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Culturelink review, no.29/November 1999 - contents - imprint - archive

International Year for the Culture of Peace (Year 2000)

"We must make the transition from a culture of violence to a culture of dialogue, a culture of peace."

UNESCO Director-General
Federico Mayor,
Closing ceremony of the Florence Conference

A New Beginning for a New Millennium
Towards a Culture of Peace

The approach of the new millennium is a subject often and widely discussed. What will the new millennium bring? For some people it is just the continuation of the years gone by, but most of us will agree that it implies something special. Entering this new millennium, we pay tribute to human creativity and genius for the progress achieved up to now: in medicine, economy, science, culture, arts, etc. The dark side of human life also has its roots in the human mind, the one that is filled with intolerance, hatred, bias, the one that espouses war and violence.

'The dawning of the new millennium gives us a scope to take lessons from our past in order to build a new and better tomorrow. One lesson learned is that to prevent history repeating itself, the values of non-violence, tolerance and democracy will have to be inculcated in every woman and man, children and adults alike', says the Ambassador of Bangladesh at the United Nations Anwarul Karim Chowdhury on the occasion of being awarded the Gandhi medal for his contribution to the promotion of the ideals of UNESCO and especially to the Culture of Peace.

What is the Culture of Peace?

The origins of the culture of peace go back a long way. In fact, the creation of the United Nations system could be called the first hint of the emergence of the culture of peace. UNESCO has made the promotion of a culture of peace its essential mission.

The Declaration adopted by the UN General Assembly during its 53rd session on 13 September 1999, defines the Culture of Peace as a set of values, attitudes, traditions, modes of behaviour and ways of life based on respect for life, ending of violence and promotion and practice of non-violence through education, dialogue and cooperation; full respect for and promotion of all human rights and fundamental freedoms; commitment to peaceful settlement of conflicts; respect for and promotion of the right to development; respect for and promotion of equal rights of and opportunities for women and men; respect for and promotion of the rights of everyone to freedom of expression, opinion and information; and, adherence to the principles of freedom, justice, democracy, tolerance, solidarity, cooperation, pluralism, cultural diversity, dialogue and understanding at all levels of society and among nations.

Building a Culture of Peace involves providing people with an understanding of the principles of and respect for the world that is at the same time unique and diverse. It implies a collective rejection of violence. The concept of Culture of Peace should have the form of a broad socio-political and cultural movement, that implies a global effort to change how people think and act in order to promote peace. It means transforming conflict; preventing potentially violent conflict and rebuilding peace and confidence among peoples emerging from war.

Strategies for the Culture of Peace

The Culture of Peace requires specific measures and the mobilization and participation of all people and involves a profound transformation of institutional structures as well as the values, attitudes and behaviours of individuals and groups in order to address the cultural roots of violent conflicts and wars. It is important to persist on building a culture based on tolerance, democracy and respect for the rights of all.

All the levels of society should work together on a wide cross-section of activities. The key word that is to be stressed here is transdisciplinarity. Since peace can be threatened in many ways, from cultural to political, people of all races, genders, ages, types of jobs, scientific disciplines, etc. should be involved. In this way, efforts to establish a culture of peace extend beyond individual sectors, communities, regions and countries: they become global.

A Culture of Peace will only succeed if based on mutual understanding and an open and active attitude towards diversity.

The UNESCO Program of Action serves as a basis for the International Year for the Culture of Peace (Year 2000) and the International Decade for a Culture and Non-violence for the Children of the World. Specific actions at national, regional and international levels are encouraged. Several specific measures are to be strengthened, those which, by fostering a Culture of Peace through education, promote sustainable economic and social development, promote respect for all human rights, ensure equality between women and men, foster democratic participation, advance understanding, tolerance and solidarity, support participatory communication and the free flow of information and knowledge, and promote international security.

The principal means to spearhead the movement towards a Culture of Peace is education. As UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor said: 'Education, a fundamental right of citizens, is one of the essential keys to the construction of the Culture of Peace. Multi-lingual and multi-cultural education develops tolerance and understanding among citizens free of prejudice'.

The Culture of Peace Project aims at arming peoples, not with guns but with the capacity for dialogue and understanding. It calls for justice and equal opportunities for all, especially minorities, indigenous peoples, refugees and displaced persons.

Role of Culture

Cultural processes have been determining social developments for a long time. Today, this is the case more than ever before. If this trend is disrupted, it may lead to conflicts and violence. Therefore, culture has to become a central element in social and political activities. It also has to be a part of science and research planning.

Cultural studies should focus on all types of intercultural communication and exchange in order to promote peace. If international structural inequalities are reduced, and disciplinary and national boundaries overcome, culture can become the productive force of the next century, focussing research on the processes of human life with all its complexities and diversities.

Culturelink and the Culture of Peace

It is ten years now since UNESCO and the Council of Europe decided to jointly establish a network of networks for research and cooperation in cultural development, to be headquartered at the Institute for International Relations, Zagreb, Croatia.

Culturelink has been promoting the Culture of Peace acting according to the UNESCO ideals since its founding in 1989. Its continuous intercultural cooperation has certainly resulted in a number of multicultural contacts, as it will also in future, thus promoting the Culture of Peace.

The disintegration of Yugoslavia, the war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the war in Kosovo this year have not prevented the operation of the Network. Despite all difficulties, which at times looked insurmountable, the Network has continued to pursue its stated objective - the linkage of cultures. Culturelink's constant source of encouragement has been the ever-growing volume of communication exchanges and the steadily increasing membership. More than 10,000 networks, cultural and scientific institutions and professionals working in the field of culture and coming from 107 countries on all the continents, are linked to the Network - as members, cooperation partners or users of its on-line resources.

The experience gained in the last ten years has strengthened Culturelink's overall orientation towards the promotion of the main approaches defined within the Culture of Peace programme. The openness of the network to partners from very different and sometimes distant cultures has enabled all its members to disseminate information on particular features and problems of their cultures. This supports cultural pluralism and encourages establishment of rational, analytical approaches to cultural development and cultural policy. Cultural policies are mostly defined on the national level, but their common background standardisation supports cultural exchange, cultural participation and creativity.

All this stands for the Culture of Peace as a common ground of individual, local and global cultural contexts of tolerance and development.

The Culture of Peace creates new spaces for all cultures by supporting cultural diversity, exchanges and intercultural communication and by promoting respect for particular cultural values, shielded by tolerance.

The Culturelink network practically stands for a culture of dialogue and promotion of democratic values.

The anticipation of the future role of the Culturelink network is based on the reinforcement of cross-cultural and intercultural communication that contributes to the common heritage of cultural exchanges: respect for different cultural values, willingness to learn and know about them, and openness to new cultural influences. These are also the basic issues contributing to building up the Culture of Peace.

In this issue, three papers present views on the Culture of Peace, each from a different, but at the same time similar, perspective.

Culturelink is grateful to the authors for offering these contributions to the Culturelink network members.

Note: For the Culture of Peace, see also the article written by Raymond Weber on Cultures, Identities and the Prevention of Conflicts, pp. 47-51 in this issue.


Contact address:

UNESCO, Culture of Peace Programme
7, Place de Fontenoy
75352 Paris 07 SP, France
Tel.: (+33 1) 45 68 12 19; Fax: (+33 1) 45 68 55 57
E-mail: cofpeace@unesco.org


  • International Year for the Culture of Peace (Year 2000)
  • Culture of Peace and Management of Cultural Diversity: Conceptual Clarifications
    by Sanjin Dragojević
  • The Struggle to Achieve A Culture of Peace in Northern Ireland
    by Terence Duffy
  • Peace, Tolerance and Equality, the Challenges for the New Millennium
    by Ketty Tzitzikosta and Rodica Maties