Early History of the Culture of Peace

A Personal Memoire

by David Adams, August 2003

(with postscripts in 2004, 2009, 2018)

Introduction and UNESCO's Mandate
Page 1

Yamousoukro and Seville Statement
Page 2

Origins and Executive Board Adoption
Pages 3 - 4

Launching the Programme: El Salvador and Roundtable
Pages 5 - 6 - 7

1993 General Conference
Page 8

National Projects
Pages 9 - 10

Programme Unit
Page 11

Toward a Global Scope
Pages 12 - 13

Transdisciplinary Project and Human Right to Peace
Pages 14 - 15 - 16

1997: A New Approach
Page 17

UN General Assembly Resolutions
Page 18

Resolution for International Year
Page 19

Declaration and Programme of Action
Pages 20 - 21

Resolution for International Decade
Pages 22 - 23

Training Programmes
Page 24

Global Movement
Pages 25 - 26

Publicity Campaign
Pages 27 - 28

Decentralized Network
Pages 29 - 30

Manifesto 2000
Page 31

Use of Internet
Pages 32 - 33

Future of the Culture of Peace
Pages 34 - 35 - 36 - 37 - 38

Annexes and Documentation
Page 39



Since retiring from UNESCO in 2001, I have often been asked about the history of the culture of peace. I have an especially privileged view of this history, having been the consultant who designed UNESCO's Culture of Peace Programme in 1992, a senior staff member of the Programme from 1993-1997, and the Director of the International Year for the Culture of Peace from 1998 until my retirement.

Although the culture of peace began as a UNESCO programme, from the early days, we saw it becoming a global movement; see, for example the final chapter of the 1995 UNESCO monograph on a culture of peace and the chapter on the global movement in the 1996 report on the El Salvador Culture of Peace Programme. This approach was later confirmed by the UN General Assembly in their Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace in 1999, and put into practice during the campaign for the Manifesto 2000 which engaged 75 million people.

As of this writing in 2003, the global movement has developed far beyond its initial scope, to such an extent that it is difficult to keep track of its myriad manifestations around the world. [Note added in 2005: The 2005 World Report on the Culture of Peace includes information from 700 organizations, but no doubt there are many more that are active for a culture of peace.] For that reason, I write here of its "early history" and confine this document those aspects of its development that I personally experienced at UNESCO, hence the subtitle, "A Personal Memoir." Each of the hundreds of people who contributed to the culture of peace at UNESCO undoubtedly has a different view of how it developed. The following account and the conclusions I draw are my own personal view, and I make no claims of objectivity or official status. Hopefully, others will also write and share their vision of the culture of peace and together they can be read with a view of strengthening the global movement for a culture of peace.

UNESCO's Mandate

Although the phrase "culture of peace" was first elaborated for UNESCO in 1989, it is foreshadowed in the mandate of UNESCO when it was founded in 1945-1946. The motivation of its founders was eloquently expressed in the Preamble to the UNESCO Constitution: "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.... peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind." Based on this, the preamble contains the unforgettable phrase, "since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed."

Already in the UNESCO Constitution we find the idea that war as an institution is based upon a culture of war that is broader and deeper than the wars themselves. It's like an iceberg: war is the tip which may or may not be visible at any given moment, whereas the culture of war exists continually, supporting particular wars from below and being continually reinforced by the wars that have already occurred. As the Romans said, "Si vis pacem Para Bellum" - "If you want peace, prepare for war." For this reason, a culture of peace needs more than the absence of war. It requires a profound cultural transformation.

Culture appears in the very name of UNESCO which was established as the cultural organization of the United Nations. UNESCO is concerned with "values, attitudes, traditions and modes of behaviour and ways of life" - a phrase that opens the first article of the Declaration on a Culture of Peace eventually adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1999. From the beginning, UNESCO was not concerned with culture for its own sake, but culture for the sake of peace. Hence, the UNESCO Constitution states that the purpose of the Organization is for "advancing, through the educational and scientific and cultural relations of the peoples of the world, the objectives of international peace and of the common welfare of mankind for which the United Nations Organization was established and which its Charter proclaims."

The address of this page is http://www.culture-of-peace.info/history/introduction.html.

home page
next page