Peace-makers David Hamburg and Richard Lugar Discuss Tactics for Preventing Mass Violence

David Hamburg and Richard Lugar [AAAS/Robert Beets]

Strategies for preventing genocide, terrorism and other forms of mass violence must begin with efforts to "actively educate for peace" so that young people learn the value of cooperation and the costs of deadly conflicts, expert David A. Hamburg said during a 27 June event in the AAAS Auditorium.

Hamburg, currently a visiting scholar at AAAS who served as the association's president in 1985, was discussing his new book, Give Peace a Chance: Preventing Mass Violence, with his long-time ally in peace-keeping, former Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana).

Give Peace a Chance, which David Hamburg co-authored with his son, filmmaker Eric Hamburg, identifies six "pillars of prevention." These include, as examples, the need for education to overcome prejudice and other factors that can drive mass violence, and strategies for spotting and acting upon the early warning signs of future conflicts. Hamburg also cited the importance of supporting "indigenous democracy" in regions at risk, equitable socioeconomic development, the protection of human rights, and "restraints on highly lethal weapons."

Educating the next generation to respect and appreciate human differences is particularly critical, Hamburg said. "The problems of prejudice, ethnocentrism, hatred, and violence are still low on the priority list of the world's activities in education and science, in the media, in the business community, in places of worship, and in governments," his book notes. "Scientists and educators, through their most dynamic organizations, can use their deep knowledge and strong influence to enhance research and education on pro-social child and youth development, on ways to minimize the growth of prejudice and ethnocentrism, and on acquiring skills of early conflict resolution."

Early signs of escalating conflicts can become opportunities to intervene before blood flows, Hamburg pointed out. Humanitarian assistance to countries in trouble can help ease tensions by providing much-needed health care as well as support for rebuilding infrastructure and promoting economic development.

Lugar, the longest serving member of Congress in Indiana history, said in his remarks at AAAS that providing such proactive assistance to other countries can at times provoke strong debate on Capitol Hill. In 1991, for instance, a Russian delegation requested support for a peaceful transition of power amid the dissolution of the former Soviet Union. The proposal was seen as controversial, Lugar said, and yet the United States had an interest in reducing Soviet stockpiles of weapons. Ultimately, he worked to forge a bipartisan partnership with then-Senate Armed Services Chairman Sam Nunn (D-Georgia) to decommission nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons in the former Soviet Union. The Cooperative Threat Reduction program, also known as "the Nunn-Lugar program," has resulted in the deactivation of more than 7,600 nuclear warheads that were once aimed at the United States.

Give Peace a Chance, described by Lugar as "a remarkable book," also spells out the roles that various organizations and governments can play in promoting peace. The scientific community, in particular, can play an essential role in easing tensions by encouraging scientists from different regions to cooperate in support of shared goals. "This strong wish to cooperate motivates scientists to overcome great obstacles," Hamburg wrote in his book.

Hamburg, who is President Emeritus at Carnegie Corporation of New York, is also currently the DeWitt Wallace Distinguished Scholar at Weill Cornell Medical College. Previously, he served as a professor at Stanford University and Harvard University, and he was President of the Institute of Medicine. In addition, he was a member of the U.S. Defense Policy Board and co-chair of the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict. He was a member of former President Bill Clinton's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology, and he chaired committees at the United Nations and European Union on the prevention of genocide.

Give Peace a Chance book cover Give Peace a Chance:
Preventing Mass Violence