No Peace with the Culture of War


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

2 Oct 2023 – The culture of war seems stronger than ever. Illustrating this, one day preceding the International Day of Peace, the opening of the United Nations was given to Ukraine president Zelensky to call for all-out war against Russia, even at the risk of launching a Third World War.

And the mass media, dominated and infiltrated by the culture of war, are constantly beating the drums of war.

This year there were more actions than ever to mark the International Day of Peace, but there was a profound weakness in most of them. Most failed to struggle explicitly against the culture of war. For example, a virtual conference for peace education headlined culture of peace veterans Federico Mayor and Anwarul Chowdhury, but the culture of war was hardly mentioned during the conference. Instead, the podium was given to the aging Indian guru Prem Rewat and his claims that peace comes from being happy with oneself.

It was surprising that there were many actions for Peace Day in Russia and Ukraine, especially in schools and universities despite the war and the fact that half of the schools of the Ukraine are closed. It was not surprising that they failed to condemn the culture of war since even the mention of the word “war” in Russia is punished with fines and imprisonment. In order to get around this, as shown on our website, two Russian websites dared to publish cartoons condemning the culture of war.

A few actions for Peace Day elsewhere in the world stand out for their explicit struggle against the culture of war. From the Vatican, the Saint Egidio held a public event entitled “Italy repudiates war” They said, “The main concern is that the war in Ukraine will continue indefinitely, losing prominence in the news, while the conflict takes a high toll in human lives and generates suffering among civilians. This includes forced conscription, persecution of deserters, conscientious objectors and war opponents, as well as the disruption of food supplies, which leads to famine on a global scale. The event in Rome is part of an initiative in continuity with the Europe for Peace coalition platform, which aims to mobilize international efforts to bring peace back to Ukraine.

From the Basque region of Spain, Euskal Herria announced that they will carry out a signature campaign against the war. They denounced the attitude of governments that are escalating and prolonging the conflict and said that that “this war, like all wars, is a business where people suffer death and big capital amasses fortunes with the military or energy industries.”

In Portland, Oregon, the Peace Day event invited people to “Join CODEPINK and other anti-war, anti-imperialist and peace organizations in marking International Peace Day! Hear from anti-war speakers and performers, talk with like-minded peace-wagers and build connections for future organizing.

The United Nations held its annual high-level forum on the culture of peace on August 31, but again almost no mention of the culture of war. And this year most of the civil society was excluded from the forum, leading Anwarul Chowdhury to say that is part of a more general rejection of the culture of peace by the current United Nations administration. Neither of the two general agendas for action – “Our Common Agenda” (OCA), and “New Agenda for Peace” (NAP) – mention “culture of peace” at all, and they certainly do not address the culture of war.

Why? Because the United Nations is dominated by a Security Council whose members are fully engaged in the culture of war.

Even the mention of this is taboo. That is why the Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace, adopted in 1999, does not mention the culture of war. The original document sent by UNESCO to the United Nations was quite clear that all of the eight program areas for a culture of peace are alternatives to the principal eight characteristics of the culture of war. But all mention of the culture of war was removed from the document on the insistence of the European Union who stated that “there is no culture of war in the world.”

With a United Nations and the mass media dominated by the culture of war, what hope do we have?

When the UN was dragged into supporting the invasion of Iraq in 2003, millions of people took to the streets to protest ! Where are the protests now? A few have taken to the streets against the failure to take action against global warming, but that is not enough.

I used to say I was pessimistic Monday and Tuesday, optimistic Wednesday and Thursday, leaving the weekend open to either. But now I am lucky to find cause for optimism on a single day in the week.

Dear reader, can you give me reason to hope?


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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