21st September is The International Day of Peace. The United Nations declared this day in 1981 by adopting a unanimous resolution. The purpose of the Peace Day is to provide an internationally recognized date for all people to devote to peace regardless of their differences and to contribute to developing a ‘Culture of Peace’. On this occasion, this article is an attempt to address the development of peace culture.
As defined by the United Nations General Assembly, ‘Culture of Peace’ is a “set of values, attitudes, modes of behaviour and ways of life that reject violence and prevent conflicts by tackling their root causes to solve problems through dialogue and negotiation among individuals groups and nations.”
Promoting the culture of peace has been one of the central principles of the UN since its origin. The UN affirmed its conviction to promote peace culture in the ‘1998 Resolution on the Culture of Peace’ where it encouraged the Member States to take actions for promoting peace culture at the national level as well as at the regional and international levels.
One of the most visible ways of promoting a peaceful culture is the presence of Peace monuments. While some monuments commemorate a specific peace occasion, which marks the end of an armed conflict, others represent the principles, such as diplomacy, reconciliation, tolerance, racial harmony, and pacifism as alternatives to the culture of violence.
Monuments like the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, the Cornerstone of Peace commemorating the Battle of Okinawa or the Walk of Peace in Slovenia bear the terrible memories of humanity. These sites serve as reminders of the devastating consequences of violence urging us to learn lessons from the past in order to build a more peaceful future. They also help to promote friendly relations between people and assist them in overcoming past traumas.
Some peace monuments memorialize specific peacemakers such as Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr. or other Nobel Peace Prize laureates. These great people motivate us to walk on the path of peace even in the most challenging circumstances.
Within the ‘Culture of Peace’ concept, Peace encompasses far more than the absence of conflicts. The UN General Assembly identified the following eight action areas to promote the culture of peace, which are:
The preamble of the Constitution of UNESCO states that, “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” Therefore, the development of inner peace is the very first step towards learning to live in peace and harmony. The transformation from a culture of violence to a culture of peace involves changes in both individual and institutional behaviour. In this process, education and awareness-raising can play effective roles.
To implement the peace culture in practice, The University for Peace (UPEACE), an institution of higher education, dedicated to the study of peace has been established on 5 December 1980 by UN General Assembly Resolution 35/55. This University offers a unique and innovative multicultural teaching programme to provide graduate students from all regions of the world the opportunity to develop their knowledge and skills on key issues related to the prevention of conflict and peace building.
As peace education is one of the most important lessons that we must learn to develop the peace culture, the implementation mechanism for this practice should begin from a very early stage. Peace education should be taught in schools as a part of the regular curriculum. If we can teach our youths about how to avoid conflicts from a very early age, we will be able to avoid major clashes in later stages of our life. Thus, we should apply our learning of peace education in practice and pledge to establish a peaceful world.
The writer is a 3rd year student of the Department of Law at the University of Rajshahi