PEACE in Action

NEEDED: A Strategy for Peace

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Where there is no vision, the people perish. (Proverbs 29:18)
NEEDED: A Strategy for Peace

I became more serious about peace in August 1980 at the christening ceremony for my granddaughter Sonja in the Chapel of Peace located in the International Peace Garden which straddles the border between Canada and the United States. The Peace Garden commemorated the longest unguarded international boundary in the world. Sonja was born in North Dakota, which had both grain silos and missile silos – a further prompt to think of peace and to ponder how it might be achieved. The sayings on the walls of the Peace Chapel also provided inspiration (some of which you will find in this issue).

Five years later, with the birth of Sonja’s brother Erik, I gave birth to this PEACE in Action magazine. My first article was Agenda for Peace, and it started out as follows:

“… cannot envision a world at peace, a world without fear …”
“ … before leaders take steps needed to achieve peace, there will be a nuclear exchange …”

These conclusions and assumptions were made by: (a) members of Great Decisions groups to whom I presented ideas for world peace; and (2) a winner of, and many other participants in, a Christian Science Monitor essay contest on the subject of “how the world arrived at a state of peace in 2010.

Unfortunately, 22 years later, the world into which Sonja’s son, Blake, has just arrived does not appear to justify optimism for achieving real peace. Many today continue to fear the use of nuclear weapons, and for good reason – see “The Greatest Immediate Danger to Humanity.” If a mushroom cloud continues to be the people's vision, the people will perish. But the vision can be changed. Individuals, communities, nations, and groups of nations can act now to begin building a foundation for peace.

There is only one superpower now, the United States, but it has ignored the opportunity that the changed world situation offered it to begin to promote serious nuclear disarmament and to begin waging peace. Hence, other nations still fear for their national security, and they continue arms races that make them more insecure. They, and the superpower, waste financial and human resources that are needed to deal with environmental preservation, the conservation of nonrenewable resources, and the overcoming of economic, political , and social injustices. These issues, if not dealt with soon, will become the causes of future conflicts and higher levels of terrorism.

Planning for war continues to be big business – and growing; speaking out for peace is decried as subversive. Nations are still characterized as “enemies” or “evil empires.” Political leaders still think, talk, and prepare for war. They compare numbers and capabilities of nuclear weapons, and make assumptions about their use which ignores humanity and morality. They remain unprepared to give peace a chance, condemning those who speak of peace as subversives or unrealistic fools. But it is the peacemakers that are realistic. There must be world security, with genuine peace, for there to be national security. All the people of the planet will be losers, no winners, if there is nuclear war. Nuclear winters respect no boundaries.

It is time for the world's political leaders to break their mental shackles and change the attitudes that have been as hardened as the silos in which they placed the means of the world's destruction. The peoples of the world cry out ever more loudly for reducing international tensions and paying attention to their physical, mental and spiritual needs. The people plead for a vision of peace, with justice – not nightmares of war. They want to be able to offer their children a vision of life without fear of starvation and deprivation, or annihilation from a nuclear exchange.

This is illustrated by a recent online survey by Conversation Cafe and Global Mindset asking for the most important questions to be discussed in the world today — people from 39 countries participated, and these are the top 10 of the replies:

  1. How can we best prepare our children for the future?
  2. What does sustainability look like to you? How do we get there?
  3. How do humans need to adapt to survive the changes predicted for this century?
  4. How do we shift from “Me” to “We” on both the local and global level?
  5. How can you, as Gandhi said, be the change you want to see in the world?
  6. What kind of economic structures can best support a shift to sustainable living?
  7. How should we re-invent the political process so that people feel they have a voice?
  8. What kind of leadership does the world need now?
  9. How can we balance our personal needs with the most pressing needs of our community and the larger world?
  10. What can we do to reduce or eliminate violence in the world?

Fortunately, there is justification for having faith that a world at peace can be realized. Much has been done to work for peace, and we know more now about conflict prevention, conflict transformation, and conflict resolution. Much has been done on the international front to promote peace, and more can be done to help change the atmosphere from fear to visions of a growing peaceful environment in the world. Let's review some of the significant multi-national actions to promote peace.

The concept of a culture of peace was elaborated at the International Congress on Peace in the Minds of Men in Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) in July 1989. It urged UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) to “construct a new vision of peace by developing a peace culture based on the universal values of respect for life, liberty, justice, solidarity, tolerance, human rights, and equality between women and men.”

UNESCO held a series of meetings and developed a monogram entitled UNESCO and a Culture of Peace – Promoting a Global Movement. This monogram not only described UNESCO's program, but also the programs of some collaborating governments, international organizations (UN and other), and nongovernmental organizations.

According to the UNESCO monograph, the process of establishing a culture of peace is linked to the following five items (which are elaborated in PEACE in Action, Fall 2000 issue, Dialogue):

  • Economic Security and Development;
  • Political Security and Democracy;
  • Military Security;
  • Cost-Benefit Efficiency of Peace; and
  • Solidarity and Courage

In 1997, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates issued a worldwide appeal to create a culture of nonviolence for the children of the world. As a result of this appeal, the UN General Assembly in 1998 proclaimed 2000 The Year for a Culture of Peace and the decade 2001-2010 the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World.

By 2004, over 75 million citizens had signed on to this agreement and, as asked for by the Nobel Laureates, committed to:

  • Respect Life
  • Reject Violence
  • Share With Others
  • Listen to Understand
  • Preserve the Planet
  • Contribute to Our Communities

At the 1998 UN General Assembly meeting, it was also proposed that the UN hold a global summit on peace, but the necessary governmental support for such a meeting was not forthcoming. Because of this lack of action by government leaders, nongovernmental civil society organizations from around the world began organizing for such a meeting. This effort coalesced in The Hague Appeal for Peace Conference, the largest international peace conference in history. It took place in The Hague in The Netherlands May 11-15, 1999, marking the centennial of the first International Peace Conference which had been organized in The Hague in 1899 by governments. The 1999 nongovernmental conference was attended by 10,000 peace activists, government representatives, and community leaders from more than 100 countries, including the Secretary-General of the UN and a number of heads of government.

The principal outcome of the Hague Conference was the elaboration of the document The Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice for the 21st Century. The document was presented to the UN (UN Document: Ref A/54/98); it was organized around 4 main themes and offered 50 areas for international action – see the presentation immediately following this article.

There have been two important international events which provided some significant response to the recommendations of the Hague Initiatives:

  • the UN General Assembly summit meeting in 2000, which resulted in a special Declaration and the enumeration of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – spelled out in PEACE in Action, Summer 2006, page 25-26;
  • the UN General Assembly World Summit in September 2005 at which world leaders (a) agreed on statements/actions related to peace-building, peacekeeping, and peacemaking, some of which should help UN efforts to maintain international peace through increased conflict prevention activities; and (b) committed themselves to achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and to other actions and reforms related to the Hague Agenda for Peace – see PEACE in Action, Summer 2006 for details and some subsequent reform actions (pp. 21-22, 24-26, 28-29).

There have also been significant actions in recent years by nongovernmental organizations, e.g., the actions of the organizations of the three peace leaders cited in the Spotlight on Peacemakers piece in this issue. Others are working to spread peace education around the world (see in this issue Supporting Peace Education Worldwide) while many, including youth, are working to spread a culture of peace (see in this issue Builders of National Cultures of Peace).

While the foregoing are positive, and by no way a complete list of peace actors on the world scene, there is still a need to encourage a more dramatic, sustained effort – particularly with regard to setting forth a vision of peace at the national, regional, and international levels One way to do this would be for all peace groups and individuals to call for their countries to recommend at this year's General Assembly a World Conference for Peace and Global Security to be held in 2010, and to be preceded by national and regional meetings to produce documents for the World Conference.

The purposes of the preliminary meetings would be to develop a vision of the world at peace by:

  • examining the causes of national, regional and international tension;
  • recommending specific programs and actions for reducing tensions and building a foundation for peace (nationally, regionally and internationally); and
  • setting forth plans of action for reviewing the progress of implementation of these plans.

The guidelines for the national and regional conferences would specify that civil society nongovernmental organizations should be given a major role in the series of conferences.

The UN declaration calling for the series of meetings leading up to the World Conference on Peace and Security should provide some guidelines and recommendations for specific topics for the national and regional discussions. For example, universal, complete, and enforceable disarmament would be one condition of a world at peace. It can only be maintained if law is accepted as the alternative to war to resolve conflicts between states. Law cannot be be made and enforced without a sense of world community and strong world institutions.

In seeking to establish the rule of law in international relations, the conferees will need to review further the role of the United Nations in peacemaking, peacekeeping and, more importantly, conflict prevention. The latter activity has been activated in the UN, but the conferees should consider additional ideas, such as creating a UN Diplomatic Service, a UN Mediation Service, and improving the UN's communications system. The UN's diplomats could be authorized to offer their services, or the services of specialized UN offices, as third party facilitators or mediators in the prevention or resolution of in-country or international conflicts (or potential conflicts).

Specialized fact-finding units and tribunals might help to deal with potential conflict situations, e.g., an International Boundary Commission and Tribunal and an International Property Rights and Claims Review Board and Tribunal. Such units could undertake fact-finding missions, arbitration, or settlements. Special funds could be created for the Tribunals' use in making settlements.

Increased use of a UN with more responsibility and more power should help develop a sense of world community, A higher level of people exchanges would also be beneficial. Greater use of conflict management and conflict resolution techniques, particularly by the UN and regional organizations, could reduce strife between and within nations. Three elements of these techniques could be especially helpful:

  • Improve Communications
  • Seek Common Objectives
  • Use Third Parties

For an elaboration of a needed new security strategy for the peaceful prevention of deadly conflict, see Policies for a More Secure World, an article by the Friends Committee on National Legislation that was published in PEACE in Action in the Spring 2004 issue.

We, as individuals, as well as our leaders, have shackled our minds and bound our hands by accepting conventional “wisdom” and presumed solutions to past problems as a basis for dealing with today's world. We must no longer be prisoners of our past. We must dare to take bold initiatives – see separate articles in this issue: “Peak” Oil and Sustainability and People Power Across the Globe.

We must use the conflict prevention and resolution techniques in our personal relationships and ask our representatives in government to do the same. We must begin building International Peace Gardens in our communities as well as along international frontiers. “Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you” must become our guideline for personal, community, national, and international relations. This guideline is found in the seven major religions, and it should make sense even to the nonreligious. It has always been morally and socially sound; it has also become economically wise and politically essential in the interdependent and sophisticated world of the 21st century.

The world cries out for statesmen who have the courage to adopt a peace initiatives strategy and invite others to follow, rather than waiting for the superpower or someone else to go first. May the statesmen follow the lead of Mahatma Gandhi and dare to speak out and work for peace. This would be a “giant step for mankind” here on Planet Earth.

Mr. Roush served in the foreign service of the U.S. Agency for International Development for 25 years, living in six countries (in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America); this was followed by 20 years of consulting in 55 countries, dealing with economic and political issues and conflict resolution. Since 1985, he has also edited and produced PEACE in Action

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