At the beginning of the 1990s, “democratic regimes” spread out across the world. Yet, it has never been clear if those regimes were truly democratic or hybrid (resulting from the coexistence of democratic and authoritarian rules and practices). At that time, most predicted the start of a new era of international peace, but ethnic conflicts exploded in different countries while other internal armed conflicts protracted, fueled by old and new dynamics of collective violence.
The first 20 years after the Cold War era showed a reduction of the casualties of political violence. However, the trend of diminution in the number of internal conflicts has recently reversed. The firsts decades of the 21st century have shown that the expansion of democracy was neither solid nor irreversible. Countries that have been an example of pacification (i.e. El Salvador, Mozambique) and even countries that have not known recent episodes of extended political violence (i.e. Mexico) are now experience contexts of collective violence similar or worse than “traditional” civil wars. Also, democratic processes were nullified in countries such as Russia and Nicaragua, and disappeared in some weak but nevertheless stable representative democracies (i.e. Venezuela). Even long-standing consolidated democracies (i.e. England, United States) are today facing revitalized forms of nationalism and populism. The fragmentation of social consensus resulting from the spreading of fake news through social media and from latent forms of racism and intolerance, among other reasons, weaken rational debate and the social fabric, both of which are essential for healthy democracy.
Peace, that is the act to relate to others while respecting differences (including religious, ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation differences) and without using the force or the threat of use of force, is linked to democracy, which is the only regime enabling social actors to pursue and defend their interests without using force. In the same way that democratic stability does not only suppose its existence in the present but also the certainty that it will exist in the future, sustainable peace implies the idea that those who act today without using or threatening to use violence will continue to behave pacifically in the future. This is true in all national territories, both at the micro-community and macrosocial level. When the state is absent, armed non-state actors enforce their own rules by force which cannot be called peace. A sustainable peace implies the existence of democratic regimes at the local and national levels.
We believe that change comes essentially from citizens. For this reason, PAZSOS believes that sustainable peace is based in values, behaviors, and lifestyles that reinforce fundamental individual rights and freedoms. In other words, sustainable peace is not only the result of from-above originated processes, at the level of the State and of national institutions (democratic norms), but also from-below, through the reinforcement of a culture of peace. When all willingly reject the use of force and decide to use democratic channels to resolve differences and to defend interests, democracy finds its raison d’être and peace acquires sustainability. The ensemble of PAZSOS’s activities (participating in or organizing forums, creation and delivery of training, research development, evaluations, and others), are linked to the establishment of a culture of a sustainable peace and have the goal of democratic improvement.
Through its work on a Culture of Sustainable Peace, which favors universal access to justice and the construction of responsible and efficient institutions, PAZSOS aims to consolidate not only democratic political institutions, but also social democratic consensus in order to fight all types of violence. A world where citizens’ participation to private and public debates is based on reason and mutual respect is a world where formal democratic channels of conflict resolution do not lose legitimacy, and where individual and collective informal interactions are useful to improve quality of live for everyone.