By Ana Cutter Patel, Executive Director, Outward Bound Peacebuilding, and a 2016 Rotary Peace Fellow at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Peace can be described as positive or negative. Negative peace refers to the absence of violence. Positive peace describes the attitudes, institutions and structures that, when strengthened, can lead to a more peaceful society. The Positive Peace framework developed by Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) identifies eight factors that create peaceful societies. They are:
A well-functioning government
a sound business environment
the equitable distribution of resources
low levels of corruption
high levels of human capital
the acceptance of the rights of others
the free flow of information
good relations with neighbors
Mexico conference spawns idea
In May 2017, IEP and Outward Bound Peacebuilding (OBCP) successfully collaborated on a Rotary-supported conference bringing together 300 peacebuilders in Mexico to learn about the Positive Peace framework. The event showcased the strengths of both our organizations – IEP, a global think tank dedicated to peace as a tangible measure of human well-being and OBCP, an organization committed to experiential learning and conflict transformation. At the conference, through an interactive activity led by Outward Bound Mexico, we brought the concept of positive peace to life for the peacebuilders in Mexico.
Over margaritas during a late June lunch, Michelle Breslauer, America’s Director of IEP and I had hatched an exciting idea. “What if we did the positive peace activity in New York City on the International Day of Peace?”
To bring the event to New York City, we reached out to leaders of organizations representing the eight pillars of positive peace. A team of amazing staff and volunteers led us through the challenges of organizing a public event in a big bureaucratic city. There was a moment in August, a month out from the event, when not one invited leader had accepted our invitation, the city’s parks department had not yet assigned us a space to hold the event, and there was no response to our media advisory.
Rotary comes through
Then Dr. Jasmin Cowin, president of the Rotary Club of New York, said yes. She would represent Rotary as Pillar #2: A sound business environment. We were thrilled! Rotary is a powerful partner to IEP and OBCP. Soon after, Laura Gonzalez-Murphy, director of the New York State Office for New Americans, agreed to represent Pillar #8: Good relations with neighbors. A week before the event we had eight fabulous leaders confirmed.
We celebrated Positive Peace on 21 Sept 2017, the UN-established International Day of Peace. Several dozen New Yorkers gathered under a bright blue sky on the city harbor to celebrate the people and organizations that make our communities safe and livable.
Quiet and hesitant at first, the group quickly jumped into the activity with enthusiasm. Each of the pillar leaders shared how their organization contributes to peace, reminding us that we all have a stake in keeping neighborhoods, cities, and countries peaceful.
Using brightly colored ribbons, the participants wove their way from one pillar to another – visually and literally connecting the group. In the final circle, people expressed their gratitude for having an opportunity to appreciate and physically embody the idea of positive peace. They all committed to coming back in 2018.
Learn more about Rotary’s partnership with the Institute for Economics and Peace