CANADIAN STATUS REPORT ON THE CULTURE OF PEACE PROGRAM

Robert Stewart is the Director of the Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace and a Member of the Canadian Year 2000 Culture of Peace Working Group.  The comments are those of the author and not of the Working Group. 

It has been five years since UNESCO initiated the Culture of Peace Program ("COPP") and I am pleased that progress in Canada can be reported in a number of areas.  There are many existing programs that impact on the Culture of Peace.  However, now linkages are being made to identify how these programs fit into a Culture of Peace, where the gaps are, action to bridge the gaps and communicate what we are doing in order to build a groundswell.  To date, this work has been initiated for the most part by community leaders (i.e. members of Civil Society).  Government leaders have not yet been as supportive of COPP as expected.  While the relevant federal ministers appear interested as of late, there has been no sustained commitment from their departments or from that of the Prime Minister to the COPP.  We are still awaiting a reply from the Minister's office. 

On the bright side, at the Canadian Commission for UNESCO Annual General Meeting there was a workshop on the UNESCO Culture of Peace Program, and for the first time the profile of the Program was raised with over 300 participants.  At the same time, in addition to COPP information available on the UNESCO web site http://www.unesco.org/cpp, this writer has tried to make COPP information more readily available with a summary on our Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace web site at  http://www.peace.ca/UNESCO.htm .  To challenge other peace proponants to contribute their ideas, a National Culture of Peace Program for Canada proposal and working group framework was
also put forward at  http://www.peace.ca/copp.htm.  The UNESCO Culture of Peace News Network Training Module has been set up on a website at Acadia University at  http://ace.acadiau.ca/YIIP/CPNN/BluePrint/BluePrintHomePage/blueprin.htm  to create a new world-wide web site to promote  a Culture of Peace based on  the 8 keys coming from UN Resolution 52/13..

Why is a Culture of Peace Program so important?  In these times of school shootings in Littleton, and war in Yugoslavia, people (and the media) are waking up to the consequences of our current culture of violence.  People acknowledge the problem, which screams for a solution, but more often than not say they do not know what to do.  I heartily agree with the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict Report  http://www.ccpdc.org/  which concluded, 'It is not that we do not know what to do, it is that we do not act.'  The UNESCO Culture of Peace Program is a system of National Culture of Peace Programs around the world to broadly bring about change in individual attitudes and behaviours over the long term, with a particular emphasis on education.  And education is the key - at all levels. But it is equally important to stress the non-formal education area, where most citizens are found.

In developing a Culture of Peace, at home and abroad, the greatest barrier to overcome is motivation:  Motivation of the general public to act and, in turn, motivate government and community leaders to take collective action to 'turn around' the culture of violence into a Culture of Peace and Non-violence. 

With the support and assistance of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, a small working group has been formed to plan for the Year 2000, United Nations International Year for a Culture of Peace, consisting of Marshall Conley, Ph.d., Professor, Department of Political Science, Acadia University and Vice President of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO; William Graham, President, Canadian Association of University Teachers; Swee Hin Toh, Professor, Centre for International Education & Development, University of Alberta; Anne Adelson, Executive Member of the Canadian Peace Research and Education Association, and Canadian Voice of Women; Elisabeth Barot, Program Officer, Canadian Commission for UNESCO; and Robert Stewart, C.A., C.M.C., Director, Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace. 

In general, we wish to make the Year 2000 "a turning point, not an event".  With careful planning and action we should ensure there are no regrets over lost opportunities.  Our work on the Year 2000 Culture of Peace should not just be limited to the fields of competence of UNESCO, but should be transdisciplinary, holistic, inclusive.  We expect to strive to supply what is missing: "as Agents of Change, to establish a link between those like-minded people to synergize around Year 2000 Culture of Peace activities, oppose what is distorting our system, and propose to the government (and others) alternatives" (we will probably refine the wording, but I hope it gives the reader the general picture).  Note that our mandate is not 'legislated', it is volunteered in the spirit of community service, to the Canadian community, for the Canadian people.  An agreed upon Agenda (recognizing it will continue to evolve) should be tabled in September.

The working group will expand a bit more, looking at regional and sectoral representation, and taking on the role of coordination of Culture of Peace Program efforts in Canada, clearing house of information, informing people across the country of what's happening through a calendar of events.  An important aspect of the Program is making people aware that their diverse efforts (e.g. towards human rights, anti-racism, environmental work etc.) are part of building a Culture of Peace, even if they haven't named it that way, so that we can develop a sense of what the global movement is. A focus will be on Canada - what we're doing, some of the contradictions, some of the potentials.  Also how this fits into the global picture. We would like to see the working group providing some resources as well, or at least pointing out who has them. There is a role for the committee to take a lead on advocacy, developing and providing resources, organizing or facilitating some events, developing workshops/speakers bureau/information resources/media briefings etc. that can empower others and help them develop their own initiatives.  Just how far this leadership role goes is to be determined.  Our goals should also consider beyond the Year 2000 to the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and establishing a National Culture of Peace Program for Canada. 

Other Initiatives:

Canadian Voice of Women ('VOW') has developed a workshop kit, "Creating a Culture of Peace" and CCU has kindly provided a French translation. VOW has given several workshops, and plan others, including one at the Hague Appeal for Peace.  We see this as something other groups can use themselves, as a tool for education and empowerment. Future plans include "training the trainer" sessions, so others feel confident about doing their own workshops. Some examples: A student from McMaster University will be doing a workshop in Angola during the summer of 1999; the student peace society has plans to do a training session in the fall with a view to have their members go out into schools, community groups etc. Future plans include wider distribution of the kit -- through distributing flyers through group mailings, contacting people and groups who may be interested, informing people through websites.  We have already found that the VOW kit can be used internationally, and people from Sierra Leone, Chechnya, the Netherlands, Sudan, the United States, Mexico, among others, are using them. The UNESCO representative to the UN, Nina Sibyl, is interested in supporting these efforts.
The Canadian Commission for UNESCO has prepared their own COPP kit.  They plan on posting it on a new CCU web site and to encourage people in all the fields of UNESCO to develop activities in which they could use this kit to understand their role in a culture of peace (and send us the material and information they come up with).  The CCU is going to have an intern who will be in charge part-time to respond to the expected large demand that we are going to have for information on the Year 2000 activities, the meaning of a 'Culture of Peace' and the  way to discuss it with students at school and elsewhere.  We will propose our kit will give an overview of the possible role of Canadians and,
with the VOW kit, facilitate the development of a workshop to help people get involved.  The CCU is also preparing another type of information kit for teachers.  We have recently sent a letter to UNESCO in Paris to get more information about what is going to be produced for the year 2000.  We do not have an indication of the way the other Commissions are working but we will try to know more about that in the near future.  (Since the United States and Great Britain have opted out of participating in UNESCO, and since we do not know these countries' position on developing a National Culture of Peace Program, it is assumed progress will only take place if moved by Civil Society.)

'Valuing the Culture of Peace Conference' is planned for August 9-12, 2000.  PAGE (Peace And Global Education ), a provincial specialist association of the British Columbia Teacher's Federation, in conjunction with the University of Victoria is organizing a Global Education conference for the summer of the year 2000.  The conference will be organized around the theme, "Valuing the Culture of Peace,"
and will take place at the University of Victoria. 

Through the Department of Foreign Affairs Youth International Internship Program, Acadia University has trained 10 young university graduates to participate in the International Year of A Culture Of Peace Program - Year 2000. These interns have left Canada for a 6-month appointment to various UNESCO regional offices: Mozambique, Chile, Amman; UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, and to NGOs: WiLDAF (Women in Law and Development in Africa - Zimbabwe); African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, The Gambia; as well as the CCU office in Ottawa. They will be linked through the Culture of Peace News Network and through the collaborative, interactive website
http://dragon.acadiau.ca/~dagora/Human_Rights/Interns/ where they will produce a monthly electronic newspaper.

Finally, many Canadians as individuals, NGOs and the state sector, participated actively in the recently concluded Hague Appeal for Peace conference, joining some 7000 or more other peoples in developing consensus and solidarity on an agenda for peace and justice in the coming century.  I am sure the various Canadian participants will be bringing ideas and inspiration back from the Appeal in their various sectors of action.

As you can see, activities in Canada are quite exciting and hopeful. The Year 2000 will be a celebration of this wide and growing pool of community, group, institutional and individual efforts that contribute,
directly and indirectly, to building a culture of peace within Canada and in the wider world context. One hopeful outcome then would be a kind of emergence and consolidation of a national culture of peace program from the "bottom-up", sideways and collaboration between state and civil society. It would be helpful for government agencies and leaders to give explicit signals about their support (including some resources) for the promotion of a national culture of peace program (with provincial and local expressions).

I urge all peacebuilders to find out what is taking place in your country, and your organization, for the United Nations International Year 2000 for a Culture of Peace.  This is a wonderful peacebuilding opportunity that you should not miss out on. 

For more information, please contact:
Robert Stewart, Director
Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace
email stewartr [at] peace.ca
web site http://www.peace.ca
telephone (403) 461-2469
fax (309) 407-6576