Peace and Democratic Society

Peace and Democratic Society Amartya Sen (ed.)
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Sen’s introductory essay to Peace and Democratic Society is similar to his work on poverty and famine in that it deals with a matter—the eruption of violence in society—of very great urgency. [...] The Commonwealth report does not definitively solve the question of "Why violence in democracy?” Nevertheless, [it] does illustrate how an approach to violence in democracy can be fashioned without relying on dangerous over-simplifications. It offers a way forward without rushing to answers. [...] Sen’s essay—and the report that it accompanies—is well worth the reading.
—Neal Leavitt, IMPACT: The Journal of the Center for Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning, 1.2 (Summer 2012): 33-35

Recent acts of terrorism and the current unrest in the Middle East remind us how important it is to understand the relationship between violence, peace and democracy. In a challenging and insightful essay, Amartya Sen explores ideas around 'organised violence' (such as war, genocide and terrorism) and violence against the individual. Highlighting the inadequacies of some of the widely accepted explanations for violenceincluding the idea that the world is experiencing a 'clash of civilisations'Sen makes a plea for a global, multilateral debate on the causes of conflict, and an understanding of the multiple identities of the individuals involved.

The introductory essay draws on the findings of the Commonwealth Commission on Respect and Understanding, which was chaired by Sen, and established to promote mutual communication and understanding among all faiths and communities in the Commonwealth. Its timely report, "Civil Paths to Peace", suggests that governments, media and educatorsindeed, everyonemust take the time to understand the complexities around violent behaviour and its causes, without prejudging what these might be.

Peace and Democratic Society
Edited by Amartya Sen | June 2011
155 | 6.14" x 9.21" (234 x 156 mm)
Open Reports Series, vol. 1 | ISSN: 2399-6668 (Print); 2399-6676 (Online)
ISBN Paperback: 9781906924393
ISBN Hardback: 978190692409
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781906924416
ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781906924485
ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781906924492
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0014
BIC subject codes: JPA (Political science and theory), JPV (Political control and freedoms)

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by Amartya Sen

Report of the Commonwealth Commission on Respect and Understanding

Members of the Commission
Executive Summary

1. Why do Respect and Understanding Matter?
2. The Nature and Nurture of Violence
3. Poverty, Inequality and Humiliation
4. History, Grievance and Conflict
5. Political Participation
6. The Role of Media and Communication
7. Young People and Education
8. Multilateralism and the International Order
9. The Way Forward and Conclusions

Afterward: Original preface and letter of presentation to the Report
Appendix: Written submissions to the Commonwealth Commission on Respect and Understanding

Amartya Sen is the Thomas W. Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, a Fellow of the British Academy, Distinguished Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford and a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, where he served as Master from 1998 until 2004. He won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998.

In 2011/2012, the Commonwealth Secretariat is planning to take forward an extensive programme of action on the theme of 'Civil Paths to Peace' (CPP) including the following initiatives:
  • Pilot ‘youth dialogue and action forums’ in Commonwealth countries to facilitate discussions and actions on CPP issues in order to promote understanding, respect, tolerance and a culture of peaceful coexistence through dialogue and inclusive activities.
  • A resource pack on CPP. The proposed resource pack will have teaching and training modules on the CPP related topics such as respect and understanding, multiple identities, tolerance, conflict, violence and dialogue etc. It will be developed on a learner-centred-methodology where students and trainees will use games, role plays, stories, and exercises to learn and practice the CPP concepts and values by actually engaging in these activities.
  • Training programmes for Commonwealth journalists. A set of training programmes are proposed to be developed for the Commonwealth journalists and media personnel on CPP related topics such as ‘responsible reporting of conflicts’, ‘ skills for developing multiple narratives’, ‘promoting a culture of tolerance through media’, and ‘role of media in confidence building’ etc.
  • A publication on CPP good practices in Commonwealth countries. The proposed book will showcase case studies where youth, women, education and media have played a positive role in preventing conflicts and promoting peace. This reference book will be used in CPP education and training programmes.
Further information about these projects will be available on this website soon.