Notes from Commission V debate on Culture of Peace in 29th General Conference

Provided by David Adams to Director-General Federico Mayor
6 November 1997


European Union, etc.
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Costa Rica, etc.
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United Kingdom, etc.
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Uruguay, etc.
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While the culture of peace was generally supported by the 95 countries that took the floor over two days, the question of the human right to peace provoked an intense and profound ideological debate (key citations are provided below). The EU opposed the Human Right to Peace, arguing that peace is not a precondition for human rights. Politically, there is an evident connection between the EU opposition to the human right to peace as expressed here in Paris and the EU opposition to the request by the General Assembly in New York for UNESCO to provide them with a draft declaration and programme of action for a culture of peace.

[In retrospect, Sema Tanguiance points out that the EU's claim that that peace is not a precondition for respect for human rights is in contradiction to the UNESCO Constitution which states (italics added): "The purpose of the Organization is to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms...." In French, the wording is even stronger: "A fin d'assurer..."]

The EU position was disputed by many delegations from the South, some of whom pointed out that a culture of peace is much broader than just international peace between nations, and it concerns the values, attitudes and behaviours of individuals and non-governmental institutions as well as the behaviours of nations. The testimony from Costa Rica concerning the abolition of militaries, not only in their country but also in Panama and Haiti, and their eloquent moral statement that nations whose economies depend on weapon sales are those responsible for war was a theme that reverberated throughout the debate and was picked up directly or indirectly by other speakers.

Overwhelming support was given to the Transdisciplinary Project Towards a Culture of Peace by countries from all regions: Africa: Botswana, Cote D'Ivoire, Democratic Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Mali, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Zimbabwe; Arab States: Algeria, Morocco; Asia-Pacific: Kirghizstan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea; East Europe: Croatia, Czech Republic, Russian Federation, Ukraine; West Europe and North America: Germany, Greece, Israel, Malta, Norway, Turkey; Latin America and Caribbean: Barbados, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Haiti, Peru.

In practice, a culture of peace is becoming a concern of the North as well as the South. For example, in their intervention Germany put emphasis on the annual session of their National Commission devoted to the concept, values and further development of a culture of peace which addressed the challenges within Germany itself. The Russian Federation also emphasized their own activities for a culture of peace, including the upcoming December conference on a culture of peace sponsored by the Ministry of Nationality Affairs and Federation Relations.

Several countries mentioned the culture of peace contribution to the UN General Assembly which was provided to them in document 29C/inf.17. The elements requested by the UN General Assembly were praised by Germany, Ecuador and Peru as a potential strengthening of the efforts and capacities of the UN system for a non-military approach to security and a strengthening of cooperation between UNESCO and the rest of the UN system. Russia questioned the proposal of conflict resolution centres, fearing that it might lead to a proliferation of expensive institutions, and the response was made that full use should be made of existing institutions rather than creating new ones. Australia expressed its concern about proposals for a coordinating mechanism and a special fund, and in response it was said that a special fund should be based upon voluntary funds. Also with reference to the UN General Assembly, Cote D'Ivoire mentioned that it had submitted to the GA via ECOSOC, along with many co-sponsors, the resolution to declare Year 2000 as the International Year for a Culture of Peace with UNESCO as the focal point.

The newly established programme concerning women and a culture of peace was greeted enthusiastically by many countries. They welcomed the recent meeting on male roles and masculinities and several cited the need to be concerned with the socialization of men and their role in peace as well as that of women. Regional meetings of networks of women as promoters of peace and the Special Project on women's contribution to a culture of peace in Africa were frequently cited and the desire was expressed to have their countries participate

There were numerous requests for increased research on practical application of the culture of peace, especially on the use of traditional methods of conflict resolution, and the reply was given that the Transdisciplinary Project will continue to support such research in the coming biennium and will make a special effort to ensure the exchange of research results among the different countries and regions.

Finally, there was frequent mention of the evolving theoretical and practical framework of the culture of peace. While a number of countries indicated that they are themselves engaged in this process (for example, Germany and the Russian Federation mentioned above), several requested that UNESCO do more in this regard. For example, the United Kingdom requested a full report of what the Transdisciplinary Project has accomplished and New Zealand expressed its doubt about the value added of the Project. In reply, the delegates were reminded that UNESCO will provide an evaluation of the Project, as requested, to the 154th session of the Executive Board.

Excerpts from debate concerning the Human Right to Peace are provided on the following pages.

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