact choices and agency to choose. Although progress has been made toward gender equality for many women, lower income women—as well as women who face social exclusion stemming from their caste, disability, location, ethnicity, and sexual orientation––have not experienced improvements in gender equality to the same extent as other women.
The Peace Movement since 1945 by Leilah Danielson
Peace activists pioneered the use of Gandhian nonviolence in the United States and provided critical assistance to the African American civil rights movement; led the postwar antinuclear campaign; played a major role in the movement against the war in Vietnam; helped to move the liberal establishment (briefly) toward a more dovish foreign policy in the early 1970s; and contributed to the political culture of American radicalism. Leilah Danielson examines how peace activism in the United States evolved in dynamic ways and influenced domestic politics and international relations between 1945 and the present.
Atoms for Peace in Latin America by Gisela Mateos and Edna Suárez-Díaz
On December 8, 1953, in the midst of increasing nuclear weapons testing and geopolitical polarization, United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower launched the Atoms for Peace initiative. Gisela Mateos and Edna Suárez-Díaz look at how the implementation of atomic energy for peaceful purposes was reinterpreted in different ways in each Latin American country. This produced different outcomes depending on the political, economic, and techno-scientific expectations and interventions of the actors involved, and it provided an opportunity to create local scientific elites and infrastructure. The peaceful uses of atomic energy allowed the countries in the region to develop national and international political discourses framing the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, signed in Tlatelolco, Mexico City, in 1967, and which made Latin America the first atomic weapons-free populated zone in the world.
Just and Unjust Peace by Daniel Philpott
In the wake of massive injustice, how can justice be achieved and peace restored? Is it possible to find a universal standard that will work for people of diverse and often conflicting religious, cultural, and philosophical backgrounds? Daniel Philpott offers an innovative and hopeful response to these questions. He challenges the approach to peace-building that dominates the United Nations, western governments, and the human rights community. While he shares their commitments to human rights and democracy, Philpott argues that these values alone cannot redress the wounds caused by war, genocide, and dictatorship.
The American Antinuclear Movement by Paul Rubinson
Spanning countries across the globe, the antinuclear movement was the combined effort of millions of people to challenge the superpowers’ reliance on nuclear weapons during the Cold War. Encompassing an array of tactics, from radical dissent to public protest to opposition within the government, this movement succeeded in constraining the arms race and helping to make the use of nuclear weapons politically unacceptable. Paul Rubinson explores how antinuclear activists were critical to the establishment of arms control treaties, even as anticommunists, national security officials, and proponents of nuclear deterrence within the United States and the Soviet Union actively opposed the movement.
Just War or Just Peace? by Simon Chesterman
The question of the legality of humanitarian intervention is, at first blush, a simple one. The Charter of the United Nations clearly prohibits the use of force, with the only exceptions being self-defence and enforcement actions authorized by the Security Council. There are, however, long-standing arguments that a right of unilateral intervention pre-existed the Charter.
Peace by Charles D. Cowger
Jane Addams helped us to understand the connection between bread and peace, and peace and social justice. Contrary to the citation often attributed to Pope Paul VI, “If you want peace, work for justice,” this phrase can actually be found in Addams’s book Newer ideals of peace (1906, p. 36). Charles D. Cowger’s article discusses the relationship of war and peace to social work practice, the historic and current mandate for social workers to work for peace, and the relationship between social justice and peace.
Featured image credit: “Miera Pagoda” by Agnese. CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.