Lessons from This Year’s International Day of Peace
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 5 Oct 2020
2 Oct 2020 – Looking at the results this year from our survey of the International Day of Peace, I am struck by two aspects, one long term and one short term, that bode well for the future.
The long-term aspect reflects the enormous mobilization of school children to celebrate peace in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. It seems that the parents and teachers in these countries, much more than what we found in our survey from the rest of the world, are raising the children to be partisans of peace and to oppose the culture of war. This approach is not evident in the political leadership of those countries, but perhaps it means that there is a deep popular sentiment that the leadership of their countries should turn towards peace. In the case of the Ukraine, the celebrations were often coupled with an explicit call for an end to the armed conflict in that country.
The mobilizations for peace with children in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are no doubt a legacy from the rhetoric of the Soviet Union from which they split one generation ago. That rhetoric was dismissed by the West during the Cold War, but its resurgence now shows that, contrary to Western propaganda, there was a genuine longing for peace to be conveyed to future generations. Going back one or two generations further, we can see that it was the result of the terrible suffering of these countries during World War II.
Some peace researchers argue that we must start with the education of young children if we are to make the transition from the culture of war to a culture of peace. If they are correct, then we should learn from the example being set in these former countries of the Soviet Union and educate our children for peace. How can this be done? We made many suggestions in this regard in our last report to the United Nations for the International Year for the Culture of Peace in the Year 2000. See the document A-55-377 for details.
A short-term aspect of this year’s International Day of Peace was the greatly increased use of virtual events using the Internet. Of course, this goes along with the increased use of virtual meetings in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.
On the one hand, virtual events lack the force of face-to-face direct contact, but on the other hand, they have the advantage of being able to involve people on a global level, and it is on a global level that we must make the transition to a culture of peace. “Act local, think global” remains the key strategy for this struggle, and if we can get more and more people thinking globally, and acting at that level, even if only by internet, then we are making progress.
Already, this advantage of increased use of the internet for meetings can be seen in the work of the United Nations. The staff of the United Nations working in field offices around the world are now, unlike previously, directly involved in most of the meetings that take place in the headquarters of the UN and its agencies. That gives the UN a more global perspective in its decision-making.
How can this advantage seen at the United Nations be replicated and used by the civil society and by local elected officials to promote the culture of peace? This is an important question to be addressed in these times of rapid and turbulent change.
Dr. David Adams is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment and coordinator of the Culture of Peace News Network. He retired in 2001 from UNESCO where he was the Director of the Unit for the UN International Year for the Culture of Peace. Previously, at Yale and Wesleyan Universities, he was a specialist on the brain mechanisms of aggressive behavior, the history of the culture of war, and the psychology of peace activists, and he helped to develop and publicize the Seville Statement on Violence. Send him an email.
Tags: Culture of Peace, Education for Peace, International Day of Peace, Peace, Peace Building, Peace Journalism
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