World Peace through the Town Hall
Assessing progress toward a culture of peace at the local level A Strategy for the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace

World Peace through the Town Hall


1) The difference between "peace" and "culture of peace" and a brief history of the culture of war

2) The role of the individual in culture of war and culture of peace

3) Why the state cannot create a culture of peace

4) The important role of civil society in creating a culture of peace

--Peace and disarmament movements

--Ecology movement

--Movements for human rights

--Democracy movements

--Women's movement

--International understanding, tolerance and solidarity

--Movements for free flow of information

--The strengths and weaknesses of civil society

5) The basic and essential role of local government in culture of peace

--Sustainable development

--Human rights

--Democratic participation

--Women's equality


--Transparency and the free flow of information

--Education for a culture of peace

--Security and public safety

--Some ongoing initiatives

6) Assessing progress toward a culture of peace at the local level

--Culture of peace measurement at the level of the state

7) Going global: networking of city culture of peace commissions

8) The future transition of the United Nations from control by states to popular control through local governmental representatives

9) What would a culture of peace be like?


At the level of the town or city, the annual assessment of progress towards a culture of peace can be an important central task for a culture of peace commission.

In order to obtain results that can be used by other cities around the world, the assessment should be based on the programme areas identified by the United Nations Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace. Seven of the programme areas in the UN document can be applied directly to the municipal level as well as at the national level. Although the eighth area, international peace and security, does not apply directly, it may be applied as two related programme areas: 8) security, i.e. public safety; and 9) solidarity with other municipalities on an international level.

The assessment can be very useful in a number of ways.

* It serves as a guide for action by indicating what is working well in the city (and needs to be reinforced) and, by implication, what is not working and needs to be discontinued. This is useful not only for the work of the Commission but also for the policy decisions of all city institutions, both governmental and non- governmental.

* It is an educational tool. It raises the consciousness of all who take part: the Commission, the activists who are interviewed, and all who read or hear about it. It enables them to realize that their activities in a particular area on the local basis are contributing to the development of a global movement for a new and better world. It is an example of "educating cities." This is similar to the findings mentioned above concerning participation in another city- wide process, the participatory budgeting process that has been so effective in South America. Just as the citizens involved in participatory budgeting learn how a city works and how its budget process works, so, too, citizens involved in measuring a culture of peace will come to learn what the culture of peace is all about. The learning process in each case goes beyond those making the assessment: City administrators learn from citizen participation; and all those involved with the culture of peace will learn from the citizens who take part in its measurement. Finally, the general public can learn from media presentations of the process.

* It focuses attention on initiatives that need to be reinforced. An example will be given below from the New Haven assessment, which reoriented the priorities of the Peace Commission to support an initiative in the schools for restorative justice.

* It can also provide new ideas for initiatives to address weaknesses that emerge during the process of assessing the policies and programmes that are already in place. In fact, the forward-looking proposals may turn out to be even more important than the backward- looking assessments.

* By involving activists in the assessment who are not already involved with the Culture of Peace Commission, it can recruit them or involve them in collaborative work, thus expanding the scope of the Commission.

* It can be used by the city in advertising for tourism. Tourism, in fact, is the largest non-agricultural industry in the world, when you include airlines, hotels, etc.. "Come to our city and see a culture of peace in action!" can be an effective advertising slogan. Peace is very attractive for tourists. First of all, its opposite, violent conflict, is the most powerful obstacle to tourism: no one wishes to be a tourist where there is the threat of being the victim of violence. And second, since a culture of peace is informative, it means that the city can offer the tourist a learning experience.

* It can be very well integrated into the practice of "twinning" with cities or towns in other parts of the world. Twinned cities can exchange their experiences with measuring a culture of peace and adopting policies to strengthen the culture of peace in the community.

* In the long term it can provide a common task with other towns and cities around the world that are also assessing their culture of peace, and will make possible a new level of international solidarity that is not mediated by the state.

Here is the executive summary of the 2014 assessment for New Haven.

There was modest, unspectacular progress in all eight areas of the culture of peace.

Previous advances in sustainable equitable development were further developed. New Haven Works, in its second year, showed that it has the potential to address the great problem of unemployment and under-employment, while the second Food Summit continued to advance projects in local food production and distribution. There is not much progress, however, in solving the serious development problems of taxation, pollution and over-reliance on the automobile for transportation.

New Haven Works is the direct result of advances over the past few years in democratic participation by which a Board of Alders and the first ever woman mayor were elected with the promise to provide more and better employment. Also, this year, thanks to a major mobilization in New Haven, the state remained in the hands of a governor dedicated to progressive action.

Although equality of women remains to be achieved in many areas, the first year of Toni Harp's administration as mayor fulfilled much of its promise to advance women's equality as well as other aspects of the culture of peace.

In recent years, New Haven has been a national leader in tolerance and solidarity by providing identity cards to undocumented Latin American immigrants, an approach that is now being taken up by other cities. Meanwhile, the newly developing interest in restorative justice in the schools and community has the potential to develop into an important new dimension of solidarity.

As for disarmament and security, there continues to be a high level of violence in the city (exaggerated by media emphasis on violent news), which is related to unemployment, a failing education system, destruction of the family and family values and easy access to drugs and guns, among other causal factors. The emphasis on community policing is seen as taking a good direction, but it has just begun so it cannot yet be seen if it will produce good results.

The new initiatives in restorative justice promise to improve the atmosphere of schools and set a precedent for changing a broken criminal justice system, but education still needs to be strengthened at the neighborhood level. Unfortunately, the emphasis continues to be on magnet and charter schools to which children are bused out of their neighborhoods and which, in the long run, tends to increase rather than decrease the widening gulf between the rich and the poor.

With regard to the free flow of information, there are important new sources in recent years that employ the Internet in support of a culture of peace, such as the New Haven Independent. However, the main commercial media continue to emphasize the news of violence which ultimately supports a culture of war and violence.

New Haven, like the rest of the country continues to slide backwards in basic human rights. However, this year there were several bright spots in this otherwise negative picture. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Connecticut has enabled thousands to obtain decent health care for the first time. And the 100-day campaign for the homeless not only provided homes to some previously on the street, but also set a precedent that this can be done in the future.

Several of those interviewed agreed to come to a Peace Commission meeting to discuss the report and its implications for the Commission's work, and all agreed to be interviewed again next fall to determine if New Haven is making progress towards a culture of peace.

As a result of the 2014 report, the Peace Commission identified the new initiative for restorative justice in the schools as the priority action to be reinforced. We considered that the two-year grant for the project was only a drop in the bucket and that what is needed is a long- term city-wide priority. To begin this process we engaged the education and youth committees of the city council to begin a dialogue with us and the staff of the project. This is a good example of the kind of work that a City Peace Commission can do.

Continued on next page

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The History of the Culture of War

What is culture and how does it evolve

Warfare in prehistory and its usefulness

The culture of war in prehistory

Data from prehistory before the Neolithic

Enemy images: culture or biology

War and the culture of war at the dawn of history

--Ancient Mesopotamia

--Ancient Egypt

--Ancient China

--Ancient Greece and Rome

--Ancient Crete

--Ancient Indus civilizations

--Ancient Hebrew civilization

--Ancient Central American civilization

Warfare and the origin of the State

Religion and the origin of the State

A summary of the culture of war at the dawn of history

The internal culture of war: a taboo topic

The evolution of the culture of war over the past 5,000 years: its increasing monopolization by the state

--1.Armies and armaments

--2.External conquest and exploitation: Colonialism and Neocolonialism

--3.The internal culture of war and economies based on exploitation of workers and the environment

--4.Prisons and penal systems

--5.The military-industrial complex

--6.The drugs-for-arms trade

--7.Authoritarian control

--8.Control of information

--9.Identification of an "enemy"

--10.Education for the culture of war

--11.Male domination

--12.Religion and the culture of war

--13.The arts and the culture of war



Summary of the history of the culture of war