The Culture of peace. The time has come

Monday, October 26, 2009

The time has come. The culture of war, the economy of war, and the hegemony of the "globalisers" have been a catastrophic failure and the cause of incalculable levels of suffering, hunger, extreme poverty, and social affliction. A "new beginning" is needed urgently here at the dawn of a new century and a new millennium.

Force, violence, and war have always predominated, to the point that history seems to be little more than an endless succession of battles and conflicts in which peace is a momentary break. So it has been century after century, with fleeting periodic attempts at emancipation.

Educated to use force, accustomed to heeding the law of the most powerful, trained in the use of the muscles more than of the mind, humanity has watched itself be dragged into the bloodiest possible conflicts. Enmity instead of friendship is the rule. Neighbours are not seen as brothers with whom we share a common destiny but as adversaries, enemies to be annihilated. And so our past is marked out by an endless chain of conflicts, attacks and reprisals, vanquished and victors, rancour and ill-will, physical and spiritual violence.

Fortunately there is a parallel, invisible history whose links were forged day by day out of the unselfishness, the generosity, and the creativity that distinguish the human species. It is a dense fabric, incomparable and permanent, because it is the product of many lives tenaciously dedicated daily to building the bastions of peace.

"There are no roads to peace; peace is the road," Mahatma Gandhi reminded us. A road oriented to principles and values. By justice, before all else. Peace is both a condition and a result, both seed and fruit. It is necessary to identify the causes of conflict to be able to prevent it. Avoiding conflict is the greatest victory.

UNESCO, the United Nations organisation charged explicitly with building peace through education, science, culture, and communication, recalls in the preamble of its constitution that it is the "democratic principles" of justice, liberty, equality, and solidarity that must illuminate this great transition from a culture of violence and war to a culture of dialogue and reconciliation. The great programme "Towards a Culture of Peace", of the 1990s, was a UNESCO initiative.

he Declaration and Plan of Action for a Culture of Peace, approved in September 1999, establishes that the culture of peace is an interweaving of values, attitudes, and behaviour that reflect a respect for life, the human being, and human dignity.

The Plan of Action contains measures based on education, race, development, and freedom of expression that must be put into practice to bring about the great transition from force to the word: to foster education in peace, human rights, democracy, mutual tolerance, and comprehension, national and international; to fight every form of discrimination; to promote democratic principles and practices in every area of society; to fight poverty and bring about a form of development that is endogenous and sustainable and that benefits everyone and grants all people a decent life; to mobilise society in order to ignite in the young a burning desire to find new ways of living based on reconciliation, tolerance, and generosity, and to reject all forms of oppression and violence, the just distribution of wealth, the free flow of information and shared learning.

The 2000 Manifesto of the International Year for a Culture of Peace, signed by more than 110 million people around the world, establishes "the commitment in my daily life, in my family, my community, and my region, to respect all lives, reject violence, free my generosity, safeguard the planet, reinvent solidarity, and listen to others in order to understand them". This should serve to involve us and implicate us personally in this process that can lead in a few years to a brightening of the horizons that are so dark today and make possible a peaceful coexistence of all inhabitants of the earth.

There have already been many regions, countries, and municipalities that have incorporated the culture of peace into their constitutions and statutes. It is very important that this trend spread, though even more important is the awareness among people that the moment has come to stop accepting the imposition of and blind obedience to power. Citizens are ceasing to be spectators and becoming actors. They are abandoning silence and fear and becoming agents of peace instead of vassals.

Today long-distance participation via mobile phone, SMS, and the Internet has made possible a radical change in the fundamental component of all democracies -the expression of the will of the people.

Much has been accomplished in these ten years. But the inertia of the vested interests and the resistance of the most prosperous to share more are an obstacle to the emergence of a culture of peace, the word, understanding, and the formation of alliances.

But soon this will change. The hour has come.


Friday, October 9, 2009

At the end of the 1980s, the Reykjavik agreements, the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin wall suggested that nuclear threats and the arms race might progressively give way to a rethinking of war strategies and therefore of the armament necessary to address news types of conflicts. This would likewise leave a broad margin for the “dividends of peace”.

But that was not the case. To the contrary, “globalization” replaced democratic values with the laws of the marketplace, and the world’s most prosperous countries (G-7, G-8…) ostracized the United Nations to the point of placing the World Trade Organization beyond its scope.

The result has been resounding economic failure and the world as a whole has been thrust into a multidimensional crisis (social, economic, environmental, nutritional, democratic, ethical), with military spending that surpasses 3 billion dollars daily, while at the same time approximately 70,000 people die of hunger and abandonment, half of them under five years of age.

The latter period of the Bush administration –invasion of Iraq, missile shield proposal, etc.- resulted in ever-increasing expenditures in armament, while the number of persons who live in hunger and poverty likewise rose.

For all of the above,

Having observed with surprise and indignation the “rescue” of financial institutions with hundreds of billions of dollars, while funds for the Millennium Objectives have practically dried up,

We want to express our support for President Obama:

1. For having taken the lead in nuclear disarmament, as he unexpectedly indicated in Prague and later ratified when presiding at the Security Council session on September 24, 2009. At this meeting, a reduction in nuclear arsenals was unanimously passed.

2. For having decided to cancel the antimissile shield program, which the US administration had planned to install in Europe.

3. For having initiated a new defense policy, which at least partially replaces conventional weapons (airplanes, submarines, tanks, etc.) for those that not only can address threats today, but also avoid them, by detecting them on time.

We therefore underscore the urgent necessity:

1. To provide international security through the United Nations, with all of the measures they require for the rapid and efficient deployment of Blue Helmets.

2. To urgently review the contractual obligations in existing military alliances, to reduce acquisition of weapons for “traditional” conflicts, which have recently reactivated the “arms market” both in Latin America and the Eastern countries.

3. With the funds no longer required for these huge investments in military spending, we must reactivate international cooperation, so that it can replace the largely war-based economy with sustainable global development (renewable energies, food production, production and distribution of water, health, transportation, housing…)

4. We make this appeal to strengthen existing disarmament initiatives at the global level, and especially in the preparation of the Conference on the Nuclear Non Proliferation treaty, which is set to take place in the spring of 2010.

5. Likewise, to establish adequate conflict resolution mechanisms, with the necessary criteria for follow-up, control and accountability, and with the participation of all parties concerned, which would enable the United Nations to establish international objectives and priorities, and develop programs with which they may be achieved.