In Memoriam Johan Galtung

Peace and Security
Brussels -
February 2024

We are saddened by the news that Johan Galtung, widely considered to be one of the core founders of the discipline of peace and conflict studies, passed away on 17th February 2024. Professor Galtung’s influence on generations of scholars, mediators, policy-makers and anyone grappling with questions about the root causes of conflicts and how to address them will endure and live on. 

We benefitted immensely from Professor Galtung’s insights and generous advice during the early years of the Global Governance Institute. After initial contact in 2010, Professor Galtung enthusiastically supported the plans of establishing an independent think tank in the heart of Europe that would not only focus on European approaches to peace and security, but would deliberately provide a platform for rethinking global issues from a variety of disciplinary, geographic and inter-cultural perspectives. He encouraged the founding team to create an institution that could also serve as a platform for bringing together senior scholars and practitioners with early career researchers in order to harness the drive, energy and ideas of younger generations. Leading by example,Professor Galtung would take enormous time and care to meet with students and the first group of GGI scholars on numerous occasions and pushed us to rethink a variety of assumptions. He was particularly supportive of the idea to bridge the often unnecessarily divided sub-disciplines of peace, security and strategic studies, which led to, inter alia, the creation of our Global Peace,Security and Strategic Studies (GPSSS) Summer School, and the European Peace and Security Studies network. 

In 2013,  to a packed audience of students, scholars and EU policy-makers, Johan Galtung delivered the distinguished and very personal opening lecture of the European Peace and Security Studies network, subsequently published as GGI’s ‘View from Practice’ on “The European Union Foreign Policy of my Dreams: 10 Wishes”. In the lecture and publication he provided a concise and out-of-the-box “wish list”, outlining his 10 recommendations for the future of the European Union’s foreign policy. It was a concise, yet deeply reflective and prescient insight into his thinking and the practical implications for a European Union that should play a more active and independent role, by also addressing its own short-comings, dialogue with other religions, post-colonial legacy and promote a ‘United Regions Council” within existing UN Structures. Whilst some of his views (particularly on Russia) have certainly not stood the test of time, other recommendations are still highly relevant for today’s world. As he stressed in his final conclusions “The EU has plenty of opportunities to return to the international stage once again, and with the appropriate tools and approaches it has the potential to facilitate lasting partnerships and peaceful change on a global scale. These 10 wishes require not only a change in tactics, but of deep-seated attitudes as well. All of this is feasible: with realism in the brain and idealism in the heart.”

You can read the full publication here.

In typical Galtung-style, rather than attending a celebratory high-level dinner, he preferred to stay in the lecture hall until close to midnight, discussing the implications of lectures with students and scholars deep into the night. He was the last person to leave the lecture-building, remarking close to midnight: “Nobody left? What is happening with the energy of the next generation?”

We are grateful to Johan in so many ways. He will be dearly missed.

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