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by Joseph de Rivera

The power-over model and the struggle for dominance still prevails within many nations and in the current struggle among the most powerful nations. Yet human rights are dependent on the use of a power-to model. To further human rights and secure a culture of peace we must consider how to encourage transitions from the use of power-over to power-to models in current states, how to encourage a transition from our current global anarchy to a system of just global governance, and how we might help the governance of the thousands of organizations involved in movements for peace and justice.

Beauty of Flight

Human rights, state responsibility and transitions to democracy

States operating with a power-to model are responsible for defending human rights and for passing and enforcing laws that promote human rights. Ideally, they act to prevent ethnic conflict rather than promoting pogroms by supporting or condoning the actions of a favored group or allowing politicians to polarize people along communal lines.i They use laws to further rights. See here for more on human rights.

Global governance and the creation of one people

Nation-states are entities that were created in an attempt to manage civil conflict. They attempt to combine the emotional attachment to a nation (people) with a state apparatus that attempts to monopolize power so it can resolve potential conflicts issuing from ethnic, regional, religious, and political groups. However, nation-states have two fundamental problems that contribute to difficulties in governance. See here for more on global governance.

Organizational governance of peace movement

Building the global community with the culture of peace required for a democratic world government faces many objective barriers. Marxist analysis stresses the problems stemming from the structure of capitalism; feminist analysis focuses on the structure of patriarchy, and anarchist analysis the problems of states and their bureaucracies. Yet all these structures are interrelated: The exploitation of labor and need for new markets, the dominance of males, and the obedience to orders and rules, are dynamically intertwined aspects of the societal system with a culture of war. Changing this system requires the sort of organization that can foster cooperation among the thousands of NGOs in civil society so they will have the power to ensure that powerful governments move towards a culture of peace. Yet there is distrust between liberals and conservatives and creating the organization that is needed requires acknowledging three basic psychological tensions [xvii]:


  1. The tension between the authority involved in hierarchical organization and the liberty to question and creatively network may lead some to fear dominance and others to fear inefficiency.

  2. The tension between the desire for harmonious, compassionate peace and realistic rage against injustice may lead some to fail to see the need for force and others to fail to see humanity.

  3. The tension between the ideal and the real may lead some to fear the reality of power and other to a despair that prevents action or a cynicism that abandons ideals.


When fear dominates caring these tensions result in splits that prevent unifying the peace movement and joining with its potential allies. When caring is greater than fear the tension can be productively maintained so authority pursues a responsive positive agenda, compassion and justice are united in nonviolent action, and morale sustained by moral imagination and cultivation of spiritual strength. The practical issue that most hinders the formation of a civic organization devoted to the fostering a global community with a culture of peace involves the limited energy and funding that is currently available. Those interested in international security and abolishing nuclear weapons, are not necessarily moved by environmental sustainability and climate change, nor are the latter necessarily involved in promoting gender equality, or media reform, or addressing poverty or human rights. Yet all these issues are intimately connected and activists need to combine their strength to create a positive agenda that includes corporate reform and can overcome the forces of a culture of war. A membership organization could support a small central office outside the Beltway that could support a web site, organize small meetings among critical players, and promote unified focused actions. It could consider the linkages among the bases for a culture of peace, focus on an analysis of the systemic problems and the barriers that prevent change and seek to develop a consensus on prioritizing solutions. Although such an organization would be centralized, it could be based on partnerships rather than hierarchy, and its leadership could be in touch with local needs and the voices of the marginalized. Rather than having elites working together to preserve their individual interests it could encourage a community of group leaders who cooperate because they cared about each other’s needs. Such a center could focus on the broad positive agenda needed for a culture of peace and attempt to weave a web of influences that bridged the gaps between liberals and conservatives. It could connect persons in different positions and organizations and foster the communitarian relationships needed for nonviolent actions. It could provide a point of identification for those committed to global personhood.

xvii. These tensions and the need for organization is discussed more fully in de Rivera, J. (2012). Overcoming psychological obstacles within the movement towards a non-killing world. In D. J. Christie & J.E. Pim, (Eds.) Nonkilling Psychology. Honolulu: Center for Global Nonkilling. (pp. 213-244)

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