The Biennale of Luanda: Past and Future of the Culture of Peace in Africa


David Adams | Transition to a Culture of Peace – TRANSCEND Media Service

1 Jan 2022 – The Biennale of Luanda, as described in this month’s CPNN bulletin, is a process unique in the world.

Nowhere else on earth can you imagine a process that involves all of the countries of a continent in collaboration with the United Nations working together with a coordinating state to develop a culture of peace.

As for the past of this process, I was privileged to take part on December 20 in a video conference to celebrate its architect, Enzo Fazzino, as he took his retirement from UNESCO.

In one sense, it was the end of an era that began with the Culture of Peace Progamme of UNESCO. Taking part in the programme was Federico Mayor, who was Director-General of UNESCO from 1987 to 1999. Early in his mandate, he directed the Conference of 1989 in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire that first called for a culture of peace at UNESCO. One can say that the culture of peace was born in Africa. Then in 1993, Mayor established the UNESCO Culture of Peace Programme.

Taking part in the video conference on December 20 was Firmin Edouard Matoko, now Assistant Director-General of UNESCO for Priority Africa and External Relations. Along with Leslie Atherley and myself, he was named to the first senior staff of the Culture of Peace Programme which developed national programmes from 1993 to 1999.

One of the first national programmes was in Africa.

Taking part in the December 20 programme was Ana Elisa Santana Afonso who was the UNESCO liaison officer with the African Union before her retirement. She was the director of the National Commision for UNESCO in Mozambique when I worked on the national culture of peace programme there from 1994 to 1996. Our boss at that time, the President of the National Commission of UNESCO, was none other than Graça Machel.
Enzo and I began to work together when were named by Mayor to develop the United Nations International Year for the Culture of Peace for the year 2000. We mobilized 75 million people to sign the Manifesto 2000 for the culture of peace. The first country to collect one million signatures was in Africa, Algeria, where the Manifesto was sung from the Mosques while signatures were collected on the streets by the scout movement.

Enzo went on to work for UNESCO in Africa where he developed the Biennale process.

Chairing the videoconference was Salah Khaled the UNESCO regional director for Central Africa. It was he who worked most closely with Enzo to establish the Biennale process.

Speaking eloquently about Enzo’s leadership was Yvonne Matuturu, who was in charge of the development of the Biennale youth engagement.

The results of their work, the 2021 Luanda Biennale – Pan-African Forum for the Culture of Peace, is described in this month’s CPNN. It is a work in progress as the next Biennale is scheduled to take place in 2023.

Enzo and his colleagues had the foresight to organize this year’s Biennale as an inter-generational dialogue, including 118 young leaders from Africa and the Diaspora, as described in another CPNN article.

As for the future, there was a young woman who was present at the video conference on December 20, but who did not speak while I was listening. Her name is Irene Aragona. Along with another young woman named Mariana Serrano Silvério, she is working on the followup to the youth programme that was developed for the Biennale with the goal of promoting youth-led, multi-level pan-African movements for a culture of peace.

I had the privilege to speak with Irene and Mariana in another video conference on December 19, in which they explained the challenge they are facing. Yes, there are 118 young leaders who took part in the Biennale, but how can their involvement become youth-led, multi-level pan-African movements for a culture of peace?

UNESCO, the African Union, and Angola have agreed to continue the Biennale process (see their speeches at the Biennale as reprinted in CPNN). They should support the youth to give substance to this process.

The movement for a Pan-African Culture of Peace has a rich history going back to 1897 and the work of W.E.B. Dubois in the Pan-African Congresses of the 1920’s and 1945, as well as the establishment by Dubois under Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana of the Africana Encyclopedia in 1962.

Now the future of the Pan-African Culture of Peace is where it should be, in the hands of the youth of Africa and the Diaspora. A new day is dawning. It needs our support.


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.

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