UNESCO and a Culture of Peace: Promoting a Global Movement
Monograph to go on sale soon at UNESCO's Bookstore.
The 20th century revolutions in communications, transport, medicine, agriculture and other fields stand as proof of humanities' ingenuity in confronting and overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges. But the rapid acceleration of material progress for some stands in increasingly stark contrast to the environmental degradation, poverty, overpopulation, massive forced migration, intolerance and the increasingly unequal distribution of global resources endured by the majority of humankind.
At the threshhold of the new millenium, millions of people in the developing and developed world are faced daily with the promise of freedom from fear and want and the reality of deprivation, disease, illiteracy and insecurity. At the furthest extreme, millions of people are caught in continuing cycles of violence and war, which destroy lives and livelihoods and paralyze human development.
Contemporary wars are fought more often within than between states and 90 per cent of casualties are civilian.They are often sustained by the manipulation of ethnic and other tensions among people whose livelihoods and identities are under threat. They are further fuelled by a largely unregulated arms trade and by the absence or weakness of legitimate institutions to manage or transform conflict. As well as the physical and psycholological devastation inflicted disproportionately on children, women, and the elderly, contemporary warfare has caused incalculable material and environmental destruction, as well as unprecedented flows of internally displaced persons and refugees.
In light of the human suffering caused by war and our broad experience of peaceful and constructive change, it is now recognized that we can and must transform the values, attitudes and behaviours of societies from cultures of war to a new and evolving culture of peace, the subject of this monograph. Peace, once defined as the absence of war, has come to be seen as a much broader and more dynamic process. It includes non-violent relations between states, but also non-violent and co-operative relationships between individuals within states, between social groups, between states and their citizens and between humans and their physical environment.
The goal of a culture of peace is a world in which the rich diversity of cultures is cause for appreciation and co-operation. There is already mounting evidence of initiatives reflecting such positive diversity at all levels, from the local to the international. There is also a growing belief that the culture of war, which has characterized the dominant civilizations of the past, can now be replaced by a culture of peace. In this emerging culture, the multiple challenges related to war are addressed by complex and multi-dimensional responses which engage local, regional and international actors.
As humans we have the capacity to transform threat and difficulty into challenge, cooperation and growth. Just as we have met threats at the local and national level with conerted mobilization, we now have the challenge and potential to meet threats through global mobilization. Signs of an effective, multi-level co-operation are emerging. With the end of the Cold War, the threat of world war and nuclear holocaust has receded, revealing the potential for a massive transfer of human and economic resources from military to civilian use. While often weak, the vast majority of states are now independent, while between two-thirds and three-quarters of the world's people are also living under relatively pluralistic and democratic regimes. The United Nations is more active for peace than ever before, and regional organisations are also taking on new responsibilities.
Underpinning these higher level processes, civil society is being mobilised through tens of thousands of non-governmental organisations, including well-established movements for disarmament, equitable and sustainable development, the environment and the rights of women and indigenous peoples. A common theme runs through these social movements -- that all people are interdependent and that universal rights to a peaceful and fruitful existence must be respected for current and future generations and for all life on our planet. The old way of looking at the world, seeing others as enemies or potential enemies and diverting resources to armaments and military defence, are now perceived as obstacles to the international co-operation that is required.
The abundance of peace-related social and institutional initiatives -- intergovernmental, governmental and non-governmental -- indicate that there is a role in the process for every member of the family of humanity to join with others in its planning and implementation.
Because positive social transformation requires the acquisition of certain values, attitudes and behaviours, it is a task for teachers and opinion-makers as much as for political leaders. Therefore, it is appropriate that UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is taking the lead in promoting a culture of peace. This is today's expression of the original purpose of the organisation -- "to construct the defences of peace in the minds of men."
Since UNESCO launched its Culture of Peace Programme in Feburary 1994, it has emerged as a means of linking together the various movements for a peaceful future. It is hoped that this monograph will contribute to this process.
Firstly, we look at the concept of a culture of peace, its context, content and history. We then examine the Culture of Peace Programme, which is given a high priority in UNESCO's medium-term strategy, acting as a catalyst for key activities and a locus for the exchange of ideas. Thirdly, we consider how UNESCO as an organisation has adopted the culture of peace as the theme of a new transdisciplinary project in which CPP is joined by the various sectors of the organization, engaging their respective competencies in education, science, culture and communication. Fourthly, we describe the National Culture of Peace Programmes of El Salvador, Mozambique and Burundi, in which UNESCO is collaborating with government and civil society to help transform a culture of war through a range of peace-building practices and a continuing process of participation, dialogue, and co-operation. Recognising that the construction of a culture of peace is perhaps the most urgent task of the international community, we will then consider the roles in this process of United Nations specialised agencies, of other intergovernmental organizations, and of individual national governments. Finally, we will consider the work of a few of the tens of thousands of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which are the principle point of access for the involvement in peace building of millions of ordinary people.
By limiting our focus to these institutional structures, we have not given as much attention to the actions of other sectors of societies which are contributing in a wide variety of ways to a culture of peace. Educational systems, both formal and non-formal, the media, arts, science, religion, various professions and the family are all actively involved. They will be referred to frequently in the following pages as essential components of the emerging culture of peace.