A NATIONAL CULTURE OF PEACE PROGRAM
 
by Robert Stewart, C.A., C.M.C., Director of Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace
and host of the Annual Peace Education Conferences in Canada.
Mr. Stewart can be reached at stewartr [at] peace.ca
 
          A very special meeting to organize a National Culture of Peace Program in Canada will be held November 21-23, 2004 at McMaster University in Hamilton, led by  retired senator Douglas Roche O.C., and the Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace .  This will be an opportunity to set in motion plans to develop in Canada a Culture of Peace Program as first set out by UNESCO.  A culture of peace is defined as an approach to life that seeks to transform the cultural tendencies toward war and violence into a culture where dialogue, respect and fairness govern social relations.  An exciting idea of great potential, the culture of peace seeks to replace the culture of war - and MUST, if the human race is to survive.  There are important roles for government, education, religion, civil society, women, industry, media, youth, to name just a few components of society.  This meeting will be of particular interest to institutions and individuals whose mandate and passions embrace peace and non-violence in our families, communities and world.

Peace is a complex issue (actually a convergence of many complex issues, each one a dilemma in its own right) – this is why it requires a substantial strategy. Unfortunately, most Canadians are quite illiterate when it comes to what to do to build peace, and peacebuilding activities are starved for resources.  Furthermore, we should not be so naive as to think our government will solve the dilemmas alone.  The development of the strategy for a National Culture of Peace Program will  be an open, inclusive, collaborative and evolving process.  To do that properly, the Canadian public must understand, participate and communicate with our elected leaders.  Hence the civil society movement to hold the necessary public meetings, conferences and town halls to provide the required direction and build capacity.

The goal, among other things, is to significantly reduce the human costs of violence, in our communities, country, and in our world.  These costs may be measured in terms of financial, human, social and other costs.  Violence may be measured in terms of direct (eg. physical abuse) and indirect (eg. psychological abuse, systemic abuse, etc.) violence.

Prospective participants will have to analyse how their behaviour either supports the current Culture of War and Violence or the Culture of Peace program.  They will also have to decide to do something about it, starting with Peace Education.  This really is a case of either being "part of the problem or part of the solution" -- doing nothing supports the current Culture of War and Violence.

"Where there is no vision, the people perish."  In 1968, Lester B. Pearson stated, "It is very important for Canadians to consider our responsibility to help build peace in our communities and world."   A Canadian Peace Vision will lift Canadians to great heights (it is both a human and “market” opportunity).  In one sense, it should not be a difficult sell: One-third of Canadians already believe "peacekeeping and peacefulness" is the greatest contribution Canada has to offer the world (ref. recent survey of Canadians' perceptions by Environics Research Group http://www.peace.ca/surveycanadianrole.htm ).  80% to 90% of Canadians have positive feelings toward peace, but need support in what to do to act upon it.  The good news: More Peace Education has taken place since September 11, 2001 (9/11) and the promulgation of the Bush Doctrine than ever before in the history of mankind.

Peace starts at home, with us … with “me”.  Our first task is to help create a nation of peace promoters.  This is bound to help peace organizations, governments, educational and other institutions sincerely interested in building a better future.  We will be asked to help other peoples in other countries similarly, if we 'get our act together' and develop a special expertise in the Culture of Peace.  It is also important to point out that the UNESCO Culture of Peace Program has been threatened by “politics, and resource and support starvation” because it will take away the ability of nations to go to war – it is vital that countries like Canada take a lead to keep this important Program alive and flourishing.  As Doug Roche indicates in his recent book 'The Human Right to Peace', “creating and nurturing a culture of peace is a social movement ... the plan called for energies to be refocused on the systemic and root causes of conflict ... this is the beginning of systemic change”.  A Culture of Peace Program must take a long term perspective, since transforming values, attitudes and behaviours on such a broad scale is not easy.

Paradoxically, despite the rhetoric, real peace is a 'tough sell’.  UNESCO talks about transforming virtually every organization and institution, including government.  Currently, the federal government provides an insignificant amount of money and resources for building a Culture of Peace.  Many arrogantly think that peace is for other people, other countries, not “us”.  The agencies that should be providing some leadership in this matter, are not performing up to their potential.  Some leaders will jealously guard their turf, having a vested interest to maintain the status quo, and will resist a civil society initiative.  The good news is that we have the majority.  Most Canadians know that there is something wrong with the current system and want peace.  We are motivated to build a better future for our children, which obviously includes peace.  Life can get better, but only if we fundamentally alter the way we think and do things.  We need to embrace whole-system change. 

Canada is well placed to play a special role in the world.  Canadians are blessed with resources and skills, and hence we have a greater responsibility to serve the world in building peace.  It is in our own best interest to help build a more effective United Nations, and international law and order.  It is also in our own best interest to support other countries in their quest for peace – particularly our closest neighbour, the United States, with whom we have a special relationship. There are six major relationships that require particular attention in building a Culture of Peace (in no particular order): (i) First Nations, (ii) Francophone/Anglophone, (iii) the impoverished, (iv) minorities, (v) the United Nations, and (vi) the United States. 

It is time for each and every one of us to personally pick up this United Nations challenge and move it forward in Canada. 

If you are actively supporting the Culture of Peace Program in Canada, or want to, please contact Bob Stewart at stewartr [at] peace.ca

 

Bibliography:

1. Agenda for the National Culture of Peace Program Symposium http://www.peace.ca/nationalcultureofpeace2004.htm and discussion paper http://www.peace.ca/nationalcultureofpeaceprogram.htm

2. A Canadian Peace Vision at  http://www.peace.ca/canadianpeacevision.htm

3. "The Human Right To Peace" - Senator Douglas Roche' book  (ref.  http://www.peace.ca/rochebookreview.htm and http://www.peace.ca/humanrighttopeace.htm )

4. Excerpts from the book UNESCO and a Culture of Peace: Promoting a Global Movement, by UNESCO (ref. Chapter 5, National Culture of Peace Programmes, pages 43 to 57 http://www.peace.ca/excertunesco.htm ):   a) National Culture of Peace Programs put the basic concepts of a culture of peace into action at a local level ... are characterized by broad based participation, dialogue and co-operation ... give support to grass-roots initiatives.

5. Summary of UNESCO Culture of Peace Program at http://www.peace.ca/unesco.htm and the David Adams article on the "values of a culture of peace" at http://cpnn-usa.org/learn/values.html

6. What might a National Culture of Peace Program for Canada look like? (background reading http://www.peace.ca/copp.htm  to start the dialogue)

7. working groups and organizational structure (for an example of what that might look like to start the discussion refer to  http://www.peace.ca/appendixb.htm )

 

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REPORT OF PROCEEDINGS:

I am attaching the following Canadian Culture of Peace Program ("CCOPP") Reports for your information:

1. CCOPP Summary Statement  (in HTML)   (in Microsoft WordNEWBUTTONPINK.GIF (519 bytes)
2. CCOPP Initial Action Plan   (in HTML)   (in Microsoft Word)
3. CCOPP Leadership & Peace Workshop Report (Nov 15 - 17, 2004)   (in HTML)   (in Microsoft Word)
4. CCOPP Organization Network (Draft) (in HTML)  
5. CCOPP Mobilizing Peace Resources (Nov 19, 2004) (in HTML)   (in Microsoft Word)
6. CCOPP Open Space Technology Conference Report (Nov 22 - 23, 2004) (in HTML)   (in Microsoft Word)

and our amazing, 60 page Youth Day Report (Nov 18, 2004) (in pdf)

A great "THANK YOU" to all the participants.  Without you, none of this would be possible.

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