"TOWARDS A CULTURE OF PEACE"
What does Culture of Peace mean? And how does the concept become reality? In other words, how can the ideas and ideals embraced by the term "culture of peace" be transformed into public policies and private actions that will change lives everywhere?
First and foremost, a culture of peace implies a global effort to change how people think and act in order to promote peace. It means transforming conflict; preventing potentially violent conflict and rebuilding peace and confidence among peoples emerging from war. Its mission also extends beyond war situations to schools and workplaces around the world, to parliamentary chambers and newsrooms, to households and playgrounds.
A GLOBAL MOVEMENT...
Building a culture of peace involves providing children and adults with an understanding of the principles of and respect for freedom, justice, democracy, human rights, tolerance, equality and solidarity. It implies a collective rejection of violence. It also implies the means and will to take part in the development of society. The Culture of Peace concept has taken shape as a broad socio-political movement, involving partners both in the UN system and beyond. Threats to peace take many forms, from the lack of respect for human rights, justice and democracy to poverty and ignorance. The Culture of Peace is a response to all such threats and seeks solutions that must come from within a society, not imposed from outside.
Implementing solutions should involve women and men at all levels of society working together on a wide cross-section of activities. Cooperation between countries in these areas can provide the stability and support necessary for lasting results. In this way, efforts to establish a culture of peace extend beyond individual sectors, communities, regions and countries - they become global.
Culture of Peace is not just an idea. Since its inception, it has grown from a series of post-conflict peace-building programmes in a few countries to a major theme of UNESCOs Medium-Term Strategy (1996-2001), involving a broad range of the Organizations activities. Projects are underway in many countries, including Angola; Burundi; Côte dIvoire; El Salvador; Ethiopia; Haiti; Liberia; Mali; Mozambique; the Philippines; Somalia; Russia and the former Yugoslavia. They include:
COORDINATING A CULTURE OF PEACE...
Activities under the Culture of Peace Project demand a coordinated effort by all UNESCO sectors and units, both at headquarters and in the field. The Coordinating Unit ensures that all sectors - Education, Communication, Culture and Sciences, including social sciences - participate in programmes and provide a coordinated response to the needs of Member States. In this way, it encourages and establishes wide partnerships within UNESCO and also looks beyond the Organization for other potential partners. A Networking and Information System has been designed to reflect the movement for a culture of peace. It maximises the worldwide network of actors for peace and shares its information via a web site and occasional publications.
Individual UNESCO sectors are involved in the planning of national culture of peace projects, both at headquarters and field level in all stages of the project, from identification and implementation to evaluation. Thematic partnerships may expand from the national level to include many Member States while retaining the individuality of each country programme.
UNESCO recognises the need to look beyond the structures of its own organization for other partners to support culture of peace initiatives. These include other intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental groups already working in the field. Joint projects are aimed at different groups in society, including young people; women; parliamentarians; mayors; mainstream and alternative media; religious and traditional leaders and the armed forces.
EDUCATION IS THE KEY!
UNESCO sees education as the key means to spearhead the movement towards a culture of peace. For many years, the Organization has been developing programmes to help Member States and partners introduce policies and lines of action concerning democratic citizenship and human rights into their formal and non-formal education planning. Special curricula have been developed to reinforce peace education and promote teaching for tolerance and non-violence.
The UNESCO Associated Schools Project (ASP), created in 1953, is a network of schools around the world promoting education for international understanding and tolerance among children and young people. ASP is actively involved in the Culture of Peace Project, establishing a network of pilot projects to support schools in violent neighbourhoods around the world. The aim is two-fold: to promote quality education while encouraging a culture of peace and non-violence.
LINGUAPAX, another UNESCO initiative, promotes the teaching of mother tongues and of national and foreign languages, a specific linguistic response to problems raised by the search for peace and the defence of human rights.
PROMOTING DIALOGUE BETWEEN CULTURES...
Building relationships based on tolerance and solidarity between peoples distanced by cultural differences is critical. The Culture of Peace Project aims at arming peoples not with guns, but with capacity for dialogue and understanding. It calls for justice and equality of opportunities for all, especially minorities, indigenous peoples, refugees and displaced persons.
Traditional practices which contribute to peace continue to be studied, supported and included as essential elements of peace-building and development. Artists and others working in the cultural area are encouraged to make the most of their potential influence on populations by using their talents to promote peace.
...THROUGH UNESCO PROJECTS TODAY.
Many of UNESCOs cultural activities are being geared towards the Culture of Peace Project, promoting cultural pluralism and dialogue between cultures:
"East-West Intercultural Dialogue in Central Asia" is a project which will work towards assisting the newly established International Institute for the Study of Nomadic Civilisations (Ulan Bator, Mongolia); organizing a colloquium in Kyrgyzstan next year on culture and religions in Central Asia; and helping establish an inventory of caravanserais in Central Asia.
"Roads of Faith" is a programme aimed at teaching young people in plurireligious societies how to respect each others religious backgrounds and live together in peace. This is complemented by programme actions which highlight interreligious dialogue and the contribution of religions to promoting a culture of peace.
The "Roads of Al-Andalus" project promotes intercultural dialogue through a network of centres.
PASSING ON THE PEACE MESSAGE...
The media have a powerful impact on attitudes and behaviour in society. They play a decisive role in ensuring the freedom of opinion and information; having access to clear, truthful information is key in promoting a culture of peace. It is important to support the media in reaching this objective, especially journalists working in war zones and regions of potential conflict.
Such journalists come under heavy political pressure. Independent media must fight for survival, and as they do, access to unbiased information becomes increasingly difficult for the public. UNESCO SOS MEDIA is a programme aimed at helping independent media and facilitating the exchange of information both between media working in conflict areas and with the rest of the world. For the past five years, the Organization has been running a pilot programme to assist these journalists, supplying equipment to electronic media, newsprint to the independent press, office equipment to independent news agencies and training for journalists in most of the republics and territories of the former Yugoslavia. UNESCO plays a leading role in the UNs Special Initiative on Africa, "Peace-Building, Conflict Resolution and National Reconciliation: Communications for Peace-Building".
...MEANS THE FREEDOM TO DO SO.
Further projects include the development of a media strategy, to be organized both at UN and local levels. Principally, it will provide a forum for the exchange of experiences and encourage non-violence in the media. A system whereby communities themselves can express their needs and participate in decision-making is also proposed. Promoting transparency in government activities and decisions to facilitate truthful reporting is stressed.
Supporting the establishment of conditions necessary for press freedom is crucial for paving the way towards democracy and peace. UNESCO implements projects at the request of local independent journalists, based on those which are most urgently needed. The Organization also works closely with other UN agencies and media organizations.
PROMOTING HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY...
UNESCO continues to encourage the elaboration of national strategies for both formal and non-formal education for peace-building and to raising public awareness of the need to change attitudes and behaviour to promote peace. The Organizations Division of Human Rights, Democracy and Peace assists Member States in these areas, by helping design and implement national programmes on human rights education. Working closely with the Advisory Committee on Education for Peace, Human Rights, Democracy, International Understanding and Tolerance, it encourages innovation in educational curricula, contents and improved teaching methods.
Emphasis is placed on evaluating national plans of action for human rights education. To do this, a survey is being carried out on existing national laws, policies and strategies in human rights education at university level. UNESCOs International Bureau of Education (IBE) will undertake observation missions aimed at encouraging the establishment of national agreements to develop education in this area. These could involve not only educators, but also journalists, producers of educational software, parliamentarians and other policy-makers.
...IN THE SEARCH FOR PEACE AND TOLERANCE...
A culture of peace will only succeed with mutual understanding and an open and active attitude towards diversity. With this in mind, UNESCO is preparing to consolidate regional networks for tolerance and create others; develop didactic material and educational supports which teach about tolerance and distribute them more widely; forge new partnerships in the education for tolerance area; reach more young people with programmes on tolerance and develop audio-visual programmes on tolerance with local media.
... WITH A SPECIAL FOCUS ON WOMEN.
Besides the mainstreaming of a gender perspective on the transdisciplinary project "Towards a Culture of Peace", the priorities for "Women and a Culture of Peace" are:
THE YEAR 2000:
The year 2000 will be the International Year for the Culture of Peace. Falling, as it does, at the end of a millennium and heralding the beginning of a new one, the year 2000 holds a landmark significance. The International Year for the Culture of Peace will provide a unique opportunity to highlight the Culture of Peace Project, sparking enthusiasm among countries and individuals to become involved in actively promoting lasting peace. UNESCO will play a key role in encouraging Member States and outside organizations, including members of the UN family, to launch initiatives for peace at local, national, regional and international levels. As suggested above, these could include educational programmes, cultural activities, work with the media, etc. The Organization will help coordinate such activities.
...A YEAR FOR PEACE...
UNESCO proposes that the International Year be associated with regional and international programmes underlining the priorities of peace, development and democracy. The support and collaboration of Member States in planning and carrying out activities is invaluable. UNESCO is in the process of consulting Member States regarding pilot projects aimed at mobilising widespread participation and involving intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.
A calendar of events is being drawn up. Ideas for additional projects to mark the Year could surface from related UNESCO conferences, such as the UNESCO World Conference on Science (1999), Communication (2000) and a planned review of the Beijing Platform for Action in March 1999. A series of special events is being scheduled for the 30th session of the UNESCO General Conference in 1999. The Millennium Assembly and proposed Millennium Forum of NGOs, planned for the General Assembly in 2000, will be closely associated with International Year activities.
...PEACE THAT LASTS.
To promote the concept of a durable peace, UNESCO aims to continue activities for the International Year beyond 2000. Close links are being forged with a variety of partners at international, national and local levels. The International Year of Volunteers, in 2001, will provide further opportunities to create partnerships and continue activities. In proposing the proclamation of the year 2000 as the International Year for the Culture of Peace, the Economic and Social Council has stated: "This provides the opportunity to boost efforts of the international community to establish and promote an everlasting culture of peace."