Local forums have been held in a number of regions of Honduras in preparation for a National Culture of Peace Forum expected late in 1995. The UNESCO office in Costa Rica will be assisting in this effort. These forums originated as an initiative of the Honduran armed forces, concerned to deal with the roots of the military conflicts that have beset the nation. More recently the initiative has been taken by the Ministries of Culture and External Relations.
With the withdrawal of the United Nations forces from Somalia at the beginning of 1995, urgent action was called for to refocus attention on the plight of the Somali people and to support their efforts for peace. In response, UNESCO organized, with the help of the Yemen National Commission for UNESCO, a symposium on the culture of peace for Somali intellectuals. The symposium, which was held in Sana'a Yemen in April 1995, attracted 67 Somali intellectuals coming from Somalia and other countries. They were joined by representatives of international agencies as well as members of the media.
Debate centred on three themes:
• rebuilding Somali society;
• rehabilitating the Somali State;
• reintegrating Somalia in its international environment.
The meeting reached achieved a consensus on principles and recommendations, despite the many different perspectives of the participants, and a final appeal, report and recommendations were accepted by acclamation. Many indicated that
it was the best meeting of its type since the disintegration of the Somali government and hoped that it would be the beginning of a new process to reconstitute the Somali society beginning from a base of local governance.
The recommendations placed a high priority on strengthening local and regional administration and democratic culture. They also proposed initiatives for peace and basic education and support to the civil society, especially organizations of women, non governmental organizations, professional organizations and intellectuals. A special emphasis was placed on the potential role of Somali artists, poets and singers to promote traditional themes of peace and reconciliation.
In their final Appeal, the participants:
• affirmed that only peace can guarantee Somalia's future and only its construction in the minds of men can assure its durability;
• appealed to the full force of the Somali nation, the political leaders, intellectuals, women, the elders and youth to put an end to the spiral of violence and engage today in a genuine process of peace and reconciliation.
They also urged the international community and UNESCO in particular to sustain the peace process in Somalia and to include it in the framework of UNESCO's Culture of Peace Programme.
The challenge of funding
The search for funding is a major challenge for national culture of peace programmes. Being a new concept, it is not normally part of the funding priorities of donor countries. And because the planning process depends upon the achievement of a broad consensus, the process of preparing funding requests can be very time consuming and require great patience.