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The first 20 years of the culture of peace

The first 20 years of the culture of peace
(Coordinator Comment)

It is not by accident that the term "culture of peace" originated at UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and that it originated in a meeting in Africa in 1989. UNESCO was established after World War II to ensure that there would never again be another world war. It made a distinction between the old concept of peace between sovereign states and a new concept, as yet unnamed, of peace between peoples. The preamble to the UNESCO constitution declared in 1946:

"That a peace based exclusively upon the political and economic arrangements of governments would not be a peace which could secure the unanimous, lasting and sincere support of the peoples of the world, and that the peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind." It was not until 1989 that this concept was given the name of "culture of peace" in the final declaration of the International Congress on Peace in the Minds of Men, sponsored by UNESCO in Yamoussoukro, Cote d'Ivoire. The declaration called for the construction of "a new vision of peace culture based on the universal values of respect for life, liberty, justice, solidarity, tolerance, human rights and equality between women and men"

In 1992, UNESCO decided to undertake an "action programme for the culture of peace" and during the decade of the 1990's, with the support of Director-General Mayor, the culture of peace unit began to establish national programmes for a culture of peace in countries such as El Salvador, Mozambique, Philippines, and even Russia. By the end of the decade these initiatives had failed due primarily to lack of support from the rich Member States. It became evident that they did not want to see a culture of peace developed in those countries.

Then, in 1998 the UN General Assembly in New York, thanks to the initiative of countries from the South, declared the year 2000 as the International Year for the Culture of Peace and requested from UNESCO in Paris a draft Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace.

The Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, adopted as Resolution A/53/243 by the United Nations General Assembly in 1999, includes the final definition of the culture of peace. It is in fact a "final definition" because once the United Nations adopts a declaration of this type, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it becomes a permanent standard-setting document.

In recent years, the civil society has played the leading role in the global movement for a culture of peace. Civil society organizations were responsible for most of the 75 million signatures on the Manifesto 2000 during the International Year for the Culture of Peace. And again in 2005, at the midpoint of the United Nations Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World, 700 civil society organizations around the world responded to the survey described in the website . Most of them reported that they were making progress toward a culture of peace in their own area of work, but that few people knew about it because it was not treated as newsworthy by the mass media or the academic community.

Note: for a more detailed history, see the Early History of the Culture of Peace: A Personal Memoire..

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