World peace, or peace on Earth, is the concept of an ideal state of happiness, freedom and peace within and among all people and nations on earth. This idea of world non-violence is one motivation for people and nations to willingly cooperate, either voluntarily or by virtue of a system of governance that prevents warfare. Different cultures, religions, philosophies and organisations have varying concepts on how such a state would come about.
Various religious and secular organisations have the stated aim of achieving world peace through addressing human rights, technology, education, engineering, medicine or diplomacy used as an end to all forms of fighting.
Since 1945, the UN and the 5 permanent members of its Security Council – US, Russia, China, France, UK – have operated under the aim to resolve conflicts without war or declarations of war.
The Real Facts
The US is the world’s largest arms dealer and accounts for 36% of total global defense spending.
10 countries are responsible for the vast majority of all major arms exports, accounting for 90% of global sales. The global trade of heavy weapons systems has now reached its highest level since the end of the Cold War in 1991. The world’s 6 major arms exporters are the US, Russia, Germany, France, China and UK. Of these 6 countries, the top 5 account for 74% of the total volume of exports.
The US has taken a firm lead as the major arms exporter globally. Overall, the volume of international transfers of major conventional weapons grew by 16% between 2005–2009 and 2010–14. The volume of US exports of major weapons rose by 23% between 2005–2009 and 2010–14. The US share of the volume of international arms exports was 31% in 2010–14, compared with 27% for Russia. Russian exports of major weapons increased by 37% between 2005–2009 and 2010–14. During the same period, Chinese exports of major arms increased by 143%, making it the third largest supplier in 2010–14, however still significantly behind the US and Russia.
Global defense spending has increased for the first time since 2011. In total, countries around the world splurged $1.686 trillion on arms in 2016, a 0.4% increase on 2015. The US remained at the top of the military spending league last year with $611 billion. That’s 36% of the global total and over three times the amount spent by second-placed China. Russia upped its outlay 5.9% to $69.2 billion, third overall. Saudi Arabia was the world’s third largest military spender in 2015.
In 2014, the Gross World Product (GWP) totalled approximately $107.5 trillion in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), and around $78.28 trillion in nominal terms. The per capita PPP GWP in 2014 was approximately US$16,100.
$1.686 trillion is spent on arms of a total $107.5 trillion GWP; that is only 16% to kill and defend.
Many theories as to how world peace could be achieved have been proposed.
Several of these are listed below.
Peace through strength
The term is traced back to the Roman Emperor Hadrian (reigned AD 117 – 138) but the concept is as old as the recorded history. The Egyptian god Ptah says that Ramses II’s (1279–1213 BC) “strength” causes every country “to crave peace”:
I have set for thee the might, victory and strength of thy mighty sword in every land … I assign them to thy mighty sword … I have thy terror in every heart … I have set thy fear in every country, thy fear encircles the mountains, and the chiefs tremble at the mention of thee…; they come to thee, crying out together, to crave peace from thee.
In 1943, at the peak of World War II, the founder of the Paneuropean Union, Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi, argued that after the War the United States is bound to take “command of the skies” to ensure the lasting world peace:
But the inauguration of such a glorious century of peace demands from us abandonment of old conceptions of peace. The new Angel of Peace must no longer be pictured as a charming but helpless lady with an olive branch in her hand, but like the Goddess of Justice with a balance in her left and a sword in her right; or like the Archangel Michael, with a fiery sword and wings of steel, fighting the devil to restore and protect the peace of heaven.
In fact, near the entrance to the headquarters of the SAC at Offutt Air Base stands a large sign with a SAC emblem and its motto: “Peace is our profession.” The motto “was a staggering paradox that was also completely accurate.” One SAC Bomber—Convair B-36—is called Peacemaker and one inter-continental missile-LGM-118-Peacekeeper.
In 2016, former US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter envisaged that the re-balance to the Asia-Pacific will make the region “peaceful” through “strength”:
You, and your fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines will solidify the rebalance, you will make this network work, and you will help the Asia-Pacific … realize a principled and peaceful and prosperous future. And play the role only America can play … You’ll do so with strength.
Associated with peace through strength are concepts of preponderance of power (as opposed to balance of power), hegemonic stability theory, unipolar stability, and imperial peace (such as Pax Romana, Pax Britannica, or Pax Americana).
Various political ideologies
World peace is sometimes claimed to be the result of a certain political ideology. Leon Trotsky, a Marxist theorist, assumed that a proletariat world revolution would lead to world peace.
Democratic peace theory
Proponents of the controversial democratic peace theory claim that strong empirical evidence exists that democracies never or rarely wage war against each other.
There are, however, several wars between democracies that have taken place, historically.
Capitalism peace theory
In her essay “The Roots of War”, Ayn Rand held that the major wars of history were started by the more controlled economies of the time against the freer ones and that capitalism gave mankind the longest period of peace in history—a period during which there were no wars involving the entire civilized world—from the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815 to the outbreak of World War I in 1914, with the exceptions of the Franco-Prussian War (1870), the Spanish–American War (1898), and the American Civil War (1861–1865), which notably occurred in perhaps the most liberal economy in the world at the beginning of the industrial revolution.
Proponents of Cobdenism claim that by removing tariffs and creating international free trade wars would become impossible, because free trade prevents a nation from becoming self-sufficient, which is a requirement for long wars.
However, free trade does not prevent a nation from establishing some sort of emergency plan to become temporarily self-sufficient in case of war or that a nation could simply acquire what it needs from a different nation. A good example of this is World War I, during which both Britain and Germany became partially self-sufficient. This is particularly important because Germany had no plan for creating a war economy.
More generally, free trade—while not making wars impossible—can make wars, and restrictions on trade caused by wars, very costly for international companies with production, research, and sales in many different nations. Thus, a powerful lobby—unless there are only national companies—will argue against wars.
Mutual assured destruction
Mutual assured destruction is a doctrine of military strategy in which a full-scale use of nuclear weapons by two opposing sides would effectively result in the destruction of both belligerents. Proponents of the policy of mutual assured destruction during the Cold War attributed this to the increase in the lethality of war to the point where it no longer offers the possibility of a net gain for either side, thereby making wars pointless.
United Nations Charter and International law
After World War II, the United Nations was established by the United Nations Charter to “save successive generations from the scourge of war which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind” (Preamble). The Preamble to the United Nations Charter also aims to further the adoption of fundamental human rights, to respect obligations to sources of international law as well as to unite the strength of independent countries in order to maintain international peace and security. All treaties on international human rights law make reference to or consider “the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and “peace in the world”.
Gordon B. Hinckley saw a trend in national politics by which city-states and nation-states have unified and suggests that the international arena will eventually follow suit. Many countries such as China, Italy, the United States, Australia, Germany, India and Britain have unified into single nation-states with others like the European Union following suit, suggesting that further globalization will bring about a world state.
Isolationism and non-interventionism
Proponents of isolationism and non-interventionism claim that a world made up of many nations can peacefully coexist as long as they each establish a stronger focus on domestic affairs and do not try to impose their will on other nations.
Non-interventionism should not be confused with isolationism. Isolationism, like non-interventionism, advises avoiding interference into other nation’s internal affairs but also emphasizes protectionism and restriction of international trade and travel. Non-interventionism, on the other hand, advocates combining free trade (like Cobdenism) with political and military non-interference.
Nations like Japan are perhaps the best known for establishing isolationist policies in the past. The Japanese Shogun Tokugawa initiated the Edo Period, an isolationist period where Japan cut itself off from the world as a whole.
World peace has been depicted as a consequence of local, self-determined behaviors that inhibit the institutionalization of power and ensuing violence. The solution is not so much based on an agreed agenda, or an investment in higher authority whether divine or political, but rather a self-organized network of mutually supportive mechanisms, resulting in a viable politico-economic social fabric. The principal technique for inducing convergence is thought experiment, namely backcasting, enabling anyone to participate no matter what cultural background, religious doctrine, political affiliation or age demographic. Similar collaborative mechanisms are emerging from the Internet around open-source projects, including Wikipedia, and the evolution of other social media.
Economic norms theory
Economic norms theory links economic conditions with institutions of governance and conflict, distinguishing personal clientelist economies from impersonal market-oriented ones, identifying the latter with permanent peace within and between nations.
Through most of human history societies have been based on personal relations: individuals in groups know each other and exchange favors. Today in most lower-income societies hierarchies of groups distribute wealth based on personal relationships among group leaders, a process often linked with clientelism and corruption. Michael Mousseau argues that in this kind of socio-economy conflict is always present, latent or overt, because individuals depend on their groups for physical and economic security and are thus loyal to their groups rather than their states, and because groups are in a constant state of conflict over access to state coffers. Through processes of bounded rationality, people are conditioned towards strong in-group identities and are easily swayed to fear outsiders, psychological predispositions that make possible sectarian violence, genocide, and terrorism.
Market-oriented socio-economies are integrated not with personal ties but the impersonal force of the market where most individuals are economically dependent on trusting strangers in contracts enforced by the state. This creates loyalty to a state that enforces the rule of law and contracts impartially and reliably and provides equal protection in the freedom to contract – that is, liberal democracy. Wars cannot happen within or between nations with market-integrated economies because war requires the harming of others, and in these kinds of economies everyone is always economically better off when others in the market are also better off, not worse off. Rather than fight, citizens in market-oriented socio-economies care deeply about everyone’s rights and welfare, so they demand economic growth at home and economic cooperation and human rights abroad. In fact, nations with market-oriented socio-economies tend to agree on global issues and not a single fatality has occurred in any dispute between them.
Economic norms theory should not be confused with classical liberal theory. The latter assumes that markets are natural and that freer markets promote wealth. In contrast, Economic norms theory shows how market-contracting is a learned norm, and state spending, regulation, and redistribution are necessary to ensure that almost everyone can participate in the “social market” economy, which is in everyone’s interests. One proposed mechanism for world peace involves consumer purchasing of renewable and equitable local food and power sources involving artificial photosynthesis ushering in a period of social and ecological harmony known as the Sustainocene.
International Day of Peace
The International Day of Peace, sometimes unofficially known as World Peace Day, is observed annually on 21 September. It is dedicated to peace, and specifically the absence of war and violence, such as might be occasioned by a temporary ceasefire in a combat zone for humanitarian aid access. The day was first celebrated in 1982, and is kept by many nations, political groups, military groups, and peoples. In 2013, for the first time, the Day has been dedicated to peace education, i.e. by the key preventive means to reduce war sustainably.
Many religions and religious leaders have expressed a desire for an end to violence.
The central aim of the Bahá’í Faith is the establishment of the unity of the peoples of the world. Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, stated in no uncertain terms, “the fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race …” In His writings, Bahá’u’lláh described two distinct stages of world peace – a lesser peace and a most great peace.
The lesser peace is essentially a collective security agreement between the nations of the world. In this arrangement, nations agree to protect one another by rising up against an aggressor nation, should it seek the usurpation of territory or the destruction of its neighbors. The lesser peace is limited in scope and is concerned with the establishment of basic order and the universal recognition of national borders and the sovereignty of nations. Bahá’ís believe that the lesser peace is taking place largely through the operation of the Divine Will, and that Bahá’í influence on the process is relatively minor.
The most great peace is the eventual end goal of the lesser peace and is envisioned as a time of spiritual and social unity – a time when the peoples of the world genuinely identify with and care for one another, rather than simply tolerating one other’s existence. The Bahá’ís view this process as taking place largely as a result of the spread of Bahá’í teachings, principles and practices throughout the world. The larger world peace process and its foundational elements are addressed in the document The Promise of World Peace, written by the Universal House of Justice.
Many Buddhists believe that world peace can only be achieved if we first establish peace within our minds. The idea is that anger and other negative states of mind are the cause of wars and fighting. Buddhists believe people can live in peace and harmony only if we abandon negative emotions such as anger in our minds and cultivate positive emotions such as love and compassion. As with all Dharmic religions (Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism), ahimsa (avoidance of violence) is a central concept.
Peace pagodas are monuments that are built to symbolize and inspire world peace and have been central to the peace movement throughout the years. These are typically of Buddhist origin, being built by the Japanese Buddhist organisation Nipponzan Myohoji. They exist around the world in cities such as London, Vienna, New Delhi, Tokyo and Lumbini.
The basic Christian ideal specifies that peace can only come by the Word and love of God, which is perfectly demonstrated in the life of Christ:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”— John 14:27
As christologically interpreted from Isaiah 2, whereupon the “Word of the Lord” is established on the earth, the material human-political result will be ‘nation not taking up sword against nation; nor will they train for war anymore’. Christian world peace necessitates the living of a proactive life replete with all good works in direct light of the Word of God. The details of such a life can be observed in the Gospels, especially the historically renowned Sermon on the Mount, where forgiving those who do wrong things against oneself is advocated among other pious precepts.
However, not all Christians expect a lasting world peace on this earth:
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”— Matt 10:34–36
Many Christians believe that world peace is expected to be manifest upon the “new earth” that is promised in Christian scripture such as Revelation 21.
The Roman Catholic religious conception of “Consecration of Russia”, related to the Church’s high-priority Fátima Marian apparitions, promises world peace as a result of this process being fulfilled.
Traditionally, Hinduism has adopted an ancient Sanskrit phrase Vasudha eka kutumbakam, which translates as “The world is one family.” The essence of this concept is the observation that only base minds see dichotomies and divisions. The more we seek wisdom, the more we become inclusive and free our internal spirit from worldly illusions or Maya. World peace is hence only achieved through internal means—by liberating ourselves from artificial boundaries that separate us all. As with all Dharmic religions (Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism), ahimsa (avoidance of violence) is a central concept.
According to Islamic eschatology, the whole world will be united under the leadership of prophet Isa in his second coming. At that time love, justice and peace will be so abundant that the world will be in likeness of paradise.
The concept of Tikkun olam (Repairing the World) is central to modern Rabbinic Judaism. Tikkun olam is accomplished through various means, such as ritualistically performing God’s commandments, charity and social justice, as well as through example persuading the rest of the world to behave morally. According to some views, Tikkun Olam would result in the beginning of the Messianic Age. It has been said that in every generation, a person is born with the potential to be the spiritual Messiah. If the time is right for the Messianic Age within that person’s lifetime, then that person will be the mashiach. But if that person dies before he completes the mission of the Messiah, then that person is not the Messiah (Mashiach).
Specifically, in Jewish messianism it is considered that at some future time a Messiah (literally “a King appointed by God”) will rise up to bring all Jews back to the Land of Israel, followed by everlasting global peace and prosperity. This idea originates from passages in the Written Bible and the Oral Bible.
And he shall judge between the nations and reprove many peoples, and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift the sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.— Isaiah 2:4
Compassion for all life, human and non-human, is central to Jainism.They have adopted the wordings of Lord Mahvira Jiyo aur Jeeno Do Human life is valued as a unique, rare opportunity to reach enlightenment; to kill any person, no matter what crime he may have committed, is considered unimaginably abhorrent. It is a religion that requires monks and laity, from all its sects and traditions, to be vegetarian. Some Indian regions, such as Gujarat, have been strongly influenced by Jains and often the majority of the local Hindus of every denomination have also become vegetarian. Famous quote on world peace as per Jainism by a 19th-century Indian legend, Virchand Gandhi: “May peace rule the universe; may peace rule in kingdoms and empires; may peace rule in states and in the lands of the potentates; may peace rule in the house of friends and may peace also rule in the house of enemies.” As with all Dharmic religions (Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism), ahimsa (avoidance of violence) is a central concept.
Peace comes from God. Meditation, the means of communicating with God, is unfruitful without the noble character of a devotee, there can be no worship without performing good deeds. Guru Nanak stressed now kirat karō: that a Sikh should balance work, worship, and charity, and should defend the rights of all creatures, and in particular, fellow human beings. They are encouraged to have a chaṛdī kalā, or optimistic – resilience, view of life. Sikh teachings also stress the concept of sharing—vaṇḍ chakkō—through the distribution of free food at Sikh gurdwaras (laṅgar), giving charitable donations, and working for the good of the community and others (sēvā). Sikhs believe that no matter what race, sex, or religion one is, all are equal in God’s eyes. Men and women are equal and share the same rights, and women can lead in prayers. As with all Dharmic religions (Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism), ahimsa (avoidance of violence) is a central concept.
A report in June 2015 on the Global Peace Index highlighted that the impact of violence on the global economy reached US$14.3 trillion. The report also found that the economic cost of violence is 13.4% of world GDP, equal to the total economic output of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain and the UK combined.