||Introduction||A Strategy for the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace|
World Peace through the Town Hall
What will come next? Will there be only a temporary collapse followed by the reconstruction of an even more centralized power with states and empires based on the culture of war? This is what happened in the 1930's after the crash of 1929. Or will we seize the opportunity to create a new culture, a culture of peace? It is up to us.
The call for a Global Movement for a Culture of Peace has already been issued and taken up by 75 million people. In 1999, the UN General Assembly adopted a Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace that called for the global movement. And in 2000, 75 million people signed the Manifesto 2000 (see page 29) committing themselves to promote a culture of peace in their daily lives, their families, their work and their communities.
However, as this is being written in 2009, the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace is still lacking a coherent strategy. During the decade since the call was first made by the UN, there has been some progress as reported by organizations of the civil society (see page 51), but great obstacles remain and the movement is still small and lacking direction.
As I write this introduction, sitting with my little computer on a bench across from Conference Room A at United Nations headquarters in New York, the corridor is jammed with people coming and going, a colorful parade of all races and nationalities, many of them wearing bright costumes, especially from Africa. It is the initial weeks of a new session and all the rooms along the corridor are busy with meetings.
Now, coming back to these halls, I still believe that it is through the United Nations that eventually we will be able to achieve world peace. However, I have been convinced by my experience with the UN and by my studies of history (Adams 2008) that this will not be possible so long as it is run by its Member States. Instead, we will have to take literally the words of the UN Charter written in 1945 which begins, "We the peoples", not "We the member states. . ."
"Think globally, act locally!" The old adage of the peace movement becomes more and more relevant. I have come to the conclusion, and hope to convince you, Dear Reader, of the same, that the United Nations will be able to help us achieve world peace, but this cannot happen until it is based on local governments instead of the Member States.
To make this case, your patience is requested to read through the following sections. They are written primarily for an audience of social movements, NGOs and local officials to explain how to create and operate a city culture of peace commission, but hopefully they will be of interest to all who hope for a better world.
In fact, work with social movements, NGOs and local officials is in dialogue with them, because they provide more than half of the input. Many of them have been working for a culture of peace and have accomplished much already, even if their achievements are known by another name. In this book, half of the dialogue is missing, since you the reader, with your own experiences and ideas, are not able to contribute. To do so, you are invited to take part in an interactive game on the Internet which covers some of the same ground ( culture-of-peace-game.org ).
Before going into the strategy, let me say what it is NOT. It is not the often-used strategy of having the town hall make pronouncements on international affairs, such as the legitimacy of particular wars, nuclear weapons or the national military budget. And it is not the simply the practice of "foreign aid" given directly from cities in the North to cities in the South. As the saying goes, "I've been there, done that." In fact, back in 1990 I published a small article in the short-lived US journal, the Bulletin of Municipal Foreign Policy, entitled "Planning for Peace in New Haven" which was concerned with the military budget. It was an interview with the chair of the newly-established New Haven Peace Commission about a local referendum, sponsored by the Commission, which called for cuts in the national military budget and the savings to be used for the needs of the cities. The referendum was approved by the voters by a 5-to-1 margin. Afterwards, as typical of these things, nothing further happened. The New Haven Peace Commission is now part of the global campaign of "Mayors for Peace" which concerns itself mostly with the question of nuclear weapons. For most citizens in the cities concerned, the initiative does not seem relevant to their daily lives.
International solidarity of towns and cities is important and a chapter will be devoted to this topic. However, the time has come for a new basis of solidarity consisting of initiatives at the local level.
Therefore, a new strategy is proposed here. The old strategy was concerned with "peace" in the traditional sense of the term, being "the absence of war between nation-states." The old concept of peace was the period of time between wars when no particular war was being waged, although, of course, preparations were being made for the next war. The new strategy proposed here is the development of a new culture and a new, alternative base of political power, a "culture of peace."
The History of the Culture of War