Culture of Peace Program Frequently Asked Questions

Dear Reader,

We have received several good questions about the Culture of Peace Program (raised from the recent Status Report   http://www.peace.ca/un2000celebration.htm  ).  Speaking on my own behalf, I offer the following responses for your consideration:

You say, "...sounded vague ... distant from the work ..."

The process and journey towards a Culture of Peace in Canada (it is not a 'quick fix') involves going from a somewhat vague idea to the more specific.  We can not be prescriptive.  At this point, the idea is "to build peace in Canada 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."  It will be up to Canadians to identify what type of country (and world) we want and develop a plan to achieve it.  A task of the National Working Group is to activate a process to bring this about.  To ensure it is not 'distant', the initial plan is to soon (within 3-6 months) have Provincial Working Groups (and eventually Sectoral Working Groups by the end of 2000 - note these latter groups would rely on existing infrastructure where possible rather than re-inventing new groups).  The National Working Group's purpose is to provide the process, not to provide the answers.  The Members of the National Working Group believe, as do others, that the Culture of Peace Program is on the threshold of making a major impact pacifically, nationally and internationally, but is lacking direction and capacity.  The National Working Group is working to help provide the direction and capacity.

You say, "...without looking at specific cases and goals, all that any group can do is come up with some vague expressions..."

Agreed.  We do not want the process to get side-tracked (for example, by getting into a protracted debate about the war in Kosovo and we do not get anything else done).  But you are right that each participant will bring very valuable lessons learned from their own area of expertise.  The specific example (e.g.. Kosovo) can be used to flesh out the principles and values Canadians wish to adhere to (and their governments, corporations, etc.).  Hopefully in this way Canada may respond to a future 'Kosovo' better (and this will help that participant who's mandate is preventing 'Kosovos').  For another example, it is in the best interests of Nuclear Weapons abolitionists to participate because the Culture of Peace Program will raise Canadian awareness about the issues and hopefully build a positive consensus (buy-in), strengthen our government mandate and resolve with respect to nuclear weapons, probably mobilize resources for the cause.  I believe, in this way, a successful Culture of Peace Program will make a significant contribution toward the success of every peace group.

You say, "it might be good to get something by mail"

If you wish, we will arrange to have you placed on the mailing list.  In the meantime, the Canadian Commission for UNESCO Kit will be available at  http://www.peace.ca/un2000celebration.htm  .  The UNESCO Kit will be placed on as soon as I receive it.  The Voice of Women Kit is already on at http://www.peace.ca/vowworkshopkit.htm .  

What is the overall vision or raison d'Ítre for the Culture of Peace Program?
"to build peace in Canada 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." 


Who is asked to become involved?
All Canadians.  Major players (groups) include governments (national, provincial, community), academics, schools, students, media, business, sectoral interest groups, parents, grandparents, other.


How are they asked to get involved?
a) each of the major players should have representation on the Working Groups, and communicate with them

b) co-ordinate and attend information sessions in your community

c) sign Manifesto 2000 pledge (reference http://www2.unesco.org/manifesto2000/uk/uk_f_manif2000.htm )

d) do something - activate local projects for the United Nations International Year for a Culture of Peace in 2000

e) contribute resources (information, human, financial)

f) participate in the debates and consensus building

g) incite institutional transformations (your governments, your communities, your companies, your schools, your organizations, your media, your homes)

h) identify your violent behaviour and work to change


Why would these people/groups want to get involved?
Based on current trends, ten years from now violence in Canada and the world will not be any better, and may be significantly worse.  Fifty years from now (more or less) the world will be in crisis (as natural resources including safe water, food, air, fuel become unavailable, while populations continue to increase) (reference World Scientists Warning to Humanity http://www.pgs.ca/pages/mem/warning.htm , etc.).  Each of us, our children and grandchildren, will be at increased personal risk of becoming a victim of violence.  Canadians may still probably be less worse off than most others, but we will be seriously affected.  On the other hand, Canadians have the opportunity to change this bleak picture.  Canadians can teach the world, through our example, how to build a Culture of Peace.  If we can not do it with all our 'gifts', how can other countries (who are at more risk)?  Why get involved?  Because we want to reduce the risk of someone we love being a victim of violence at home or abroad.  Because we want to reduce the great human (and financial) cost of violence.  Because we want to design the type of communities and world we live in.  Because we can do it and we have a moral duty to do it.  If not us, who? 


What are the goals of the program ...

i) to change behaviours, forge values

ii) to incite institutional transformation

iii) other goals that are also indispensable for eliminating the deep roots of violence, exclusion and conflict, (to be determined)

...and will any effort be made to see if we are meeting those goals?
Yes, we will define a Report Card measuring progress towards these goals.  They are measurable, and hence manageable.

Why did you get involved with the Culture of Peace Program? 

After spending 3 years researching peace and developing my own conclusions, I came across the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization ("UNESCO") and its Culture of Peace Program.  There was an excellent match to my own beliefs about the path to building peace at home and abroad.  The wonderful thing was that UNESCO and the U.N. provided the credible institution to support my personal work.  I also recognized that it provided the credible source to activate Canada in general.  To understand this potential, you should familiarize yourself with the UNESCO Culture of Peace Program http://www.peace.ca/unesco.htm  and   http://www.unesco.org/cpp .  In summary, the UNESCO COPP concept is results oriented, namely "building 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".  Education is key, and this is a long term prospect (not a quick fix).

My major priority is to promote a National Culture of Peace Program in Canada.  The Canadian Commission for UNESCO provides the credible Canadian vehicle to do this.  The United Nations International Year for a Culture of Peace in 2000 provides added momentum.  My personal goal is for Canada to initiate a National Culture of Peace Program by the end of 2000, as a product of the International Year and the commencement of the U.N. International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World.  To provide a clearer picture of how this may unfold, I wrote two articles on my web site 'Is Peace Achievable' http://www.peace.ca/formula.htm and 'A National Culture of Peace Program for Canada' http://www.peace.ca/copp.htm (which concludes with a 'Framework').  I hope you have a chance to read them - they are not perfect, but they are a start and the best plan on the table at the moment.

What is the Canadian Commission for UNESCO ("CCU")?

National Commissions of UNESCO exist in most countries, and are our country's 'window' or point of contact with UNESCO.  The CCU is a quasi-autonomous non-government organization.  It is funded by the Government of Canada, through Heritage Canada's Canada Council (whose Minister accounts for the CCU).  They can be contacted in Ottawa at 1-800-263-5588 or 1-613-566-4414.  The address is 350 Albert Street, Box 1047, Ottawa, ON K1P 5V8.  The official responsible for the Culture of Peace Program is Elisabeth Barot mailto:Elizabeth.BAROT@CANADACOUNCIL.CA .  CCU does not yet have a web site, but it is proposed.  The CCU has limited resources, however it is proposed to develop a fund raising strategy for the Culture of Peace Program.

Is it worth it?

You bet.  Your risks are small.  You can back off if you do not think it is productive.  The potential rewards are significant.

You say:

- "we are a completely ungovernable country

- our people are undisciplined

- it is impossible

- Is this has subject to discuss in local meetings?,  I don' T think so."

It goes without saying that if in your mind it is this hopeless in your country, it is even more hopeless for the rest of the less-civilized world.  It would be interesting to know if the rest of the country believes this.  I do not believe it.  Do you, really?

It appears to me that you, and your country men and women, have a serious dilemma.  It seems to me that you (and they) have three choices when you find yourself in an environment or culture that is inconsistent with your personal values and beliefs.  The first choice is to quit - leave the country - go to another country that appears to offer a more compatible culture.  It is not easy to switch countries.  That is why people often select one of the other two choices.

One of those choices is to stay in your present country, resign yourself to the current environment, but mentally isolate yourself from what is going on.  However, this outward loyalty and inner doubt can undermine your own spirit.  It can be a lonely and excruciating experience, particularly for the independent thinker.  It would (should) also make it difficult for some to look at themselves in the mirror (or lead to hypertension, etc.).  Many people are able to stay in an incompatible country by shifting their attention from ethical dilemmas to the problems of the day-to-day struggle.  In other words, you could decide not to worry about the ethical climate and just concentrate on leading the best life possible for yourself. 

The third choice, for those who can not turn their back on the important things going on around them, is to stay and try and change the situation.  I believe that is what you will probably try to do.  That is why I emphasize patience and pride in achieving one's vision.  Always remember the saying attributed to Father Keller: "It is better to light one candle than curse the darkness."

As for discussing it in your local community, let's recap our Vision which includes, among other things, "to help build a better world ... and creating greater understanding among all people to advance the search for peace in the world".  I often refer to our Rotary Club values which are laid out in our Four Way Test: of the things we think, say or do 1) is it the truth? 2) is it fair to all concerned? 3) will it build good will and better friendships? 4) will it be beneficial to all concerned?  These 'tests' help us to sort out dilemmas by showing how to examine the problem at several different levels.  I believe that, applying these tests, it is wrong not to discuss this extremely important issue at your local community level.

The toughest problems provide the biggest opportunities for growth.  It will not be easy.  One has to be a diplomat extraordinaire to present the issue in such a way that it can be dealt with positively, rather than getting a violent, negative reaction or resignation.  It requires taking a stand.  It will take persistence and perspective.  It may take two to five years of concentrated effort to bring about a change in your community or organization (that is why I act on many different organizations while things are percolating in others).  It starts with a clear purpose and is maintained with patience.

You recommend, "an alternate way to celebrate Remembrance Day (Armistice Day in the U.S.)"

Agreed.  One of the current misconceptions in Canada is the role of peacekeepers in a Culture of Peace.  Peacekeepers (e.g.. the military, police, security guards, etc.) have (some would say 'unfortunately') a legitimate, necessary and positive role to play.  However, as you say, they are only one 'piece of the pie' (usually after the fact, or as a threat against violence).  We should Remember the peacemakers (e.g.. diplomats, judges, mediators, etc.) and peace builders (e.g.. builders of a Culture of Peace).  They are before the fact, preventative, even more important, and often the silent heroes.  As was the message in the movie 'Saving Private Ryan', remembering the dead is not sufficient ... each of us must honour our inherited commitment to those who died, in order that we may live, by doing as much as we possibly can to prevent violence and wars, at home and abroad. 

Imagine if we could get Canadians to remember and act upon that vision.  It is possible.  As the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict concluded, "it is not that we do not know what to do, it is that we do not act".  The Culture of Peace Program must get Canadians to acknowledge that the world is dangerous not because of those who do harm, but because of those who look at it without doing anything ... and then motivate each Canadian to do something, however small, each to our own abilities.

I look forward to your comments and/or additional questions.

Regards,

Bob Stewart

stewartr [at] peace.ca