||The important role of civil society in creating a culture of peace:
|A Strategy for the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace|
World Peace through the Town Hall
Democracy movements. Movements for democracy and national liberation draw their inspiration from the English Revolution at mid 17th Century and the American and French Revolutions at the end of the 18th Century. Another major source of inspiration has come from the national liberation of India by Mahatma Gandhi and his followers, which was accomplished by non-violent means and mass participation of thousands of people on the streets. Their non-violent methodologies have become essential to more recent democracy movements.
Two of the most important democracy movements in recent years have been the successful overthrow of Apartheid in South Africa and the non-violent revolutions to overthrow corrupt governments in the Philippines. The South African and Philippines experiences rank with those of Gandhi in India as models for the development of nonviolent techniques by the civil society which are of essential importance for the transition to a culture of peace. These experiences are described in some detail in the monograph that I wrote for UNESCO (Adams 1995):
"The people of the Philippines in 1986 freed themselves from dictatorship in a process marked by non-violent resistance. During the years of martial law from 1972 to 1986, a movement arose which was characterized by a vast informal network of information, using faxes and photocopies, to expose the true obituaries, movements of the army, information on corruption, etc. At the bottom of each sheet was written 'ipakopiya at ipasa' - copy and pass along. Then, during the elections of 1986 the people came out into the streets by the millions, confronting the tanks and surrounding the radio and television stations to demand the true election results. These results showed that the candidate of the resistance Corazon Aquino had won the vote."
"The Peace Accord was signed by parties which had been locked in combat for a generation: the white majority government and National Party on the one side, and the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party, on the other. It engaged the entire country in the search for non violent conflict management in a process without any precedent on a national level and which can provide lessons for the rest of the world. . . ."
Unfortunately, the regional and local peace committees were mostly disbanded after the installation of the new government in South Africa. To retain their function, they would have needed to remain outside the government and there was no source of support for this. Being at UNESCO at that time, I tried to explore possible sources of support through the United Nations, but the bureaucratic obstacles of the UN system could not be overcome.
A recent movement that is often overlooked is the successful non-violent revolution of 1979 by the Iranian people against the Shah and the puppet government that had been established with the help of the Americans and the multi-national oil companies.
Why have the democracy movements not gone further in South Africa, Philippines and Iran? For the same reason that the great revolutions in France, United States, India and Russia ended up producing new imperial powers: they ended up reinforcing the state with its monopoly on the culture of war.
What is needed is a new wave of democracy movements that produce an alternative to state power, an alternative based on the culture of peace at the local and regional levels. In this regard, one of the most promising developments is the practice of participatory budgeting (presupuesto participativo in Spanish or orçamento participativo in Portuguese) that has been developed in cities in South America and is now spreading around the world. This will be discussed in greater detail below with regard to the experiences of cities and towns for a culture of peace.
Women's movement. Among the most important advances achieved by the civil society have been the gaining of the vote for women and the election of women to parliament and other government positions at all levels from local government to heads of state.
The movement for women's rights has always been linked closely to other aspects of the culture of peace. In the United States, the movement for women's suffrage originated from the movement to abolish slavery and to the religious "peace sects" such as the Quakers and the evangelical Methodists. One of the first major events of the movement was the convention held in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848, which included among its female participants Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, who were experienced abolitionists and the latter a Quaker minister. Also present and speaking at the Seneca Falls Convention was the escaped slave and great abolitionist, Frederick Douglass who later became the close friend and advisor to Abraham Lincoln. Douglass inspired people with his eloquent and prolific writing, not only against slavery, but also for the rights of women and of organized labor.
Although women have now gained the right to vote in all but a few countries, the women's movement remains active and strong because there is much yet to be accomplished in a constant struggle with gains and losses. During the 1980's in the United States, there was a broad-based movement to amend the Constitution in order to provide equal rights for women, but it was defeated as a result of strong political resistance. And in recent years, even the rights that American women had previously gained, for example the right to abortion, have been jeopardized by a political and judicial system that has adhered increasingly to a culture of war agenda. On the other hand, in France, where women did not gain the vote and the right to property ownership regardless of marriage until after World War II, landmark legislation has been adopted in recent years that requires all political parties to put up an equal number of male and female candidates in most elections.
In many, but not all countries, progress has also been made against that extreme form of male domination, rape. Susan Brownmiller's 1975 book, Against Our Will, was the product of a powerful movement of women during the 60's and 70's to break the silence surrounding rape. There were thousands of "consciousness-raising groups" of women at that time. As Brownmiller explains, she was inspired by their movement.:
"I was there when we in the women's movement first began to explore the many aspects of rape, and I listened to those . . . who understood the issues far better than I. The movement also made my book possible by its courage and imagination, and by its contribution of personal testimony that opened up the subject of rape from a woman's point of view for the first time in history. Three events deserve specific mention, and I am proud that they were organized by a group to which, I am fond of saying, "I gave my life's blood." These were: The New York Radical Feminist Speak-Out on Rape, January 24, 1971; The New York Radical Feminist Conference on Rape, April 17, 1971; and the joint New York Radical Feminist - National Black Feminist Organization Speak-Out on Rape and Sexual Abuse, August 25, 1974."
In peace education there is a strong current of feminists arguing that the struggle against patriarchy is the key struggle for a culture of peace. A particularly effective advocate of this approach is Betty Reardon and her book, Sexism and the War System (1985). While there is much to be said for her approach, in my opinion it is only a partial analysis as it does not adequately consider or provide an alternative approach to the culture of war of the state. At one point, however, Reardon's book comes close to the present analysis when it criticizes feminism for its "lack of structural considerations":
". . . women in the third World . . . know that all people in their society, both men and women, are oppressed. Although women in these societies are certainly more oppressed, their oppression is part of a total system that such Western feminist analysis has not taken sufficiently into account. Indeed, to assert 'that our oppression is by men and not by opposing nationalities' not only ignores the structures that enforce sexist oppression and contemporary economic paternalism, but also attributes to nation-states a degree of autonomy they simply do not have. This reinforces the myth of sovereignty, which is another significant support of the war system. The assertion also fails to challenge the nation-state itself and all related international structures as essentially patriarchal."
Experience with national culture of peace projects (Lacayo, et al, 1996; Mozambique, 1994) have shown that networks of women in poor, rural and working class neighborhoods are the strongest force for social change based on the principles of a culture of peace. This is consistent with the recognition by all social movements that they need to be closely allied to women's movements and networks to draw strength from women's participation and energy It is understood that no other movement, whether it is peace or labor or ecological sustainability can achieve its goals if women continue to be exploited and treated unfairly.
The History of the Culture of War