Food Sovereignty is Culture of Peace

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In CPNN this month, we ask the question “What is the relation between peasant movements for food sovereignty and the global movement for a culture of peace?”

Here is my own response to the question.  It is based on the many articles in CPNN this month about the global movement of peasants for food sovereignty.

Yes, they are an important part of the global movement for a culture of peace, for several reasons.

First, they are the first line of defense against one of the main advances of the culture of war.  As we said in the document that we sent from UNESCO to the UN to define the culture of peace, it “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.”  What better way to describe the advances of a few transnational corporations, supported by so-called “free-trade treaties” who are attempting to monopolize the seeds that farmers use throughout the world and to impose monoculture agriculture based on their seeds and their pesticides?

The transnational corporations are supported by the power (ultimately military) of nation states around the world, not only by the great powers, but also by the governments of the small countries.  An example is Guatemala, where despite pressure from a strong peasant movement to support a Rural Integral Development law, the law is blocked by a coalition of right-wing parties.

Second, the peasant movements are organized not only locally, and to an increasing extent, on a global scale.  Look at the map of protests on April 17, the International Day of Peasant Struggle against Transnational Companies and Free Trade Agreements. There are actions on every continent.

The peasant movements are based ultimately on the wisdom and experience of their ancestors as described in the blog from this February, “Listen to the indigenous people.”  This is clearly stated in the declaration of the 6th Congress of the Latin American Coordination of Countryside Organizations: “We emerged from the heart itself of the 500-year process of indigenous, peasant, black and popular resistance.”

The peasant struggle ultimately concerns all of us.  As we concluded in the February blog, we need to “organize local cooperatives and local food production instead of importation and agro-business . . .  In this way we can protect ourselves against the crash of the American empire and the global economy that it manages.”

Finally, we can say that the peasant movement for sustainable agriculture is not only part of the global movement for a culture of peace, but perhaps its most critical component because it will enable us to survive after the crash and during the period when it may be possible to make a transition from the culture of war to a culture of peace.  For this reason it is especially important that we see more and more young people turning back to small-scale, “human-scale” farming, as described in the CPNN interview this month.

 

Anti-Austerity is Culture of Peace

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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.

 

How to recognize women’s leadership

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Over the years at CPNN we have seen the global movement for a culture of peace developing in thousands of articles about initiatives throughout the world.  Looking over these initiatives, we can see that women are usually in the lead, and in any case, they are involved as essential players.  This month’s bulletin illustrates this clearly.  Initiatives of the United Nations for peace, initiatives of the civil society such as Nonviolent Peaceforce, various prizes for peace, in all of these we see the predominant role of women.

As we remarked in an earlier blog, “the linkage between women’s equality, development and peace is essential to replace the historical inequality between men and women that has always characterized the culture of war and violence.

This is not to say that women will save us by themselves.  Instead, what is needed is collaboration between women and men on the basis of equality.  It is necessary that not only women, but also men struggle for the equality of women, and that everyone becomes conscious of its importance.  As a first step, it is necessary that men are involved in the struggle to eliminate violence against women.

When I was working at UNESCO and responsible for developing the initial drafts of the United Nations Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, many of my colleagues, both men and women, urged me not to include equality of women as a distinct domain of the culture of peace but to include it in a broader category of equality in general, including race, sexual orientation, etc.  Fortunately, I resisted their pressure and we were able to include women’s equality, put simply, as one of the domains of action for a culture of peace.

Of course, it is important to struggle for equality of all people with regard to race, sexual orientation, etc., but we need to recognize the special significance of gender.  From the beginning of humanity, as far as it can be determined, women were excluded from warfare, and hence they were excluded from the power of violence which has continued to characterize human culture up until the present time, and especially the nation-state.  To arrive at a culture of peace, both the subordination of women and the political dominance of violence will have to be reversed, and the two struggles are intrinsically related.

In this regard, we need to take another look at our conception of leadership.  Is it by chance that when we speak of leadership for a culture of peace and we mention Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, we are mentioning only men?  Where are the women leaders?

In reading this month’s article in CPNN about Ela Bhatt, I recall how I met her a number of year’s ago in Hamilton, Ontario, after giving a talk at Hamilton’s annual Gandhi festival.  I had spoken about Gandhi’s message as being important for a culture of peace.  Afterwards, this little lady, very modest, approached me to say that she had appreciated the message.  I didn’t recognize her, so I asked her who she was.  Ela Bhatt, she replied.  I didn’t recognize the name, but asked if she was involved with the culture of peace.  She told me that she was visiting family in Hamilton, but back in India she did trade union work with women.  I asked more and discovered that she has done amazingly courageous and effective work in organizing thousands (millions?) of women in India into a trade union for their basic human rights.

Ela’s demeanor was so modest, that one had to ask and listen patiently in order to know of her exemplary leadership.

From this we can draw an important lesson about recognizing leadership.  Great leaders are not necessarily in the news.  They are not necessarily involved with the politics of nations.  They may be modest.  And they may be women!

Fortunately, there are those who recognize this.  Go to the website, Theelders.org and and there, at the same time as you can read about the work of Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan and Jimmy Carter, you can also read about the work of Ela Bhatt, Graça Machel, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Mary Robinson and Hina Jilani.

It was by reading Theelders.org that I found the article about Ela Bhatt.

An Institute to Train for Culture of Peace Tourism

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The following is excerpted from the talk I gave at the recent symposium on Tourism and Peace (See this month’s CPNN bulletin).

Tourism is an enormous enterprise with enormous resources, and it needs a culture of peace.  Tourism is the first industry to suffer when there is violence.  And it has a great potential to promote all the eight program areas of culture of peace.

Acknowledging my gratitude to a good friend here today, Lou D’Amore, who has shared with me this idea, I propose that we should develop an Institute to train workers for culture of peace tourism

As a model for this, let us recall the early years of UNESCO after World War II, when UNESCO helped establish three institutes for training literary workers.  The institutes, located in Mexico, Iran and Egypt, trained a generation of literacy workers, coming mostly from national ministries of education.  The subsequent engagement of these literacy workers led to an great increase in literacy throughout the world.   Even if it is not mentioned in most history books, the drive towards universal literacy should be considered one of the great achievements of the modern era.

It is proposed here to learn from that experience to develop an institute to train a new generation of workers for another kind of literacy, the literacy of peace.  The UNESCO experience provides a reasonable model for such an institute.

First, it could be self-financing with income from tuition paid by institutions such as ministries of tourism, hotel, tourist agency and airline companies who send their workers to get training, as well as young people seeking a career in this field.  The faculty could be recruited from activists and retired officials who believe sufficiently in the challenge of culture of peace tourism that they would work for minimum salaries, and from people on-loan from relevant organizations involved in the tourist trade.

An important lesson was told to me by a veteran of the UNESCO literacy institute in Iran: one should minimize the involvement with buildings and infrastructure by renting space from existing educational institutions rather than building or owning the buildings with its costs of maintenance, cleaning staff, guardians, etc.

Where should such an institution be located?  In Africa, of course.  Nowhere else is tourism so vital to the economy of a continent.  And nowhere else is there so much to offer to tourists and those who host them.

How should we go about establishing such an institute?  First, a sponsor is needed.  The most appropriate would be the United Nations World Tourism Organization.  Then, clients are needed.  The most appropriate would be ministries of tourism.  And finally, we need faculty.  From among the distinguished gathering of experts on tourism for peace gathered here this week in Johannesburg, I’m sure we could find an excellent faculty.

There is another reason that we should locate such an institute in Africa.  In the North, especially Europe and North America, the states have become so linked to the culture of war that they would have a conflict of interest to support a culture of peace.  In Africa, on the other hand, the independent state is a new development dating only from the post-colonial era, and although it is often corrupt, it is not so linked to the culture of war.  Its involvement with culture of peace tourism would point it in a good direction for the future.

To conclude, I hope that together we can develop an institute for culture of peace tourism, and I offer my services to help work on this.    I hope others will join in.

Listen to the indigenous people

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This month’s CPNN bulletin carries remarks by indigenous peoples who are guarding their environment against the destruction brought by our modern civilization:

From Brazil: “We indigenous peoples have shown that we will never allow our lands to be recolonized, invaded or destroyed, even if that means sacrificing our own lives.”

From Canada: “We have one Earth, and unless this government is hiding another healthy Earth somewhere, we need to take care of the one we’ve got, and it’s now, it’s now we have to step up.”

From Colombia: “sooner or later indigenous peoples will be recognized as the true guardians of nature.”

And it is in the same spirit that the most radical environmental law in global history, the “Mother Earth” law, was adopted in Bolivia, a country with a majority of the people indigenous and a President who is indigenous.

We should listen to all of them for several reasons.

They remind us that our very existence depends upon having a sustainable development that does not destroy the earth on which all development depends.   We need to be reminded of this because our lives have become so specialized that we have come to think that food simply comes from a supermarket and that water simply comes from a faucet.   Our civilization puts a priority on exploitation of mineral, oil and water resources without regard to the future, and the imposition of highly-mechanized, monoculture agricultural production which cannot even feed those who produce it.

Indigenous peoples realize that the destruction of their environment will lead not only to their inability to survive as individuals, but even more profoundly, it will lead to the destruction of their culture.  We need to take this seriously for our own culture.

Our culture has become urban over the past few centuries, and we depend upon agricultural systems outside of the city.  Often the agricultural production is so distant that we must depend upon transportation systems that bring their products from hundreds and thousands of miles away.   Meanwhile, small farms, people directly tied to the land, have been run out of business by large-scale, monoculture industrial farming.  We take it for granted that all this will continue.

But we should not take this for granted.  The culture of war, in which we live, is based upon exploitation and exploitation is not sustainable, neither of resources nor of people.  Sooner or later, the culture of war crashes.  This can happen through violence, as it did in the two World Wars of the 20th Century.  Or it can happen through economic collapse as it did in 1929 and for half of the world in 1989.

A global economic crash at this time of history would be far more disastrous than the crash of 1929 because we are more urban, there is less sustainable agriculture, and the transportation of food is, at the same time, more essential and more vulnerable to a financial collapse, because it is largely dependent upon oil transported in tanker ships.

In the face of this possibility, Johan Galtung, the dean of peace researchers, recommends that we “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.”  In this way we can protect ourselves against the crash of the American empire and the global economy that it manages.  And if Galtung is correct that this may happen within the next five years,  we have no time to waste.

During this time there is great danger of war and/or a shift to fascist states.  Hence our work for a culture of peace is crucial, and we can also take lessons on this from some indigenous peoples.  As the indigenous of Cauca have told us, “We survived by struggle, but we are peoples with a culture of peace.”

Not only do we need to listen to to indigenous peoples, but even more we must follow their example.  The very survival of our culture is at stake.  And soon.

Importance of Truth Commissions

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First, Truth Commissions are important because they break the secrecy of the state which is one of the key defenses of the culture of war.

This month, as described in the CPNN bulletin, there are several examples of this.  The US government, and in particular its CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) has kept secret the details of its torture of prisoners in Guantanamo and elsewhere in recent years, as well as its invasion of Panama in 1989.   Despite opposition by the CIA, the torture report by the US Senate has revealed details of the torture, while the upcoming Truth Commission in Panama promises to reveal details of the invasion.   Similarly, despite a law by the Israeli authorities that forbids discussion of the Nakba, the NGO Zochrot has launched a Truth Commission to discuss it.  Other Truth Commissions in Canada, Brazil and Burundi  are revealing atrocities previously previously shrouded in secrecy by their states.

Second, they promote such key aspects of  a culture of peace as human rights and democracy, by revealing and condemning their violations.

And third, Truth Commissions are designed to launch the process of reconciliation, a process that will be necessary for the transition from the culture of war to a culture of peace. The classic example is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa in the transition from Apartheid to democracy under the leadership of Bishop Desmond Tutu and the presidency of Nelson Mandela.  Since then, according to Amnesty International, there have been truth commission in more than 25 countries (as of 2007), most of them dedicated to reconciliation as well as truth.  The commissions mentioned here continue this important historical trend.

Other than Canada, today’s commissions are still far from the stage of reconciliation.  Those in Burundi and Panama are just getting underway.  The Truth Commission in Brazil is still far from the stage of reconciliation, and there is so much opposition that one doubts that the U.S. Senate will be able to go beyond its initial stage and achieve any reconciliation.

It is not surprising that the cases of Israel and the United States are the furthest from reconciliation.  Israel is supported by the U.S. and the American empire is the center of the culture of war in the 21st Century, having organized torture not only in Guantanamo, but also in countries around the world, especially in Latin America.  See a similar analysis by the dean of peace researchers, Johan Galtung.  The strong defense of state secrecy by the U.S. and Israel  is revealed by the continued house arrest of Mordecai Vanunu in Israel for having revealed its nuclear arsenal and the continuing attempts by the U.S. to capture and punish Julian Assange and Edward Snowden for having divulged its secrets.

In my utopian novel about how we arrive at a culture of peace, I imagine that one of the key moments is when Jerusalem, after a process like that of South Africa (with the involvement of Bishop Tutu), becomes an international city of peace where people of all religions are able to coexist with mutual respect.  As for the United States, I can only that its empire will crash like that of the Soviet Union, giving us the chance to establish a radically new economic and political system in 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 !…

 

The Universality of the Movement for a Culture of Peace

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This month’s CPNN bulletin shows that initiatives for a culture of peace are taking place in most regions of the world.  As discussed in previous blogs, Latin America and Africa are in the leadership, although this may be difficult for the North to accept . The Arab States took two steps forward with the “Arab Spring”, although the turnaround in Egypt moved them one step back.  The only region which seems to lag is East Asia.

The apparent lag of East Asia may be an illusion caused by our different terminologies.  I recall a personal luncheon with the Ambassador from China to UNESCO at the time when I was director of the International Year for the Culture of Peace.  After listening intently to my description of our initiatives for the culture of peace, he said suddenly, “Oh, now I understand.  You are talking about social harmony.”  The terminology of China was molded in the philosophy of Confucius which is quite different from Western philosophy.

The universality of the culture of peace was ensured by the adoption in 1999 of the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace by the UN General Assembly which is the closest we come to a universal forum of humanity.   Just as the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights provided universal recognition for human rights, so, too, the 1999 Declaration and Programme of Action has provided, with its 8 action areas, a universal basis for the culture of peace.

This was summed up by Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury who shepherded the Declaration and Programme of Action through the difficult process of adoption.  Presenting the document to the General Assembly, the Ambassador said that it brought in subjects that the Assembly had rarely touched in its 50 year history: “I believe that this document is unique in more than one way. It is a universal document in the real sense, transcending boundaries, cultures, societies and nations. Unlike many other General Assembly documents, this document is action-oriented and encourages actions at all levels . . . All people from all walks of life and all sorts of backgrounds can contribute to its implementation.”

As Ambassador Chowdhury correctly stated, one aspect of its universality is its relevance to the everyday actions of people throughout the world.

Another aspect of the universality of the UN declaration was ensured by the manner in which we prepared it.  We began by analyzing and forming the alternative to its antithesis which is another universal culture, the culture of war, which has dominated the world at least since Neolithic times.  It has become, over time, the culture of the state.  As I have often remarked, if you placed Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar, Napoleon and General MacArthur in a room with interpreters, they would find themselves in complete accord.

Given the universality of the culture of war, the only way we can arrive at a culture of peace is through a universal transformation of one to the other.  In a previous blog, with the title “Can a Culture of Peace be created in only one zone of the world?”, I answered that it has not been possible, because previous attempts limited in scope have been crushed by the culture of war.

Only when the states of the culture of war crash universally will there be a chance to install a culture of peace.  This occurs periodically, including four times in the previous century:  World Wars I and II, the Great Depression, and (in half of the world) the crash of the Soviet Empire.  And it will no doubt occur fairly soon again in this 21st Century.

But when the next crash comes, will we be ready to establish a culture of peace universally?  That is the key question.  If we only establish the culture of peace in one or two regions, it is likely that the culture of war will be re-established and once again return to crush our attempts at a culture of peace.

L’universalité du Mouvement pour une culture de paix

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Le bulletin de CPNN fait apparaître ce mois-ci que les initiatives pour une culture de paix viennent de la plupart des régions du monde. Comme nous avons vu dans les blogs précédents, ce sont l’Amérique latine et l’Afrique qui en sont leaders, même si le Nord ait du mal à le reconnaître.   Avec le « printemps arabe» , les États arabes ont fait deux pas en avant, bien que, en Egypte, l’évolution de la situation leur a fait faire un pas en arrière.  Seule, l’Asie orientale semble en dehors du circuit.

Le décalage apparent de l’Asie orientale peut être une illusion causée par nos différences de terminologie. Je me souviens d’un déjeuner personnel avec l’ambassadeur de Chine à l’UNESCO quand j’étais directeur de l’Année internationale de la culture de la paix. Après avoir écouté attentivement la description de nos initiatives dans ce domaine, soudainement il a dit, “Oh, maintenant je comprends. Vous voulez parlez d’harmonie sociale.”  Le vocabulaire chinois a été modelé par la philosophie de Confucius, ce qui diffère tout à fait de notre approche occidentale.

L’universalité de la culture de paix a été assurée en 1999, lors de l’adoption par l’Assemblée générale des Nations Unies de la Déclaration et Programme d’action sur une culture de la paix. L’ Assemblée générale est la forme la plus proche pour parvenir à un forum universel de l’humanité. Tout comme la Déclaration Universelle des Droits de l’Homme de 1948 a permis la reconnaissance universelle des droits humains, la Déclaration et Programme d’action de 1999 a fourni, avec ses huit domaines d’action, une base universelle pour la culture de paix.

Ceci a été résumé par l’Ambassadeur Anwarul Chowdhury qui a piloté la Déclaration et Programme d’action à travers le difficile processus d’adoption. Dans sa présentation du document à l’Assemblée générale, l’ambassadeur a dit qu’il avait rapporté à l’Assemblée, des sujets rarement soulevés en 50 ans d’histoire. “Je crois que ce document est unique à plus d’un titre.  C’est un document universel dans le sens réel qu’il transcende les frontières, les cultures, les sociétés et les nations. Contrairement à de nombreux autres documents de l’Assemblée générale, ce document est orienté vers l’action et encourage les actions à tous les niveaux … Tous les gens de tous horizons et de toutes sortes de milieux peuvent contribuer à sa mise en œuvre ».

L’ambassadeur avait raison: l’un des aspects de l’universalité, c’est la pertinence des actes quotidiens des gens partout dans le monde.

Un autre aspect de l’universalité de la culture de paix a été assurée par la manière dont nous avons préparé la Déclaration. Nous avons commencé par l’analyse d’une autre culture universelle, celle dans laquelle baigne notre humanité depuis au moins le Néolithique : la culture de guerre.  Elle est devenue au fils du temps, la culture de l’Etat.  Ensuite, nous y avons projeté et construit une alternative: la culture de paix.  Comme j’en ai souvent fait la remarque, si vous pouviez placer Alexandre le Grand, Gengis Khan, Jules César, Napoléon et le général MacArthur dans une chambre avec des interprètes, ils se trouveraient tous en complet accord !

Compte tenu de l’universalité de la culture de guerre, la seule façon par laquelle nous pouvons parvenir à la culture de paix passe à travers une transformation universelle de l’une à l’autre.  Dans un blog précédent, avec le titre “Est-ce qu’une culture de paix peut être créé dans une seule zone du monde?”,  j’avais répondu que jusqu’à aujourd’hui cela n’avait pas été possible, car chaque tentative localisée a été écrasée par la culture de guerre.

C’est seulement quand les Etats guerriers échoueront universellement qu’il y aura la possibilité d’installer une culture de paix. Des tels échecs arrivent périodiquement: par example, dans le siècle dernier, cela s’est produit quatre fois: -Les deux guerres mondiales, la grand dépression, et la chute dans la moitié du monde de l’Empire Soviétique.  Et cela va sans doute se reproduire bientôt.

Mais quand le prochain crash arrivera, serons nous prêt pour établir une culture de paix de manière universelle?  Si nous établissons une culture de paix dans seulement une ou deux régions, ce sera insuffisant, parce qu’il est probable que la culture de guerre reviendra et l’écrasera.

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.

History is moving dialectically

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The CPNN bulletins for August 1 and September 1 illustrate how history is moving dialectically.  Two opposing tendencies exist and interact simultaneously, the culture of war and the culture of peace.  At the same time the culture of war advances towards self-destruction, the culture of peace is slowly growing.  While the commercial media drowns us with news about the culture of war (Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine, etc.), they have nothing to say about the growth of the culture of peace.   Fortunately, however, we are able to show on CPNN that there is progress in the various domains of the culture of peace, most recently in terms of participatory budgeting and restorative justice.

The more that Israel carries out terrible attacks on Gaza, the more the calls for peace are mounting, even with Israel itself as we have seen this month.  As described in the blog for July, progress comes out of conflict.  Increasingly there are international calls for divestment similar to the campaign that finally led to the end of South African apartheid.  And the more that NATO provokes Russia in the Ukraine, the more the demand that NATO should be abolished.

The confrontation in the Ukraine between the US and NATO on one side and Russia on the other side may or may not end up causing such massive destruction and suffering as we have seen, for example, in Syria (and hopefully, no use of nuclear weapons!), but it is certain to have serious consequences on the economies of both sides.  The world economy is already weakened and vulnerable as a result of excessive speculation, government austerity and military spending, and in this context the curtailing of trade between Russia and the West may turn out to be an economic disaster for all concerned.  It may, in fact, hasten the collapse of the American empire, as predicted by Johan Galtung and quoted in a CPNN discussion..

We may expect even more dramatic changes in the near future, if we keep in mind the principles of dialectics that were first developed by the German philosopher Hegel and subsequently elaborated by the major revolutionary figures:

–   all aspects of historical events and changes are closely and indissolubly connected

–   history moves in spirals, not in a straight line;

–  history moves by leaps, catastrophes, and revolutions with breaks in continuity;

– quantitative changes eventually change into qualitative changes, that is to say that small imperceptible changes can accumulate over time to the point that they explode into dramatic changes.

Yes, we may expect dramatic changes, but once again, we return to our perennial question:  Is the culture of peace advancing rapidly enough to be in a position to replace the culture of war when it next crashes?

L’histoire se déplace dialectiquement

 Nos bulletins de Septembre et d’août illustrent comment l’histoire se déplace dialectiquement.

Deux tendances opposées existent et interagissent simultanément : le principe de guerre et le principe  de paix.  En même temps que la culture de guerre nous entraîne vers l’autodestruction, la culture de paix grandit lentement .

Alors que  nous sommes surinformés et noyés par l’actualités concernant la culture de guerre (Ukraine, Irak, Syrie, Libye, Afghanistan, Israël/Palestine, etc.), les mêmes médias sont dans un grand mutisme à propos de la croissance de la culture de paix.

Mais fort heureusement, grâce à de petits médias non commerciaux, dont CPNN, nous pouvons montrer qu’il y a du progrès dans les divers domaines de la culture de paix, par exemple, dans le celle des prévisions budgétaires participatives et plus récemment, de la justice restauratrice.

Plus Israël attaque la bande de Gaza,  plus il y a des manifestations pour la paix, même dans les rues d’Israël.  Comme nous l’avons souligné dans le blog du mois de Juillet, le progrès vient du conflit.  De plus en plus de demandes se font entendre pour le désinvestissement de sociétés qui soutiennent les militaires d’Israël ; c’est le même phénomène qui a finalement renversé l’apartheid en Afrique du Sud.  Plus l’OTAN provoque la Russie, plus de voix s’élèvent pour l’abolition de OTAN.

La confrontation en Ukraine entre, d’un côté, les EU et l’OTAN et de l’autre, la Russie, peut, ou pas, finir par un conflit utilisant les armes de destruction entraînant des souffrances comme nous l’avons vu en Syrie (même s’il ne s’agissait pas de l’arme nucléaire).

Mais c’est certain qu’il y aura des conséquences sérieuses sur les économies des deux belligérants .

L’économie mondiale est déjà grandement affaiblie et vulnérabilisée par  la spéculation excessive, l’austérité gouvernementale et les dépenses militaires. Une réelle baisse des échanges commerciaux entre la Russie et l’Ouest peut se révéler un désastre économique pour toutes les parties concernées.  Il peut, en fait même presser l’écroulement de l’empire américain.

Nous pouvons nous attendre à des changements spectaculaires dans un avenir proche, tout en  gardant à l’esprit les principes de la dialectique, développés d’abord par le philosophe allemand Hegel et élaborés ensuite par les grands révolutionnaires.

– Tous les aspects des événements historiques et leurs changements sont étroitement liés et connectés de façon indissoluble.

– L’histoire se déplace par spirales, et non sur une ligne droite;

– L’histoire  avance par des sauts,  des catastrophes et des révolutions de façon discontinue.

– Elle passe finalement, de changements quantitatifs à des changements qualitatifs (il s’agit de petits changement qui s’accumulent au fils du temps, jusqu’au moment où ils ‘explosent dans un changement plus radical).

Oui, il y aura des changements spectaculaires, mais encore une fois, nous revenons à notre éternelle question  : la culture de paix progresse-t-elle assez rapidement pour être dans une position forte et remplacer la culture de guerre quand celle–ci va s’effondrer?

 

Two media – two realities – is the world in transition?

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The CPNN bulletin this month is in great contrast to the headlines of the commercial mass media.

CPNN tells us of progress in participatory democracy in the cities of Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Portugal and the United States.  Ordinary citizens are deciding directly what should be the priorities for the budget in their neighborhoods.  And the results are to the benefit of all the citizens of their neighborhoods; not only the rich or a privileged ethnic group, not to the detriment of other neighborhoods or other cities.  The culture of peace is advancing and it is not surprising that this began and continues to develop in Latin America, which as we have seen in the blogs of March 2014 and February 2013, is at the leading edge of progress.

The commercial media feed us a starkly different picture of war in Israel/Palestine and in the Ukraine, not to mention plenty of plane crashes to make us afraid to venture outside our doors.

‘The news of participatory budgeting is carried by the local media, since citizens need to be informed about when and where they should go to vote and what are the choices that they can make.  But the major commercial media like Fox News, the New York Times and CNN do not include this on their front pages.  In the words on top of the front page of the New York Times, this news is not “fit to print.”  Instead, they consider that war and plane crashes are fit to print on the front page.

In fact, all of this is true.  There are wars and plane crashes, and there is progress in culture of peace at the local level.  But there are two kinds of media, one for the culture of war and another for the culture of peace, and so it seems like there are two realities.

There are two realities as it would seem that the world is in transition from one culture to another.

The major commercial media continue to serve the culture of war.  As I have shown in the History of the Culture of War, over the course of the past few centuries the media have become its most important tool.  Its coverage of war is designed to convince people that a culture of war is inevitable and/or necessary and that it should be supported by them.  Its coverage of disastrous events like plane crashes is designed to convince people that they are helpless in the face of superior forces and there is no way for them to change the course of history.

Media like CPNN, on the other hand, can be a major tool for the culture of peace, letting people know that a culture of peace is possible, and how they can support it.  It can give people confidence that they are the creators of history.  As we said in the slogan for the UN International Year for the Culture of Peace, “Peace is in our hands.”

At the present time, there are not enough media sources like CPNN.  I have seen a few new internet sites that provide news on a regular basis about the culture of peace, such as the Good News Agency (in English and Italian) and the People’s World Peace Project (English only).  I have not found culture of peace news sites in other languages, although CPNN carries some articles in French, Spanish and Portuguese.  We need sites in Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Swahili, Urdu, Hindi, etc., as well as in local languages.  And we need many more readers and reporters!

As the number of culture of peace news sites increases, and our readership increases, the commercial media will be forced to cover more culture of peace news in order to avoid losing their readership.  If and when that time comes, we will be able to say that the tide is turning towards a culture of peace!

Democratic participation is advancing – from below

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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.

No Progress without Conflict

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This month’s CPNN bulletin illustrates clearly that we cannot make progress towards a culture of peace without engaging in conflict.

The divestment from companies that aid the Israeli apartheid oppression of the Palestinian people is a good example.

Several years ago we carried an article at CPNN by a young Palestinian activist at Wesleyan University who called for divestment of university funds from Israel because of its apartheid-like policies.  In fact, she was working in a tradition of divestment at Wesleyan which, under strong student pressure, had been the first US university to divest its funds from South African apartheid.  The movement for divestment from South Africa had divided the university campus to such an extent that national television came to film the struggle.  The article about Palestine brought on a different kind of conflict.  CPNN came under a cyber-attack, presumably launched by pro-Israeli forces, which completely shut down our website for several days until we were forced to remove the article.

It’s been a few days since we put on the article by Archbishop Tutu, the video “Why I support divestment” and the news story about the divestment vote by the US Presbyterian Church.  And so far, we have not come under cyber-attack.  However, it is clear that this is an issue which involves very heated opinions and actions on all sides.

As we say in the rules for CPNN: “Reports should show that peace can be exciting, adventurous and eventful. Making peace takes more courage than making war. Reporters and moderators should not avoid conflicting and controversial material, because that would make it seem like peace is boring and passive. Instead, there is an energy in non-violent conflict that can be used constructively and that stimulates dialogue and debate.”

Another example of a conflictual issue in this month’s CPNN bulletin is the call for the abolition of NATO which was launched at the Peace Event in Sarajevo and expressed eloquently by Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire.  Back in 1997 when I was working under Federico Mayor at UNESCO, I proposed to him that UNESCO, being responsible for science policy in the UN system, should offer to convert NATO to work primarily for conversion of military industry to production of useful goods.  In fact, there was a small unit already within NATO that was concerned with this matter.  However, Mayor told me that it was an idea whose time had not yet come.  Already, Mayor had too much conflict with the major powers over his progressive actions and lack of budgetary restraint at UNESCO.

Hopefully, the time has come now that we can put sufficient nonviolent pressure on Europe and the US to convert NATO into a peaceful instead of military organization.  Just as in the case of the Israeli occupation of Palestine,  in the words of Archbishop Tutu,  we need “to force the powerful to the table through economic pressure.”

In the words of the great American activist Frederick Douglass, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” and “Without a struggle, there can be no progress.”

The Use and Misuse of Human Rights

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In this month’s CPNN bulletin, we consider both positive and negative sides of the discourse about human rights.

On the positive side, the state of human rights is a good indicator of progress towards a culture of peace. In this regard, the lead taken by Latin American countries to ratify and enforce human rights treaties reflects the fact, often noted in this blog, that they are the most advanced continent towards a culture of peace. The rights of women, of democratic participation, of sustainable equitable development, of honest information, all these are essential components of a culture of peace.

On the negative side, there is often a great deal of hypocrisy in the international accusations of human rights violations. This dates from the days of the Cold War when Western accusations of human rights violations in the socialist countries of the East were used as a propaganda arm of the culture of war. We see the same thing being done today as the United States, with the help of the commercial media, and (unfortunately) the leading human rights organizations, is accusing Venezuela of human rights violations in its handling of the mass political demonstrations. Actually, these demonstrations are being orchestrated by the United States as a means of overthrowing the government that was elected there. There is a further danger that the U.S. will use the pretext from this propaganda to justify a military intervention, using the so-called “right of humanitarian intervention.”.

There are two major components to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: political and economic. During the Cold War while the West refused to accept the economic provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they attacked the East for their record on political rights. In fact, the West continues to be deficient in guaranteeing economic rights to its citizens. Recently, in doing a report on the state of the culture of peace in my American city, I found that human rights was the one aspect of the culture of peace that is going backwards. Each year, Americans have less and less economic rights such as food, shelter, employment and trade union representation. Meanwhile, the US government continues to use political human rights as a propaganda tool to attack other governments that they wish to overthrow.

In fact, history shows that any good concept can be mis-used. That is true for Culture of Peace, just as it has been true for Human Rights. For example, if you search “culture of peace” in Google news, you will often find statements by Israeli officials criticizing the Palestinians for their lack of a culture of peace. What hypocrisy!!!

Words are not enough. For this reason, one of the basic rules of CPNN is that articles must refer to specific actions: “Reports should refer to specific events, projects or productions rather than be vague and over-generalized abstract comments. .. they do not have to be “breaking news.” Instead, they may reflect the “slow news” of processes that develop slowly over long periods of time.”

Are we entering an era of relative peace?

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Johan Galtung, the guru of peace research, predicts that as we get closer to the crash of the American empire, the United States will increasingly realize that wars and preparation for wars are destroying its economy and it will be forced to limit its military adventures.

Already last year the top military official in the US wrote to President Obama to oppose military intervention in Syria in part because it would cost billions of dollars a year. The US interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have been so costly that they have accelerated the pace towards a failure of the American economy.

The recent peace accord in the Philippines and the progress towards an accord in Colombia described in this month’s CPNN bulletin: are they signs that Galtung’s prediction applies to nation states in general and that we may be entering an era of relative peace? In both cases, the accords concern violent conflicts that have paralyzed those countries for many decades. In the words of the chief negotiator for the Philippines agreement, “The sealing of the comprehensive agreement is important for . . . all Filipino citizens who have all to gain as one country pursuing its unfinished task of nation-building.”

Will the civil society initiatives for Syria and Venezuela described in this month’s bulletin also lead to peace accords in those conflicts? Let us hope so.

Perhaps the most intractable of all violent conflicts is the one between Israel and Palestine. Galtung predicts that support for Israel will be seen increasingly as a burden in the United States, in which case it will be difficult for Israel to continue avoiding a just resolution of their conflict with the Palestinian people. Already, just recently, the US Secretary of State John Kerry, warned that Israel could become seen as an apartheid state, similar to South Africa in previous decades. This echoes the analysis of Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu over 10 years ago.

Does this mean that we have begun a transition from the culture of war to a culture of peace? Unfortunately, I don’t think so. Even if the smaller states resolve their internal wars, and the great powers reduce their foreign military interventions, I see no sign that they will reduce their culture of war which maintains internal control by the threat of military force and the control of information. This is why Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are considered as major enemies by the state.

I do not expect that the transition to a culture of peace can be achieved before the present state system collapses. Unfortunately, at the present rate, it seems that the collapse is likely to come long before we have made sufficient progress in developing the institutions of a culture of peace that can replace those of the culture of war.

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.

 

Can a Culture of Peace be created in only one zone of the world?

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Again this month we indicate in the CPNN bulletin that Latin America and the Caribbean continue to be in the vanguard of the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace.  This month it is the national governments that have taken the leadership with their declaration in Havana that the region will be a “zone of peace” privileging the development of a culture of peace according to the principles in the UN Declaration .

At first glance this seems to contradict my contention that a culture of peace cannot be created by national governments because they have become inextricably linked to the culture of war.

But on further reflection, the problem is not so simple.  Governments in Latin America have tried to move towards a culture of peace other times in the past, only to be attacked and prevented from doing so by intervention from the United States.  The most extreme examples were Cuba in 1961 and Chile in 1973.  And now, even as I write this, there is strong evidence that “state within a state” forces in the United States, perhaps without the knowledge of President Obama, are moving the destabilize Venezuela because its policies to do not fit with the American culture of war.  Cuba, after the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, installed a socialist culture of war in defense.  And Chile, after the overthrow of Allende in 1973, established a classic fascist dictature under Pinochet.  Is Venezuela destined to suffer a similar fate?

Probably one of the reasons that some forces in the United States want to destabilize Venezuela is to stop its leadership in development of the Banco del Sur which would make South America independent of the US dollar and its financial institutions.  The Banco del Sur was officially launched last year in Caracas by Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina, as well as Venezuela.  So far, however, it is only a small step towards economic independence.

It seems that the global culture of war, headed by the American empire, will not allow the establishment of culture of peace at any national level.

However, even if Latin America is blocked from installing a culture of peace at national levels in its own zone, its attempts to move in this direction will have a lasting effect on the consciousness of its citizens and we may be confident that it is there, in consciousness, that history will ultimately be determined.  What is needed is to reinforce this consciousness by the development of local culture of peace institutions.  A start was made in this direction in Brazil 10 years ago, but was not sustained.  Let us hope that the process can be re-started.

If Latin American countries can continue to push for a culture of peace, and if they can develop a certain economic independence from the American empire, they will be in a good position when the empire crashes to support the cities of Latin America for a revision of the UN Security Council and to return the power of peace to the people rather than the nation states.  I have imagined this scenario in The Promised Land.

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.

 

Leadership for a Culture of Peace

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This month’s CPNN bulletin raises the question, “What is good leadership for a culture of peace?”

An initial answer is provided by the Elder, Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and international leader for health and sustainable development: “To be bold; to have the courage of your convictions; and to think long-term, not short-term or for political expedience.”

Nelson Mandela, who founded the group of Elders, exemplified these qualities in his life, and is perhaps the best example of good leadership in our time. In fact, one can trace a line from Mahatma Gandhi, who inspired Martin Luther King, and then Martin Luther King who inspired Mandela. They show us the nature of leadership for non-violent action which is so effective that it has changed the life of entire nations.

The formulation by Brundlandt is similar to the one in my 1986 book, Psychology for Peace Activists, which describes the “world-historic consciousness” of peace heroes such as the Nobel Peace Laureates Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jane Addams and Emily Balch. I concluded that world-historic consciousness requires a “global view of reality and a sense of moral responsibility for humanity’s future” as well as an understanding of “the strengths and directions of all political forces in a systemic, not superficial way . . . recognizing that peace requires fundamental economic and political changes in society.”

The “long-term thinking” of Bruntlandt or “sense of moral responsibility for humanity’s future” of great peace activists becomes a vision like the dream in the famous speech of Martin Luther King exactly 50 years ago, a vision of a better future which is taken up and shared by the people as a source of hope and inspiration. This is the highest level of leadership.

As pointed out in this month’s bulletin, there are many examples of good leadership today, both on a local and national level and on an international level, women and men of great courage and effective action for justice.

But do we have leaders who can give us the vision that we need?

It seems to me that the vision does not depend only on the leader, but also it depends on the people and on the historical contradictions of the moment. Have the contradictions become so strong that people are seeking an alternative? In other words, the vision depends not only on the leader, but also on the subjective mood of the people as a result of the objective contradictions of the historical moment.

It seems to me – as it seems also to Johan Galtung in his recent writings – that the objective contradictions of the historical moment have reached a point that people are starting to look for a radically different future. The time has come that the people have started to look for their leaders. It seems that there are leaders who can provide this vision, which, like a spark in dry tinder, can lead to revolutionary changes in our way of life by means of nonviolent action.

To me, it seems that the vision needed at this moment of history is for the transition from the culture of war to a culture of peace.