World Peace through the Town Hall
What would a culture of peace be like? A Strategy for the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace

World Peace through the Town Hall


1) The difference between "peace" and "culture of peace" and a brief history of the culture of war

2) The role of the individual in culture of war and culture of peace

3) Why the state cannot create a culture of peace

4) The important role of civil society in creating a culture of peace

--Peace and disarmament movements

--Ecology movement

--Movements for human rights

--Democracy movements

--Women's movement

--International understanding, tolerance and solidarity

--Movements for free flow of information

--The strengths and weaknesses of civil society

5) The basic and essential role of local government in culture of peace

--Sustainable development

--Human rights

--Democratic participation

--Women's equality


--Transparency and the free flow of information

--Education for a culture of peace

--Security and public safety

--Some ongoing initiatives

6) Assessing progress toward a culture of peace at the local level

--Culture of peace measurement at the level of the state

7) Going global: networking of city culture of peace commissions

8) The future transition of the United Nations from control by states to popular control through local governmental representatives

9) What would a culture of peace be like?


Continued from previous page

As the culture of peace gets established, we may expect a great release of human creativity and problem-solving, supported by a renewed educational system and mass media. Freed from the constraints of a culture of war, problems that seem unsolvable today become more amenable to solution. With the removal of the obstacles that came from the culture of war, the various social movements should make great progress toward disarmament, universal human rights, democratic participation, equality of women, sustainable development, etc. Take, for example, the two risks that seem at the present time to endanger all life on the planet: the risk of nuclear war; and the process of global warming as a result of burning fossil fuels.

The risk of nuclear war has been maintained by the insistence of powerful states to produce weapons-grade uranium and make and stockpile nuclear weapons, but this, too, can be overcome. Once power passes from the state to local authorities, there will be no further reason to make or keep nuclear weapons, and the disarmament procedures already tried and tested at the end of the Cold War can be used to rid the world once and for all of this terrible threat. The International Atomic Energy Agency, whose hands have been tied by political pressures throughout its history, would finally be able to manage and verify its fundamental task of nuclear disarmament.

Overcoming global warming is a complex task, but will become simpler as soon as decision-making powers devolve to local authorities. As we have seen the leadership for conversion to renewable energy comes from local authorities and local initiatives, and this can be expected to intensify after the transition to a culture of peace, especially if local economies have been developed that do not exploit fossil fuels and destroy other environmental resources such as forests. Local authorities are in the best position to accomplish the energy conservation, renewable energy sources, reforestation and other such measures that can reverse the increasing atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide. With the development of a culture of peace, it will finally be possible to establish an international coordinating mechanism for sustainable development, something that has been blocked in the past by the Member States of the United Nations.

The transition to a culture of peace can finally begin to reverse the constantly increasing gap between rich and poor, that has grown to such destructive proportions, both between rich and poor countries and between rich and poor within each country. Here, too, much depends on the progress made in local economies that are not exploitative, neither of the environment nor of agricultural and industrial workers.

Once the gap between rich regions and poor regions of the world begins to shrink, the solution will be found to the "brain drain" which presently contributes to that gap. The brightest young students from poor regions of the world may still go to the rich regions for their education, but will now be more likely to return to the regions of their birth, bringing with them scientific methods and global communication links that can enrich their home communities. This will finally present the solution to the present mass migrations of people from the poverty-stricken South to the historically rich North that has provoked xenophobic and demagogic political movements in the Northern countries. Such a vision was provided in a speech to UNESCO by a former African President:

He looked forward to a new era in which the young men and women from the villages in his region of Africa would go away to school and university in the North, would learn the world's accumulated wisdom and make friends of other youth from around the world. Then they would return to live in their native villages, bringing a computer with which they could stay in touch with their friends and with the world's knowledge. They would help apply this knowledge to the practices of the village, for example in medical and farming techniques, and this would all take place within the traditional social and economic framework of the village.

The emphasis on local economies could redress the historical gap between rural and urban life. It could reinvigorate family and village farming, bringing people back to rural life without losing the communication and transportation amenities now available only to urban dwellers. Family and village-based farming encourages reconstitution of the extended family which has been devastated in recent decades, which provides a milieu in which the elderly, the handicapped and children have a place of honor, respect and love. It also provides an answer to the growing health hazards of obesity due to lack of any meaningful physical labor for urban dwellers. There is a joy in farming that is hard to describe unless you have experienced it. From my own boyhood days working on farms in the Ozarks and in California I remember with pleasure the hard physical work of splitting rails, going after the cows on horseback, planting, irrigating, cultivating, harvesting, bucking bales, slaughtering (with a prayer of thanks), milking cows, and, yes, even shoveling fresh manure. The relation with the land, with the animals and with the growing plants had a quality that was truly sacred. It is a joy that is shared between generations as the young learn from the old. As described in the African vision cited above, it should be possible to share in this process without losing touch with rest of the world through the use of modern technology.

The global perspective, so essential to the overcoming of enemy images, can be expanded by culture of peace tourism and educational exchange programs, to the extent that these may become the most important investment that people make with surplus from their labor. Here, too, the culture of peace becomes a self-reinforcing process.

In summary, the dawning of a culture of peace can bring a new stage of human history, in which historical process is in the hands of the people. This vision is described in the conclusion of my 1995 UNESCO monograph:

"In the vision of a culture of peace, the very process of history itself is transformed. Freed from the culture of war, where history has unfolded on the basis of violent change in a cycle of suppression and explosion, it can move forward without violence. Instead of being determined by the few, the course of history can be determined by the participation of the many. Instead of being determined from the top down, it can be determined by changes and methods which come from the bottom up, beginning at a local level which is tied to a global consciousness. Under these conditions, the determining factor in history can become the social consciousness of the people themselves."

The end

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The History of the Culture of War

What is culture and how does it evolve

Warfare in prehistory and its usefulness

The culture of war in prehistory

Data from prehistory before the Neolithic

Enemy images: culture or biology

War and the culture of war at the dawn of history

--Ancient Mesopotamia

--Ancient Egypt

--Ancient China

--Ancient Greece and Rome

--Ancient Crete

--Ancient Indus civilizations

--Ancient Hebrew civilization

--Ancient Central American civilization

Warfare and the origin of the State

Religion and the origin of the State

A summary of the culture of war at the dawn of history

The internal culture of war: a taboo topic

The evolution of the culture of war over the past 5,000 years: its increasing monopolization by the state

--1.Armies and armaments

--2.External conquest and exploitation: Colonialism and Neocolonialism

--3.The internal culture of war and economies based on exploitation of workers and the environment

--4.Prisons and penal systems

--5.The military-industrial complex

--6.The drugs-for-arms trade

--7.Authoritarian control

--8.Control of information

--9.Identification of an "enemy"

--10.Education for the culture of war

--11.Male domination

--12.Religion and the culture of war

--13.The arts and the culture of war



Summary of the history of the culture of war