PROGRESS AND OBSTACLES IN SOUTH AND WEST ASIA
(based on data from 47 organizations from Bangladesh, India, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka)
PROGRESS:: Work is progressing on the root causes of violence in this region. It is said that “Fundamentalism and religious fanaticism have largely been the main obstacles in the path of progress toward enhancing and achieving adherence to culture of peace. In addition, under-development, unemployment, ignorance, injustice, poverty are liable to lead to violence.” This is linked to education: “To achieve Peace Culture, living values, understanding, tolerance and even democracy should be taught from childhood.” In response to these perceived needs, many organizations in this region report on progress in their work for local employment and health initiatives and for education. Work is also progressing for participatory democracy throughout the region, given that in the past, as described for one country, “Our political system was never people-led and based on people’s wishes and aspirations. It has always been ruler-led.”
At the same time, organizations are trying to overcome overt violence (inter-religious, inter-ethnic and international) with varying degrees of success. In some regions, the situation is described as urgent, such as in Nepal, Pakistan-Afghanistan, and some states of India (Gujarat, Kashmir). In others, relative peace is described, as in Bangladesh, Iran and some states of India (Tamilnadu, Maharashtra). But here, too, it is said that “the knowledge that past violence has broken out as a flash point, not even a slow build, as is often the case in communal violence, leaves an anxious vulnerability due to the uncertainty of what could spark it again in the future.”
Many are emphasizing girls’ education and employment since women are especially victimized by ignorance and poverty. It is said that for women, “poverty is not only the consequence of a lack of resources, but also due to certain discrimination … The realization of women’s rights is a global struggle based on universal human rights and the rule of law.” In general, lack of adequate education is seen as a major problem, especially in rural areas and among refugees.
OBSTACLES: Most organizations operate on small budgets and largely volunteer staffs, so funding and trained personnel are seen as major obstacles to progress.
There are complaints about “lack of coordination among NGOs, donor agencies and government departments.” One organization expresses this as: “Leadership of the Decade is not determined enough. More efforts need to be made by UNESCO … [there are] difficulties in partnership building. We have not learnt to work together. We need to develop a sense of common project, building up on everyone’s strengths and not fearing competition.”
As elsewhere in the world, the mass media is often seen as an obstacle to progress: “bad news seems to be big news and good news seems to be no news.”
PROGRESS AND OBSTACLES IN EAST ASIA
(based on data from 24 organizations from Australia, China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, as well as the regional organization, Asia-Pacific Centre of Education for International Understanding)
PROGRESS: In China, Japan and Korea, organizations report that their priority is being put on international partnerships and international education in the schools. This may help overcome the history of war in this region, which, in some cases, remains distorted in the textbooks being distributed by the government to schools. The culture of peace may also seen as an alternative to violent culture where “corporal punishments and bullying at school and violent TV programs and videos at home [and] violent scenes in magazines, movies and comics … scenes that affirm violence are everywhere.”
In the Philippines, several organizations describe their work to strengthen ceasefires and zones of peace in the areas where armed conflict has continued for several generations. Much of their work involves peace education in schools, where it is making progress despite some opposition by conservative school administrators and lack of adequate teacher training.
In Southeast Asia, among others, reports describe the “Path of Progress Ethics Quiz Contest” for a culture of peace in Thailand and the “SIGNIS Asia Charter: Promoting a Culture of Peace through Communicative Action” from Malaysia. The latter proposes a campaign to “seize communication opportunities for promoting a Culture of Peace. The existing social order that promotes a culture of violence and the highly-developed and complex media environment and the technology and institutions that support it offer great challenges and opportunities for the promotion of the Culture of Peace”, including specifically ‘Promoting transparent, reconciliatory, participative and dialogical communication processes and institutions in Asia.’”
In Australia, organizations are working for reconciliation with indigenous peoples, a just refugee policy and inter-religious, inter-ethnic dialogue, in the face of governmental policies that are seen as giving support to global militarism abroad and continued social injustice at home. Increasingly, individuals and organizations are participating in training for alternative dispute resolution, including mediation and negotiation.
OBSTACLES: Throughout the region, the lack of sustained funding is seen as an obstacle to progress. Another complaint is “lack of communication channels with UN and other international NGOs.”