A Peace Educator’s Tribute to Ruth Leger Sivard

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePrint this page
Betty Reardon, Global Campaign for Peace Education
Ruth Leger Sivard

Ruth Leger Sivard

Civil society has long recognized that while it takes a citizens’ movement to achieve a change, prescient individuals can envision and share the core ideas that inspire and energize such movements. Such was the case with Ruth Sivard. No one more vividly illustrated that war and preparation for war undermined national and individual well-being. Her seminal work on military spending has been essential to the peace through disarmament movement and is instructively relevant to the discourse on human security (see article about her work on world military and social expenditure by the International Peace Bureau).

Neither has any peace educator devised more instructive material with which to guide learners into the forms of critical thinking essential to learning our way out of the war system. The unique and powerful role that the thoroughly researched and vividly presented arms expenditures data in her series on World Military and Social Expenditures (WMSE) played in disarmament education was deservedly honored when UNESCO awarded her its Peace Education Prize. Being a member of the international jury who chose her from among many nominees as one of the two 1991 prize laureates, I had the joy of phoning the news of this highly appropriate honor. I also knew first hand of the pedagogic value of her work, having at the behest of the Rockefeller Foundation produced study guides to two of the Sivard WMSE 96reports (both guides are accessible from the digitized files of my publications in the Canaday Special Collections at the University of Toledo Library).

World Military & Social Expenditures (1996)

World Military & Social Expenditures (1996)

In this year marking the 15th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, she is to be lauded as one of the few women who undertook her ground breaking work in a the male dominated field of “national defense” within the governmental structures of the very nation-state that lead the world in military expenditures. Ruth spoke truth to power from the center of power itself. The vision and professional skill she bought to her work as an economist in the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency of the US State Department is a vivid example of the peace potential that could be unleashed in implementing the core provision of 1325, women’s participation in all matters of peace and security. Women: A World Survey, among the publications of World Priorities Press which she founded after leaving the State Department is a powerful tool for making that case and for educating about it.

Women... a world survey

Women… a world survey

Because Ruth saw her work illustrating the social and human costs of military expenditures, undertaken to inform policy makers, as a tool for citizen education on critical matters of national security, she continued to issue her reports independently after resigning from the Sate Department (see the NY Times Aug. 28 obituary). The title given to this research and publishing venture, World Priorities, was itself a learning device inviting reflection on the fundamental values that predominated in the formation of world priorities in security, development and economic and social rights. Her work anticipated by decades the concept of human security that informs the notion of security integral to 1325 and is recognized by the United Nations as essential to “[saving the human family] Sivard – Womenfrom the scourge of war…” That core purpose of the world organization was the goal that Ruth sought to educate toward in the WMSE series. I believe she might well subscribe to the feminist argument – based in large part on her work – contending that on every count of what makes for national security conceived as the security and as the well-being of a nation’s people, the ever increasing resources poured into the militarized state security system undermines rather than assures true human security.

As peace educators undertake to revitalize disarmament education, carrying forward the goals set by UNESCO’s 1980 World Congress on Disarmament Education, we will find much inspiration andpractical examples of fine teaching material in Ruth Sivard’s work. As a peace educator, I appreciate her scholarship and her talent for vivid presentation of core peace education substance; as a member of civil society, I laud her vision and tenacity; as a global citizen, I hold her up as a model of committed action, who used her professional skills, informed by a view of the world that was at once realistic and humane, to help us think about alternative uses of the world’s resources so as to bring about authentic human security. And as one of those privileged to have personal knowledge of her integrity and purpose, I honor her memory and urge others to learn from her invaluable legacy. All who seek peace are deeply indebted to Ruth Leger Sivard.

Betty A. Reardon
September 1, 2015

CONTENT DISCLAIMER: please read the Global Campaign for Peace Education's content disclaimer / policy regarding the posting and sharing of content.