important role of civil society in creating a culture of
International understanding, tolerance and solidarity;
Movement for free flow of information
|A Strategy for the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace|
World Peace through the Town Hall
International understanding, tolerance and solidarity. In fact, it is not possible to single out a particular "movement" for international understanding, tolerance and solidarity because almost all international civil society organizations are involved to one extent or another in this aspect of the culture of peace. Most of the international civil society organizations in the 2005 survey mentioned above are dedicated to this, as well as most of the 475 youth organizations that we surveyed in the follow-up report "Youth for Culture of Peace" (2006) which is available on the same website, decade-culture-of -peace.org . These reports present a rich source of information on the types of activities being undertaken for international solidarity. Among their activities are:
* International congresses, symposiums, jamborees, seminars, dialogues, retreats, conferences and workshops
Movement for free flow of information. So many journalism professionals have taken up the cause of the free flow of information that one can say it has become a social movement. Perhaps to some extent this is a reaction to increasing monopolization of the mass media by fewer and fewer multi-national corporations with increasingly strong links to the military-industrial complex as noted earlier. Fortunately, the Internet, community radio and small independent newspapers have grown at the same time, providing an outlet for the news that is routinely suppressed by "big media".
An especially effective organization is Reporters Without Frontiers. Their annual report, available from the website at www.rsf.org, provides a remarkable compendium of the attacks on reporters and freedom of the press and a strong defense of the freedom of information. Their 2007 report states that "A disturbingly record number of journalists and media workers were killed or thrown in prison around the world in 2006 and we are already concerned about 2007, as six journalists and four media assistants have been killed in January alone. But beyond these figures is the alarming lack of interest (and sometimes even failure) by democratic countries in defending the values they are supposed to incarnate."
Although details are not provided in the press release, the Report does criticize the rich nations of the North as well as the poor nations of the South. For example, it states that "The United States has been largely discredited for its illegal detention of an Al- Jazeera journalist at its Guantanamo military base, by its repeated imprisonment of U.S. journalists for refusing to disclose their sources, the lack of any serious investigation of the deaths of Iraqi journalists shot by U.S. troops and its persistent support for regimes that have no respect for press freedom. The U.S. cannot be trusted when it talks of press freedom."
Although UNESCO supports Reporters Without Frontiers and other such initiatives for freedom of the press, as an inter-governmental organization, the organization has its own limits and taboos. For example, a number of years ago, as Director of the United Nations International Year for the Culture of Peace, I called together a meeting of directors of the physical science sector of UNESCO, the only one of the organization's five sectors that did not support the initiative. I began by asking how their priority, the ethical responsibility of scientists, could be exercised if a scientist had signed an oath of secrecy on his or her work? Even if scientists saw something unethical, they would not be free to discuss it. "And I will wager that at least half of the scientists of the world are working under contractual secrecy, either for the military or for industrial corporations concerned to obtain patents." There was silence, and then one of my favorite colleagues stood and said, "David, I think that is an underestimate!" and he stood up and walked out of the room. The rest followed. The meeting had not lasted more than five minutes. But they waited for me in the corridor outside and congratulated me for breaking the taboo, saying, "We can't talk about that."
In fact, the secrecy of science is a danger to humanity. Who knows what terrible accidents may occur that put life in jeopardy? Is there any truth in the persistent rumors that HIV-AIDS first escaped from a laboratory? And, even if it were not so, what is being done now in biological weapons research and in the extensive experiments with genomes for biomedical purposes that are carried out in secrecy and that could pose future risks to the health of humans, animals and plants?
Whistle-blowers, those who risk their careers and even their lives to make secrets public, are an important part of the movement for a free flow of information. Among the most famous are the American Daniel Ellsberg who made public the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War and the Israeli Mordechai Vanunu who revealed secret information about Israel's nuclear weapons, for which he has spent most of his life in prison.
We may expect whistle-blowers to play an increasingly important role in the development of an alternative to state power. As we have seen, the state depends more and more for its power on the control of information. But as the amount of secrecy increases, the number of people with access to secrets, i.e. the number of potential whistle- blowers, also continues to increase. This is one of the weakest points in the culture of war. On the other hand, alternative power should be cultivated on the basis of full transparency that can obtain the confidence of the people and involve them in social change.
Note added in 2015: The above prediction has been abundantly fulfilled in the revelations of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden during the past several years. The fact that they have been forced to hide or accept semi-prison conditions of asylum to escape prosecution and possible execution is an indication of how important the control of information remains for the culture of war.
The History of the Culture of War