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20 août 2013


Building peace in the minds of men and women

The United Nations was founded after the “great and terrible” Second World War to create and maintain peace through economic, social or political agreements. But this is not enough. The foundations of peace still need to be laid, with the help of the specialized agencies which make up the United Nations system.
Since its foundation over 60 years ago, UNESCO took over that mission in conformity with its Constitution which asserts that, “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed”. In this regard, the same Constitution highlights 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”. This mandate has gifted the Organization with a longstanding experience in promoting mutual understanding while fighting discrimination, intolerance and violence.

An everyday peace practice

The new global challenges and threats are multiplying and undermining social cohesion in a world where interdependence is growing and solidarity is diminishing. The constant question remains as to how we may best approach the unity-in-diversity way of life, or to learn how to “live together” by fully participating in the infinite wealth of the cultures of the world and by averting the fear reflex when confronting with “otherness”. As a consequence, greater account must be taken of the close links between cultural diversity, dialogue, development, security and peace. Thus, a genuine and lasting dialogue is imperative to rethink the benefits of cultural diversity for all and to bridge cultural and religious barriers as well as to break stereotypes and to turn people from violence.

Since words are the natural support to our thoughts, their use must mean something. In reality, which words should we choose to build, appropriate and extend this common aspiration of humankind, which draws upon its rich cultural diversity ? It should be recalled that the United Nations, and UNESCO in particular, have always used the terms “dialogue among civilizations”, “dialogue among cultures”, “rapprochement of cultures”, “tolerance” as well as “culture of peace” to describe their conceptual, political and programmatic approach in suitable and convincing language.
What is at stake : a culture of peace and sustainable development.
In the new, turbulent international globalised landscape, a central idea emerges : greater account must be taken of the close links between cultural diversity, dialogue, development, security and peace. One of the most crucial challenges for UNESCO is to rethink these five interdependent notions so as to inform new approaches in all domains. From that perspective, the culture of peace imposes itself as the main strategic focus of UNESCO, along with sustainable development, both of which form two sides of the same coin. Peace has often been seen and portrayed (see illustration) as being the essential condition of sustained prosperity and prosperity itself, when shared, as fostering peaceful environments.

Today, sustainable development calls to rethink our relationship to the economy, to society and the environment, bearing in mind that the emerging and future challenges of humankind do require collective responses, which implies the kind of solidarity that can result only from a culture of peace, non-violence and dialogue which condenses “that which binds” cultures and societies to each other and from within. In turn, a culture of peace fosters sustainable development since it is aimed at helping people cope resiliently and creatively with ethical, cultural, political, environmental and other social transformations.

The need of a new programme on Culture of Peace and Non-Violence

In its essence, the culture of peace and non-violence is a commitment to peace-building, mediation, conflict prevention and resolution, peace education, education for non-violence, tolerance, acceptance, mutual respect, intercultural and interfaith dialogue and reconciliation. It is a conceptual as well as a normative framework envisaged to inspire thoughts and actions of everyone. Therefore, it requires cognitive as well as the emotional abilities to grapple with our own situation in a rapidly changing world as well as with the emerging world society. This aim entails not just more factual knowledge, but also the broadening of our consciousness and the willingness to develop a new awareness, a new way of being in this world, a new “mental mapping”.

As stated by the UNESCO Director-General, “Peace is more than the absence of war, it is living together with our differences – of sex, race, language, religion or culture – while furthering universal respect for justice and human rights on which such coexistence depends”. Therefore, peace should never be taken for granted. It is an on-going process, a long-term goal, which requires constant engineering, vigilance and active participation by all individuals. It is a choice to be made on each situation, an everyday life decision.

The culture of peace continuously brings new challenges prompting us to reconsider the fundamental principles of humanity by highlighting what binds cultures and societies to each other and from within. Since what unites us is deeper than what separates us, there is a true ethic of living together that is taking shape in the culture of peace and non-violence process.

With a view to achieve the following expectations :

• Fundamental principles of peace universally shared to be appropriated by different cultures, thanks to a genuine dialogue and mainstreamed into public policies ;
• Tension between universality and particularism, cultural identities and citizenship in a globalized world analyzed and better understood ;
• Everyday Peace to be conceived as an everyday living experience, not only in periods of conflict, but also in ordinary times ;
The New Programme of Action on Culture of Peace and Non-violence
• To rethink the dividends of cultural diversity, as benefits of a continuous exchange between cultures
• To promote the principle of learning to live together, the challenging Art of Unity-in-Diversity conducive to a lasting conviviality pursuing these three Main Goals :
• To develop a new political, conceptual and programmatic approach in favour of a strong commitment by States and civil society to nurture “everyday peace” involving women and youth, (i.e. : through ICTs and social media) ;
• To improve the world’s global understanding and deconstruct preconceived ideas by placing emphasis on the future as a humanistic aspiration (i.e. : by establishing guidelines for a global curriculum on shared values) ;
• To promote a global movement in favour of the ideals and practice of a culture of peace and non-violence with emphasis on youth civic engagement and democratic participation (i.e. : by creating “hubs of peace”).