Arab Spring, Russian Spring, Latin American Spring?


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

1 Aug 2022 – A few years ago I was encouraged by the movement of the Arab Spring, writing in this blog that “the Arab spring and the ongoing democratic revolutions in the Arab countries are providing an important new momentum towards a culture of peace.”

And in the spring of this year I was encouraged by the anti-war movement in the Russian Federation, writing here that “Tens of thousands of Russians are protesting the war and their voices cannot be silenced.”

Unfortunately, both the Arab Spring and the “Russian Spring” were effectively suppressed by the forces of the culture of war.

This month in CPNN, I describe another regional movement for the culture of peace, taking place throughout Latin America. Can it survive?

The role of Lula da Silva is especially important in the “Latin American spring”. He is leading in the polls for the Presidential election to take place in October. But Brazil has a history of military coup d’états, kangaroo courts and assassinations, and already one of the candidates alongside Lula has been assassinated. His political party, the Workers Party of Brazil, is resisting the menace, even providing workshops on the culture of peace, but will they succeed?

However, even if the “Latin American spring” is suppressed, that is not the last word. As I wrote eight years ago during a similar “progressive wave” in Latin America, “even if Latin America is blocked from installing a culture of peace at national levels in its own zone, its attempts to move in this direction will have a lasting effect on the consciousness of its citizens and we may be confident that it is there, in consciousness, that history will ultimately be determined.”

Movements can be suppressed, but the people that have been mobilized do not disappear.

For example, when we started the culture of peace program at UNESCO in the 1990’s, there was a meeting in which those of us most involved recalled how we had all been inspired by our participation in the movement of the 60’s against the war iin Vietnam. As a US citizen, I had experienced 1968 while living in Italy. Two of my colleagues from Latin America had experienced 1968 while living in Europe.

Consciousness is not easy to measure, but it becomes a determining factor at certain moments of history when the dominant regime (i.e. the culture of war) collapses from its own contradictions. This occurred in the 60’s with the war in Vietnam, at the end of the 80’s with the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

As we approach another such moment, with the imminent collapse of the US Empire, we should call upon the veterans of the Arab Spring, the Russian Spring, and now a Latin American Spring to take up again their activism and work for the transition to a culture of peace.

Returning to that moment when we started the Culture of Peace initiative at UNESCO, perhaps we can learn from that experience.

It was a special moment in history because the Soviet Empire had recently collapsed and it seemed that peace was possible. I wrote the following words for the 1989 meeting in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire that launched the culture of peace at UNESCO:

The time has come to abolish violence
and to create a culture of peace,
to re-order the world economy,
to harmonize our relation to nature.`

The ground is ready
and the first sign of change can be seen.
Disarmament is no longer the image of a dream,
but it is shown as a scene on the evening news
and carried as a fact to the furthest village.

Two elements were key: we were working at UNESCO, a global international organization dedicated to “peace in the minds of men”; and the new Director-General of UNESCO, Federico Mayor, was a man of wisdom and courage who dared to demand that UNESCO fulfill its mandate for peace.

When the US Empire collapses, there will be a similar window of opportunity. I hope that there will be a new Director-General of UNESCO who has participated in the Arab, Russian or Latin American Spring.


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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