Perceptions of peace and conflict
Those living in more peaceful countries tended to be more pessimistic about their future prospects for peace.
The UK topped the list of countries with more people thinking that peace and security would get worse than those that thought it would get better, followed by Brazil, the US and Hungary. By comparison, people in some of the worst conflict environments, such as Syria, Nigeria and DRC, were the most optimistic.
National responses in conflict-affected countries, however, masked sub-national variations, reflecting the reality that in many countries conflict often takes place outside capitals and major population centres.
Terrorism and criminal violence were people’s top security concerns. Violence or harassment by the state, tribal, religious and ethnic conflict as well as domestic violence ranked highly in select countries.
Why do people turn to violence?
‘A lack of jobs and ability to provide for one’s family’ ranked highest when it came to what people thought motivated others in their communities to violence.
Nine countries ranked it first and a further four ranking it second. This was followed by a sense of injustice and a need to improve one’s social status.
This suggests that a blend of political, economic and social factors drive violence, contrary to common political rhetoric that often simplifies such motivations to just one of these factors.
How do people respond to violence
Findings showed that the way people respond to violence is often very context specific.
The most common responses to violence within communities were asking local police or security forces to take action, and non-violent protests, followed by approaching local political leaders, traditional dispute resolution or the courts, violent acts in retaliation, and migration.
The findings challenged some traditional assumptions. For example, people who feel politically excluded were more likely to select migration as a response to conflict in their community. By contrast, conventional political narratives on migration tend to focus on a lack of jobs and poor border security.
What does peace look like?
The poll found universal factors that people – from the UK to Ukraine and Nigeria to the Philippines – felt represented more peaceful societies.
- The top five responses were when:
- people can resolve disputes without violence
- people have the opportunity to earn a living to support their family
- there is less crime
- people can vote in national elections
- there is less violence
A number of these factors reflect ‘positive’ peace – or factors that represent more than just the absence of violence.
How should we respond to conflict?
People fundamentally understood what it takes to get to peace.
When asked what they thought was the most effective approach to creating long-term peace:
- 10 countries ranked ‘dealing with the reasons why people fight in the first place’ top, with a further four countries ranking it second
- 9 countries ranked ‘supporting societies and communities to deal with conflict peacefully’ in their top two
These two elements constitute ‘peacebuilding’, which focuses on dealing with the root causes of conflict as well as building capacity for peaceful conflict resolution.
This outcome will be of particular interest to political leaders and senior policy-makers seeking to pursue a root causes approach to dealing with conflict.
To date, however, peacebuilding has remained a relatively underutilised tool compared to other responses to conflict, such as military intervention and humanitarian aid, both of which tend to be used responsively rather than preventatively.
The findings offer further guidance for policy- makers and funders, in that when asked where governments should spend more to promote peace, while given options such as emergency aid, military intervention and diplomacy, ‘dealing with the reasons why people fight in the first place’ ranked first in 11 of the 15 countries, followed by ‘teaching peace, tolerance and conflict resolution in schools’ ranked second overall.