Fear, Security and Peace
Peace is more than just the absence of war. The goal of a gender-equal and non-violent society does not pertain only to the military, but to civilian forms of dealing with conflict, especially through prevention. Here, the question of gender plays an important role.
In public awareness, the issue of individual and public safety ranks far above the desire for peace and peaceful relations with others. If they feel threatened, people and states seldom respond rationally and non-violently. Security thus seems to take precedence over peace. This underlies states’ policies: Security policy can get along without strategies for peace, and even more so without a compelling conceptual peace policy; conversely, however, peace policy requires a security concept – although such a concept does not have to be based on military force.
For political security concepts to be enforceable, it is of vital importance that there be a subjective and widespread sense of security. Fears and desires for peace are historically shaped and are strongly influenced by the media and political interests. The interaction among social awareness, media conditioning, political (re-)actions, and political legitimacy is clear from the attacks of September 11, 2001. This marked a turning point in the security situation for many people in the West. The same is true concerning the debates on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, which, because of the ensuing military interventions by the United States and other NATO countries, led to real threats in their own countries.
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Violent Conflicts and Conflict Prevention
The background of violent conflicts and wars is multifaceted. Yet, an essential factor is often disregarded in the cause analysis: gender-political dynamics. However, looking at the power relations between women and men is also important to understand how crises and wars develop, how they can be prevented and how lasting peace can be achieved. Peace is more than the absence of war. A gender-equitable and non-violent society cannot be realized through the military but through civil society forms of conflict regulation, mainly through prevention. The gender issue plays a decisive role in this process.