Unesco's Culture of Peace Programme: An Introduction

International Peace Research Newsletter
Volume 35, Number 1

by David Adams and Michael True, March 1997

Peace, sometimes defined as an absence of war, is more accurately understood as a dynamic process involving all individual and communal relationships.

As anyone involved in that process knows, peacemaking requires at least as much courage, imagination, patience and strategic planning as war making, with infinitely more positive results. Its goal is nonviolent relations not only between nations, but also between states and their citizens and between human beings and their environments. Achieving that goal requires day to day peace building in our families, schools, media, sports and other associations.

Unesco's Culture of Peace Programme, an integrated approach to peace building and post conflict reconstruction, originated in 1992 as the Organization's contribution to United Nations peace efforts. Conceived in terms of national culture-of-peace programmes and initiatives involving the member-states, it has developed programmes in El Salvador, Mozambique and Burundi, and has contributed to many other national initiatives in Latin America, Africa and Asia. These initiatives have shown that conflicts can be settled peacefully when parties try to listen to and to understand one another and also to maintain their integrity without killing (see Francisco Lacayo Parajon, Mirta Lourence, and David Adams, "The Unesco Culture of Peace Programme in El Salvador: An Initial Report," International Journal of Peace Studies, Vol. 1, No.2, July 1996, pp. 1-20).

The culture of peace reflects new ways of looking at and thinking about old problems and new ways of resolving them. According to Federico Mayor, Director-General of Unesco, it is a vision, "linked to the pursuit of social and economic justice" in which everyone plays an active part. Its purpose is "to provide the needed solidarity, both intellectual and moral, to unite people working around the world for peace and justice and to inspire hope and persistence for the common task."

The formulation of the culture of peace is deliberately broad, in order to include all the ends and means appropriate to the full range of non governmental organizations working for peace and justice. It is, at the same time, "a very specific concept," Federico Mayor has said. It is "both a product of this particular moment of history and an appropriate vision for the future that is in our power to create." It represents "an everyday attitude of nonviolent rebellion," of peaceful dissent, of firm determination to defend human rights and human dignity" (Preface to David Adams, ed., Unesco and a Culture of Peace: Promoting a Global Movement, Unesco, Paris, 1995; further information is available from the Director, Culture of Peace Programme, Unesco, 7 Place de Fontenoy, 75352 Paris 07SP, France).

At the heart of the programme, according to Michael G. Wessells of Randolph Macon College, "is the view that cooperation across many levels of society and in diverse enterprises business, education, health care, the arts, and security protection, among others is essential for healing the wounds of war, for preventing destructive conflict in the future, and for promoting sustainable development." It provides a comprehensive common vision around which peace and justice groups can mobilize their members.

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The address of this page is http://www.culture-of-peace.info/annexes/IPRAnewsletter/page1.html.

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