Beyond Violence 

No Justice No Peace? Part Three

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Peace and justice go hand-in-hand in most countries, but in countries which are neither stable nor democratic, peace and justice often compromise one other and it seems that only one can be achieved at any time. Peacemakers, international organisations and politicians ask themselves whether it is more important to end violence and save civilians from atrocities, or whether charging leaders with crimes against humanity and bringing justice to the victims is more important.

Can there be peace without justice, or can the pursuit of justice hinder peace processes? What is more important to achieve in the long-term and in the short-term? And are both peace and justice more important than order in the international society? Can order prevent violence and injustice, or are violence and injustice forms of order that can lead to peace? Beyond Violence examines the three concepts and the questions surrounding them in a series of blog entries, and looks at how the debate relates to modern day conflicts and peacemaking.

In the first two blogs we looked at the importance and possibilities peace and justice provide for ending conflict and violence. In this blog we look at the order of the international society as a framework for academic debate. International order involves peace, conflict and justice and thus provides a different approach to the debate.

Order in favour of peace and justice

In previous blogs we have investigated the potentials and complications of pursuing peace and justice. The answer is not straightforward and varies from situation to situation. But what if violence is part of a greater plan to achieve peace? According to International Relations academic champion Hedley Bull, violence, conflict and war naturally occur in the international order (See Hedley’s book The Anarchical Society). Order in the international system dictates relationships between both states and international actors such as International Governmental Organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations and individuals. The purpose of maintaining order is to keep a healthy relationship between these actors. When one actor gets too powerful, other actors may seek to balance its hegemony in order to retain international order and create balance and peace. Thus conflicts do not destroy order, but rather define and transform order. Conflict helps to achieve balance against hegemony and sometimes even-out power relations. With harmony comes peace.

Historic accounts of the importance of order in favour of peace and justice

The first accounts of the importance of order over peace, conflict and justice come from the Greek philosopher Thucydides (year 460 – 395 BC), who stated that the Peloponnesian War was a result of a systematic change: “what made the war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power” and the Sparta’s fear that its position of power was relativised. The conflict caused “a change in the hierarchy or control of the international political system”.

War has always been part of human history and is sometimes proactively used as a foreign policy tool. The notion of peaceful international relations is relatively new and puts restraints on international order; peace has become more important than balance. But history shows that peaceful order is difficult to maintain and easily destroyed: empires fall and wars arise. The role of war is essential to maintaining order in the international society. War not only brings about order and balance in international relations but can also be of great benefit to social changes and lead to greater justice for a greater audience.

Order can be restored at the outbreak of conflicts, as it happened in the two world wars : Nicholas Murray Butler, American philosopher and diplomat points out that in 1915 after the outbreak of World War I: “The old international order passed away as suddenly, as unexpectedly, and as completely as if it had been wiped out by a gigantic flood, by a great tempest, or by a volcanic eruption”. The same happened when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and is happening now in many North African and Middle Eastern countries where violence is bringing about changes that will usher in new order.

Order leads to peace and justice

Pursuing peace and justice simultaneously in international relations can prove counterproductive at times and no definite answer exists of how to achieve a society that is just and peaceful. Both concepts depend upon the order of the international community and as such, order plays a great part in achieving both peace and justice. There can be no peace as long as order is out of balance and power relations lead to the hegemony of any one actor. There can be no justice when order suppresses certain groups of society. Violence is at times a means to achieve order and disturb old orders and structures, which cause violence and injustice.

Looking at order in the international community means accepting both peace and conflict as natural components of international relations. In the three blogs we have investigated peace, justice and order in order to fuel the debate about whether or not and in which ways these things should be pursued in international relations.

War and the threat of war stimulate speculation upon the conditions of peace – Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society

For more information on peace and justice
The Peace and Justice Initiative in the Netherlands work towards universal implementation of the ICC Statute. Find more information or join their mission at

The author is an investigative reporter currently residing in Paris, France. She has written about international politics and organized crime for a variety of international magazines and newspapers.

Written by TES and published on 27-May-2014

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