||Assessing progress toward a culture of peace at the local level||A Strategy for the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace|
World Peace through the Town Hall
My scientific training leads me to believe that it is essential to measure progress toward a culture of peace at the local level. But it should not be reduced to a simple formula, or calling in "experts" to do the job. Instead, it needs to be a process of regular assessment to know if the initiatives we take are successful or not, what works and what doesn't work, and whether we are making progress.
The process of assessment, to be consistent with the basic principles of a culture of peace, needs to be participatory and educational. The people who are concerned with the various areas of a culture of peace need to be those who are engaged in the process of assessment, and they need to be engaged in a participatory way, so that they take part in the decision-making of how, what, and when to make the assessments. In other words it should be "self-assessment" rather than "outside-assessment". And the entire process should be designed to be educational, so that those who take part are constantly learning as they go forward, and constantly teaching those with whom they come into contact. In fact, this reflects the fundamental nature of culture itself which is a process that involves the entire society and in which everyone is constantly learning and teaching at the same time. As the original UNESCO document, Co-operation to promote a culture of peace (140EX/28), stated in 1992: "the guiding principle would be that each person has something to learn from everyone else, and has something to give in return."
The use of indices for a culture of peace should never be used to "prove" that one entity (country, city or civil society organization) is better than another. An especially bad example of this kind of misuse of indices is the use of testing scores to compare schools. This has become national policy in the United States and Canada with disastrous results. Schools and teachers are required to compete for funding, which leads to widespread cheating and a loss of confidence in the entire system of education.
Instead of comparing one organization to another, indices are useful to indicate whether the local situation is improving from year to year, and which areas of the index are improving or regressing. This is comparable to stock exchange indices; they are useful not for absolute comparisons between one stock exchange and another, but rather to show trends within a particular stock exchange and within each sector of stocks in a particular exchange.
Another useful result will be new ideas for initiatives to address weaknesses that emerge during the process of assessing the policies and programmes that are already in place. In fact, the forward-looking proposals may turn out to be even more important than the backward-looking assessments.
At the level of the town or city, the annual assessment of a culture of peace index can be an important central task for a culture of peace commission. In keeping with the above analysis, the index should be different for each town or city, reflecting its own particular cultural context and allowing the people of that community to be involved in the measurement process and the development of new initiatives.
The assessment should be based on the programme areas identified by the United Nations Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace. This is the only way to attain universally valid results in a subject which otherwise would be politicized and controversial. Seven of the programme areas in the UN document can be applied directly to the municipal level as well as at the national level. The eighth area, international peace and security, does not apply directly and therefore it may be applied as two separate programme areas: 8) security, i.e. public safety; and 9) solidarity with other municipalities on an international level.
It is important that the index initiative be an occasion for outreach and involvement of new people that are not already on the commission or in the city government. This not only ensures that there is no conflict of interest in the process, but it also helps to mobilize and educate new constituencies of the culture of peace. In the long run, this mobilization and education is essential to progress toward a culture of peace. Here are some examples of constituencies that can be engaged:
* For the assessment of education for a culture of peace: teachers, school board members and administrators, and students themselves, etc.Here is one way that a session might proceed with a group assessing one of the programmes area:
1) Think of the most important policies and programmes addressing this area in the preceding one to five years, and how effective they have been.
A score resulting from this approach is especially designed for long-term assessment. It does not start at zero, because it assumes some progress has been made. Also the index will not be at maximum, because progress has not yet been achieved on the future objectives, and it will not reach its maximum in a few years, because some of the objectives are long-term.
The process of measuring a culture of peace should be an educational experience for all who are involved in it. It is an example of "educating cities." This is similar to the findings mentioned above concerning participation in another city-wide process, the participatory budgeting process that has been so effective in South America. Just as the citizens involved in participatory budgeting learn how a city works and how its budget process works, so, too, citizens involved in measuring a culture of peace will come to learn what the culture of peace is all about. The learning process in each case goes beyond those making the assessment: City administrators learn from citizen participation; and all those involved with the culture of peace will learn from the citizens who take part in its measurement. Finally, the general public can learn from media presentations of the process.
In order to reflect the holistic quality of the culture of peace, the overall index in any particular town or city should be the sum of sub-indices, one for each of the programme areas of a culture of peace, and each of the sub-indices should be given equal weight, since they are all important. At first glance, this might not seem very important, but since the entire exercise is in part a process of education, one needs to respect the holistic quality of the culture of peace.
By measuring all of the programme areas for the culture of peace each year, it can be seen whether particular policies are succeeding, and it should be possible to find weaknesses and unmet needs and to propose new policies and programmes to address them. In other words, the culture of peace index can help the municipal authorities to make policy decisions. There are several guidelines that flow from this:
First, it is important that the index and sub-indices should be real numbers, either quantitative measures or quantitative representations of qualitative assessments. Otherwise, it will not be possible to make comparisons from one year to another and to know whether the assessment index and sub-indices are improving or regressing.Once the process of measuring the culture of peace has been established and carried out over a few years, it should prove to have other very important uses. For example:
* A culture of peace index can be used in advertising for tourism. Tourism, in fact, is the largest non-agricultural industry in the world, when you include airlines, hotels, etc.. "Come to our city and see a culture of peace in action!" can be an effective advertising slogan. Peace is very attractive for tourists. First of all, its opposite, violent conflict, is the most powerful obstacle to tourism: no one wishes to be a tourist where there is the threat of being the victim of violence. And second, since a culture of peace is informative, it means that the city can offer the tourist a learning experience.
The History of the Culture of War