World Peace through the Town Hall
The basic and essential role of local government (cities, towns and local regions or provinces) in cultivating 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?


Continued from previous page

Security and public safety is a concern in every community as urban violence has attained epidemic proportions in many cities of the world. This is reviewed in the report, Human Security for an Urban Century: Local Challenges, Global Perspectives which has been issued by the Human Security Policy Division at Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (2007), available on the Internet. Among the chief concerns are homicide rates and number of police per capita. The latter must be qualified by another suggested indicator which is that of corruption, since police do not make a city more secure if they are corrupt! The human security report indicates that public safety is closely related to other aspects of a culture of peace such as perceived access to decision-making and participation in community organizations (democratic participation) and percentage of population in slums, land tenure, and access to public services (human rights). The indicator of homicide rates may be related to other important issues which include rates of other types of crimes and rates of gun ownership (especially automatic weapons) and measures of gun control. The report notes, for example, that in Brazil, more than 100 people are killed by firearms every day, and that banning the carrying of guns in Bogotà during traditionally violent holidays or late at night has been shown to reduce rates of violence.

It is not the thesis of this book that cities and towns, no matter how effective their policies, can create a culture of peace by themselves. Instead, however, experience with some ongoing initiatives shows that they can be the basis for a new culture of peace with the collaboration of civil society, on the one hand, and a global network of local governments, on the other hand. Looking back at the previous chapter we can see the following advantages deriving from the linkage of local government with civil society:

As described above in the consideration of civil society, an essential contribution can be made by local governments by providing:

1) democratic legitimacy and the involvement of the entire community in the work of the civil society;

2) a venue where the civil society can cooperate without needing to compete for limited resources;

3) a venue where the civil society organizations promoting the various aspects of a culture of peace can cooperate in a holistic and mutually-reinforcing way; and

4) the basis for a new world order that is free from the culture of war.

At the same time, when working with local government the civil society makes essential contributions to a culture of peace that could not otherwise be done by local government working alone:

1) passion, energy and local experience in each of the various areas of a culture of peace

2) linkage to global movements concerned with each of the various areas of a culture of peace

3) continuity when local government changes hands in election reversals

Establishment of City Commissions for Culture of Peace

With help from the Bureau of UNESCO, culture of peace commissions were established in Brazilian cities and provinces during the United Nations International Decade for a Culture of Peace that began in 2000. By the end of 2007, commissions had been established in the cities of Sao Paulo, Itepecirica da Serra, Sao Jose dos Caompos and Diadema, all within the State of São Paulo, and Curitiba and Londrina in the State of Parana. Two other cities were in the process of establishing such commissions in Ribeirao Pires and Cotia. And they followed the establishment earlier of a Culture of Peace Council in the Legislative Assembly of the State of Sao Paulo, thanks to the leadership of Lia Diskin and her organization, Palas Athena. Also, as mentioned above, Sao Paulo has pioneered in the measurement of human rights at the city level. Unfortunately, the commisions were abandoned for the most part after the Decade ended in 2010.

The commissions in Brazil provided valuable experience by integrating the initiatives and perspectives of government and civil society. For example, the Culture of Peace Council of the Legislative Assembly of the State of Sao Paulo had six elected deputies from the three main political parties and 35 representatives from civil society organizations working in all of the various areas of the culture of peace. As one of its actions, the Commission distributed widely a guidebook on the work for culture of peace by the various civil society organizations involved.

Because the culture of peace integrates a broad range of program areas, including not only disarmament, but also peace education, equality of women, human rights, tolerance and solidarity, democratic participation, free flow of information and sustainable development, it provides a platform to integrate different departments of government. For example, an event that I attended in São Paulo was sponsored by the secretariats for human rights and for the environment, and brought together government workers in health, social work, education and police as well as civil society organizations in all these areas.

Some flavor of the work of the Sao Paulo Council can be obtained from the cycle of six conferences it sponsored in 2007 for "multipliers" by specialists in strategic tools for culture of peace building. "It is an honor to be here with those who are working to build a Culture of Peace", said Jose Gregori, President of the Sao Paulo Human Rights Committee, ex-Foreign Affairs Minister, when he opened the first conference on March 21. Sixty persons, including deputies, leaders of NGOs, journalists, lawyers, civil servants of the legislative branch, and parliament representatives attended. Other conferences concerned ethics in public life, democracy, power, and the legislative process, restorative justice and public policies, complexity in public policies, and Gandhi, a serving leader.

In Hamilton, Ontario, the initiative for a Culture of Peace Commission had much in common with the initiative in Sao Paulo. It also was led by the civil society organizations that came together in 2000 around the campaign for the International Year for the Culture of Peace and the dissemination of the Manifesto 2000. It also initiated the process to gain official status from the Mayor and the City Council. Our presentation to the City Council in October 2008 followed discussions about garbage cans and dog-parks, putting peace at the level of day-to-day life for ordinary citizens. Unfortunately, it never achieved a formal city status and, like the commissions in Brazil, it has not advanced in recent years.

At that time, I was also part of an initiative in Barcelona (Catalunya, Spain) to develop city culture of peace initiatives. It came after my participation in a meeting of an international conference on the Role of Local Governments in Peace building organised by the Barcelona Provincial Council and Barcelona City Council, in collaboration with the Committee on City Diplomacy of UCLG (the umbrella organization for mayors, United Cities and Local Governments). Sponsored by Federico Mayor's Culture of Peace Foundation and working along with Alicia Cabezudo and Cecile Barbuto, we undertook a series of meetings and proposals to the above organizations to establish culture of peace initiatives in the Barcelona region. Despite several years of work and discussions, the project never got off the ground. Later, I met with officials in one of these cities, Saint Boi, but despite optimistic plans, this too never reached fruition.

The idea of city peace commissions does not disappear. The latest initiative is in Ashland, Oregon, in the United States. It is a work in progress as described in a recent CPNN article:Toward a Culture of Peace Commission for Ashland, Oregon (USA) which may be found at .

Finally, there is the Peace Commission of the city of New Haven, Connecticut, where I live in the United States. I was part of the group that initiated the Commission back in the 1980's as part of the American-Soviet Friendship activities that included the People's Peace Appeal (See ). When I moved back to New Haven in 2010, I rejoined the Commission, but found it engaged in futile attempts to make peace at an international level by lobbying the US government as part of the traditional peace movement. I saw my role as shifting the priority to culture of peace at a local level by making an annual assessment of culture of peace at the local level, as described in the following section.

End of chapter

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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