Global Movement for a Culture of Peace
UN Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace 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

2005 UN Resolution

Internet Information Board for Strategy Discussion

Internet Information Board for Decade Report

Culture of Peace News Network

Original draft of UN Declaration and Programme of Action

Initial UNESCO Report

2005 General Assembly Debate

Original UNESCO Document

UNESCO Debate on Human Right to Peace

UNESCO Monograph

UNESCO Brochure for Seville Statement

El Salvador National Programme

Mozambique National Programme

The UN Declaration and Programme of Action, was adopted by UN General Assembly on September 13, 1999. It is the fundamental document of the culture of peace, and one of the great documents ever produced by the United Nations, on a par with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as it spells out in concrete terms how the United Nations can achieve its original purpose, which is to abolish war.

Overcoming opposition, it was possible to adopt the resolution on the last day of the 53rd Session of the General Assembly, September 13, 1999.

The original draft of the document (A/53/370) had been submitted by UNESCO to the UN almost a year before, September 2, 1998. Drafted by my team for the International Year for the Culture of Peace at UNESCO, its eight action points were the fundamental principles for the transition from a culture of war to a culture of peace (see the definition of the culture of peace), and it called for the development of a global movement for a culture of peace during the coming Decade (see Decade and Midterm Report from Civil Society).

Because of opposition from the European Union and its allies, expressed by procedural maneuvering, the Declaration and Programme of Action was almost never even considered by the General Assembly (see Early History of the Culture of Peace).

Eventually, however, the resolution was considered, thanks to the persistent efforts of the countries of the South. As a result it went into nine months of informal diplomatic discussions, guided by the Ambassador from Bangladesh, Anwarul Chowdhury. I was told at one point that there were more informals for this resolution than ever before in the most in the history of the UN. Why? Because of sustained opposition by the European Union, the United States and their allies. At one memorable informal on May 6, 1999, the German representative on behalf of the EU insisted that no mention should be made of "culture of war" because "there is no culture of war and violence in the world." The EU and the United States objected to reference to the "human right to peace" with the US delegate saying that peace should not be elevated to the category of human right, otherwise it will be very difficult to start a war.

Many compromises were made, including a very important concession by which the possibility of a voluntary fund to support activities for a culture of peace, was removed from the resolution. As a result, in the succeeding years, the UN secretariat has had no budget and no actions for the culture of peace. And, as discussed elsewhere, all mention of the culture of war was removed from the text of the resolution, thus making it difficult for readers to understand the underlying rationale.

Despite the compromises, thanks to the tireless efforts of Anwarul Chowdhury and his diplomatic colleagues from the South, as well as Nina Sibal (from India) and Anita Amorim (from Brazil) at the UNESCO Office in New York, the main lines of the culture of peace were retained in the final declaration which provides the most profound blueprint for peace ever adopted by the United Nations.

What happened behind the scenes on September 13, 1999, that made possible the adoption of the resolution? I have always assumed that those who were opposed (the Europeans, Americans, Japanese, Canadians, Australians, etc.) were confronted with the choice of adopting the resolution by consensus or submitting to a roll-call vote in which case the South would have had enough votes to over-ride any opposition by the North. However, this is the kind of information that UN diplomats keep to themselves, so we may never know exactly how it happened.

As has been the case for Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we may expect that the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace will continue to gain importance as a fundamental, universal document over the years, as it is used in the struggle for the transition from a culture of war and violence to a culture of peace and non-violence. As stated by Anwarul Chowdhury to the General Assembly on September 13, 1999:

I believe that this document is unique in more than one way. It is a universal document in the real sense, transcending boundaries, cultures, societies and nations. Unlike many other General Assembly documents, this document is action-oriented and encourages actions at all levels, be they at the level of the individual, the community, the nation or the region, or at the global and intellectual levels ... This document really goes ahead in terms of bringing in various subjects that the Assembly has rarely touched in its 50 years of existence.


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