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What is peace?

Model which compares the content in health and peace sciences

Health science and peace science have several similarities.

Those who study health sciences are interested in understanding different ailments and diseases on one hand, and the pre-conditions that are necessary for health on the other hand. There is a similar dichotomy in peace science, which aims to understand different forms of violence on one hand, and the pre-conditions for peace on the other hand.

Healthcare workers are not satisfied with only studying health and diseases - they also need to know how to prevent diseases, rehabilitate sick patients, and promote and support good health for their patients and societies. In the same way, peace science is “normative”. It is not enough to simply study violence and peace - we also need to know how to prevent, reduce and mitigate violence, and how to bring about and promote peace. A simple way to understand the difference is that medicine and health sciences focus on life, while peace science focuses on conflict.

A holistic concept of peace

To develop a holistic (or all-encompassing) concept of peace, we can approach peace from three different starting points: peace as the negation of violence; peace as a state of harmony; and peace as a capacity to deal with conflicts in a positive manner. Let’s start with the first one.

1. Peace as the negation (or absence) of violence

This approach requires us to define what violence means. Please watch the interview in the next step with Professor Johan Galtung - considered to be the “father” of peace science.

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This article is from the free online course:

Medical Peace Work

University of Bergen

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