Software for Peace - "Turkish Policy Quarterly" (Turkey)
Published in volume 10 number 4 of the Turkish Policy Quarterly, Winter 2012.
The day after revolution is never easy. Euphoria fades quickly; expectations are prone to quick frustration…Experience shows that change is never easy, and it never happens overnight. Instead of “transitions,” we should rather speak of “transformations.” Political change on the scale we saw in Eastern Europe and we are witnessing today in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya involves more than transition – it takes in all aspects of a State, its institutions and its society…Accordingly, UNESCO crafts the conditions to make development and democratic reforms more sustainable. We do not provide the hardware for peace but the software to make it meaningful.
The revolutions in the Middle East have reminded everyone of the power of aspirations for human rights and dignity. Only a few years ago, it was not uncommon to hear prominent analysts declare “authoritarian capitalism” as the zeitgeist of our times. Democracy, the argument went, was under pressure from all sides in many countries, while
authoritarian rulers had never seemed more firmly in place. Certainly, very few expected democratic change to occur in the Middle East.
The Arab Spring has taken the world by surprise. In Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, we have seen the courage of men and women rising up in the face of daunting opposition and the potential of societies for renewal despite heavy pressures. As time passes since early 2011, we are increasingly aware also of the obstacles to be overcome for positive change to take deep root.
UNESCO’s role lies here. This may come as a surprise to those who know the Organization primarily for its pioneering work to safeguard World Heritage across the world and for its global leadership to promote “Education for All” by 2015. UNESCO’s role in supporting societies undergoing profound transformation is less well-known. It should be, because peace-building from this wide angle is written in the DNA of the Organization.
UNESCO was created in the wake of the Second World War on the idea that peace had to be built on new foundations between States and within them. Our
1945 Constitution opens with the memorable phrase that “since war begins in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.” The idea was forthright and innovative – lasting peace could not be based solely on political and economic arrangements between States. It had to take root inside societies, and it had to be advanced through cooperation between States in education, the sciences, culture, and communication. From this angle, peace is more than the absence of war and conflict, and it cannot be crafted solely through “hard power.” Peace refers to the existence of healthy and vibrant societies, where human rights are respected and the dignity and aspirations of every citizen are promoted.
This humanist vision was poignant in 1945, as the world rebuilt from the devastation of world war. It remains ever more so today, at a time of bewildering change in a world featuring as much uncertainty as opportunity.
Lasting peace in the 21st century cannot rely solely on intergovernmental agreements. It must be embedded in a vision of sustainable development that promotes the inherent dignity of every member of society and that allows every woman and man to develop to their full capacity. The challenge of peace today lies less in the arms control treaties that took so much of our time in the last century and far more in the stakes raised by education, the sciences, culture and communication.
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