||The basic and essential role of local government (cities, towns and local regions or provinces) in cultivating a culture of peace||A Strategy for the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace|
World Peace through the Town Hall
As for the equality of women, it is certainly more developed in local governance in many countries of the North than it is developed at the national level, thanks to many initiatives at the level of the local communities. On the other hand, in many countries of the South, such as Cuba, Vietnam, Mozambique, etc., there has been so much progress toward high proportion of women legislators in the national parliament that this sets a precedent to increase the proportion of women in local community governments.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (2004) has produced a report entitled A City Tailored to Women: The Role of Municipal Governments in Achieving Gender Equality which is available on the Internet. In addition to providing a questionnaire for assessment of gender equality, the report describes exemplary initiatives from cities in Europe (Berlin, Liège, Barcelona, Amadora-Lisbon, Paris, Prato-Italy, Prague, Saratov-Russia, Stuttgart and Vienna), the Americas (Montreal, San Salvador, Buenos Aires, Santo Andre-Sao Paulo, Cosquin-Argentina, and Quetzaltenango-Guatemala), and Asia (Bangkok, Cebu City-Philippines and Naga-Philippines).
The introduction to the report of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities makes a point that is essential to the argument of the present book: "It has become increasingly clear that action to improve the daily lives of citizens is at its most effective at the local government (municipal) level."
Local communities often have more solidarity than at the level of the state, because the essential propaganda of the culture of war, the promotion of enemy images, is much less developed at the local level. Communities may have rivalries, for example, in sports, but these are not enemies to be destroyed in the sense of the culture of war.
Of course, local communities still face problems of intolerance, often involving race, ethnicity and/or religious differences. When communities are located within a state that has a state religion or which engages in the scapegoating or banning of certain groups, it is difficult for the city to escape the consequences. However, one does not usually encounter the reverse situation where there are "city religions" independent of the "state religions" that contribute to a culture of war in some countries. And initiatives for inter-religious and inter-ethnic dialogue are often more successful at the local level than equivalent initiatives at a national or international level.
Transparency and the free flow of information is much more prevalent at the level of the city than at the level of national governments. Perhaps there are some secrets at the level of the city, but nothing like the state secrets of "national security". Transparency is being increased further by new processes such as participatory budgeting mentioned above. With participatory budgeting, not only is the relevant information made available to the citizens, but even more important, the citizens demand to know this information because they must act on its basis in making budgetary decisions.
Education for a culture of peace, which in the past has been considered to be the exclusive business of the schools and universities, is expanding to include the city itself. This is described by Cabezudo (2007, 2008) and is reflected in the very name of the "International Association of Educating Cities" (website at http://www.bcn.es/edcities/ ). Participatory budgeting is a good example of this as documented in the case of Rosario, Argentina, by Lerner and Schugurensky (2005).. Here are key excerpts from their conclusion, which is available on the Internet:
"Rosario residents who regularly engaged in participatory budgeting experienced significant learning in a wide variety of fields. [They] became more familiar with the needs of different communities, got to know new and different people, and acquired instrumental and technical knowledge about politics and citizenship. This knowledge can allow them to better represent their communities, develop political efficacy, establish networks and partnerships with other groups, and develop solidarity with people that are worse off. Delegates also developed a variety of instrumental, analytical, leadership, and deliberative skills. Participation nurtured new attitudes, values, and dispositions, especially self-confidence, concern for the common good and public property, tolerance and patience, solidarity, feelings of belonging and connection, and interest in community participation. Finally, delegates changed their daily practices, increasing the level, range, and quality of their civic involvement by becoming more active in the community, diversifying their everyday activities, and adopting more democratic behaviors. . .
The use of peaceful conflict resolution and mediation in schools was the subject of an international survey that we undertook at UNESCO in 1996. For the survey we engaged the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Columbia University, under the direction of Professor Morton Deutsch. Their unpublished study, which was to be the basis of a project in schools coordinated by UNESCO, found that there were already thousands of such initiatives in existence by 1996:
"Judging from the early results, school based programmes of conflict resolution are most developed in the United Sates and Canada, where, in response to a significant increase in violence among youth, there was a rapid upsurge in the last decade. There are a number of high quality training Centres and several thousand school programmes. A similar upsurge now appears to be starting for similar reasons in other areas of the world. In Europe a number of Centres have emerged recently and in 1990 a European Network for Conflict Resolution in Education was formed. In Australia and in Israel there are a number of well-developed Centres and school programmes. Little data was forthcoming, however, for Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, Arab States and Africa, with the exception of South Africa where there are several very active conflict resolution centres. The report includes full case studies of eight programmes from Australia, Japan, US, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Israel, Norway and France."
Although the UNESCO project was never established due to bureaucratic obstacles, there was an international meeting in Sintra, Portugal, which issued a remarkable statement on the need for such an approach. See the Sintra Plan of Action available on the Internet at UNESCO (1996).
The History of the Culture of War