News | Positive Peace - Middle East Embroiled in Conflict – Always (Or Almost)

What needs to be done to end a conflict permanently? A conference in Beirut discussed progressive solutions.


What needs to be done not only to end a conflict, but to prevent it from reigniting? A conference in Beirut discussed progressive solutions.

The Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung opened its Beirut office in May 2017. It also marked the launch of its programme on ‘Positive Peace’, which takes into view violent conflicts, their structural causes and their long aftermath. In its initial phase, this programme will be implemented in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, countries that look back on a long and profound history of violence; countries that are always embroiled in conflict, or always on the verge of being drawn into the next, explains Miriam Younes, who is one of the programme’s organisers.

The dialogue on Positive Peace is strictly critical of the widespread tendency among the social left to analyse violent conflicts primarily from a geopolitical angle and consider wars, along with the causes and approaches to conflict resolution, as moves on the global chessboard. Instead, it hones in on questions that are not settled once conflict parties have agreed to a ceasefire and that require some deeper digging in order to be resolved. Working towards Positive Peace also means analysing and supporting local progressive forces pushing for just and emancipatory relations grounded in solidarity. On what basis can we not only put an end to conflicts, but also stop them from reigniting? The question points to a second focus: the programme is also about formulating left-wing peace strategies.

This shines a spotlight on the root causes of conflicts that are not at all linked to the ‘great men on the stage of world politics’ and are not resolved by supporting one side or another. Rather, it is about seemingly small things that can have a tremendous impact: the costs of social infrastructure in Iraq, for instance, and questions including whom such an infrastructure would benefit and how it affects conflicts. It is about understanding the long history of the causes behind the conflict in Syria, which only evolved into an international proxy conflict after the uprisings began. It is also about asking how gentrification and the construction sector in Beirut have contributed to the continuing threat of new conflicts, which is why a critical walking tour of the city ties in well with a conference on ‘Social and Transformative Justice in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings – A Comparative Approach’. The Beirut office invited more than 30 experts, including representatives from Syria, East Timor, Colombia, Lebanon, Iraq, Serbia, Bosnia, Scotland, the United States and Germany, to debate questions of social justice, pinpoint the structural causes of conflicts and identify possible solutions.

The conference opened with a talk by the historian and political scientist Fawaz Traboulsi. Subsequent discussions revolved around understanding the impacts of local conflicts on transformative justice, which seeks to overcome violence and its underlying structures, and which therefore takes into critical account the role played by state institutions, economic structures and cultural aspects. Further debates focused on the ‘shrinking spaces’ that are putting civil society under increasing pressure and complicating conflict and post-conflict settings for actors working towards ‘Positive Peace’ as well as on aspects of war and post-war economy and civil conflict resolution. While the conference in Beirut was the first of its kind to be organised and hosted by the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, it certainly will not have been the last – annual instalments are already in the making.

Translation and Proofreading: Lyam Bittar and Nivene Rafaat for lingua•trans•fair