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Pathways to Peace: The First Principle

Jordan Ryan is vice president, peace programs, at The Carter Center.

In this time of extreme polarization, when violence seems to be the “new normal,” we face a threat of escalating conflict at home and abroad. The task for peacemakers is urgent.

There are so many issues that impact global safety and security. Some we are only beginning to understand: food insecurity, water shortages, environmental stress, and climate change, to name a few.

A woman walks in 2013 near a residential area in the Syrian city of Homs, destroyed in fighting between the rebels of the Syrian National Army. (Photo: iStock.com)

A woman walks in 2013 near a residential area in the Syrian city of Homs, destroyed in fighting between the rebels of the Syrian National Army. (Photo: iStock.com)

In a series of posts here over the coming months, I will share some of the approaches to waging peace that The Carter Center and its founder, former President Jimmy Carter, have developed or learned over many years.

Principle No. 1: Gain perspective.

Peacemakers must attain a deep understanding of the problem or problems that led to a conflict in the first place. Beyond bloodlust or vengeance or a basic desire for power, what is the primary inequity or injustice (perceived or real) underlying the dispute?

We consider the issues from the perspectives of all the antagonists to gain an understanding of the context of the conflict.

To resolve the complicated conflict in Syria, for example, we must analyze its causes correctly. It is too easy to see it through a biased lens, looking only at narrow American interests and conventional wisdom. But understanding the interests and incentives of the other major powers and actors, including those of Iran, Russia, and Turkey, is just as important to achieving peace. We must also listen to the various perspectives of the Syrian people, those engaged in the conflict as well as those caught in the crosshairs; they are the ones who will have to build the peace we are all working for.

Understanding breeds better negotiation.

Next principle: One Size Does Not Fit All »


Related Resources

Learn more about the Center’s Peace Programs »

Learn more about the Center’s work in Syria »

 

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  • 1

    Barry Jagoda on March 17, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    Very good, Jordan Ryan. Thanks, but keep your eye on Trump,Tillerson and North Korea. (Your notion about “perspective” is crucial)! >

  • 2

    David T. Ives on March 18, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    I enjoyed your article Dr. Ryan. I especially agree with the part about needing a deep understanding of the issues related to peace in general and specific situations. President Carter values and the work of the Carter Center are especially important in this day and age with the divisions so apparent around the world.
    Cordially,
    David T. Ives
    Executive Director, the Albert Schweitzer Institute at Quinnipiac University

  • 3

    Christine Wareing on April 18, 2017 at 10:26 am

    You are wondering how this all started in Syria.
    I have first hand knowledge, as my Husband is Syrian from Allepo.

    People wanted change, and as a result, instead of listening to the people, they were turned on, because it is a regime, and nothing will change that.
    All in the name of religion, I am lucky to be English by birth, and a Catholic, I never before realized how lucky I was, now I understand.
    This struggle will go on for a long time I am sure, until the people bow to the will of the countries leader.
    Christine.

  • 4

    ron on April 18, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    “We cannot expect to make everyone our friend, but we can try to make no one our enemy.”

    Richard Nixon,
    January 20, 1969: First Inaugural Address

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