This unique subject is built on two disciplinary traditions. Peace reserach includes the study of causes of armed violence and war, processes of conflict, and preconditions for peaceful resolution and peace-building. Development research is concerned with poverty, structural inequalities, reasons for underdevelopment, and preconditions for positive development. Peace and development research provides a unique environemnt for studying the relationship between conflict and poverty/underdevelopment—resource scarcity, structural inequalities—as well as between peace and development in positive terms.
The research profile of the discipline thus focuses on the link(s) between peace, security and development. ‘Security’ is conceptually to an increasing extent seen as a link between peace and development, since the strive for security involves the absence of direct and structural violence as well as possibilities to economic well-being. The traditional research field of peace research is constituted of insecurity as a result of violence and conflict while the problem area of development research is related to insecurity as a consequence of resource scarcity, inequalities and poverty. Of fundamental weight is the issue of sustainable development, where sustainability involves a relationship between ecological, economic and social factors.
Fundamental processes of change have implied that the study of peace/conflict/war and development has also changed. Wars are acted out in new ways in the forms of civil wars in failed states with a multitude of actors involved. Politics of identity as well as development issues have entered the problematique of war with a new force. Development is no longer an issue only for the South or the so-called developing countries, as poverty, structural inequalities and socieoconomic insecurities are evident in all parts of the world, although in different degree. Globalisation and its impact on states as actors, on political institutions and economic transations are of overall importance in this regard.
Peace and development are then in a fundamental sense related to processes of globalisation and global social development. Of particular interest for peace and development research is also how local communities are affected by global change and how local actors navigate in a global system, in relation to peace, conflict, security and development.
The scholars apply a normative and critical approach. The intention is to make research results relevant to decision-makers, policy-making bodies, non-governmental organisations, private and public actors. The normative goal is to contribute to knowledge of how wars and armed conflicts can be prevented and resolved, how long-lasting peace can be achieved, how poverty and inequalities may be reduced and economic and political development be promoted. Cooperation with the surrounding society, nationally as well as internationally, is an integral part of the activities.
In terms of methodology, the scientific research problem decides the methodological approach, implying that also in this sense, research is problem-oriented. The methodology is thus multi-dimensional, with a particular focus on field research with qualitative interviews as one main research method. Field research on conflict and poverty means conducting research on marginalised groups and communities and their relationship to structures, systems and institutions. This brings forward ethical issues. At the other end of the pole, peace and development research is concerned with systemic issues of order and disorder at the global level, and the links between macro-processes of change and local communities are under constant investigation.