25.09.2014 - UNESCOPRESS

"Peace in the minds of men and women". Promoting a culture of peace

© DR

The concept of culture of peace was born in Yamoussoukro in 1989 at a UNESCO conference on the theme “Peace in the minds of men”. UNESCO and the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Foundation for peace research met again from 21-23 September to celebrate the 25th anniversary of that conference, and to highlight the continuing importance of a Culture of Peace. The celebrations, “Peace in the mind of men and women”, also marked International Peace Day.

This event had two objectives. The first was to measure progress made since 1989 in making the concept more widely known and practiced. The second was to explore future directions, in particular, by launching the activities of the Network of foundations and research institutions for the promotion of a culture of peace in Africa, established in September 2013 in Addis Ababa.

People are constantly exposed to armed conflicts, civil wars, the use of violence, socio-economic inequalities, social exclusion, discrimination and intolerance, and, more specifically, religious extremism. This is one of the reasons why the celebrations were inaugurated by an Ecumenical Ceremony for peace, at the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace. The Rector of the Basilica, the Imam of the Grande Mosquée of Yamoussoukro and a Pastor and Representatives of other religious communities all took part in the ceremony.

The programme on the following morning opened with tribute to Minister Joachim Bony, former Secretary-General of the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Foundation for peace research. Albert Tévoédjrè, independent arbitrator (Ombudsman) of the Benin Republic, Kouakou Gnrangbé Kouadio Jean, mayor of Yamoussoukro, and Jean-Noël Loucou, Deputy Secretary-General of the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Foundation for peace research, spoke at the event.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova delivered a video message to the event in which she thanked the Côté d'Ivoire for its engagement in the process of building peace. In her message, Mrs Bokova affirmed her belief in that evidence “should help us to better understand the world’s numerous crises and violence”. She added that “we must respond to it boldly, picturing peace in the broadest sense; going beyond the fighting is over, and touching people’s hearts”.

Lalla Aïcha Ben Barka, Assistant Director-General for UNESCO's Africa Department added that the culture of peace "is a victory of humanity over itself. A culture of peace is Africa’s gift to the world, a gift that should be reciprocal, as peace calls for mutual action."

Mohamed Sameh Amr, Chair of UNESCO’s Executive Board and Ambassador Permanent Delegate of Egypt to UNESCO recalled the milestones on the way to UNESCO’s Declaration and Program of Action for a Culture of Peace (1989), including the "Declaration and Program of Action for a Culture of Peace" proclaimed by the UN General assembly in 1999 and the celebration of the International year for the Culture of Peace " in 2000. This International Year was followed by the" International Decade for a culture of Non-violence and peace for the children of the World (2001 - 2010). The Decade, led by  UNESCO, continues within the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures.

Different ideas were later shared by a number of important witnesses. Saran Daraba Kaba, Secretary-General of the Mano River Union, and Hiroute Guébré Sellassie, UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Sahel, stressed the role of civil society campaigns, notably those, which are run by African women, promoting peace building from grass roots up.

Sibry Tapsoba, Representative of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Director, Fragile States Department (AfDB), and Ambroise Niyonsaba, Special Representative of the African Union President in Côte d’Ivoire, spoke about how it is impossible to separate the pursuit for peace from the search for peace, especially taking into consideration the discussions about the Global Agenda for the post-2015 period.

Federico Mayor Zaragoza, former Director-General of UNESCO and current President of the Foundation “Cultura de Paz”, noted that culture of peace is one of the main ideas, guiding the work of UNESCO.

Daniel Kablan Duncan, Prime Minister of Côté d'Ivoire, stressed the importance of the role of culture of peace, which became the unifying bridge of reconciliation in his country after the previous elections, which left Côté d'Ivoire in chaos. 

Two roundtables took place in the afternoon, reviewing  the Culture of Peace Programme  and the History of Culture of Peace Projects.

The closing ceremony was a re-launch of “Springboard for Youth Social Entrepreneurship and the Culture of Peace” in Côte d’Ivoire by the Center for Long Term Strategic Studies (CEPS).

The following days were dedicated to the Meeting of the Network of Foundations and Research Institutions for the Promotion of a Culture of Peace in Africa, in order to make the foundations one of the main pillars of culture of peace on the continent.

Download the Yamoussoukro +25 Declaration

Download the Yamoussoukro +25 Declaration

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