Organizations for the culture of peace are growing in Europe as indicated by reports from national networks for peace and the culture of peace in Austria, France, Italy, Greece, Netherlands, Norway and Spain representing hundreds of additional organizations, as well as a European Network for Peace Education in eight countries. City-wide mobilizations are described from Osnabruck (Germany), Donostia/San Sebastian (Spain), Malakoff (France), Rotterdam (Netherlands), as well as communes from Italy and Norway.
Many would agree with the assessment that the leadership comes from civil society: “At level of the policy of the states, interstate organizations and international politics: No [there has been no progress]. The number of armed conflicts, of commercial tensions, increased criminal economy and violence in social relations has continued to increase. Only the pacifist and humanitarian organizations, as well as the citizenry in general have intensified their presence and activities in peace, non-violence and the resolution of conflicts.” Many complain that their national governments, as well as UN agencies, have not acted upon the Decade for the Culture of Peace and Non-Violence.
The teaching and practice of mediation and other alternative forms of conflict resolution is on the rise. Education for a culture of peace has been systematically introduced into school systems in France, Greece, Spain, and in all teachers' training in Sweden. As one organization describes, “In our daily task to promote an education to peace and to study the conditions for the construction of peace, we have noted a true progression - slow as it may be but nonetheless real! - from a culture of war towards a culture of peace … in schools, high-schools and colleges where we act through exhibitions, presentations, conferences and lectures, we witnessed a growing interest for the issues of solidarity and global development which are important paths to peace.” This is sometimes described as the “work of ants.”
Many European organizations specialize in solidarity with ex-colonies and other countries of the South. For example, one Norwegian organization celebrates a major victory in their efforts to help preserve the rainforest for the indigenous people in Brazil. Another “links about 190 communities with partners in the South.” Other organizations are involved with protecting the human rights of those who have immigrated from countries of the South.
In Eastern Europe, the movement for a culture of peace, for the most part, is small but well dispersed throughout the
region. For example, in the Russian Federation, reports have been received from UNESCO Schools, Clubs, University Chairs and Institutes that continue to work for a Culture of Peace in Nalchik (North Caucasus), Kazan (Tatarstan), Ufa (Bashkortistan), Novosibirsk (Siberia), Tula and Volgograd as well as in the major cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Their work flourished previously when the Russian government cooperated with UNESCO during the International Year for the Culture of Peace, but since that cooperation ended they have lost their national support. In other East European countries there are many reports from Life-Link Friendship Schools.
Major programs are underway in Albania for disarmament education and in Bosnia and Herzogovina devoted to education for a culture of healing and peace in 108 schools involving 80,000 students 5000 teachers and 150,000 parents.
Women are playing a leading role, as described by Women in Black (Belgrade, Serbia): “Throughout the region women initiated peace exchanges, dialogue amongst women activists and made numerous proclamations demanding an end to war and violence.” See also the reports from NGO Women for Development (Armenia), Education of Mothers for the Education of Children (Hungary), and the Russian section of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
OBSTACLES: The “war on terrorism” is described as diverting attention from peace: “the fear in the world was used to put minds on war while we need these minds to prepare the road towards peace.” In addition to psychological effects, there are sometimes political effects as well, as one group describes: “We had planned to undertake a lobby of governments at the UN in New York … but our colleagues were held up at the airport for ‘random baggage checks’ until the plane had left and their tickets were not reimbursed. Many of our colleagues withdrew into a shell of activities aimed at keeping a low profile.” Many organizations see a major obstacle in the mass media’s lack of interest in their activities and their emphasis on the news of violence instead.
Both non-governmental organizations and schools and universities find it difficult to obtain funds to support their work for a culture of peace, and, in the case of teachers, to obtain the authorization to spend time on peace in the schools. In addition, there are problems of priorities in education: “[Schools in our country] are obsessed with passing meaningless exams … and not enough time is given to social issues, to talk and debate – to visit and receive visitors from other cultures.”