Most violence is the result of unscrupulous leaders

by Robert Stewart, Director, Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace

People ask, "What causes war and violence?"  Most responses start to list many things like religion, racism, poverty, patriarchy and male tendencies, natural resources, etc.

After much study, my personal conclusion is:

"most violence is the result of unscrupulous leaders

out of greed for power and resources, 

who exploit their people into violence, 

provoking them with religion, racism, poverty, fear, etc."

As simple as it may sound, I lay the blame for all our world's ills at the feet of our leaders.  Of course this can be extended by devil's advocates to lay blame on the general public for not holding our leaders responsible and accountable, but that is secondary - our leaders are the primary perpetrators, so we should not blame the victim.  However, it is time for the public to stop the perpetrators, our leaders, from exploiting us and continuing to escalate the human cost of violence at home and abroad.  (When I refer to "leaders", I include world leaders, national leaders, political leaders, business leaders, union leaders, religious leaders, media leaders, educational leaders, philanthropic leaders, etc. - anyone in a position of significant influence.)

A reading of the following should help the sceptic more readily place blame on our leaders:

Our list of Top Ten books and videos that you "must read"!   

Problem Identification Topics - World Level

Proposals/Solutions - World Level

Time and time again, you will read that the experts point the causes and recommendations for corrective action primarily at our leaders.

"We believe no more in Bonaparte's fighting merely for the liberties of the seas than in Great Britain's fighting for the liberties of mankind.  The object is the same, to draw to themselves the power, the wealth and the resources of other nations."  Thomas Jefferson

And if you are still doubtful, note that our leaders starve the peace profession and educators of resources.  To our leaders who claim to support peace, I challenge them to "show me the money".  Huge quantities of money is spent on war, defence, jails, courts, education for war, while virtually nothing is spent on peace, peace education, conflict transformation, alternatives to violence, etc.

To change the attitudes and behaviours of our leaders is not easy.  "Leaders only change because they either see the light or feel the heat."   It will take a movement - and as the great peace leader Martin Luther King, Jr. said "it is easier to build monuments than movements".  Building on the recommendations of the U.N. Culture of Peace Program, I suggest a world-wide network of National Culture of Peace Programs.  To learn more, I invite you to read the article "IS PEACE ACHIEVABLE? WHAT IS THE FORMULA FOR PEACE?" and read the proposed "NATIONAL CULTURE OF PEACE PROGRAM FOR CANADA"..

Borrowing words from my friend Carmen Everall, we will have to "transcend political agendas" and build "the political and spiritual will" to significantly reduce the human cost of violence, in our communities and world.

If you would like to learn more about good leadership skills, the type of leadership we demand from our political, business, religious, civil society and other leaders, refer to our section on Leadership and Peace at