To be able to adequately talk about preventing war, the group assessed conditions that lead to war. Very broadly speaking, the factors can be grouped into the military industrial complex, resources, psychological factors, social, cultural and religious values and historical precedents. After having identified conditions that lead to war, participants discussed conditions that prevent war, that have worked in the past or that might work in the future. The session was framed in the overall context of emphasizing ‘positive peace’. The identified factors fit into very broad categories of personal, societal, education, media, institutions, political and economic. The overall categories and factors are not mutually exclusive, as with in the conditions that create war, we are facing a complex system of interrelated dynamic factors. Interestingly both assessments – conditions that cause war and conditions that prevent war – were done in identical, equally long brain-storming sessions. Yet the assessment of “war conditions” provided only 83 factors compared to 160 identified “war prevention conditions”. Why? We know more about preventing war than waging war. As historian Kent Shifferd reminds us, war is a social phenomenon with understood causes and conditions that can be changed. There are institutions and techniques of dealing with conflict in a nonviolent, constructive manner. Most of what came up was not a re-invention of the wheel. It is clear that war is obsolete and that there are ways to end it – and today we can even talk about this without being ridiculed. It is quite simple: Peace makes more sense.
Birol Yesilada and Harry Anastasiou, experts on the European Union, provided a brief but insightful overview how the European Union came into existence. This discussion was particularly relevant, considering that the several European nations were fighting each other in two World Wars. The realization of the historical preconditions and the identification of the factors that lead to World War II helped create a common vision and system of governance and shared sovereignty of the nations. It is unthinkable in contemporary Europe that the nations would go to war against each other.
Multi-track-diplomacy was applied again to brainstorm ideas for preventing war. A total of 232 factors for war prevention were identified within the 9 tracks (and the new track “arts”). As a final step of the gathering, participants added their names to ideas where they committed to start an initial assessment. For several ideas, it was determined that the student population at PSU and UO can be directed by professors and other participants with expertise to get them engaged in different projects described here. The potential for funding was identified as well. Finally the group identified areas where the different present organizations (e.g. Beyond War, Jubitz Family Foundation, Rotary, Wholistic Peace Institute, PSU, UO, Fields of Peace) could collaborate. All participants expressed their desire to continue this process, aiming for a further gathering between 6 and 12 months.
The Parkdale Peace Gathering was a first step into semi-blurred territory of an important vision – ending war. It is exactly what peace scholar and practitioner John Paul Lederach suggests in his ‘moral imagination. There are four joint capacities that help to transcend violence: (1) the imagination of people in a web of relationships including their enemies; (2) maintaining paradoxical curiosity without dualistic polarity; (3) the belief in and the pursuit of creative actions; and (4) the risk of stepping into the unknown landscape beyond violence.