Growing in a Culture of Peace

In reacting to the peace accords signed on October 15th in Manila by the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, people have remarked about the growth of Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) and the prominent role we played in the peace process in Mindanao.  

While NP’s contribution was significant among many, it is important to note that social change always happens within a broader context.  Events, dynamics and movements congeal and conspire to shape an environment conducive to change.

NP’s first decade overlapped the Decade for a Cultural of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World (2001-2009) . This culture nurtured the growth on NP.

During this decade, a “grand alliance” of existing movements and organizations came together to define and implement a set of values, attitudes, behaviors and programs to usher a profound cultural change. Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury has led this effort at the UN.  As Bangladesh’s Permanent Representative to the UN, he tabled the first Culture of Peace Resolution. Ambassador Chowdhury was also the first UN official to support NP’s work and remains our valuable mentor today. 

Some dismiss the Culture of Peace effort by pointing to wars of the last decade in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan… They point to the hypocrisy of the burgeoning arms trade headed by the permanent members of the UN Security Council. They graph the growing disparity of wealth or the carbon insulation of our planet.

Yet so much good work goes unreported.  Take a look at what was done to create a Culture of Peace during the decade. NP’s report can be found here.

We must balance between deeply understanding the peril we face, yet not lapsing into despondency and cynicism. My old friend, US Senator Paul Wellstone who died 10 years ago this past week, often pointed out that nothing of value in human history came from cynicism.

The Culture of Peace clearly recognizes the earth’s condition AND then sets out a vision of how we collectively change.  We need to be bold and practical. As we continue to develop Nonviolent Peaceforce, we need to assert the real possibility that we can put an end to war. While we continue to create NP, we have to remain conscious of these meta changes and dynamics or unarmed civilian peacekeeping risks becoming a mechanized program dangling without context or broader impact. 

On September 14th, Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, President of the 66thsession of the General Assembly of the United Nations hosted a High Level Forum on a Culture of Peace. Ambassador Chowdhury was the prime mover behind this effort. Cora Weiss, President of the Hague Appeal for Peace and staunch NP supporter, gave one of the key- note addresses (see entire remarks). She chronicled the threats to a culture of peace:

  • Poverty
  • Resource wars
  • Inequality and violence against women
  • Military Spending and Weapons Proliferation
  • Exploitative nature of extractive industries
  • Global warming

But she didn’t stop there, among the good news, she reported:

The Nonviolent Peaceforce is helping create Women Peacekeeping Teams in South Sudan, moving from a culture of violence to a culture of peace. They connect communities with social workers, health care providers and police and have reduced the incidence of rape. We must not make war safe for women.

Bangladesh will table a resolution for a Culture of Peace for the current, 67th session of the General Assembly. NP is advocating that the following specific language be included:

"Welcomes all practical initiatives and applications on the ground aimed at implementing the Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace; and, in this context, values the practice of unarmed civilian peacekeeping as an effective tool to protect civilians under threat and to reduce and prevent violent conflict at local levels"

As we continue to create Nonviolent Peaceforce, let’s remember that unarmed civilian peacekeeping and protection are essential elements for a culture of peace.  And let us stay connected to the broader vision.  Indeed, we can put an end to war!


Mel Duncan


Click here to read Cora Weiss' full address "We've Got to Get From a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace".

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