World Peace through the Town Hall
The important role of civil society in creating a culture of peace 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?


In 1998, realizing that the powerful states would oppose the culture of peace, we proposed in the draft Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, that it should be promoted by a global movement for a culture of peace including not only the United Nations and its Member States, but also the civil society. This provision remained intact in the resolution that was finally adopted (United Nations 1999), and it is apparently the only time that the UN General Assembly ever called for a "global movement" (bold italics added):

2. Member States are encouraged to take actions for promoting a culture of peace at the national level as well as at the regional and international levels.
3. Civil society should be involved at the local, regional and national levels to widen the scope of activities on a culture of peace.
4. The United Nations system should strengthen its ongoing efforts to promote a culture of peace.
5. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization should continue to play its important role in and make major contributions to the promotion of a culture of peace.
6. Partnerships between and among the various actors as set out in the Declaration should be encouraged and strengthened for a global movement for a culture of peace.
7. A culture of peace could be promoted through sharing of information among actors on their initiatives in this regard.

In recent years, the civil society has played the leading role in the global movement. Civil society organizations were responsible for most of the 75 million signatures on the Manifesto 2000 (see above) during the International Year for the Culture of Peace. And again in 2005, at the midpoint of the United Nations Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World, 700 civil society organizations around the world responded to our survey. As described in the website , most of them reported that they were making progress toward a culture of peace in their own area of work, but that few people knew about it because it was not treated as newsworthy by the mass media or the academic community.

In recent years, the contributions of social movements to peace have gained recognition through the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize. In earlier years, the prize often went to men of state power who worked for the end of a particular war, in effect for "negative peace" rather than a culture of peace. Hence, the prize was awarded to such men as Henry Kissinger of the United States, Le Duc Tho of Vietnam, Anwar Al-Sadat of Egypt, Menachem Begin of Israel, Frederick DeKlerk of South Africa, Yasser Arafat of Palestine, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin of Israel. It was said that the best way to get the prize was to start a war and then end it. In other cases, however, the prize went to leaders of campaigns for human rights rather than heads of state, including Martin Luther King and Elie Wiesel of the U.S., Adolfo Perez Esquivel of Argentina, Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan of Northern Ireland. More recently, the prize has gone to the leaders of social movements that contribute in other ways to a culture of peace. These include Joseph Rotblat and Jody Williams (disarmament movements), Aung San Suu Kyi and Shirin Ebadi (democracy and human rights), Wangari Maathai and Al Gore (sustainable development), Muhammad Yunus (economic justice) and Rigoberta Menchu Tum (human rights and indigenous movements). Increasingly, the Nobel Peace Prize has become, in effect, a Nobel Prize for the Culture of Peace.

The closest thing to a coalition of all social movements is the World Social Forum. The Forum has not attempted to develop a formal organizational structure, nor does it issue consensus statements. Instead, it has provided a venue where people can gather and discuss their issues for a week or so every year (beginning in January 2009 it will take place once every two years). Given the fact that Brazil, as we will see later, has taken the lead in the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace at the level of the city, it is not surprising that the World Social Forum was originally a Brazilian city initiative (from Porto Alegre) or that it continues to be coordinated from Brazil. The 2009 Forum took place in Belem, Brazil, with impressive participation by the indigenous peoples of the surrounding Amazon region.. My own experience there, as well as at the 2005 Forum in Porto Alegre, left me with an unforgettable impression of the energy and diversity of participation in social movements around the world.

Let us take a brief look at the history of civil society movements pertaining to the various programme areas of the culture of peace.

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