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Shvoong Home>Books>Searching for Peace in Asia Pacific: An Overview of Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Activities Review

Searching for Peace in Asia Pacific: An Overview of Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Activities

Article Review   by:jtnemsingh     Original Authors: Annelies Heijmans; Nicola Simmonds and Hans van de Veen
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Searching for Peace in Asia Pacific is a testament to the relentless effort to secure peace in the AsiaPacific. The book redefines the concept of security, reemphasizes the role ofboth state and nonstate actors in peacebuilding, and rewrites the accounts ofwars and conflicts to capture the lived experiences of the affected societies.The book is a product of the efforts of various peoples who are experts intheir fields and are directly involved in making peace work within a diverseregion comprised of the Northeast, Southeast and Pacific Asia. By linkingtheory and praxis of conflict prevention, management, and resolution, it aimsto provide essential information about different actors in conflict preventionand transformation in the Asia Pacific region, provide insights into variousapproaches to conflict prevention and peacebuilding, and provide space for thevoices of local civil-society organizations. The overarching goal is to learnfrom the experiences of both successful and failed attempts in peacebuildingwhile reflecting on the different implications of the changes and processesoccurring in multiple layers of institutional structures. The strength of the book is its ability to discuss security issueswithout losing sight of its goal, which is to combine the theoretical frameworkin explaining the presence or absence of peace and the experiences of thepeoples in the conflict zones. It is anexposition of the processes being undertaken to prevent conflicts fromexploding and turning into full-scale wars. By looking at the dynamics oftracks I, II, and III, Searching forPeace enabled the readers to have a grasp of what really is happening on the ground: the processes, the debates, andthe normative principles that guide the participants to further pursuenon-violent means of settling disputes. This is further complemented by thebroad scope and comprehensive survey of the Asian experiences of conflictscovering inter-state (territorial) conflicts in South China Sea, intra-statewars in Mindanao, Maluku, and Aceh, and various interventions such as New Zealand in Bougainville and Australia in East Timor.It has successfully illustrated the need to understand the context of emergingconflicts and how the proposed solutions will likely impact to social relationsof these peoples. Hence, this very reader-friendly material should be givencredit to the contributors who had the local experiences in the conflict zonesand were able to share information and updates on the continuities anddiscontinuities of the peace process. The various authors accede to the premise that the world today ismore porous than ever. The geopolitical landscape affects the peace process. Forinstance, the permeability of borders in Asia makes transfer of small arms andlight weapons quite easy; this is complemented by the fact that export of armsis an industry in itself in the First World (except Japan which has notdeveloped a military complex due to the post-World War II constraints).
Thisaccessibility to arms is backed up by political ideologies supportinginsurgencies and seccessionism. Thus, while globalization providesopportunities for collective action, the process is intrinsically destructiveas violence becomes globalized and localized at the same time. Equally fearsomeis the waning support for multilateral security frameworks. This is due to theineffective handling of conflicts because political interests get on the way ofdelivering services to the people. The clearest example is how the ASEANRegional Forum backed up by United Statesallowed Chinaand other Asian countries to justify curtailment of civil liberties andstate-sponsored attacks against opposition groups for the sake of gettingsupport for the War on Terror campaign. Generally, Asia Pacific tends to have apreference toward an authoritarian state that maintains political order withinsociety at the expense of the growth of democratizing institutions (e.g. media,civil society and political parties). The book confronts scholars to look forways to address these challenges. It advocates for a participatory framework indevelopment and peacebuilding using multitrack, multi-actor approaches,preventing violence through security sector reform, promoting disarmament anddemobilization through civil society and intergovernmental institutions,enhancing reconciliation efforts by creating truth commissions and bringingback indigenous practices of peacemaking.Overall, its contribution to the literature of security and peace isits brave attempt to move beyond the restrictions of frameworks. When securityis defined traditionally, i.e. security in terms of military power and sheerbalance of power politics, analysis on civil wars and conflicts is severelylimited to rational calculations of state actors with little room for NGOs andthe local communities themselves to speak of the process of peacebuilding.Although it uses the lens of realism in understanding state interaction, it wasnot constrained by this limitation because it moves beyond the traditionaldefinition to encompass human security—securitythat emphasizes the freedom of the individual from fear and repression and theneed to open space for participation and for “voices from below” to be heard.What the book asks is for activists, scholars, and policy practitioners todemocratize peacebuilding precisely because this is the only way that peace canbe genuine and sustainable.
Published: January 21, 2007   
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