(based on data from 142 national organizations from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Peru, as well as several regional organizations, including Ciudades Educadores America Latina and Consejo Latinoamericano de investigación para la Paz that include member organizations in many Latin American states)

PROGRESS: In Brazil there were 15 million signatures on the Manifesto 2000 during the International Year for the Culture of Peace, and many of the 75 Brazilian organizations represented here were started after that time. As one report describes, “UNESCO’s Year for a Culture of Peace had a great impact. Millions of citizens gave their support and commitments in many universities, work-groups and research centres were created about the vital theme of peace and non-violence.” The reports from civil society in Brazil are too rich and varied to do justice to them here. Remarkable cooperation for a culture of peace between civil society organizations and government agencies at local, city, state and national levels includes a national disarmament initiative. For example, “ConPAZ, Culture of Peace Parliamentary Advisory Board is a body of the São Paulo Legislative Assembly … the first organism of its kind in the world, gathering representatives of 36 institutions of the civil society and 12 deputies of the State Assembly … to formulate, supervise and assess parliamentary policies for a Culture of Peace based on the principles of the Manifesto 2000.” At a national level, “in 2003 the theme ‘Culture of Peace and Non-Violence’ was introduced in the agenda of the municipal representatives of health care, through meetings of the CONASEMS, which represents as much as 5,562 municipal health care delegations of Brazil.” Other reports come from the cities of Cajamar, Aparecida, Belo Horizonte, São Carlos, Porto Ferreira and the state of Espirito Santo. However, inter-sectoral programs of civil society and government are not easy, since, “Public policies and programs are interrupted every 4 years, when new governors, mayors and president are elected.”

In Colombia, to quote one report, “There are many projects for the development of a Culture of Peace, defense and promotion of human rights, reconciliation, works of women and equality, actions with and for children, both boys and girls, and young people. There is work of recognition and support for displaced populations and other vulnerable groups. Expressions come from all aspects of the life of the nation: children, young people, educational institutions, plastic arts, theater, Associations of Communal Action, the work of women and mothers, friends and relatives of those kidnapped and disappeared, the academy, union groups. Unfortunately, this activity has not been reflected in a substantial change of the levels of violence from armed conflict as well as other forms of violence in Colombian society.” To explain the lack of effect, the report suggests that one factor may be “the lack of coordination of actions between the organizations … It is necessary to establish networks and free-flowing communication to avoid duplication of efforts and waste of resources and to obtain cooperation and greater social impact.” The need for greater cooperation is echoed in similar comments from elsewhere in Latin America.

A report from Peru credits the government Ministry of Women and Human Development with making the culture of peace a theme of its program of “Apoyo al Repoblamiento (PAR)” and mentions a movement in Huánuco based on the recommendations of the Commission of Truth and Reconciliation, including the goal of “promoting a culture of peace on a regional level.” In Mexico the culture of peace is linked to work for human rights. Of special importance in Guatemala is the widespread participation of indigenous peoples, which according to one account would have been unthinkable just 20 years ago.

Throughout Latin America, and especially in Argentina, young people are involved in promoting a culture of peace, in schools, in troops of scouts and guides, in international exchange programs, in sports, in universities and youth organizations and centers. On the other hand, there are references to lack of family infrastructure and lack of family involvement with the activities of young people as an obstacle to progress toward a culture of peace.

OBSTACLES: Most reports underline widespread unemployment, poverty and inequality, and many link them to neo-liberal economics and globalization. Many put blame on the mass media: “We feel immersed in a culture of war where distrust, absence of dialogue, fear, excessive competition, indifference to nature, and structural as much as direct violence, prevail…with the support of the media that privileges these values in detriment to the values of peace.” At the same time there are efforts to develop positive media such as those by one organization that “promotes workshops of mediatic education… produces communal educative audiovisual products and organizes meeting and conferences for the democratization of communications. Finally, it tries to foment the creation and establishment of communal medias.”

As elsewhere, most say there are insufficient financial and human resources available for what needs to be done. One report describes this as “the scarcity and difficulty of access to resources for the promotion of the culture of peace, in comparison with the immense expenses for the promotion of war and violence.”

“The absence of a permanent information channel with UN agencies, which would allow the members of our board to better understand and apply the Culture of Peace principles” is a complaint that finds echoes in a number of reports. It is further stated that “to form a general common understanding of these principles not only among politicians, but throughout the civil society, is in fact, the great challenge.”

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