Newsletter of the Aquarian Age Community
1999 No. 2
The Year 2000: A World Focus
Upon Developing a
Culture of Peace
The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the year 2000 as the International Year for the Culture of Peace "emphasizing the linkage between peace and development and the need for a culture of peace that can lead, through education, science and communication, to the respect of all human rights and the promotion of democracy, tolerance, dialogue, reconciliation and solidarity, as well as to the international cooperation and economic development, and thus to the sustainable human development."1
It is fitting that the new Millennium start with a Year for the Culture of Peace and that the proclamation come from the United Nations General Assembly. As the then UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said, "A truly global culture of peace-based on mutual respect and creative exchange-is at the heart of the great historical enterprise that is the United Nations."
It was in June 1989 that the idea of a culture of peace was first elaborated at the International Congress of Peace in the Minds of Men, held at Yamoussoukro, Cote d'Ivoire. UNESCO was there urged by the Congress to "construct a new vision of peace by developing a peace culture based on the universal values of respect for life, liberty, justice, solidarity, tolerance, human rights, and equality between women and men."2 The Yamoussoukro Declaration went on to state "The pursuit of peace is an exhilarating adventure. The congress therefore suggests a new programme that makes practical and effective provision for new visions and approaches in cooperation, education, science, culture and communication, taking into consideration the cultural traditions of different parts of the world."3
The importance of culture in its anthropological definition in development and social change became evident because of the failures of past development efforts spanning many decades. It is recognized that these failures were due to the lack of consideration given to the values, work style, socialization and family patterns-in short, the culture of the people involved. As a result, there is today a growing awareness that all development must be seen in its cultural dimension.
A culture of peace requires comprehensive educational, social, economic and civic actions. And, it must engage people locally, regionally and internationally. It is therefore of no surprise that non-governmental organizations are starting to see their role in this broader culture of peace context. For example, in a recently written Statement of Principles, War Resisters International (WRI), a 75-year old anti-war organization states "War is an avoidable form of organised violence. ...Addressing the causes of war requires a commitment to social transformation. WRI seeks to join with others in building a world based not on fear of military might, nor on domination and hierarchy, but based on relations of equality, where basic needs are fulfilled, where women and men have an equal voice, different cultures and ethnic groups are accepted by one another, borders do not divide, and the natural environment is respected. We work to build societies where everyone can have a say in the decisions that affect them and where collective responsibility and voluntary cooperation replace imposition."4
We are still at an early stage in the creation of a culture of peace. Such a culture is not only an aim or an ultimate goal to be achieved. It is also a comprehensive process of long-term action to construct the defenses of peace in the minds of women and men. A culture of peace means changing value systems, attitudes and behavior. We already have much on which we can build. We have for example, the rich body of knowledge and experience in peace education, in the many efforts to improve learning methods and content so as to help students gain in self confidence and harmony within themselves, with nature, and with their fellow human beings.
The Year 2000 and its designation as the Year of the Culture of Peace provides a focus to draw together many of the existing efforts to develop a multidimensional culture of peace to meet the challenges of the New Age.5¨
A/52/L15, 10 November 1997.
2 UNESCO and a Culture of Peace, p. 19
3 Quoted in Pierre Weil. The Art of Living in Peace, p. 13
4 The Nonviolent Activist (New York), September-October 1998, p. 18
5 The reader may contact UNESCO at 7 Place de Fontenoy. 75352 Paris 07 SP. FRANCE or at www.unesco.org. Mr. Wadlow may be reached at Transnational Perspectives. Case Postale 161, 1211 Geneva 16, SWITZERLAND.