Positive Peace and a pandemic

By Rebecca Crall

It is easy to see the health crisis created by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. What’s not as easy to see are the long-term impacts of the crisis on peace, particularly in states with government and public health infrastructures weakened by violence or unrest.

Fortunately, Rotarians have an amazing capacity to use their ingenuity to address the world’s most pressing challenges. And the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. As the Area of Focus Manager for Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention, I have been spending some time thinking about the pandemic in terms of peacebuilding and human resiliency.

Earlier this year, Rotary and the Institute for Economics and Peace, held the inaugural Positive Peace Activator training in Ontario, California. This event trained 30 Rotarians, Rotary Peace Fellows, and Rotaractors on how to “activate” Positive Peace in communities around the globe.

The framework of Positive Peace provides a valuable tool for this time. We have used the pillars to analyze ways communities can develop in order to sustain peace or to recover from conflict. But it’s also a tool that helps communities become more resilient and recover from shocks, such as the novel coronavirus outbreak.

With Positive Peace, we can conceptualize peace as an interconnected system. Strength in all eight pillars can help countries, regions and communities better prepare, prevent and respond to shocks. We can also think about the system as an interconnected web. Strong, interdependent fibers can absorb and respond to a shock, whereas tears or weakness in the connections start to quickly unravel the whole system under stress.

During this crisis, we have seen the eight pillars at work. We are reminded that these pillars are crucial, not only to preventing violence but allowing our society to weather both internal and external shocks.

Here are ways the pillars have or can respond to the COVID-19 outbreak (Information adapted from initial Positive Peace + COVID-19 research conducted by the Institute for Economics and Peace):

A well-functioning government can

  • coordinate responses internally and across international platforms
  • legislate economic relief packages to keep economy afloat
  • Implement new and amended policies to flatten infection curve
  • Redirect resources to communities most in need

Equal distribution of resources can ensure

  • Access to careers and testing for all individuals
  • Support to unemployed people experiencing rent stress and supporting failing businesses.

Free flow of information helps

  • Increase information flows allowing for triangulation of data and informed responses
  • Frequent and accurate public announcements

Good relations with neighbours at the international level facilitate

  • Intercountry resource sharing particularly personal protection equipment, drugs, and medical equipment
  • Intercountry knowledge transfer of data, analysis, research, and technology

Good relations with neighbours at the community level

  • Community organizing to support more vulnerable community members
  • More open and understanding interpersonal communications
  • We are all in this together and like campaigns fostering community cohesion

High level of human capital facilitates

  • Industry shifts as needed
  • Manufactures and engineers being repurposed for hospital equipment and medical supplies
  • Upskilling of medical and allied health professionals 

Acceptance of the rights of others allows

  • Individuals to accept the rights of others in communal areas through social distancing
  • Individuals balance their personal fears and needs with carer and community responsibilities. (Nurses, teachers, parents, police, aids)
  • Families care for isolated and vulnerable elderly parents 

Low levels of corruption ensure that

  • State and Federal governments flow information to citizens to remain accountable and transparent
  • Provides the trust between citizen and state required for societal stresses not to escalate.

Sound business environment provides

  • Businesses adopt flexible work arrangements (work from home) to remain viable
  • Finding ways for individuals to support local business. (Home delivery)

Applying this framework to discrete situations, provides us with a critical lens to see the importance of building Positive Peace within our communities. As we move from response to recovery, I am hopeful that our Rotary community will continue to invest in the training and implementation of programs related to Positive Peace. Rotary’s 100+ year track record of encouraging international cooperation and understanding across borders has never been more important than it is today.

For more information on how to get more involved with Rotary’s Positive Peace work, please contact the Rotary-IEP Partnership coordinator Summer Lewis: summer.lewis@rotary.org.

8 thoughts on “Positive Peace and a pandemic

  1. Challenge: As a Rotarian charged with heading up committee for peace in my club, I am challenging all 1.3 million Rotarians around the world to do the following in order to sensitize ourselves, and those around us, to promoting peace: (1) download from YOUTUBE, the link above, or any link that pleases you, of ” Let there be Peace on Earth, and let it begin with me…” (2) Play DAILY on your CELLPHONE (3) the music is just over 3 minutes long. (4) spare yourself 3+ minutes out of 1440 daily to calm yourself, and focus on the concept of PEACE. (5) observe how this simple act by each Rotarian could help to change individuals mood towards illusive PEACE. (6) pass on the challenge to non-Rotarians. (7) monitor the effect.


  2. It is not clear what one means by “positive peace.” Peace, by its inherent nature should be understood as positive. We, Rotarians, and all those who seek to make our world more peaceful, must first develop within ourselves what Edmund Burke penned in his missive “Peace in the Colonies,”, (March 14, 1775): ” …peace can only be achieved if it is sought in a spirit of peace.” I would define “a spirit of peace” as “a motivation and willingness to seek fairness, justice and reconciliation for, and by ALL parties in conflict.” Further, I propose that PEACE be considered a verbal noun, where it can be further defined as ” the human disposition to seek, find, and maintain fairness, compromise, and calmness-of-mind in all discussions/negotiations of conflict or disagreement.” Finally, I propose a 4-Way test for PEACE: (1) Are the parties resolved to understand each other’s differences? (2) Do the parties recognize, understand, accept, and respect each other’s differences? (3) Will all parties renounce power inequalities, and by understanding each other, seek peace in a spirit of peace? (4) Will honesty, and trustworthiness produce resolutions that last?
    Rotarians search for peace cannot be only providing water for those without water, or supplying wheelchairs for those without wheelchairs. We must go beyond acts of service. We must actively try to infuse a “spirit of peace”, in those those who are charged with making decisions that promote the peace suggested in the eight pillars of/for PEACE. May I suggest that a ninth pillar of peace be added: infusion of a bit of humour in all discussions/talks/negotiations.


  3. Nicely done. The Positive Peace pillars — the framework for almost any peace building effort — is a constructive way to address the COVID-19 Pandemic. PP orients the response to something other than a battle between restoring the economy and applying science to overcoming the virus. Building resilience from strengthening the PP pillars helps achieve science-driven AND economic goals. Community/economic development and peace building cross support each other.


  4. The ‘eight pillars of positive peace’ framework is a comprehensive and useful platform/model, however, one vital element missing is the application of a gender lens. Research has shown that where there is greater gender equality, there is less likelihood of conflict and escalation to violence (see Hudson, V et al (2012) Sex and World Peace, New York: Columbia University Press). In a patriarchal world, positive actions to ensure women’s participation and leadership are vital in developing sustainable and lasting peace.
    Can I recommend that gender is considered through all eight pillars, and, to ensure it is not forgotten, specifically mentioned under ‘Acceptance of the Rights of Others’… which allows:
     Women as equal partners in decision-making


    • Thank You for your important point as more women are needed at the table.
      Furthermore, include young people as decisions and actions should be beneficial to current and future generations.


  5. Breakthrough
    Could the combination of the Rotary principles and Positive Peace framework be a Rotary Way to problem solving for a culture of peace and the safety, prosperity and quality of life for current and future generations?

    I like Rebecca Crall’s use of the Eight Pillars of Positive Peace framework as an approach and process for data collection and characterization, discussion and decision-making with desired outcomes beneficial to all concerned.

    Moving Forward,
    How could we use this template to address the existential threats in this 2020 decade?
    In addition to pandemics, the consensus threats are ecological collapse (climate change), nuclear war and technological disruptions leading to the destruction of planet and lives lost.

    Role Models
    PRIP Sakuji Tanaka 2012-12
    All human beings have the right to live in a state of peace, free from violence, persecution, inequality, and suffering. As leaders and friends of the Rotary movement, united in service, we publicly declare our commitment to creating a more peaceful world.
    Be an activist. Use your voice and your vote to encourage your elected leaders to adopt peaceful conflict resolution practices instead of resorting to war.

    PRIP Charles C. Keller 1987-88
    The challenge of world peace…is the most pressing imperative of our time
    In a world which possesses the means of self-destruction, if we do not find the path of peace, whatever else we do won’t make much difference.

    Go Rotary … Imagine — 2,000,000 Rotarian peacebuilders

    Dennis Wong
    Rotary E-Club of World Peace


  6. Yes I do agree that Rotarians have huge responsibility post Covid times. I am now planning s matching grant project for economic development of the people who will face brunt of lock down and aftermath. Planning a micro credit project to help needy to sustain their economy through self business


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