Towards a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly

Featured

A frequent theme of this blog has been the need for a profound reform of the United Nations so that it is managed more directly by the peoples of the world – through cities or parliaments instead of the present Member States that are inextricably linked to the culture of war.

A significant first step towards such a reform would be the proposed parliamentary assembly of the United Nations (UNPA). As this month’s bulletin of CPNN documents, there are increasing calls for such an assembly, including proposals from the European Parliament, the Pan-African Parliament and an international conference of around 300 chief justices, judges, legal experts and ambassadors from nearly 60 countries predominantly from the Global South.

Such an Assembly would be an important step forward for a number of reasons.

1) A UNPA could make the United Nations more democratic. As stated by the European Parliament, it could increase “the democratic profile and internal democratic process of the organisation and . . . allow world civil society to be directly associated in the decision-making process.”

2) Parliamentarians are often closer to the people than their national goverments. For example, we have seen recently that many parliamentarians and some parliamentary associations support the nuclear ban treaty even when their governments have boycotted the UN negotiations, and we note other parliamentary initiatives towards a culture of peace. Hence a UNPA would be a force within the UN system to move towards a culture of peace.

3) There has been talk of UN reform for many years, but no action, because of resistance by the Member States. A UNPA would set a precedent for change.

4) There has been an erosion of confidence among the peoples of the world that the UN can provide a way forward to escape from the damages caused by the culture of war. A UNPA could begin to restore confidence and inspire further change.

5) If the thesis of this blog is correct that we are approaching a collapse of the present world economic and political structure, a UNPA could become key element in a new global governance structure, which, in turn could help in the development of a new, and hopefully, more equitable, economic order.

So what needs to be done?

Already regional parliaments of Africa and Europe are on record to support a UNPA. We need a similar initiative from the Latin American Parliament, and support from parliamentarians in North America, Asia and the Arab States.

We have seen that organizations of mayors often take progressive positions on the issues related to war and peace. It would be good if they would support the development of a UNPA.

There needs to be a concerted effort by alternative, progressive media to put the UNPA on the agenda for action by the civil society. To the extent that this is done it can stimulate the mainstream commercial media to pick up the issue as well.

International NGO’s should be encouraged to see in a UNPA a potential support for their progressive initiatives, and they should get on board a global movement for a UNPA.

With increased attention to the question, there needs to be further study of the methods and effectiveness of the regional parliaments that exist already, in order to determine how a UNPA should be structured. This was the conclusion of a recent meeting of the organizations already involved in working for a UNPA: Parliamentarians for Global Action, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly.

The establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly could move us a step closer to the transition from the culture of war to a culture of peace. No doubt there will be resistance from national governments, and especially the great powers, who will understand the a UNPA provides an alternative to their power that is based on the culture of war. Hence, the struggle will not be easy. But, as Richard Falk reminds us with regard to the nuclear ban treaty and the elimination of nuclear weapons, there is historical precedent for progressive change as a result of “deep commitments, sacrifices, movements, and struggles that eventually achieved the impossible, ending such entrenched evils as slavery, apartheid, and colonialism.”

Role of mass demonstrations in history

Featured

Once again, as described in this month’s CPNN bulletin, we are seeing mass demonstrations against corrupt and repressive government policies, which leads us to the question of their historical significance.

I am reminded of mass demonstrations which I have experienced over the years in the United States: the gathering for civil rights at the Washington Monument in 1963 when Martin Luther King made his great speech “I have a dream!”; the mobilization of one million people for a nuclear test ban in New York’s Central Park in 1982; and the mobilizations in 2003 against the American invasion of Iraq which involved millions of people around the world. The mobilization in Barcelona in 2003 was cited as the precedent for the new mobilization a few days ago in that city demanding that Spain should receive refugees.

The effect of these demonstrations, as I look back at them, was to mobilize the consciousness of participants and onlookers, to make them realize that progressive change is possible if enough people demand it. In the words of the World Social Forum, it makes us realize that “A better world is possible!” In the words of the Black Panther Party in the 1960’s, “Power to the People!” And in the words of the poem I wrote when working for the culture of peace at UNESCO:

“… those who would drive the team of peace
must link arms on either side,
harness their anger against injustice,
conquer the fears of centuries…”

Yes, this kind of consciousness is essential for progress! In the cases mentioned above, it led to civil rights legislation in the United States in the 1960’s, to nuclear agreements of the 1980’s (Gorbachev said at the time he was influenced by the mass demonstrations), and to the great increase in consciousness against the culture of war that we have seen in this century.

But consciousness, by itself, is not enough to bring us to a culture of peace.

Think of the massive demonstrations in Iran in 1978 or in Egypt’s Tahir Square in 2011. Yes, there was a great leap forward in consciousness of the people in those countries. And yes, change was achieved. But in the end they did not lead to a culture of peace, but rather to new authoritarian (culture of war) governments in Iran and Egypt.

I come back to the analysis put forward last year for the changes towards peace in Colombia, which has also been accompanied by a great increase in consciousness. Like Martin Luther King in the 1960’s, President Santos has received the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in this important historical process. But as I wrote last year in my advice to the people of Colombia, one cannot leave progress in the hands of the state because ultimately the state is inextricably linked to the culture of war. Instead, “develop a network of local peace committees and keep them strong and independent so that you do not have to depend solely on the national government to maintain the peace.”

It is for that reason that we continue to search for more initiatives such as the peace commission of the city of New Haven where I live.

Can we learn from history?

Featured

The events reflected in recent CPNN bulletins concerning the voting split in the United Nations and the results of last fall’s elections, remind me of turbulent periods of the 20th Century and raise the question if we can learn from what happened then.

The rise of populist and potentially fascist parties last year remind one of the rise of fascism in the 1930’s. What can we learn from those times?

First of all, we must avoid a Third World War. That requires a unified opposition against fascism and preparations for war such as those that took place in Germany and Spain in the 1930’s. A lesson from the 1930’s is that the opposition was weakened by serious infighting between communists, socialists and anarchists. In France, in the late 1930’s there was a united front under the leadership of Leon Blum (who later played a major role in the establishment of UNESCO), but by then it was too late for united fronts in Germany and Spain.

Lesson 1: the need for solidarity of those opposed to fascism and war.

These times also remind us of the 1960’s and the movements for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. I was part of the new generation at that time in the United States, and our generation was opposed by many peace activists of the previous generation who were influenced by the anti-communism of the government and the media. We were considered too radical! Of course, there were some in the previous generation who worked with us, the Kennedys, Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X. but they paid for it with their lives (to what extent at the hands of government forces remains an open question). In Europe, too, the new generation took a revolutionary stance in the face of opposition for the most part from their elders.

Lesson 2: the need to listen to the new generation and work with their progressive leadership.

Returning to the voting split in the United Nations, we can ask if the Global South can provide leadership at this period of history beyond their votes at the UN. In recent years, this blog has followed progressive trends in Latin America and Africa, but the more a regime is progressive the more likely it will be overthrown by the forces of imperialism. The classic example from a previous generation was the government of Allende in Chile. But now, Venezuela is overturning the left-wing legacy of Hugo Chavez and Brazil has overturned the leftist legacy of Lula. And perhaps most dramatic was the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, we may assume because of his leadership for African unity to oppose Northern imperialism.

Lesson 3: the need to develop oppposition based in the civil society rather than relying on states to provide the leadership that is needed. Even in Colombia, which has provided leadership for peace in the last year, we have warned that the people should develop a strong civil society and not depend on the government to remain progressive. Even if the government is not overthrown, it may be weakened by corruption as is the case now in South Africa.

As for the reaction to the rise of right-wing politics, we have been following the post-election fightback for human rights in the USA, which can also serve as an example for other countries faced with similar problems. One of the outstanding aspects of the fightback for human rights in the USA is the leadership of cities. Something like 300 American cities continue to maintain their stance as sanctuaries to protect undocumented immigrants against national police raids, despite the threat of the new president to cut funding to those cities. These are the cities that voted against Trump and that mounted huge demonstrations on the day after his inauguration.

Lesson 4: the need to develop an alternative progressive movement based on cities.

These lessons are played out at a local level in my city, where I am writing the annual report, The State of the Culture of Peace in New Haven, for the official city peace commission, of which I am a member. Here are some of the remarks of activists who were interviewed for that report and who were asked about how to respond to the new political situation in the country:

* Ideally, we should unite the widest movement possible to defend the human rights of everyone, beginning with the most vulnerable. And at least, we should struggle against divisiveness, not necessarily to convince the other, but at least to find ways to collaborate.

* Listen to the youth. They have a more holistic view than us adults, especially with regard to sexual orientation. They’re angry and will not tolerate inaction. We need them in public office to push the legislature to defend public services and policies.

* Resistance is needed at every level against hate and persecution. For immigrant rights, the city needs to continue providing leadership and link up to the resistance on a national level. Despite the election results and false news by some of the mass media, we must realize that progressive opinions are those of the majority of Americans.

* Protest is necessary, but with an agenda that is clear and unifying. We need dialogue at every level, engaging the opposition and taking care that legitimate anger does not stifle dialogue. We need the emergence of a moral voice like that of Martin Luther King, with an effective media strategy.

I have presented a rationale previously that we need to develop a movement of progressive cities that can take control of the United Nations if and when there is an economic and political crash that leads the Member States to more or less abandon the UN.

But now we arrive at a major contradiction. On the one hand, cities are more progressive than rural areas, but on the other hand, they are also more vulnerable if and when there is a global economic crash. And there is reason to think that such a crash is imminent. We face the possibility of a sudden and traumatic reversal of the trend towards urbanization that has been developing over recent centuries.

That leads us to Lesson 5: The need to develop links between progressive organizations based in cities (such as City Peace Commissions) and adjacent rural associations that can help us survive a global economic crash.

In this regard, an economic crash at this point in history could be worse than that of the Great Depression, because small, self-sufficient farming has been replaced by industrialized farming dependent on oil deliveries. It is not easy to find an historic precedent or roadmape for how we should respond. Perhaps the closest is the experience of Cuba after loss of oil deliveries following the crash of the Soviet Union when they reformed their agricultural production to be more diversified, more integrated, and smaller in scale.

Entering a watershed period of human history

Featured

(pour la version française, voir en dessous)

“We’ve seen two shocking election results recently: the defeat of the referendum for the peace accords in Colombia, and the election of Donald Trump in the USA based on a racist and xenophobic campaign. What does it mean? It means that voters in the two countries are alienated from their governments – quite simply, they do not trust the government. And they are angry. So what comes next? Do we slide back into war or into fascism? Or do we return to the people, listen to their fears and anger, and organize them in the sense that Martin Luther King told us?: “The supreme task is to organize and unite people so that their anger becomes a transforming force.

Hopefully, we can avoid a nuclear war, which might have been greater if Clinton had been elected.

But at the same time, yes, we are moving backwards.

By looking at the big picture, we can see that this is inevitable. As I describe in my novella, “I have seen the promised land“, the American empire is crashing, and it will bring immense human costs in dislocation and suffering, far greater than we can imagine at this time. As a result, we may assume, as I describe in the novella, that there will be attempts to impose a fascist “solution” much as was done during the greatest economic collapse of the 20th century.

In fact, the election of Trump promises to embolden fascists everywhere. We already see fascism in Turkey, and it is threatened in Brazil and Venezuela. Not to mention fascist political parties on the rise throughout Europe.

Hence, we are aleady challenged to overcome fascism now, before we suffer from the economic collapse. Perhaps that is to our advantage, because the struggle will be more difficult later when economic survival becomes the priority.

In the CPNN bulletin, we list some of the measures being taken already in the fightback against the attacks on human rights in the United States and towards territorial peace in Colombia. The move towards sanctuary universities, cities and states in the USA is especially impressive. Were there such moves when minorities were targeted in Germany during the 30’s? We cannot forget the words of the pastor Martin Niemöller in Germany at that time, “First they came for the communists and I did not speak out— because I was not a communist.” Then the trade unionists. . Then the Jews . . . Then the catholics. “Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

We note that in both the USA and Colombia, the fightback takes place primarily on the local level, often at the level of cities and towns. At the national level, the corruption of the culture of war continues. We may be slow it down, but it cannot be eradicated there because it is too much entrenched in the structure of national government. At the local level, however, we can be free from the culture of war and free to develop strength for the culture of peace.

In Colombia, there was consideration of a process by which the revised peace accord would be adopted through open municipal councils with direct participation of citizens. Unfortunately, however, there is so much violence and threat of renewal of war that it was decided not to take this route but rather to seek ratification immediately from the national congress. However, in the long run, I have argued elsewhere, the peace will not be sustainable until it is established and maintained at the local and municipal level.

We also note that in both the USA and Colombia, the leadership is being taken by young people. That is inevitable and necessary. As I documented previously in my history of American Peace Movements, each new peace movement must reinvent its methods, because the preceding movement has become rigid and inflexible in its approach. However, that does not mean that the older generation should remain on the sidelines. We have ever more work to do as advisors to the new generation. In that regard, I call your attention to the example of I.F. Stone who served as an advisor to the youth movements of the 1960’s. The new generation of activists will have to look for our advice based on the experience of previous generations, and we must be there alongside them.

To some extent, our advice will be tactical. We must teach the methods of nonviolence and mass mobilization. We must alert the new generation to avoid the influence of agents provocateurs.

But even more so, it is important to provide strategic advice. The most important task is to prepare both the consciousness of the people and new institutional frameworks, so that when the institutions of the culture of war have momentarily collapsed, we can create a new United Nations based directly on the people.

We are entering a watershed period of human history. Although it is being pushed forward by economic factors, the ultimate determining factor can become the social consciousness of the people themselves.

      NOUS ENTRONS DANS UNE PERIODE CRITIQUE DE NOTRE HISTOIRE

    Nous avons vu récemment deux résultats électoraux choquants: la défaite du référendum sur les accords de paix en Colombie et l’élection de Donald Trump aux Etats-Unis après une campagne raciste et xénophobe. Qu’est-ce que cela signifie ? Cela signifie que les électeurs dans les deux pays se sentent aliénés, dépossédés de leurs gouvernements – tout simplement, ils ne font plus confiance à leurs dirigeants et ils sont en colère. 
Alors, que va t-il arriver maintenant ? Allons-nous tomber dans la guerre ou dans le fascisme, ou retournerons-nous vers les peuples ? Serons nous capable d’écouter leurs craintes et leur colère et de nous organiser dans le sens exprimé par Martin Luther King? :”La tâche suprême est d’organiser et d’unir le peuple pour que sa colère devienne une force transformatrice“.

    Espérons que nous pourrons éviter une guerre nucléaire, bien que cela ait été plus probable si Hillary Clinton avait été élue.

    Mais en même temps, oui, nous sommes dans la régression. 

En regardant les grandes lignes, nous pouvons voir qu’une régression est inévitable. Comme je l’ai décrit dans la Nouvelle: «J’ai vu la terre promise», l’empire américain est en train de s’effondrer, et il entraînera des coûts humains énormes dans la dislocation et la souffrance, beaucoup plus grands que ce que nous pouvons imaginer. En conséquence, nous pouvons supposer, comme dans mon roman, qu’il y aura des tentatives pour imposer une «solution» fasciste, comme cela a été le cas lors du plus grand effondrement économique du XXe siècle, en 1929.

    En fait, l’élection de Trump promet d’encourager les fascistes partout. Nous le voyons déjà en Turquie, et il semble vouloir émerger au Brésil et au Venezuela. Sans parler des partis politiques fascistes à la hausse dans toute l’Europe.

    Par conséquent, nous devons lutter MAINTENANT contre le fascisme, avant que nous ne souffrions de l’effondrement économique. Peut-être est-ce à notre avantage, parce que la lutte sera bien plus difficile plus tard lorsque la survie économique deviendra la priorité.

    Nous citerons quelques-unes des mesures qui sont déjà prises pour lutter contre les atteintes aux Droits de l’Homme aux États-Unis et pour aller vers la paix territoriale en Colombie. Les initiatives pour les sanctuaires dans les universités, les villes et les États aux États-Unis sont particulièrement impressionnantes (cf. cpnn). Y a t-il eu de tels mouvements lorsque les minorités ont été ciblées en Allemagne dans les années 30 ? Souvenons nous des paroles du pasteur Martin Niemöller en Allemagne à cette époque : “Quand ils sont venus chercher les communistes, je n ai rien dit, je n’étais pas communiste. Quand ils sont venus chercher les syndicalistes, je n’ai rien dit, je n’étais pas syndicaliste.” Puis ils sont venus chercher les juifs, ensuite les catholiques. “Puis ils sont venus me chercher. Et il ne restait plus personne pour dire quelque chose.”

    Nous notons que, aux États-Unis comme en Colombie, la lutte se fait principalement au niveau local, souvent au niveau des villes. A l’échelle nationale, la corruption de la culture de guerre continue. Nous espérons pouvoir éviter le fascisme et ses extrêmes ; mais la culture de guerre ne peut pas être éradiquée dans la structure du gouvernement national parce qu’elle y est trop ancrée. Au niveau local, cependant, il n’y a pas de culture de guerre et nous sommes libre de développer la force de la culture de la paix.

    En Colombie, avait été envisagé un processus par lequel l’accord de paix révisé serait adopté par des conseils municipaux ouverts avec la participation directe des citoyens. Malheureusement, il y a tellement de violence et de menace de renouveau de la guerre qu’il a été décidé de ne pas emprunter cette voie, mais plutôt de demander immédiatement la ratification du congrès national. Cependant, à long terme, comme je l’ai toujours soutenu , la paix ne sera durable que si elle est établie et maintenue au niveau local.

    Notons aussi que, aux États-Unis comme en Colombie, les jeunes sont les nouveaux leaders. C’est logique, souhaitable et nécessaire. Comme je l’ai documenté dans mon histoire des mouvements pacifistes américains, chaque nouveau mouvement pour la paix doit réinventer ses méthodes, parce que le mouvement précédent est devenu rigide et inflexible dans son approche. Cependant, cela ne signifie pas que les générations précédentes doivent rester à l’écart. Nous avons encore plus de travail à faire en tant que conseillers pour la nouvelle génération. Je me souviens de l’exemple de I.F. Stone qui a servi de conseiller aux mouvements de jeunesse des années 1960. La nouvelle génération de militants devra chercher nos conseils sur la base de l’expérience des générations précédentes, et nous devons être là, à leur coté.

    Dans une certaine mesure, nos conseils seront tactiques. Nous devons enseigner les méthodes de non violence et de mobilisation de masse. Nous devons alerter la nouvelle génération comment éviter l’influence des agents provocateurs.

    Mais plus encore, il est important de fournir des conseils stratégiques. La tâche la plus importante est de préparer à la fois la conscience du peuple et les nouveaux cadres institutionnels, de sorte que lorsque les institutions de la culture de la guerre s’effondreront, à ce moment nous puissions créer une nouvelle ONU basée directement sur le peuple.

    Nous entrons dans une période critique de l’Histoire de l’humanité. Bien qu’il soit poussé par des facteurs économiques, l’ultime facteur déterminant peut devenir la conscience sociale des peuples eux-mêmes.

Peace, nonviolence, compassion, and culture of peace

Featured

(Voir ci-dessous pour la version française)

The various initiatives at the level of the city described in this month’s CPNN bulletin are devoted to these four different goals: peace, nonviolence, compassion and culture of peace.

Certainly the initiatives are complementary and they have the potential to join in a unified struggle to change the world. But their unity remains to be achieved.

What are their differences and advantages/disadvantages?

At UNESCO, when we developed the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace for the UN system, we distinguished culture of peace from the traditional notion of peace. Peace, we reflected, is the period between wars when countries prepare for the their next wars. Culture of peace, instead, is a change in the culture so that wars become unnecessary, even impossible. Culture of peace was conceived as a political strategy to replace the culture of war. Each of the key characteristics of the culture of war was countered by its opposite in a culture of peace. For example, you cannot have a war if you have no enemy. It’s that simple!

The complementarity of Culture of Peace and Nonviolence was recognized in the title of the United Nations Decade following the International Year for the Culture of Peace the United Nations International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World.

Whereas culture of peace was conceived specifically as a political strategy, nonviolence may be considered as a necessary tactic. Strategically, a culture of peace cannot be achieved by tactics that are violent. This is an important consideration if we analyze the history of the last few centuries. Revolutionary movements have succeeded in overthrowing cultures of war, but because their tactics were violent, they ended up establishing new cultures of war instead of cultures of peace.

In this regard, let us recall the reasoning of Mahatma Gandhi. We have no enemies, only opponents whom we have yet to convince. To succeed, the struggle must be carried on at the level of ideas, dialogue and mediation rather than force and violence.

It seems to me that we should advance under a banner of culture of peace as well as nonviolence. In that way we make it clear that this is a political strategy, not just a tactic, a strategy to replace the culture of war by a culture of peace.

And what about compassion?

Let us look closely at the text of the Charter for Compassion:

“The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.”

I see at least two aspects of this Charter that make an important contribution to the struggle for a culture of peace.

First, it is not enough to have very rational strategy and tactics, unless we also have an emotional empathy and concern for “every single human being.” This is the cry of the heart that is needed to accompany the reasoning of the head.

Second, the movement for a culture of peace should gather force from the millenia of religious, ethical and spiritual struggles that have gone before us to make a better world. While it is true that the concepts of nonviolence and culture of peace are relatively new, the struggle for a peaceful, nonviolent world is as old as humanity. Most of the great religions were established by prophets who rejected the violence of the societies in which they lived. They should be considered as the prophets of a culture of peace and nonviolence.

Another world is possible! Let us develop the unity of all these initiatives and struggles in order to achieve it!

* * * * * * * * * *

Paix, non-violence, compassion et culture de la paix

Les différentes initiatives au niveau de la ville, décrites dans le bulletin de CPNN ce mois-ci sont consacrées aux quatre objectifs suivant: la paix, la non-violence, la compassion et la culture de la paix.

Certes, ces initiatives sont complémentaires et potentiellement capables de se joindre à une lutte unifiée pour changer le monde. Mais l’unité reste à accomplir !

Quelles sont leurs différences, leurs avantages, et leurs desavantages?

À l’UNESCO, lorsque nous avons développé la Déclaration et Programme d’action sur une culture de la paix pour le système des Nations Unies, nous avions fait une distinction entre la culture de la paix et la notion traditionelle de paix. La paix, nous avions réfléchi, est la période entre les guerres lorsque les pays se préparent pour leurs prochaines guerres. La culture de la paix, à la place, est un changement dans la culture afin que les guerres deviennent inutiles, voire impossible. La culture de la paix a été conçue comme une strategie politique pour remplacer la culture de guerre. Chacune des principales caractéristiques de la culture de la guerre a été contrée par son contraire dans la culture de la paix. Par exemple, vous ne pouvez pas avoir une guerre si vous n’avez pas d’ennemi ! C’est tout simple !

La complémentarité de la culture de la paix et de la non-violence a été reconnue dans le titre de la Décennie des Nations Unies pour la suite de l’Année internationale de la culture de la paix: la Décennie internationale de la promotion d’une culture de la non-violence et de la paix au profit des enfants du monde (2001-2010).

Considérant que la culture de la paix a été conçue spécifiquement comme une stratégie politique, la non-violence peut être considérée comme une tactique nécessaire. Stratégiquement, la culture de la paix ne peut pas s’établir par des tactiques violentes. Ceci est une considération importante si nous analysons l’histoire des derniers siècles. Les mouvements révolutionnaires ont réussi à renverser les cultures de guerre, mais parce que leurs tactiques étaient violentes. Hélas, ils ont fini par établir de nouvelles cultures de guerre au lieu de cultures de paix.

À cet égard, rappelons le raisonnement du Mahatma Gandhi. Nous n’avons pas d’ennemis. Nous n’avons que des adversaires que nous n’avons pas encore convaincus. Pour réussir, la lutte doit être menée au niveau des idées, du dialogue et de la médiation plutôt que par la force et par la violence.

Il me semble que nous devrions avancer sous la bannière de la culture de la paix, et de la non-violence. De cette façon, nous montrerions clairement que cela est une stratégie politique, et pas seulement une tactique, une stratégie visant à remplacer la culture de la guerre par une culture de la paix.

Et qu’en est-il de la compassion?

Regardons attentivement le texte de la Charte de la compassion:

“Le précepte de compassion, qui est au coeur de toutes les traditions religieuses, spirituelles et éthiques, nous invite à toujours traiter autrui de la manière dont nous aimerions être traités nous-mêmes. La compassion nous incite à nous engager sans relâche à soulager les souffrances de tous les êtres et à apprendre à ne pas nous considérer nous-même comme le centre du monde, mais à être capable de placer autrui à cette place centrale. Elle nous enseigne à reconnaître le caractère sacré de chaque être humain, et à traiter chacune et chacun, sans aucune exception, avec un respect inconditionnel et dans un esprit de justice et d’équité.”

Je vois au moins deux aspects dans cette Charte qui apportenaiet une contribution importante à la lutte pour la culture de la paix.

Tout d’abord, il ne suffit pas d’avoir une stratégie et des tactiques très rationnelles. Il faut également avoir une empathie émotionnelle et le souci de «tout être humain.” Ceci est le cri du cœur qui est nécessaire pour accompagner le raisonnement de la tête.

Deuxièmement, le mouvement pour la culture de la paix doit s’appuyer entre autre sur les millénaires de luttes religieuses, éthiques et spirituelles qui sont passés avant nous pour un monde meilleur. Il est vrai que les concepts de la non-violence et la culture de la paix sont relativement nouveaux, mais la lutte pour un monde non-violent et pacifique est aussi vieille que l’humanité. La plupart des grandes religions ont été créées par des prophètes qui ont rejeté la violence des sociétés dans lesquelles ils vivaient. Ils doivent être considérés comme les precurseurs d’une culture de la paix et de la non-violence.

Un autre monde est possible! Développons l’unité de toutes ces initiatives et luttons pour y parvenir!

Anti-Austerity is Culture of Peace

Featured

This month’s CPNN bulletin refers to CPNN articles on the anti-austerity movements in Greece, Spain, Germany, Ireland, France and Canada, with reference to the fact that for many years already South American governments have rejected the austerity imposed by international financial institutions.

We have posed the following question with regard to these articles: “Movements against government fiscal austerity,  Are they part of the movement for a culture of peace”.

Here is my own response to the question.

In theory they should be considered as contributing to a culture of peace.  The definition of the culture of peace adopted in UN resolution A/53/243, the official culture of peace resolution, includes, among its eight program areas : “Actions to promote sustainable economic and social development”.  It includes the following details which certainly are contradicted by national austerity policies:

. . . appropriate strategies and agreed targets to eradicate poverty. . .

. . . implementation of policies and programmes designed to reduce economic and social inequalities . . .

. . . effective and equitable development-oriented and durable solutions to the external debt and debt-servicing problems of developing countries

. . . ensure that the development process is participatory . . .

In fact, we may consider that austerity measures are part of the culture of war, since they are imposed by the rich in order to protect and increase their wealth which they gain at the expense of the poor.  The culture of war, since its beginnings, has served the profits of the rich, whether by slavery, by colonialism, or by today’s neo-colonialism.  As we said in the document A/53/370 which we sent from UNESCO to the UN General Assembly to prepare for its official culture of peace resolution: the culture of peace “represents a major change in the concept of economic growth which, in the past, could be considered as benefitting from military supremacy and structural violence and achieved at the expense of the vanquished and the weak.”

In practice as well, the anti-austerity movements should also be considered as contributing to a culture of peace.  They mobilize people to fight for justice by non-violence means.  Insofar as people in these movements are able to achieve economic justice, they will be empowered to fight as well for the other aspects of a culture of peace, including human rights, women’s equality, tolerance and solidarity, etc.

In this blog, we have mentioned many times that the transition to a culture of peace will probably come through a breakdown of the present global political and economic system, leaving a space for the institution of an alternative system with the characteristics of a culture of peace.  The economic hardships imposed by the present policies of austerity are only a mild preview of the hardships that are likely to come when the global system breaks down.  Hence, we need all the practice we can get to learn how to overcome such economic hardships and the policies that cause them.  The more we can learn now, the more we will be prepared to make the transition to a culture of peace when the historical time is ripe.

And we should consider that possibility that such an historical turning point is coming very soon.

 

Democratic participation is advancing – from below

Featured

It is not by accident that the progress in democratic participation is being made at the level of the city and not at the level of the nation state.

At the level of the nation state, there is no progress.  Instead, we are going backwards.  More and more the American model is being imposed at the level of the state: a two-party system with alternation of electoral victories for the two sides, both of which are controlled by “big money”, i.e. the capitalist class. This is accomplished by control of the mass media.  Voters are given the “choice” of two capitalist alternatives and are forced to vote for the “lesser of two evils.”  Electoral candidates at the national level spend millions of dollars and are usually millionaire capitalists themselves.  A few exceptions are elected from time to time, but they have only a few votes against hundreds of others that simply represent the interests of the capitalist class.

But one should not be surprised at this.  As I have shown in the History of the Culture of War, the nation-state has literally become the culture of war in the course of recent centuries.  And it is the capitalist class that continues to profit from the culture of war.  Socialism does not survive in the competition of nation-states, because it does not profit as much from the culture of war.  We saw this most clearly in the case of the Soviet Union, but we see it today in countries like Cuba and Vietnam.

As a result, the budget of the modern state is largely devoted to preparation for war since military domination is necessary for the success of the capitalist class.  Not surprisingly, since it heads up the American empire, the most extreme example is the United States where more than half of the national budget is devoted to the military expenditures, nuclear weapons and interest payments on previous military expenditures.    This does not include social security which should be treated as an insurance investment by citizens since they have already paid for it.

To see progress we must look below the level of the state.  At the level of the city there is continuing progress in democratic participation, as illustrated in the examples of participatory budgeting in this month’s bulletin of the Culture of Peace News Network.  This, too, should not be surprising, since cities, over the past few centuries, have lost their previous culture of war.  No longer do they have armies or patrol borders or need to pay for military contracts.  Unlike the relations of nation states, the rich cities do not exploit the poor cities.

At the level of the city, progress is best seen in participatory budgeting, “presupuesto participativo” in Spanish, “orcamento participativo” in Portuguese, a process by which citizens at a local level are able to decide directly what should be the priorities for expenditures in their neighborhoods.

And it should not be surprising that participatory budgeting began in Latin America and is being practiced there more than anywhere else.  As we have seen in previous blogs in March 2014 and February 2013, Latin America is the most advanced region of the world in developing a culture of peace.

In participatory budgeting, people improve immediately the quality of life for them and their neighbors.  In no case, do we see people voting for war against an “enemy neighborhood.” or a city in another region or country.  Instead, as we see in this month’s bulletin, they vote for simple projects that directly improve their quality of life, such as parks, jogging paths, cooperatives for sewing circles, toy-making or local fruit and vegetables production. In fact, sometimes their decisions are so ordinary that rich people can make fun of them.  This was the case a few years ago when the New York Times gave space in one of their local pages to a participatory budgeting project in their city by putting it under the headline “The Voters Speak: Yes to Bathrooms.”

Of course, participatory budgeting by itself will not be enough to bring us to a culture of peace, but when we see it in the context of progress in all of the eight domains of a culture of peace, such peace education, free flow of information, equality of women, etc., then we begin to see how the world can get ready for a new way of governance when the nation states collapse under the weight of their culture of war as has happened in the past.