In Jahrbuch Friedenskultur 2007, Drava Verlag Klagenfurt/Celvec, pp. 28-39.

The Culture of Peace Initiative of UNESCO

The Culture of Peace initiative was launched in 1989 by UNESCO at an international peace conference in Yamoussoukro, Cote d'Ivoire. Its final 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." The inspiration came from Father Felipe MacGregor of Peru, a participant in the Conference, who had published a richly illustrated book in Spanish on the culture of peace for use by schools.

The Member States of UNESCO then adopted in 1992 a proposal for a Culture of Peace Programme to bring peace to states newly emerging from conflict. With the full support of UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor, national programmes were then established, beginning with El Salvador and Mozambique, and over the next few years extended to a number of other countries. But the national culture of peace programmes did not receive the financing that had been expected from the rich Member States, and by the end of the decade they had mostly disappeared.

Meanwhile, at the UN General Assembly in New York, the Member States from the South began as early as 1995 to request a global culture of peace programme for the UN system, and in 1999 they adopted a Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace (Resolution A/53/243) and proclaimed the Year 2000 as the International Year for the Culture of Peace and the Decade 2001-2010 as the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World. The UN resolution called for a "global movement for a culture of peace" that would include initiatives of the civil society as well as governments and the UN, and that would be "promoted through sharing of information among actors on their initiatives in this regard".

For the International Year in 2000, UNESCO organized a campaign to involve the civil society and individuals around the world. Over 75 million people signed the Manifesto 2000, committing themselves to cultivate a culture of peace in daily life.

A more detailed history of the culture of peace at UNESCO may be found on my website at

The culture of peace concept, as presented to the General Assembly in the original draft document A/53/370, was specifically presented as an alternative to the culture of war that has dominated states for 5,000 years. For each of eight fundamental aspects of the culture of war, an alternative approach was proposed for the culture of peace. The following schema is taken from the history on my website at

Culture of War Culture of Peace
power characterized as the monopoly of force education for culture of peace
having an enemy tolerance and solidarity
hierarchical authority democratic participation
secrecy and propaganda free flow of information
armament disarmament
exploitation of people human rights
... and nature sustainable development
male dominance equality of women and men

There was considerable opposition to the UNESCO draft by the rich Member States from the North whose power is based on the culture of war. The Americans were most explicit, stating that stated that peace should not be elevated to the category of human right, otherwise it will be very difficult to start a war. Although they could not block its adoption, the Europeans and Americans managed to remove from the resolution any mention of the culture of war.

The rich member states also removed the provision that would have allowed for voluntary financing of proposals in the resolution. Hence, there has been practically no funding for culture of peace activities or responsible staff in the UN system. The Summit Document adopted by Heads of State at the United Nations in 2005 reaffirmed support for the 1999 resolution as well as similar initiatives and called upon Secretary-General to "explore enhancing implementation mechanisms and to follow up on those initiatives." However, as of this date in 2007, there has still been no concrete progress by the UN system in this regard. At UNESCO, support for the culture of peace was severely reduced after the departure of Director-General Federico Mayor in 1999. Although in 2006, the Member States of UNESCO reaffirmed their commitment to the culture of peace as a major theme for the organizations medium-term strategy of 2008-2013, it remains to be seen if this will be translated by the organization into concrete programme activities.

At the same time as support from the Member States and the UN system has waned, support from the civil society has increased, as described in the following section.

Activities of the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace

The World Civil Society Report on the Culture of Peace submitted to the United Nations in 2005 included responses from 700 organizations. They overwhelmingly agreed that the culture of peace is advancing in their sphere of operations, despite lack of resources and lack of attention by the mass media, academia and the UN system. This was reported by most of the 111 international organizations that submitted information, including organizations with millions of members. It was also reported by organizations from every region of the world, as indicated in overviews from each region in the summary report on line at

When asked what were the chief obstacles to progress, many organizations reported 1) lack of resources and 2) lack of attention by the mass media. In other words, progress is being made but few people are aware of it because it is not reported in the media.

One needs to distinguish a "virtual" global movement for a culture of peace from a "self-conscious" movement for a culture of peace.

Virtually the movement is immense. Sustainable development, human rights, women's equality, inter-religious dialogue, peace education, all are components of the global movement for a culture of peace, as defined by the UN resolution. Each of these components is a global movement in itself, and the global movement for a culture of peace can be considered as a "movement of movements."

On the other hand, how many organizations and individuals are self-conscious that their efforts in the eight programme areas contribute to the replacement of the culture of war by a culture of peace? And that the blueprint has actually been adopted and published by the UN General Assembly? Not many!

A Personal Assessment of the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace

So far, consciousness of the culture of peace remains at a rather low level, comparable to that of human rights in the first four decades after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations. To illustrate the long delay, consider the following analysis of references to human rights in academic publications, as taken from the Social Science Citation Index. Note that references to the United Nations is shown on a second axis as a "control" indicator showing that recent acceleration of references is not simply due to an overall increase in the academic literature surveyed.

The great development in consciousness about human rights in recent years is certainly due in large part to initiatives of the civil society. A similar analysis could be made in the developing consciousness of ecology and sustainable development. If there is to be such a development in consciousness about a culture of peace, it will surely need to involve a movement led by the civil society.

In the last year or two (2005-2006) there is a slight increase in the number of events and initiatives that are self-consciously "culture of peace", although it is still not anywhere near the order of magnitude of "human rights" or "sustainable development." Here are some examples.

A number of cities and provinces in Brazil have instituted culture of peace commissions (see Internet report at

A Federal Parliamentary Culture of Peace Council was created in Brazil - a permanent, deliberative body of the legislative branch, bill (nš9 of 2003) approved unanimously by the Federal Assembly on November 23, 2006.

Soka Gakkai has created an exhibit on the culture of peace which has been shown throughout the world (

An international conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in May 2007 is dedicated to building a culture of peace (

The Second International Salon for Peace Initiatives in Paris, June 2006, was dedicated to "Actors for a culture of peace and non-violence." ( )

An International Symposium on a Culture of Peace was held by the Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding in Seoul, Korea, in August 2005 (

An Arab network of youth for a culture of peace is in the process of being organized (see )

A conference entitled "Building a Culture of Peace in Africa / Diaspora: Best Practices & Models" was scheduled for April 2007 at California State University in Sacramento ( ) and a conference with a similar title, "Building a Culture of Peace and Dialogue in African Higher Institutions of Learning: Best Practices, Modes and Strategies" was scheduled for February 2007 in Yaounde, Cameroon. (

When we launched the global website for the Culture of Peace News Network in March of this year (2007), we immediately received reports from all regions, a sign that the movement is developing throughout the world (see

I can imagine that in four or five decades, the consciousness of a culture of peace will have progressed to the point that it has for human rights and for sustainable development.

However, that raises another question: can we afford the delay? Four or five decades (two generations) is a long time, and there are other historical forces that are developing in the other direction at a pace that may be more rapid and quite dangerous.

One is the likelihood of a nuclear war. Because of the refusal of the Great Powers to agree to nuclear disarmament, the production and deployment of nuclear weapons is spreading to more and more countries, with increased risk that they may also fall into the hands of non-state actors. In fact, as I have argued in an unpublished article available on the Internet at , Hiroshima/Nagasaki provided a moral umbrella for all subsequent acts of terror and the threat of nuclear weapons is the most flagrant example of terrorism in the world today.

And, in my personal opinion, even more imminent is an economic collapse of the globalized economy as a result of its militarization. Having lived through the collapse of an empire (the Soviet Union) where I lived and worked in the 1970's and 1980's, I agree with such commentators as Johan Galtung that there are signs pointing to a similar collapse in the West within the next decade. In fact the same two factors are at work:

1) economic imbalance due to the use of resources for military production instead of production that meets human needs. As has been pointed out for years by economists such as Lloyd Dumas, in the long run military production makes a negative contribution to an economy. Increasingly in recent years, the US economy has become an economy that consumes imports and produces little to export. The resulting "imbalance of payments" of the US begins to resemble what I saw while working in the Soviet Union before its economic collapse at the end of the 1980's. By the end of the Soviet Union all of the best trained scientists and engineers and all of the best materials were devoted to the military, and there was little left for civilian use or for export production.

2) political apathy due to the increasing militarization of the political process. The American political process is becoming so authoritarian and corrupt that it risks losing the allegiance of the American people. This also reminds me of the last days of the Soviet Union where I saw a people so alienated from their government that they did not lift a finger to save it when the economy collapsed.

When empires collapse, there is a political vacuum. In the past, such vacuums have been filled by new cultures of war, either revolutions based on the culture of war or fascist coups which are by their nature the extreme form of the culture of war.

If consciousness of culture of peace, and development of the global movement were to be sufficiently advanced, they could make possible the transition from a culture of war to a culture of peace to fill the vacuum caused by the collapse of empire. But consciousness and the movement are far from that point at the present moment, and I fear that the collapse of empire may arrive sooner rather than later.

Hence I see a particular urgency to work for a culture of peace.

Some Suggestions for a Course of Action

In general, I consider the challenge to be "cultivating" a culture of peace rather than "constructing" it. In fact, for the Year 2000 at the UN, our slogan in French and Spanish was "Cultivons la paix" and "Cultivemos la paz" (unfortunately our American colleagues insisted that it did not sound good in English!). This acknowledges the fact that each person and each community already have some consciousness of a culture of peace, if for no other reason that they have had experience with the culture of war and violence. The challenge is to strengthen and link up the consciousness and the actions that already exist.

It is important to stress the causal relationship between the culture of war at a national level and the culture of violence at a local level. In this regard, two authoritative scientific studies have shown how culture of war at a national level causes violence at the local level. The first was carried out at the level of the nation-state by Dane Archer and Rosemary Gartner, Violence and Crime in Cross-National Perspective (Yale University Press, 1984). Through the analysis of an unprecedented Comparative Crime Data File, they come to the conclusion rates of homicide increase "after both large and small wars, with several types of homicide indicators, in victorious as well as defeated nations, in nations with improved postwar economies and nations with worsened economies, among both men and women offenders, and among several age groups. Postwar increases were most frequent among nations with large numbers of combat deaths."

They conclude that "the one model that appears to be fully consistent with the evidence is the legitimation of violence model, which suggests that the presence of authorized or sanctioned killing during war has a residual effect on the level of homicide in peacetime society."

A second source of supporting evidence for the relationship between external war and internal violence comes from the cross-cultural studies of Mel and Carol Ember. In the Journal of Conflict Resolution in 1994 (volume 38, pages 620-646) under the title, War, Socialization, and Interpersonal Violence: A Cross-Cultural Study, they show that more war is associated with more homicide and assault. They found correlation coefficients to be especially high for non-state societies. Their evidence indicates that the direction of the relationship is from war to homicide rather than the other direction, and, in particular, the relationship appears to be mediated by the socialization of boys for aggression in preparation for warrior roles. The authors conclude: If this theory is correct, war is an important indirect cause of interpersonal violence within a society. War may also be a direct cause of more violence because war legitimizes violence. Our results imply that if we want to reduce the likelihood of interpersonal violence in our society, we may mostly need to reduce the likelihood of war, which would minimize the need to socialize for aggression and possible reduce the likelihood of all violence. War and violence appear to be causally related. If we want to rid the world of violence, we may first have to rid the world of war.

Keeping in mind the causal relationship between the culture of war at the national level and the culture of violence at the community and family level, we may urge all those who are working to stop violence at a local level should consider themselves part of the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace.

1. Use of Internet

In order to speed up the process of consciousness development, it will be useful to take full advantage of the great expansion of Internet in recent years. For example, mailing lists make it possible to contact thousands of people throughout the world and send them information with a single email transmission. The disadvantage, of course, is that people have had to defend themselves against information overload by refusing to be on mailing lists, filtering out unsolicited mail, and simply not reading much of what they receive. Hence, it is necessary to be careful to send only emails that will interest the reader. Similarly, search engines make it possible for people to search for information anywhere in the world, and hence it is useful to provide interesting websites that are attractive and informative.

Working on the Internet has been my own personal priority since retiring from UNESCO in 2001. Already in the text above, there have been references to the different websites I maintain which contain the equivalent of about 10,000 pages of text :

* (a global news service for the culture of peace)

* (a website containing documents pertaining to the decade)

* (my personal website with many culture of peace documents)

And there are many other websites providing information;.for example, a google search for the term "culture of peace" provides almost a million links. Unfortunately, this illustrates the danger of "overload" mentioned in the preceding paragraph. A comparable search for "human rights" yields 132 million links!

2. Education for a culture of peace The more that "culture of peace" is introduced into educational systems, the faster its consciousness can be cultivated, expanded and linked up. There are many exemplary initiatives in this regard such as the educational materials of the Hague Appeal for Peace and the work of Alicia Cabezudo in the Educating Cities Network.

As we stated in the initial culture of peace proposal sent by UNESCO to the UN General Assembly in 1999 (A/53/370), the challenge is link theory and practice for an effective educational effect:

Education for peace, human rights and democracy ought to be transmitted through the entire process of education, including through the democratic and participatory atmosphere and practices of educational institutions ... Solidarity, creativity, civic responsibility, gender sensitivity, the ability to resolve conflicts by non-violent means and critical skills should be learned through practice which involves the educational community in activities promoting a culture of peace.

The pedagogy of Paolo Friere is especially relevant to the culture of peace. As he says in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, education should be seen as collective problem-solving in which teacher and student are equally engaged. This ultimately makes education a political and revolutionary process, since it confronts social problems and works for change.

3. Youth for a culture of peace

Strategically, we should concentrate on youth, the next generation.

With that in mind, we have recently conducted a survey of 475 youth organizations around the world asking what they would like to do in the various programme areas of a culture of peace if the resources were available to them. The result, available on line at , provides a rich source of ideas and shows the great potential of youth organizations.

The conclusion of the youth survey is a proposal for a Global Youth Solidarity Fund to provide the needed resources to youth organizations for their work toward a culture of peace. The idea for a Fund was endorsed as part of the report of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations in November 2006, but it has yet to be enacted.

4. Cities for a culture of peace

There are various attempts to institutionalize the culture of peace. At the level of UNESCO and the United Nations, it has been impossible to get funding for such a process because of opposition from the rich Member States, as mentioned above. At the level of the nation-state, there is an admirable attempt to obtain ministries of peace, but this also meets with strong resistance from the state, not surprising since the culture of war has been the priority of the nation-state for thousands of years.

There is one institutional level, however, that is not tied to the culture of war and which should be open to the culture of peace: the municipality. Cities do not have armies, nor do they give contracts for military production. Unlike nations, their budget is not dominated by preparations for war. Hence, it makes sense to cultivate culture of peace committees and initiatives at the city level, as has been done very effectively in Brazil (see the CPNN report at ). Some of us have been trying to develop an initiative for cities to measure culture of peace indicators on an annual basis, and would welcome interest in this approach (contact .

5. Best Practices

We could all learn from each others' experiences in working for a culture of peace. In this spirit, a group in Barcelona has analyzed the results of the World Civil Society Report of 2005 and issued an analysis of best practices. This will be made available soon on the Internet at

6. World Civil Society Report on the Culture of Peace (2010)

At the end of the International Decade for a Culture of Peace (2001-2010), we will mobilize another World Civil Society Report, similar to that of 2005 which is described above. Hopefully, we will find that progress continues to be made toward a culture of peace.

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