African Leadership for the Culture of Peace

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Africa is featured again this month on the CPNN bulletin, as it has been numerous times before, because of its leadership for a culture of peace.

The recent articles illustrate what I wrote recently in the article Africa’s Contribution to the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace for the African journal, The Thinker.

Culture of Peace Consciousness

“Africa is the leading continent of the world for peace education and media for peace.” This is exemplified by actions described in articles this month from Cameroon, Mali, Tunisia, Congo and Ethiopia.

Culture of Peace Methodologies

Africa has shown its leadership in culture of peace methodologies that promote reconciliation and solidarity “with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa and the Gacaca in Rwanda, enabling Africans to overcome bitter conflicts and enter a path of reconciliation.” Recently we see movement towards African solidarity in Morocco, Sierra Leone, Chad and the Gambia.

As we have often seen at CPNN, it is often the women of Africa who take the lead in culture of peace methodologies.

Culture of Peace Institutions

“During the transition period in South Africa following Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, as part of the National Peace Accord, a broad set of regional and local peace committees were established that united representatives from political organizations, trade unions, business, churches, police and security forces to resolve disputes at local and regional levels.”

Culture of peace institutions are once again beginning to develop thanks to initiatives of the African Union, as indicated by their most recent assembly, their delegation to Burundi and their meeting of the Pan-African Network of the Wise, as well as their support for the UNESCO initiatives such as the African biennial for a culture of peace and the networks for African youth and women for culture of peace.

Conclusion

Historically, Africa may be in a good position to take a leadership role in the global movement, because in the course of history, with the exception of the ancient empires of Egypt, Africans did not develop culture of war empires and states to the same extent that they were developed in other continents. And the rich tradition of Pan-Africanism provides an alternative model to that of empires and states. A Pan-African union could be based on a culture of peace rather than culture of war. It would be within the tradition of peace-building by Nelson Mandela. And it would fulfill the dream of that great African-American, W.E.B. Dubois, which he shared at the end of his life with Kwame Nkrumah and the people of Ghana, an Africa at peace with itself and the world.

Africa as a model for culture of peace

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Imagine ! …

…if we could apply in Europe and North America initiatives such as those described from Africa including the contributions of Nelson Mandela, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, the Gacaca in Rwanda, etc….

Imagine ! …

…that networks of mass media, radio and television, devoted to the culture of peace, like those described this month from Africa would be made available to everyone on a daily basis at a grassroots level…

Imagine ! …

…that governments and the CEOs of the tourism industry, including hotels, airlines and tourist agencies would develop tourism based on people-to-people understanding and sustainable development

Imagine ! …

…that our educational systems would make it a priority to develop and use manuals for culture of peace and human rights written in such a way to speak directly to local communities, and that these were developed as a network that unified the peoples across national boundaries….

Imagine ! …

…that UNESCO or the UN could develop international networks of youth, women and research institutions for a culture of peace like those being developed in Africa…

Imagine ! …

…that elections were not a contest of winner-take-all power, but rather an opportunity for the people to be listened to and their demands translated into governmental decisions based on the collaboration of all political parties and candidates…

Imagine ! …

…that the forces of the culture of war would accept these advances, knowing that in the end it could lead to a transition from the culture of war to a culture of peace….

Thank you, Africa, for showing us where we need to go.

 L’Afrique comme modèle pour la Culture de la Paix

Imaginons ! …

…que nous puissions réaliser  en Europe et en Amérique du Nord des initiatives comme celles qui ont été faites en Afrique, telles que les contributions de Nelson Mandela, la Commission Vérité et Réconciliation en Afrique du Sud, le Gacaca au Rwanda etc..

Imaginons !…

…que les réseaux de médias, radio et télévision, consacrés à la Culture de la Paix puissent être disponibles et rendus accessibles chaque jour, à tout le monde, à tous les niveaux…

Imaginons !…

…que les gouvernements et les PDG de l’industrie du tourisme, y compris les hôtels, les compagnies aériennes et les agences de tourisme puissent développer un tourisme basé sur la compréhension des peuples entre eux et sur le développement durable

Imaginons !…

…Que nos systèmes éducatifs aient pour priorité le développement et l’utilisation de manuels pour la Culture de la Paix et pour les Droits de l’Homme, rédigés pour être parlés et compris directement par les communautés locales, et que ces systèmes grandissent comme un réseau unifiant les peuples de pays différents, sans frontières nationales…

Imaginons !….

… que l’UNESCO ou l’ONU puissent développer les réseaux internationaux de jeunes, de femmes et d’institutions de recherche pour une culture de la paix comme ceux qui se développent en Afrique…

Imaginons !…

…que les élections ne sont pas la conquête du pouvoir « le gagnant prenant tout « , mais plutôt une occasion pour les peuples d’être écoutés et leurs demandes traduites et comprises dans des décisions gouvernementales basées sur la collaboration de tous les partis politiques et des candidats…

Imaginons !…

…que les forces de la culture de guerre puissent accepter ces progrès, sachant qu’à la fin cela pourrait  amener la transition d’une culture de guerre à une culture de la paix.

Merci, Afrique, de nous montrer la route où nous devons aller !…

 

Networking for a culture of peace

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When we drafted the Declaration and Programme of Action for a Culture of Peace at UNESCO in 1998, adopted by the UN General Assembly a year later as Resolution a/53/243, we envisaged that progress towards a culture of peace could be achieved through the following:

– Partnerships between and among the various actors [including civil society] as set out in the Declaration should be encouraged and strengthened for a global movement for a culture of peace. 

 – A culture of peace could be promoted through sharing of information among actors on their initiatives in this regard. 

As readers of this blog know, the communication function is being provided by CPNN and other such Internet websites.

And now we begin to see the development of the first function of partnerships, through development of civil society networks for a culture of peace.

At Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire, UNESCO and the Network of Foundations and Research Institutions for the Promotion of a Culture of Peace in Africa co-sponsored the 25th Anniversary of the founding of the UNESCO initiative for a Culture of Peace, and met to refine and implement their Programme of Action. I was privileged to represent the Culture of Peace Corporation (the parent organization of CPNN) at this meeting.

Their initial Programme of Action was adopted last September in Addis Ababa and includes the following :

– Coordinate actions in order to ensure a common understanding and community of practices in pooling our resources in the implementation of our actions

– Strengthen the visibility of our organizations and our activities among citizens and institutions at national and international level;

– Contribute to the implementation of the Luanda Action Plan by the elaboration and implementation of joint programs;

– Endeavor to implement the African Union’s 2063 Agenda and the UNESCO Intersectoral Programme on Culture of Peace;

– Expand the network to African and non-African organizations with similar objectives.

More details, including the Luanda Action Plan may be found in the UNESCO brochure Sources and Resources for a Culture of Peace in Africa.

This network parallels and interacts with the new network dedicated to “Women for a culture of peace in Africa” that was established in March of this year. There are plans to establish yet another such network next year dedicated to African youth organizations.

Indeed, we see in the pages of CPNN that around the world the consciousness already exists of the need for radical change, and that the necessary actions are taking place, but so far the consciousness and actions are too isolated.

In order to achieve an effective Global Movement for a Culture of Peace, networks like those in Africa need to be developed in other continents.  Given the advanced state of consciousness and action for a culture of peace in Latin America, let us hope that it can be next.

Leadership of the Global South will be difficult for the North to accept

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Is it by chance that the leadership for the culture of peace is coming from the continents of Latin America and Africa, continents of the Global South? The detailed evidence for this may be found in many CPNN articles, some of which are summarized in the CPNN bulletins for March 1 and April 1 this year, as well as bulletins from previous years (February 1, 2013 and August 1, 2012).

It is not by chance that these are the continents that have suffered for centuries from the colonialism of the North: Africa from European colonialism and Latin America from US domination and military interventions?

It is not by chance that many of their best leaders were assassinated, directly or indirectly, by the colonial powers? I am thinking Samora Machel, Patrice Lumumba and Amilcar Cabral in Africa, or Salvador Allende, Che Guevara and Maurice Bishop in Latin America.

The transition to a culture of peace requires a complete reversal of the domination and exploitation of poor states of the South by the rich states of the North. It is by means of the culture of war that the North has amassed its wealth. And it is their continuing profit from the culture of war that makes it impossible for them to move towards a culture of peace. On the other hand, Africans and Latin Americans have everything to gain by such a complete reversal.

The coming years will also be difficult for the North, because, over time, they will continue to lose not only their power, but also their wealth that has been maintained through the culture of war. There is a great danger, more and more visible in national elections in Europe and North America, that voters will turn to fascist political parties in their desperate search for a solution.

But perhaps the most difficult thing for the North will be the psychological aspect of this historical transition. The people of the North, particularly their intellectuals and political leaders have developed a racist belief in their superiority. The loss of that illusion will be a difficult thing to swallow, as the leadership of history passes into the hands of the people of the South.

Rather than trying to save the rest of the world, progressives in the North should try to save their own societies from racist and chauvinist illusions, and from economies based on exploitation. In this regard they should adopt some of the approaches suggested by Johan Galtung in his analysis of the Fall of the American Empire: to work at the local municipal level instead of trying to change national policies, to organize local cooperatives and local food production instead of importation and agro-business, local banks instead of investment banks, local construction of affordable housing to provide jobs as well as housing.

The transition to a culture of peace needs to be a universal struggle. By working locally for a culture of peace, the people of the North can take their place along with activists of the South in this universal, historical, nonviolent, yet revolutionary struggle.

 

Nelson Mandela and Africa’s Contribution to the Culture of Peace

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As the other peace leaders in this month’s CPNN bulletin testify, Nelson Mandela provided us a model of leadership for a culture of peace. He left us “a vision of a new and better life and the tools with which to win and build it.”

20 years ago in Psychology for Peace Activists, I wrote: “At the present moment of history it is possible that an additional step is being added to those of consciousness development: a step of vision. Mandela exemplifies a new generation of peace activists whose actions provide a vision for a peaceful world. Not content to struggle against the vicious, anti-human system of apartheid, Mandela and his fellow activists in the ANC had the courage and foresight to develop the Freedom Charter which provides not only a vision for South Africa, but by extension for the rest of the world as well.

“As Mandela describes, the Freedom Charter was developed by a process that evoked suggestions from ordinary people throughout the country. The responded to a call asking them ‘How would you set about making South Africa a happy place for all the people who live in it?’ The Freedom Charter ‘captured the hopes and dreams of the people, and acted as a blueprint for the liberation struggle and the future of the nation.’

“The vision in the Freedom Charter is remarkably similar to that of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was formulated in those years by the United Nations. It is at once specific and universal, practical and visionary.

“The vision of the Freedom Charter was further elaborated later by the ANC in preparation for the first free elections in South Africa. As Mandela says, ‘Some in the ANC wanted to make the campaign simply a liberation election and tell the people vote for us because we set you free. We decided instead to offer them a vision of the South Africa we hoped to create.’

“Today, to paraphrase Mandela, peace activists can do more than just be against the war system, but they can at the same time act to bring a universal vision closer to reality. In opposing the culture of war, today’s activist can help construct a culture of peace.”

It is not by accident that the vision of a culture of peace should come from Africa. The expansion of the culture of war and its monopolization by empires and states did not take place in Africa; instead it was imposed on Africa by Islam and the European colonial powers. The difference can be seen in the pre-colonial traditions of African justice, as exemplified in recent years by the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that took place under Mandela’s presidency in South Africa. Pre-colonial African justice was not like the justice as developed by monotheistic empires in which the state seeks out the suspect, finds the person guilty and punishes the criminal in the name of the law. Instead, African pre-colonial justice was arrived at through a process of dialogue of the entire community gathered perhaps under the community tree. As I learned from one culture when I worked in Mozambique, “we take whatever time is needed to find a solution to a conflict that is acceptable to everyone. Even if it takes a long time, the milano [the process] does not rot.”

As I concluded in my blog of August 2012, “we should recognize that the African people, with their unique peace-making traditions, can make a major contribution to the world historical transition to a culture of peace.

 

Africa’s Contribution to a Culture of Peace

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It is not by accident that there is so much news from Africa for a culture of peace (see CPNN bulletin for August).  It reflects their cultural history.  Like people on other continents, the Africans always had culture of war at a tribal level, but with the exception of the Nile River Valley, they did not use war to create empires until the arrival of the Arabs and the Europeans.  And even then the division of Africa into warring nation-states was imposed by the Europeans.

Instead of the authority of empires, pre-colonial Africa was ordered by effective peace-making traditions of dialogue and mediation at the community level, often called the “palabre” (word).  They were based on respect for the elders (both men and women) and compromise among the many animist spiritual forces, unlike the supreme authority of monotheism imported by the Arabs and Europeans.

These traditions re-emerged during the freedom struggle in South Africa, both in the Peace Process involving local peace committees and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which was presided over by Bishop Tutu.  And this month on CPNN, we see it re-emerging in the peace process in Somalia and the Gacaca commission in Rwanda, not to mention the work of the Elders, an initiative that was launched several years ago by Nelson Mandela in the African peace-making tradition.  We also see it in recent CPNN articles on a culture of peace featuring African women, artists, especially musicians, educators and journalists.  Wouldn’t it be great if the commercial media of the North could imitate the media in Africa that are dedicated to news for a culture of peace!

I say that the traditions are “re-emerging” because they were largely suppressed by the Europeans when the conquered Africa.   We came face to face with this when I was working at UNESCO and we started working on a National Culture of Peace Program for Burundi.  In pre-colonial times, there was a tradition of the Bashingantahe, elders who did mediation and  peace-making.  But they were systematically assassinated by the colonial power.   After all, peace-making is a kind of power since it unites people, and it is difficult to conquer a people that is united.  So what we did was to seek out a few Bashingantahe who were still functioning and help them to train a new generation.  As far as I know this initiative is still underway almost 20 years later.

I was at UNESCO during the years when the freedom movement of South Africa succeeded in creating a non-racist government, and we wanted to find financing to keep the Peace Process going, since it needed to be independent of the government.  Unfortunately, it was not possible to find money and the institutions lapsed.  However, the lessons gained at that time are still bearing fruit throughout Africa, and hopefully we will learn from them throughout the world.

In conclusion, we should recognize that the African people, with their unique peace-making traditions, can make a major contribution to the world historical transition to a culture of peace.   It remains to be seen how this may take place in the coming tumultuous years.  One thing seems certain to me – that it will not take place at the level of state power.  We have seen recently that the African elder, Kofi Annan, was unable to apply African peace-making methods to the situation in Syria.  He resigned because his advice was not heeded by the Europeans and Americans who preferred a military “solution.”  We have seen this before:  20 years ago Mohamed Sahnoun, the Algerian diplomat worked as the UN representative for the reconstruction of Somalia by involving elders, teachers and religious leaders in a true African peace-making approach.  His work was ruined by the American decision to “send in the marines.”  Like Kofi Annan, he resigned with a public denunciation of the military “solution.”

Once again, we cannot escape seeing that the transition to a culture of peace must involve new democratic structures instead of the nation-state with its “military solutions.”