Negative Peace: "Economics and Power"

Goal: The purpose of this lesson is to examine negative and positive peace through a hands on exercise. The class will work to solve a specific set of problems present in modern society. The goal for the instructor is to provide circumstances that could potentially create conflict within or between groups. These conflicts would make it necessary to set up institutions related to the concepts of negative peace. Conversely, participants may peacefully work through these obstacles and create a mock society that would be desirable for the concept positive peace.

Objectives: Students will be able to:

  • Understand economics, politics, and potential conflict from a perspective of experience.
  • Participate in an activity that illustrates economics and political cooperation/conflict. This activity will simulate regions with different natural, industrial, and human resources.
  • Examine how trade, negotiation, availability of resources, and strength determines power structures in an international system.
  • negotiate ways to provide for their region under particular set of circumstances; specifically experiencing negative and positive peace structures.
  • Understand how regulation, sanctions, and political influence can create situations of negative peace.
  • follow the rules set forth in the beginning stages of the activity, and examine potential conflicts if such barriers to trade are broken.
  • Begin to understand how a world could be created using positive peace with a strong history of a negative peace structure.
  • explain how they experienced negative peace in the simulation and explain what elements would have to be added or eliminated make a culture of positive peace work; inside and outside of the simulation.

Materials: Participants will be broken up into groups of four or more, each representing a region. After assigned, each group will be given an envelope. Each of the envelopes will have materials within them that represent various capital and natural resources of each region. Items in the envelopes will be assigned and distributed in a manner that is unequal to meet the purposes of the simulation. For example:

Envelope One:

  • Two scissors, one ruler, twenty paper clips, two pencils, two 4’’ squares of pink paper and two 4’’ squares of white paper.

Envelope Two:

  • Scissors, glue, and sheets of paper – two of each color: blue, white, and yellow

Envelope Three:

  • Two felt pens and sheets of paper – two of each color: green, white, and yellow

Envelope Four:

  • Sheets of paper – one of each color: green, yellow, blue, pink, and gold

Time & Structure

  • Minute Introduction
  • 25 Minute Simulation
  • 10 Discussion
  • 5 Minute Closure
  • Tables Pushed Together
  • Participants Facing Each Other
  • Groups of 4 to 6



Each group has the position of providing certain needs and wants in their region. These needs and wants are met by completing the tasks listed below. Participants may use only the supplies given by the instructor.

  1. Food: Make four strips of yellow paper each three inches by one inch
  2. Clothing: Make a green “t” four inches high
  3. Shelter: Make a white square two inches and attach a yellow triangle to one side of the square.
  4. Industry: Make a four link paper chain, each of a different color
  5. Education: Make a four page book out of two different colors.


Trading can take place and coalitions can be made, but only with a formal agreement intact and only with one item or service being traded at a time; like competing regions,  the groups cannot physically move and combine with each other. Only one representative can move from the group to make trade negotiations, evaluate the economic condition of the other groups, or offer their services. The leader or leaders of the group can offer as much or limit the amount of resources it will provide. Trading can be in the form of materials or labor.  The countries only have twenty-five minutes to complete their tasks. An independent inspector (The Instructor) will be observing the class to ensure that all rules are being followed and enforce any sanctions to those countries that break the law.


After the activity has been completed, participants will share the advantages and disadvantages they each possessed. They should be able to evaluate what type of region they represented and assess what types of conflict were or could have been present.

Participants should able to understand how power emerges out of strong economic systems, and evaluate the inevitability of negative peace structures in a system of powerful and weak. Discussion should be based on the elements of regional power, leadership, representation, and division of labor.

Download this lesson plan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s