Global Movement for a Culture of Peace
7. Free Flow of Information and Knowledge By David Adams
December 2005

Sources

Early History of Culture of Peace

Civil Society Report on Culture of Peace

UN Declaration and Programme of Action

Latest UN Resolution

Latest UNESCO Report

UNESCO Website for Culture of Peace

Internet Information Board for Decade Report

Internet Information Board for Strategy Discussion

Internet Information Board to Monitor Media

Culture of Peace News Network

Original draft of UN Declaration and Programme of Action

Initial UNESCO Report

Recent General Assembly Debate

Original UNESCO Document

UNESCO Debate on Human Right to Peace

UNESCO Monograph

UNESCO Brochure for Seville Statement

Sintra Plan of Action for Education

El Salvador National Programme

Mozambique National Programme

The seventh programme area of the Programme of Action for a Culture of Peace is participatory communication and the free flow of information and knowledge. The original draft sent from UNESCO stated that freedom of opinion, expression and information

is needed to replace the secrecy and manipulation of information which characterize the culture of war. In this regard, the media can be a powerful partner for the construction of a culture of peace. Its technological advances and pervasive growth have made it possible for every person to take part in the making of history, enabling for the first time a truly global movement for a culture of peace. At the same time, however, the media is sometimes misused to create and disseminate enemy images, violence and even genocide against other ethnic and national groups, and to portray and glorify violence in many forms. Also secrecy is on the increase, justified in terms of 'national security' and 'economic competitiveness', whereas in fact more transparency is needed in governance and economic decision-making.

As described in the section on democratic participation, the actions of governments are often so secretive (usually in the name of "national security", i.e. the culture of war), that citizens are not even able to participate in knowledge of what their government is doing. Although secrecy and misinformation are usually justified as part of the culture of war (to hide information from "enemies"), it may also be used to hide incompetence, error and illegality. In the United States, for example, one wonders what secrets President Nixon was seeking when he authorized the Watergate burglary, and what secret programs were shredded by Colonel Oliver North in the basement of the White House under President Ronald Reagan. Often, the commercial media are part of the conspiracy to withhold information as was shown after the Vietnam War by the hearings of Senator Church on relations between the media and the CIA at the time when George Bush was its director .

No matter what the reason for government secrecy and misinformation, it always frustrates full democratic participation by the citizenry.

Secrecy is dangerous, no matter who is responsible. At a certain point, when the Science Sector of UNESCO refused to take part in the International Year for the Culture of Peace, I arranged a meeting with the directors of the sector and posed a simple question:

You say you are not concerned with the culture of peace, yet your priority is the ethical responsibility of scientists. I ask you, "How can a scientist be responsible if he or she has signed an oath of secrecy, either for the military or for a private corporation? And I will wager that at least half of the scientists of the world are working under conditions of secrecy."
After a long silence, one of the directors stood and said, "David, I think that 50% is an underestimate" and he walked out of the meeting followed by all of the other directors. In the corridor they told me that I had broken the taboo of silence on this topic which was too "hot" for UNESCO to address. Then they went back to their offices, maintained the taboo, and remained uninvolved in the International Year for the Culture of Peace.

There is an ironic aspect of secrecy and misinformation, which is that the more people that are engaged in them, the more possibilities there are for "whistle-blowers" - those who break the silence and make public the truth.

But the effectivenss of whistle-blowers to break through the barriers of secrecy and propaganda depends on dissemination of the information that they provide. Insofar as the commercial media are part of the system of the culture of war, they may refuse to publish this information and denounce those who do so. However, we have entered an age of participatory communication systems such as internet, which make possible direct exchange of information, knowledge and consciousness development of the people. As time goes on, we may expect this to become an increasingly powerful force for the transition to a culture of peace.

Issues

Index

News about Culture of Peace

Historical Perspective

Seville Statement on Violence

National Programmes for a Culture of Peace

Definition of Culture of Peace

UN Declaration and Programme of Action

International Year and Manifesto 2000

Decade and Midterm Report

Main Actors for a Culture of Peace

Role of Mass Media

Culture of Peace News Network

1. Peace Education

2. Sustainable Development

3. Human Rights

4. Equality of Women and Men

5. Democratic Participation

6. Understanding, Tolerance and Solidarity

7. Free Flow of Information and Knowledge

8. International Peace and Security

Non-Violence

Strategy and Tactics

New Issues