Putting principles into practice
Page 36 

Photo by CAIN

Achieving peace from conflict depends on building respect and working together to forge agreement and new institutions. It can be done.

We are living through one of the greatest revolutions in the history of the world – the technological and telecommunications revolution. As a result, the world is a much smaller place and people are much closer together. And this makes our challenge even greater to ensure that this century will be one in which we no longer have wars or conflicts. Given the smaller world, war in any part of it can have a serious effect on us all, wherever we live. The present situation in the Middle East is a clear example of this. For that reason, we need a clear philosophy of peace that we can send to areas of conflict and have put into practice.

All conflict is about the same thing: difference, whether in religion, nationality or race. The answer is to make clear that difference is an accident of birth. None of us chose to be born into any nationality, religion or race, and so difference should never be the source of hatred and conflict. Instead, it should be a source of respect. Respect for difference is the real principle of peace.

Secondly, it is necessary to point out that where there are areas of conflict, it is people who are divided, not territory. Without people, any territory, in Ireland or in the Middle East, is just a jungle. Violence has no role to play in resolving the problem. It only deepens divisions and makes the problem more difficult to solve. The only way to solve such problems is to reach agreement and the only means of doing so is direct dialogue.

The agenda for the dialogue should obviously cover the areas of disagreement, and naturally should take place in a totally peaceful atmosphere with agreement as the objective. In addition, it should be made clear in advance that when agreement is reached, the final decision should be with the people on the different sides: in other words, a referendum on the agreement on all sides. That approach would strengthen the peace process enormously and create strong support for it. Indeed, it is this approach that has been very successful in Northern Ireland.

Leaders in areas of conflict should do as we did in Northern Ireland and study the principles at the heart of the European Union. The EU is the best example of conflict resolution in the history of the world. The first half of the century we have just left was the worst in the history of the world – two world wars and more than 100 million human beings slaughtered. Who, in the ruins of that calamity, could have forecast that in the second half of the century those same peoples would be together in a united Europe? Yet it happened, and how that was done should be studied by peoples in all areas of conflict in the world. We did so in Northern Ireland and the three principles at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which set the basis of today’s peace, are the same three principles at the heart of the EU.

The first principle is total respect for difference. There should be no victory for any side. The second is the creation of institutions that respect difference. In Europe we have a Council of Ministers, a European Commission and a European Parliament, all drawn from all countries. In Northern Ireland, we have an Assembly elected by proportional representation, so that all sections of the people are fully represented and an Executive elected by the Assembly, also by proportional representation, so that all parties are in government.

The third principle, which is the most important, is that the representatives of the peoples of Europe work together in their common interests, largely socio-economic, spilling sweat rather than blood. As a result, the barriers of centuries of distrust have been broken down. The new Europe evolved and continues to evolve. That is what is happening now in Northern Ireland. The representatives of all sections of our people are working together on our common interests, again largely socio-economic. We look forward to the barriers of centuries of distrust breaking down and the new Ireland evolving, based on agreement and respect for difference.

What I am saying very simply is that people in areas of conflict should study these principles very carefully. We hope others can profit from our experience, and stand ready to provide assistance where it would be useful.

©OECD Observer No 231/232 May 2002

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q1 2019 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% May 2019 annual
Trade: +0.4% exp, -1.2% imp, Q1 2019
Unemployment: 5.2% July 2019
Last update: 8 July 2019

OECD Observer Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Subscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To order your own paper editions,email

Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • MCM logo
  • The following communiqué and Chair’s statement were issued at the close of the OECD Council Meeting at Ministerial level, this year presided by the Slovak Republic.
  • Food production will suffer some of the most immediate and brutal effects of climate change, with some regions of the world suffering far more than others. Only through unhindered global trade can we ensure that high-quality, nutritious food reaches those who need it most, Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD, and José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, write in their latest Project Syndicate article. Read the article here.
  • Globalisation will continue and get stronger, and how to harness it is the great challenge, says OECD Secretary-General Gurría on Bloomberg TV. Watch the interview here.
  • OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría with UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, in New York City.
  • The new OECD Observer Crossword, with Myles Mellor. Try it online!
  • Listen to the "Robots are coming for our jobs" episode of The Guardian's "Chips with Everything podcast", in which The Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, and Jeremy Wyatt, a professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Birmingham, and Jordan Erica Webber, freelance journalist, discuss the findings of the new OECD report "Automation, skills use and training". Listen here.
  • Do we really know the difference between right and wrong? Alison Taylor of BSR and Susan Hawley of Corruption Watch tell us why it matters to play by the rules. Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview here.
  • Has public decision-making been hijacked by a privileged few? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Stav Shaffir, MK (Zionist Union) Chair of the Knesset Committee on Transparency here.
  • Can a nudge help us make more ethical decisions? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Saugatto Datta, managing director at ideas42 here.
  • The fight against tax evasion is gaining further momentum as Barbados, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Malaysia, Panama and Tunisia signed the BEPS Multilateral Convention on 24 January, bringing the total number of signatories to 78. The Convention strengthens existing tax treaties and reduces opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2019