Consciousness, by itself, is not enough; the task is also political

We are seeing progress towards a culture of peace on several fronts:

In this month’s CPNN bulletin, we feature progress in peace education around the world.

In the bulletin of May, it was progress in the practice of nonviolence.

As described by the Brazilian pedagogue, Paulo Freire, there is a development of consciousness in the sense of understanding plus action.

But consciousness, by itself, whether through peace education or the practice of nonviolence, is not enough to change the course of history. If we are to make the transition from the culture of war to a culture of peace, our task is not only psychological, but also political. I have discussed this previously by insisting that peace education, to be effective, must be prepared to confront the dominant culture of war.

To be political, consciousness needs to be linked up to the development of a new institutional framework.

As we have previously observed, peace education is an integral part of the peace process in Colombia, but to make a permanent change, it needs to be linked to a network of peace committees at the local and regional levels.

We can begin to see signs that such a linkage is happening. For example, restorative justice, a key practice of nonviolence and an important aspect of peace education is being promoted by the peace commissions of the cities of Londrina in Brazil and Ashland and New Haven in the United States. Cities are also promoting the practices of mediation and participative budgeting, two other key practices of a culture of peace.

A great step forward is underway as cities for peace link into global networks such as those described in a recent CPNN bulletin. This process should be strengthened by regularly assessment of the state of the culture of peace by each city (see CPNN February 24) and exchange of their practices and results in this regard.

The development of networks of cities for peace can be seen as a step towards the development of a global institution of the culture of peace, perhaps a radically-reformed United Nations (as we suggested in a previous blog), or perhaps an entirely new institutional framework at a global level.

Looking at the headlines of the mass media might make us pessimistic, but we need to keep in mind that a better world is possible and keep working to establish its institutional framework.

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