Don’t leave world peace to the politicians

Von NNA staff

With more relevance than ever, the conflict researcher Prof. Friedrich Glasl has told civil society activists that they have more importance than they realise and could make a significant contribution to peace processes.

STUTTGART (NNA) – The conflict researcher Prof. Friedrich Glasl has spoken out in favour of a stronger engagement by civil society when it come to the issue of world peace. Glasl emphasised the fact that war and peace are too important an issue to simply be abandoned to the politicians.

“It is better to do everything that you can to take your fate into your own hands”. Politicians’ actions often betrayed the fact that they were simply following their own professional or career interests. In addition, they often demonstrated their dependence on the political party which had eanbled their rise to power. “Political parties – like most systems in the West in general – are unfortunately often strongly influenced by economic lobbies. It is important, and also effective, for people to seek methods and ways to articulate their own concerns, as well as to organise themselves.”

Activists played a much more important role than they themselves were aware of. NGOs, grass roots movements, as well as neighbourhood assistance could make a significant contribution to the peace process, Prof. Glasl concludes in the journal Sozialimpulse.

From his own experience, he was aware that such initiatives were followed very attentively by politicians, often with some degree of concern and fear. “I can recall meetings with governments during which a demonstration began directly outside of the building. I know how aggitated the people in the room became and how they began to ask: who is behind it? How will it end? Hopefully we do not have to intervene in a way that calls our authority into question or leads to it being undermined.”

Such groups were “a lot more important than they are often aware of”.  Glasl stressed that he was highlighting the issue because he had observed with concern that “many people have become discouraged and resigned in the light of the overpowering system because they fall prey to the suggestion that is often deliberately emphasised by this system: you can’t do anything about the way things are! You are powerless! This is very dangerous.”

The resulting feelings of powerlessness either led to a feeling resignation, to a retreat into private life, or to the renunciation of political activity in the context of civil society or within the boundaries of what is constitutionally permitted. Resignation meant that, for example, people did not even make use of their right to vote. “The other possibility is that citizens become frustrated and enraged. This can become destructive to the point of violence because people feel that there is no alternative way to experience their self-efficacy constructively. If this self-efficacy can’t be expressed in a constructive manner, then the only other option is to express it destructively,” the conflict researcher explains.

Processes of change

According to Glasl, working for peace can take place everywhere both on a small and large scale. From his experience in international conflict resolution, Glasl in his article lists seven different types of change processes with which civil society activists could influence developments.

  • Diagnostic processes in the sense of awareness raising. This was about repeated analysis, i.e. raising awareness as well as revealing the causes and background of conflicts. 
  • Processes to shape the future in the sense of an intention. Here the focus was on expectations of the future: which model for the future do we want to realise?
  • Psychosocial processes that focus on feelings, attitudes and relationships. This was about working on emotions that may arise in existing situations, possibly also unintentionally, and in the development of future models.
  • Learning processes that serve to develop the skills that will be required in the future. It was necessary to develop the skills and knowledge that are necessary to be able to truly live the desirable structures.
  • Information processes that serve to aid transparent communication. People who are not able to be involved in everything should still always remain informed.
  • Implementation processes which should be carried out incrementally and not in a rushed “ad-hoc style”, so that lessons could be learned during implementation.
  • Change management in the sense of effective planning and control of all processes and their endowment with the necessary resources.

The basic processes mentioned above interlinked and supported each other as well as helping to  achieve a situation in which people learn to shape their social reality in a cooperative and participatory manner. In doing so they could transition from being objects of change processes to their designers; in addition they were enabled “to create the world so that it corresponds to their values, ideas and abilities, in a way that it emerges from their own insights, from their own consciousness.”

“Multi-track diplomacy”

This form of “multi-track diplomacy” had proven itself in the past with many observable examples of its success. At the same time, the various elements of a conflict were being worked on through several approaches and via several channels, providing a range of possibilities which civil society could use as a starting point.

Glasl also analysed these different approaches from perspective of the threefold structure of society as developed by Rudolf Steiner in 1919 as a consequence of the First World War. This meant that changes were made in all three subsystems of a society, in the intellectual life, which is concerned with culture, science, religion and education, in the legal life, which is concerned with the constitution, laws and the political situation, as well as in the economic life, where production, distribution, trade and consumption are the subjects of the work.

Sozialimpulse quotes many different examples of a lack of competence when it comes to constructive dialogue and problem solving in the current political landscape, for example in the negotiations for a new German government.

“When we look at the significant events that took place in Germany, Europe and the world during the talks about forming a new government to which thre was no way to react, we have to be shocked,” writes Prof. Christoph Strawe in an editorial and points to the World Climate Conference in Bonn, the Chinese Communist Party Congress, the confrontation in the Middle East triggered by the US President Donald Trump and the increase in repression in Turkey.

Meanwhile, the constant spiral of military armament continues as ever and Russia and the West appear set on a new course of confrontation as the rhetoric is ratcheted up over the poisoning in the UK of the former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a nerve agent.


The articles in Sozialimpulse on the theme of “Paths to Peace” go back to an event at Forum 3 in Stuttgart in autumn 2017.

Item: 180316-01EN Date: 16 March 2018

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