Building Peace by Working to Change Behaviours, Forge Values

The UNESCO Culture of Peace Program "builds peace by working to change behaviours, forge values, and incite the institutional transformations that are indispensable for eliminating the deep roots of violence, exclusion and conflict."

I have done a quick analysis of reference material, and wish to share my observations with you.

Key References

I have found quite a number of references to work done on values in Canada (reference - http://www.peace.ca/un2000celebration.htm Section 7.2 http://www.peace.ca/codeofethics.htm ).  Of these, I wish to draw your attention to:

A STRONG FOUNDATION: Report of the Task Force on Public Service Values and Ethics - A Summary.    http://www.ccmd-ccg.gc.ca/pdfs/resume.pdf  A Strong Foundation is the report of the Task Force on Public Service Values and Ethics, one of nine Task Forces led by Deputy Ministers that were established by the Clerk of the Privy Council in 1995. This taskforce took the form of a Study Team established by the Canadian Centre for Management Development and led by John Tait, former Deputy Minister of Justice and then a Senior Fellow of CCMD. The membership of the Study Team is appended to this summary of its report. The complete report (and those of the other Task Forces) is available on the CCMD website at: http://www.ccmd-ccg.gc.ca/publica/task/index.html

The International Code of Ethics for Canadian Business - http://www.uottawa.ca/hrrec/busethics/codeint.html

Canadian Policy Research Networks' (CPRN) mission is to create knowledge and lead public debate on social and economic issues important to the well-being of Canadians. The CPRN goal is to help make Canada a more just, prosperous and caring society. CPRN is currently operating three Networks - on Family, Work, and Health, as well as special corporate projects on the Non-profit Sector, the Social Union and Policy Research.  http://www.cprn.org/  CPRN is conducting a very large series of dialogue groups on 'The Society We Want', including research into Canadian values.  One conclusion, "As it turns out, information about people's values is difficult to get.  That's because most people find it hard to talk about their values.  They may not have thought much about them, or even tried to put them into words.  Attending a dialogue group on The Society We Want is a good way to find out, test out and talk out what we really think and want."  Their dialogue Kit is available on their web site, and I have asked them if they would consider a series of dialogues on the Culture of Peace.

My conclusion on the reference search is that there is a lot of good work that has already been done, and that we can learn from.  Undoubtedly, there is a lot more work that must be done - but we are not starting from a 'blank page'.  Every peacebuilder should be familiar with this work.

Congruence of Stated Values

My reading of the references that I have found does not turn up any evidence to disprove the hypothesis that, "The same ethics should be expected of governments, corporations and other organizations as are expected of individuals."  I believe that the good work of the Task Force on Public Service Values and Ethics and The International Code of Ethics for Canadian Business builds support for the hypothesis.

The Issues

There are at least a couple of major issues that I have identified:

1. there is a 'say/do' gap in both government and business;

2. there is a values and ethics gap at the political level.

Having a 'say/do' gap in both government and business may be expected.  The problem, and a root cause of the current Culture of Violence in Canada, is that the Canadian public has allowed governments and companies to get away with not honouring their relationship responsibilities.  This must be corrected to make a Culture of Peace successful, and is Phase III (Values Alignment) of the Process of Clarifying Canadian Values (reference Process Overview at http://www.peace.ca/introprocess.htm ). 

I could not find the equivalent to 'A STRONG FOUNDATION: Report of the Task Force on Public Service Values and Ethics' for our Canadian government leaders.  I believe that similar values espoused for the public service (possibly with some suitable modifications) should guide our elected politicians.  I believe a Report on this should be prepared as soon as possible (i.e. in 2000).

The good work of the Canadian Policy Research Networks should be extended to include those considerations necessary to build a Culture of Peace.  This would be a significant project in 2000 to assist with Phases I and II of the Process of Clarifying Canadian Values, namely 'Values Clarity' and 'Values Communication and Comprehension'. 

The Most Important Thing in Life is to Decide What's Most Important

When you look at the inventory of values espoused for Canadians you will find a very long list.  There are certain core values that every Canadian should respect and be accountable for. 

A Strong Foundation Summary states it well, and the conclusions are transportable to other areas: "Such values can conflict, as values often do, and difficult choices may sometimes have to be made to achieve the right balance between them.  But, even in dynamic tension, they reinforce and support each other, and taken as a whole, they are essential to the public service’s role in the wider democratic process. In fact, in a time of change, these core values, rooted in the democratic mission of govemment, are the bedrock, the solid foundation on which renewal can take place and on which a stronger public service can be built.  As the problems and issues public servants discussed with us make clear, these core values are under pressure from many directions. To call this a crisis would be incorrect: it would not do justice to the overwhelming majority of public servants (and Canadians in general - emphasis added) who are living and representing sound public service values every day, often in very trying circumstances. We have deliberately refrained from doing so. However, in the eyes of the study team, we are at a tuming point where action is needed to clarify and reaff´rm public service values.

As emphasized throughout this report, abstract values statements are less powerful than living models and broadly shared practices. But such statements have their place and are even essential at times. At the end of our joumey of discovery, we concluded that this is one of those times. We see a need for a new moral contract between the public service, the govemment and the Parliament of Canada.  The Study Team recommends a year of broad discussion inside and outside the public service (mirroring the honest dialogue of our study team process), following which the govemment and Parliament of Canada should adopt a statement of principles for public service. The statement should be succinct, dignified in tone and expression, and focused on the principles of responsible govemment, and should relate the duties of public servants to these first principles. The statement should not focus on conflict of interest or other ethical issues -conflict of interest and post-employment guidelines already exist (although they could be better known) .

Following this, a series of mutually supportive actions should be undertaken at the service-wide and departmental levels, initiatives that include an interpretation of the statement of principles for the culture and circumstances of each department and agency, and a service-wide office with responsibility for advising public service leaders and managers on matters related to values and ethics, collecting information and coordinating administration of the principles, providing a conf´dential recourse or appeal mechanism to support and counsel public servants who believe they are being asked to take actions that conflict with public service values and ethics, similar to what the Study Team has proposed for individual departments.

There is also a need for continuing research, particularly on the experience of other parliamentary countries, and for training and development at all levels, through service-wide and departmental programs, including initial orientation of new recruits and in-service training of employees."

These conclusions are equally applicable to the political level of government, Canadian businesses and other institutions.

In the Meantime

The above initiatives include a top-down and bottom-up approach, and developing consensus on inclusive Canadian values. Although steps should be taken immediately, this is a long term and ongoing process.  What else can be done in the meantime?  It may be easier, and more expeditious to meet short term needs, to identify and develop consensus on what are held not to be Canadian values - those things that are the deep roots of violence, exclusion and conflict.  For example: injustice, deception, lack of respect for others, harassment, policies of exclusion, lack of fairness, acts of ill will, emotional violence, enslavement or dependence, etc.  Steps can be taken in the immediate term to make a clear social declaration against such motives, with suitable consequences.  At the same time, awareness can be raised among the Canadian public to take preventative action - to reduce victimization and increase empowerment.

The Path Ahead

This background work helps to start the journey clarifying values, communicating and comprehending them, and aligning everyday behaviours to build a Culture of Peace.   The Canadian public must hold governments, companies and other institutions accountable to honour their relationship responsibilities, in order to move Canada from a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace and Non-violence.  The potential barriers to success will be apathy and disenfranchisement (which have prevailed until now).  We must look to government and community leaders, and those with the knowledge and skills in Values development, to lead the necessary work that must be done.  Please share this message with others, and start a new dialogue on Canadian Values necessary for a Culture of Peace.

Respectfully submitted,

Robert Stewart, C.A., C.M.C.

comments invited to  stewartr [at] peace.ca


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