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culture of peace initiatives underway at local level

Culture of peace initiatives underway at the local level
(Coordinator Comment)

Over the centuries, as the state has increasingly monopolized the culture of war, the city, town and local region has lost its culture of war, ceding it to the national authorities. No longer do cities and towns maintain armies to protect against invasion or to put down internal rebellions. Police forces are armed to encounter one or a few potential "enemies", and one does not imagine them to have tanks, missiles, nuclear weapons and the weapons of the modern battlefield. The same is true for the various other areas of the culture of peace in the context of local government. One finds that policies in most of these areas are much less aligned with the culture of war than their equivalents at the national level, and instead one finds considerable evidence of the culture of peace.

Sustainable development is highly developed at the local level. This is reflected in the work of ICLEI, (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives). ICLEI is a membership association of over 987 local governments, representing over 300 million people worldwide that have made a unique commitment to sustainable development.

Human rights has been measured at the city level by the City of São Paulo (2008) in Brazil, with the methodology and results available on their Internet site. The city's 31 subprefectures are mapped to indicate whether they have high, good, medium or low guarantees of human rights. The measures employed correspond to many of the priorities of every modern city including housing, health care and sanitation, education, and public safety.

The most important recent advance in democratic participation, participatory budgeting, which began in Latin America (presupuesto particpativo or orçamento participativo) is now spreading to cities and towns throughout the world.

As for the equality of women, The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (2004) has produced a report entitled A City Tailored to Women: The Role of Municipal Governments in Achieving Gender Equality which is available on the Internet. In addition to providing a questionnaire for assessment of gender equality, the report describes exemplary initiatives from cities in Europe (Berlin, Liège, Barcelona, Amadora-Lisbon, Paris, Prato-Italy, Prague, Saratov-Russia, Stuttgart and Vienna), the Americas (Montreal, San Salvador, Buenos Aires, Santo Andre-Sao Paulo, Cosquin-Argentina, and Quetzaltenango-Guatemala), and Asia (Bangkok, Cebu City-Philippines and Naga-Philippines).

Local communities often have more solidarity than at the level of the state, because the essential propaganda of the culture of war, the promotion of enemy images, is much less developed at the local level. And initiatives for inter-religious and inter-ethnic dialogue are often more successful at the local level than equivalent initiatives at a national or international level.

Transparency and the free flow of information is much more prevalent at the level of the city than at the level of national governments. Perhaps there are some secrets at the level of the city, but nothing like the state secrets of "national security".

Education for a culture of peace, which in the past has been considered to be the exclusive business of the schools and universities, is expanding to include the city itself. This is reflected in the very name of the "International Association of Educating Cities"

Security and public safety is a concern in every community as urban violence has attained epidemic proportions in many cities of the world. This is reviewed in the report, Human Security for an Urban Century: Local Challenges, Global Perspectives which has been issued by the Human Security Policy Division at Foreign Affairs and International Trade (Canada).

For further details and references, readers are referred to the relevant chapter in World Peace through the Town Hall.

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game administrator Mar. 30 2009,06:25
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