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Proposal to Award Johan Galtung the Freedom of Expression Foundation Honorary Award

EditorialLetterProposal to Award Johan Galtung the Freedom of Expression Foundation Honorary Award

Prof. Johan Galtung receives Doctor Honoris Causa from the Complutense University of Madrid, 27 Jan 2017

15 Dec 2023 – Letter to the Norwegian Foundation Freedom of Expression

It is no exaggeration to say that Johan Galtung started modern peace studies and contributed through tireless work for half a century to making this study a respected academic discipline in universities all over the world. His work is so extensive that it would go too far to provide a complete list of his merits. Therefore, we refer to Wikipedia and to the TRANSCEND Network website.

Here are our reasons why he is a worthy recipient of the Freedom of Expression Foundation Tribute Prize.

Much good conflict resolution work done in our time – by diplomats and negotiators of all kinds – is influenced by Galtung’s work and methods and the tradition he represents. His CV includes 14 honorary doctorates from universities in many countries, as well as over 150 books and countless scientific articles over a period of over 65 years. However, he has never received any distinction from public bodies in Norway. We believe this is partly due to the fact that some of his analyses and statements have been controversial, given the often invisible framework that is placed at any given time on public discourse and debate, so that some profound, important and meaningful contributions to the development of public discourse and debate on important issues are kept within the framework that the public considers acceptable and legitimate (also known as the “Overton window”). Galtung has weathered many public storms, but has also shown the ability and willingness to listen to the other party’s arguments and opponents’ argumentation, in an attempt to find constructive solutions and common understanding on a factual, empirical basis.

Peace Advocate

In all his work, Galtung has worked for peace. In the midst of the Cold War (around 1960) he established Europe’s first peace research institute, PRIO, which still exists in Oslo, and he later co-founded the international peace research organization IPRA. Before he received the world’s first professorship in peace research at the University of Oslo, he was engaged in discussions on nonviolence and peace brigades. Later he has lived his international life, always as a sought-after professor and lecturer on peace and conflict resolution, eventually also as a conflict resolution actor and leader of the TRANSCEND network. Universities worldwide offer studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution rooted in Galtung’s work.

He has always advocated disarmament, or the “reduction of standing armies.” Galtung has been a sharp and vocal critic of extensive and costly rearmament, imperial power and military blocs. His criticism of US military and Western perspectives has won him opponents, but also sympathizers in the West. His analyses are highly valued in academia in Western countries. Among other things, he has been a visiting professor at four universities in the United States, as well as universities in Paris, Berlin, Bern, Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires, Alicante, Ritsumeikan (Japan). He is a true cosmopolitan, who has lived and worked in many countries. In the “Mémorial” museum for WW2 in Caen, France there is a large section for the Culture of Peace, created by Galtung at the invitation of the museum.

In Norway, Galtung has participated tirelessly with lectures and inspiration at universities (including PhD courses), colleges and local peace organizations, and as a participant in public debate on war, peace and international issues.

Despite this, he has never received any public recognition in Norway. He holds 13 honorary doctorates from universities all over the world, but to our knowledge, no Norwegian university have found him worthy of such an honor. On the contrary, he has received a lot of inaccurate criticism and unfair argumentation, as well as slurs and public silence when he expressed himself controversially.

Building new knowledge about peace, conflict and violence. Broad dissemination and application of knowledge.

As an academic, Galtung is unusually broadly oriented, and in addition to peace research, he has contributed to developing model building and thinking in sociology, cultural encounters and international relations. Galtung’s knowledge and contribution to public debate is deeply academically founded, broadly grounded and applied to the analysis of conflict, war and peace. Galtung’s ideas on the prevention of violence at different levels are inspired by medicine, social research, psychology, pedagogy, mathematics and linguistics – and as the cosmopolitan he is, by world religions and what he calls “deep cultures” and their great importance for conflict lines and geopolitical fault lines in the world.

Fundamental to Galtung’s philosophy and theory is to understand conflict as something natural in human interaction, and violence as the smoke signal that signals a conflict in which all parties are about to lose. To resolve a conflict, it must be transformed, ‘transformed’ into a win-win situation by peaceful means. Being able to talk meaningfully with each other is important in this work, a skill that can make everyday life better for anyone. Galtung has created a broad and easily understandable theoretical and methodological basis for practical peace work. The research has been inspired across disciplines.

Inspired by the African term ‘Sabona’ – Zulu for ‘I see you‘ – his conflict theory is adapted for both children and adults who practice developing skills in conflict transformation. And by spreading such skills, it may also become more natural to use the skills in more or less serious national and international conflicts. Galtung points out that in conflicts we must be prepared not to find truth, but truths. The first rule in mediation is to spend time gaining knowledge about the parties to a conflict, their culture, history, despair, needs, and demands. Knowledge is a prerequisite for empathy for both parties, which in turn is a prerequisite for arousing the necessary trust before any proposal for solution is brought to the table.

Conflict Transformation as Practical Peace Work

Galtung’s ‘TRANSCEND method’, and various manuals and writings created for both a Norwegian and international audience (see transcend.org), show how his theory can be applied in practice. The UN’s Disaster management training program uses manuals written by Galtung, and the method has been tested in numerous intra- and international conflicts.

Galtung has mediated more than fifty international conflicts. Pedagogically oriented training courses are held in many places in the world, at universities and under the auspices of institutions and NGOs. Future conflict resolvers will be able to try their hand at intense group work where creativity is challenged in the work of building bridges. The challenges also don’t end because if one party ‘wins’ or a temporary compromise is reached. He has developed proposals for the transformation of social and international conflicts, ranging from racial conflicts in the United States via the Middle East to geopolitical conflicts https://www.transcend.org/tup/index.php?book=1).

Understanding of inequality and structural violence as a basis for conflict, and nuancing of the concept of violence.

The enormous poverty in large parts of the world is a source of despair and conflict, and has made development aid important in international politics. Galtung has developed useful theorizing in/for this field of research. The concept of ‘development’ cannot be considered as a singular, meaning that the Western world creates all the world in its image. Developments is a pluralistic concept. Development must take place from the individual society’s point of view and premises. Dialogue and respect for “the other” are among the means of peace.

Galtung has also created the fruitful concept of “structural violence”, where social and political institutions prevent people from having their basic needs met. “Cultural violence” can also contribute to this. War is the extreme form of “direct violence.” Structural and cultural violence can create an environment of deep insecurity that increases the risk of outright violent conflict, with ultimately war and civil war. In war, everyone loses, while knowledge of how conflicts can be transformed can lead to win-win situations and the prevention or cessation of violence.

The tireless work – through now 70 years Johan Galtung first wrote about his intention to research peace in 1951. In the more than 70 years that have passed since then, he has done great work to create meeting places, conferences and organizations. He co-founded the International Peace Research Association (IPRA), which in the 1980s received a UNESCO award for peace education. IPRA’s Peace Education Commission was founded in the early 1970s and since 2004 has published the Journal of Peace Education. Galtung participated in the initiation of the Global Campaign on Peace Education, a campaign that was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021. This is just to name a few of his peace-related accomplishments.

Galtung’s research and teaching have inspired generations of peace researchers and peace workers all over the world. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize several times. Here we would just like to mention that at the time of the nomination in 2008, the written nomination was supported by 73 MPs, lawyers at international judicial bodies, then and former professors of social sciences and heads of peace institutes. This nomination also provided several examples of successful practical conflict resolution through the TRANSCEND method. Galtung’s theories express and provide an epistemological basis for cultural and structural violence prevention.


Randi Rønning Balsvik (sign.), professor emerita (history), Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Teacher Education, UiT The Arctic University of Norway.

Magnus Haavelsrud (sign.), professor emeritus (pedagogy/sociology of education), Faculty of Social and Educational Sciences, Norwegian University of Science and Technology – NTNU

Nils Vidar Vambheim (sign.), Associate Professor (retired), Department of Teacher Education and Education and Centre for Peace Studies, UiT / The Arctic University of Norway.

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