||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
Security and public safety is a concern in every community as urban violence has attained epidemic proportions in many cities of the world. This is reviewed in the report, Human Security for an Urban Century: Local Challenges, Global Perspectives which has been issued by the Human Security Policy Division at Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (2007), available on the Internet. Among the chief concerns are homicide rates and number of police per capita. The latter must be qualified by another suggested indicator which is that of corruption, since police do not make a city more secure if they are corrupt! The human security report indicates that public safety is closely related to other aspects of a culture of peace such as perceived access to decision-making and participation in community organizations (democratic participation) and percentage of population in slums, land tenure, and access to public services (human rights). The indicator of homicide rates may be related to other important issues which include rates of other types of crimes and rates of gun ownership (especially automatic weapons) and measures of gun control. The report notes, for example, that in Brazil, more than 100 people are killed by firearms every day, and that banning the carrying of guns in Bogotà during traditionally violent holidays or late at night has been shown to reduce rates of violence.
It is not the thesis of this book that cities and towns, no matter how effective their policies, can create a culture of peace by themselves. Instead, however, experience with some ongoing initiatives shows that they can be the basis for a new culture of peace with the collaboration of civil society, on the one hand, and a global network of local governments, on the other hand. Looking back at the previous chapter we can see the following advantages deriving from the linkage of local government with civil society:
1) democratic legitimacy and the involvement of the entire community in the work of the civil society;
1) passion, energy and local experience in each of the various areas of a culture of peace
To put the culture of peace into practice at a local level, culture of peace commissions have been established in Brazilian cities and provinces. By the end of 2007, commissions had been established in the cities of São Paulo, Itepecirica da Serra, São José dos Campos and Diadema, all within the State of São Paulo, and Curitiba and Londrina in the State of Paraná. Two other cities were in the process of establishing such commissions in Ribeirão Pires and Cotia. And they follow the establishment earlier of a Culture of Peace Council in the Legislative Assembly of the State of São Paulo, thanks to the inspired leadership of Lia Diskin and her organization, Palas Athena. Also, as mentioned above, São Paulo has pioneered in the measurement of human rights at the city level.
Cities in North America and Europe are in the process of establishing similar commissions at the end of 2008. This includes Hamilton (Ontario) in Canada and New Haven (Connecticut) in the United States where a city peace commission, previously engaged for the most part with national and international issues, is now considering work on the culture of peace at a local level.
The commissions in Brazil and North America are composed of both legislators and representatives of civil society organizations. In this way, they integrate the initiatives and perspectives of government and civil society. For example, the Culture of Peace Council of the Legislative Assembly of the State of São Paulo has six elected deputies from the three main political parties and 35 representatives from civil society organizations working in all of the various areas of the culture of peace. As one of its recent actions, the Commission has distributed widely a guidebook on the work for culture of peace by the various civil society organizations involved.
Because the culture of peace integrates a broad range of program areas, including not only disarmament, but also peace education, equality of women, human rights, tolerance and solidarity, democratic participation, free flow of information and sustainable development, it provides a platform to integrate different departments of government. For example, a recent event in São Paulo was sponsored by the secretariats for human rights and for the environment, and brought together government workers in health, social work, education and police as well as civil society organizations in all these areas.
The initial Culture of Peace Council, at the level of the State of São Paulo, came about in conjunction with the campaign of the International Year for the Culture of Peace, under our leadership at UNESCO in 2000, to obtain commitments on the Manifesto 2000, as described above. The process by which this first Culture of Peace Council was founded is described on the website of the Comitê Paulista para a Década da Cultura de Paz (2001-2010).
In Hamilton, Ontario, the initiative for a Culture of Peace Commission has much in common with the initiative in São Paulo. It also is led by the civil society organizations that came together in 2000 around the campaign for the International Year for the Culture of Peace and the dissemination of the Manifesto 2000. It also is going through the process of gaining official status from the Mayor and the City Council. Our presentation to the City Council in October 2008 followed discussions about garbage cans and dog-parks, putting peace at the level of day-to-day life for ordinary citizens.
Some flavor of the work of the São Paulo Council can be obtained from the cycle of six conferences it sponsored in 2007 for "multipliers" by specialists in strategic tools for culture of peace building. "It is an honor to be here with those who are working to build a Culture of Peace", said José Gregori, President of the São Paulo Human Rights Committee, ex-Foreign Affairs Minister, when he opened the first conference on March 21. Sixty persons, including deputies, leaders of NGOs, journalists, lawyers, civil servants of the legislative branch, and parliament representatives attended. Other conferences concerned ethics in public life, democracy, power, and the legislative process, restorative justice and public policies, complexity in public policies, and Gandhi, a serving leader.
Several of us have been working with the various City Commission initiatives to establish an annual assessment of the culture of peace, with locally-developed indicators for each of the programme areas of the culture of peace. By making the same measurements every year, it should be possible help city government know which policies are working and in what areas they need to improve their policies. And by involving people from the community to make the culture of peace measurements related to their work (teachers, journalists, women activists, religious leaders, trade unionists, police, etc.), this can broaden the base of culture of peace work and serve as an educational process. More about this in the following chapter.
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The History of the Culture of War