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?


Over the centuries, as the state has increasingly monopolized the culture of war, the city, town and local region has lost its culture of war, ceding it to the national authorities. If we visit European cities, we can still see fragments of the old city walls with their turrets spaced close enough together for archers or musketeers to shoot an invading enemy on all fronts. In many cases we will see the old gates that could be closed to keep out an invading enemy or to control who could come in and out of the city, much as today's states control the traffic through their customs or douanes at each port of entry into the state.

No longer do cities and towns maintain armies to protect against invasion or to put down internal rebellions. Police forces are armed to encounter one or a few potential "enemies", and one does not imagine them to have tanks, missiles, nuclear weapons and the weapons of the modern battlefield (although there is a problem with their use of automatic weapons). The same is true for the various other areas of the culture of peace in the context of local government. One finds that policies in most of these areas are much less aligned with the culture of war than their equivalents at the national level, and instead one finds considerable evidence of the culture of peace.

Sustainable development is highly developed at the local level. This is reflected in the work of ICLEI, (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives). ICLEI is a membership association of over 987 local governments, representing over 300 million people worldwide that have made a unique commitment to sustainable development. Their work is based on United Nations decisions, beginning with Agenda 21 that was adopted by the United Nations after the Rio Conference on Environment and Development in 1992. It is described as follows on their website at :

"Through its international campaigns and programs, ICLEI works with local governments to generate political awareness of key issues; establish plans of action toward defined, concrete, measurable targets; work toward meeting these targets through the implementation of projects; and evaluate local and cumulative progress toward sustainable development.

"Our campaigns, programs, and projects promote Local Agenda 21 as a participatory, long-term, strategic planning process that addresses local sustainability while protecting global common goods. Linking local action to internationally agreed upon goals and targets such as Agenda 21, the Rio Conventions, the Habitat Agenda, the Millennium Development Goals and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation is an essential component.

"A fundamental component of our performance-based campaign model is the milestone process. Each campaign incorporates a five-milestone structure that participating local governments work through: (1) establish a baseline; (2) set a target; (3) develop a local action plan; (4) implement the local action plan; and (5) measure results."

Many towns and cities are putting a priority on the development of local, sustainable agriculture, realizing that the increasing globalization of agriculture carries a serious risk of dependence on petroleum and on the global economy. If these should fail, the local community will need to have food resources at its disposal in order to survive. Two examples are the city of Curitiba in Brazil; and Cuba, which, though not a local government, has coped with isolation from the global economy by developing a self-sufficient agricultural system.

Here is an excerpt from the description of Curitiba on the ICLEI website:

"Curitiba is referred to as the ecological capital of Brazil, with a network of 28 parks and wooded areas. In 1970, there was less than 1 square meter of green space per person; now there are 52 square meters for each person. Residents planted 1.5 million trees along city streets. Builders get tax breaks if their projects include green space. Flood waters diverted into new lakes in parks solved the problem of dangerous flooding, while also protecting valley floors and riverbanks, acting as a barrier to illegal occupation, and providing aesthetic and recreational value to the thousands of people who use city parks

"The "green exchange" employment program focuses on social inclusion, benefiting both those in need and the environment. Low-income families living in shantytowns unreachable by truck bring their trash bags to neighborhood centers, where they exchange them for bus tickets and food . . .Under the "garbage that's not garbage" program, 70% of the city's trash is recycled by its residents."

The following description of Cuba's ecological initiatives is taken from a longer report by Oxfam America (2001) Cuba: Going Against the Grain:

"Cuba has given birth to an ecology-based agriculture. A number of alternative production techniques have been introduced to cope with the lack of chemical inputs and limited fuel, electricity and machinery in food production for domestic consumption. These include organic fertilizer, animal traction, mixed cropping, and biological pest controls. Some have called Cuba, in only a slight overstatement, a national laboratory in organic agriculture. Cuba's production is also much more diversified, more integrated, and smaller in scale, which leads towards greater sustainability. A major factor in domestic food production has been the explosive growth of urban gardens, which now produce half of the vegetables consumed in Havana, a population of two million people."

Human rights has been measured at the city level by the City of Sao Paulo (2008) in Brazil, with the methodology and results available on their Internet site. The city's 31 subprefectures are mapped to indicate whether they have high, good, medium or low guarantees of human rights. The measures employed correspond to many of the priorities of every modern city including housing, health care and sanitation, education, and public safety. This is discussed further in the next chapter.

Democratic participation is often more developed at the local level than at the national level. It is sometimes said that this is simply because the scale is smaller, but there are other reasons as well. Cities and towns are relatively free from the enormous influence of the military-industrial complex and the monopoly corporations and financial institutions that weigh so heavily on national policy.

The most important recent advance in democratic participation, participatory budgeting, which began in Latin America (presupuesto particpativo or orçamento participativo) is now spreading to cities and towns throughout the world. The following description of participatory budgeting is drawn primarily from the online page of Wikipedia, and supplemented by other sources.

"Participatory budgeting first developed in the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil, starting in 1989 as a response to severe inequality in living standards, including slum conditions for one third of the city's residents. The process occurs annually, starting with a series of neighborhood, regional, and citywide assemblies, where residents and elected budget delegates identify spending priorities and vote on which priorities to implement.

"Porto Alegre spends about 200 million dollars per year on construction and services, and these funds are subject to participatory budgeting. Annual spend on fixed expenses such as debt service and pensions, are not subject to public participation. Around fifty thousand residents of Porto Alegre now take part in the participatory budgeting process (compared to 1.5 million city inhabitants), with the number of participants growing year on year since 1989. Participants are from diverse economic and political backgrounds.

"The participatory budgeting cycle starts in January and assemblies across the city facilitate maximum participation and interaction. Each February there is instruction from city specialists in technical and system aspects of city budgeting. In March there are plenary assemblies in each of the city's 16 districts as well as assemblies dealing with such areas as transportation, health, education, sports, and economic development. These large meetings - with participation that can reach over 1,000 - elect delegates to represent specific neighborhoods. The mayor and staff attend to respond to citizen concerns. In the following months delegates meet weekly or biweekly in each district to review technical project criteria and district needs. City department staff may participate according to their area of expertise. At a second regional plenary, regional delegates prioritize the district's demands and elect 42 councillors representing all districts and thematic areas to serve on the Municipal Council of the Budget. The main function of the Municipal Council of the Budget is to reconcile the demands of each district with available resources, and to propose and approve an overall municipal budget. The resulting budget is binding, though the city council can suggest, but not require changes. Only the Mayor may veto the budget, or remand it back to the Municipal Council of the Budget, and this has never yet happened.

"The high number of participants, after more than a decade, suggests that participatory budgeting encourages increasing citizen involvement, according to World Bank paper. Also, Porto Alegre's health and education budget increased from 13% (1985) to almost 40% (1996), and the share of the participatory budget in the total budget increased from 17% (1992) to 21% (1999). The paper concludes that participatory budgeting can lead to improved conditions for the poor. . ."

"Based on the success in Porto Alegre, more than 140 (about 2.5%) of the 5,571 municipalities in Brazil have adopted participatory budgeting. Participatory budgeting has spread to hundreds of Latin American cities, and dozens of cities in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America."

The International Observatory on Participatory Democracy (2006) has produced a methodology for evaluating participatory democracy which is available on the Internet. In addition to participatory budgeting, it provides suggestions for the evaluation of other municipal processes such as the preparation of strategic municipal plans, local economic development, sustainability, and education projects. The extensive interaction of democratic participation with many other relevant programme areas in this case illustrates once again the holistic unity 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