Latin America: The leading edge


Latin America continues to take the lead in the transition to a culture of peace.

As indicated by this month’s CPNN Bulletin, the continent was the first to establish city culture of peace commissions, as well as city commissions for components such as human rights in Sao Paulo and sustainable development in Aguascalientes.  Also the invocation of the culture of peace as the basis for the Union of South American States (UNASUR) was a pioneering development.

Now, we can add to this list of innovations, the development of the culture of peace at a regional level in Brazil, Peru and Mexico.  As discussed, this is an important new step since a region can be self-sustaining with regard to its agricultural basis, unlike the city.

In fact, Latin America has always been at the leading edge.  The initial concept came in 1986 from an initiative in Peru headed by the Jesuit scholar Felipe MacGregor.  The first national project was in El Salvador in 1993, and that experience was the basis for the adoption of the culture of peace programme by the Executive Board and General Conference of UNESCO.  The further development of the culture of peace as a social movement came in 1994 from a  “Group of Reflection” of Latin American experts in association with UNESCO.  It was the representatives from Latin American countries at the United Nations in New York that began in 1995 the annual resolutions which led eventually to the UN Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace.  And the initial call for an International Year for the Culture of Peace came from a meeting of Latin American newspaper editors in Puebla, Mexico, in 1997.

The second and third largest number of signatures on the Manifesto 2000, by which individuals promised to support a culture of peace in their daily lives, came from Brazil (15 million) and Colombia (11 million).

During the International Decade for a Culture of Peace from 2001-2010, the rich countries, including Europe and the United States and their allies, refused to support the culture of peace, including its annual UN resolutions.  On the other hand, the countries of Latin America were outstanding in their support.  For example, at the midpoint of the Decade, the UN resolution was signed by the following countries of Latin America and the Caribbean: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Boliva, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Granadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.

Latin America has taken the lead in a number of other related initiatives.  The Earth Summit that took place in Brazil in 1992 was the turning point in the development of sustainable development.  And the practice of participatory budgeting which is revolutionizing democratic participation began as an initiative of the Workers Party of Brazil when they were in charge of the city government of Porto Allegre.

I expect that the leadership from Latin America will continue.  For this reason, I wrote in my utopian novel, I Have Seen the Promised Land, that the key moment in the transition of the United Nations from control by nation states to control by city and regional governments would come at a global meeting that takes place in Porto Allegre, Brazil, in the year 2021.  I wrote that five years ago, and now we have only eight more years before 2021.  But so far, given the continuing leadership from Latin America, I would still make the same prediction.