World Peace through the Town Hall
1) The difference between "peace" and "culture of peace" and a brief history of the culture of war 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 present moment of history, war and peace (defined as the absence of war) are issues that cannot be decided by the town and city. Instead the power to make decisions about these issues is monopolized by the state, with support from the various institutions allied with it, the arms industry, the mass media and even the educational systems, including universities. While towns and cities are powerless to make decisions on the culture of war, they suffer from it nonetheless. The main task of the city is the well-being of its citizens, which requires a culture of peace. But what is this culture of peace?

It is not by accident that the term "culture of peace" originated at UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and that it originated in a meeting in Africa in 1989. UNESCO was established after World War II to ensure that there would never again be another world war. It made a distinction between the old concept of peace between sovereign states and a new concept, as yet unnamed, of peace between peoples. The preamble to the UNESCO constitution declared in 1946:

"That a peace based exclusively upon the political and economic arrangements of governments would not be a peace which could secure the unanimous, lasting and sincere support of the peoples of the world, and that the peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind."

It was not until 1989 that this concept was given the name of "culture of peace" in the final declaration of the International Congress on Peace in the Minds of Men, sponsored by UNESCO in Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire. The declaration called for the construction of "a new vision of peace culture based on the universal values of respect for life, liberty, justice, solidarity, tolerance, human rights and equality between women and men"

In 1992, UNESCO decided to undertake an "action programme for the culture of peace" It was one of those crucial moments in world history when advances could be made because the old order was changing. UNESCO had been transformed by the success of national liberation movements into an organization with a new potential majority of votes from the countries of the South. The Cold War had ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. The UN Security Council, freed from the Cold War vetoes of the Soviet Union, had begun to undertake peacekeeping missions, with a new doctrine of intervention spelled out in the 1992 document "An Agenda for Peace." And perhaps, most important, Federico Mayor, a "dark-horse candidate", had been elected as Director-General of UNESCO. He was a man committed to the Constitutional mandate of the organization and to the newly-emerged nations of the south. Mr Mayor took up the culture of peace as his priority.

Details of this history are provided on my website at Early History of the Culture of Peace: A Personal Memoire (Adams 2003).

The UNESCO (1992) Action Programme for a Culture of Peace declared:

"to construct peace in the minds of men - that is the mandate of UNESCO. Never before has our work been needed so much. The world has reached a turning-point in history. It is a moment of opportunity for global co-operation for peace. It is a moment that should not be lost. It has become clear that military force cannot solve the global problems of violence and injustice. Military force can only continue the vicious cycle. . . We need peace culture, not war culture . . ."

During the decade of the 1990's, with the support of Director-General Mayor, our culture of peace unit began to establish national programmes for a culture of peace in countries such as El Salvador, Mozambique, Philippines, and even Russia, but by the end of the decade these initiatives had failed due primarily to lack of support from the rich Member States. It became evident that they did not want to see a culture of peace developed in those countries. Then, in 1998 the UN General Assembly in New York, thanks to the initiative of countries from the South, declared the year 2000 as the International Year for the Culture of Peace and requested from UNESCO in Paris a draft Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace.

The Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, adopted as Resolution A/53/243 by the United Nations General Assembly in 1999, includes the final definition of the culture of peace. It is in fact a "final definition" because once the United Nations adopts a declaration of this type, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it becomes a permanent standard-setting document. New resolutions can be adopted later, but the initial declaration cannot be amended. The culture of peace is defined as "a set of values, attitudes, traditions and modes of behaviour and ways of life." Notice that "culture" is defined in the broad anthropological sense, not in the narrow popular sense restricted to music, dance, and the other arts.

Although the Declaration section was somewhat politicized by the diplomats (e.g. insisting that it would not apply to the internal policies of the Member States), the section on the Programme of Action retained intact the eight programme areas of a culture of peace. This was due to the consummate diplomacy of Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury of Bangladesh who shepherded its passage through an unprecedented nine months of discussion and opposition.:

1) a culture of peace through education
2) sustainable economic and social development
3) respect for all human rights
4) equality between women and men
5) democratic participation
6) understanding, tolerance and solidarity
7) participatory communication and the free flow of information and knowledge
8) international peace and security [with a priority on disarmament]

It is important to recognize at this point that with the exception of the 8th programme area, all of the culture of peace areas apply as directly to the policies of the city as they do to the policies of the state. The 8th programme area can be interpreted as public safety and gun control at the local level, as well as networking with other cities for peace at an international level.

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