||The basic and essential role of local government (cities, towns and local regions or provinces) in cultivating a culture of peace||A Strategy for the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace|
World Peace through the Town Hall
As for the equality of women, it is certainly more developed in local governance in many countries of the North than it is developed at the national level, thanks to many initiatives at the level of the local communities. On the other hand, in many countries of the South, such as Cuba, Vietnam, Mozambique, etc., there has been so much progress toward high proportion of women legislators in the national parliament that this sets a precedent to increase the proportion of women in local community governments.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (2004) has produced a report entitled A City Tailored to Women: The Role of Municipal Governments in Achieving Gender Equality which is available on the Internet. In addition to providing a questionnaire for assessment of gender equality, the report describes exemplary initiatives from cities in Europe (Berlin, Liège, Barcelona, Amadora-Lisbon, Paris, Prato-Italy, Prague, Saratov-Russia, Stuttgart and Vienna), the Americas (Montreal, San Salvador, Buenos Aires, Santo Andre-Sao Paulo, Cosquin-Argentina, and Quetzaltenango-Guatemala), and Asia (Bangkok, Cebu City-Philippines and Naga-Philippines).
The introduction to the report of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities makes a point that is essential to the argument of the present book: "It has become increasingly clear that action to improve the daily lives of citizens is at its most effective at the local government (municipal) level."
Tolerance and Solidarity. The city can be the leader in promoting tolerance and solidarity, as exemplified by the initiative undertaken in recent years by my home city, New Haven, Connecticut to deal with the plight of undocumented immigrants.
New Haven, like many American cities, has long received new generations of immigrants. Like many US cities, it is a truly multi-cultural city with a progressive social and economic history. At the end of the 19th century, the principal immigration was Irish, and at the beginning of the 20th century the Italians and European Jews. At mid- point in the century it was the African-Americans who came up from the South seeking jobs in post-war industry. And now it is the immigration from Latin America. These succeeding waves of immigration are especially evident in neighborhoods such as Fair Haven and the Hill. Each succeeding wave of immigration has had to fight against intolerance by those who came before.
The lack of human rights such as employment, housing and medical care are compounded for immigrants, especially those who are undocumented. In recent years, New Haven has taken national leadership by providing identification cards for undocumented immigrants. This was started in 2004 by the Fair Haven Junta and Unidad Latina En Accion, and supported by hearings backed by the New Haven Peace Commission, which led eventually to acceptance by city hall in 2007. Among other things, prior to that, undocumented immigrants could not put money in a bank which made them vulnerable to be robbed. According to one activist, these ID's are now being used by perhaps half of the undocumented immigrants in the city, and they are increasingly accepted by employers and public institutions. Thanks to a recent state-wide efforts, inspired by New Haven's experience, undocumented immigrants can now obtain driver's licenses and obtain college tuition for Connecticut universities. New Haven's initiative has served as a model for other cities across the United States.
Transparency and the free flow of information is much more prevalent at the level of the city than at the level of national governments. Perhaps there are some secrets at the level of the city, but nothing like the state secrets of "national security". Transparency is being increased further by new processes such as participatory budgeting mentioned above. With participatory budgeting, not only is the relevant information made available to the citizens, but even more important, the citizens demand to know this information because they must act on its basis in making budgetary decisions.
Education for a culture of peace, which in the past has been considered to be the exclusive business of the schools and universities, is expanding to include the city itself. This is described by Cabezudo (2007, 2008) and is reflected in the very name of the "International Association of Educating Cities" (website at http://www.bcn.es/edcities/ ). Participatory budgeting is a good example of this as documented in the case of Rosario, Argentina, by Lerner and Schugurensky (2005).. Here are key excerpts from their conclusion, which is available on the Internet:
"Rosario residents who regularly engaged in participatory budgeting experienced significant learning in a wide variety of fields. [They] became more familiar with the needs of different communities, got to know new and different people, and acquired instrumental and technical knowledge about politics and citizenship. This knowledge can allow them to better represent their communities, develop political efficacy, establish networks and partnerships with other groups, and develop solidarity with people that are worse off. Delegates also developed a variety of instrumental, analytical, leadership, and deliberative skills. Participation nurtured new attitudes, values, and dispositions, especially self-confidence, concern for the common good and public property, tolerance and patience, solidarity, feelings of belonging and connection, and interest in community participation. Finally, delegates changed their daily practices, increasing the level, range, and quality of their civic involvement by becoming more active in the community, diversifying their everyday activities, and adopting more democratic behaviors. . .
The use of peaceful conflict resolution and mediation in schools was the subject of an international survey that we undertook at UNESCO in 1996. For the survey we engaged the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Columbia University, under the direction of Professor Morton Deutsch. Their unpublished study, which was to be the basis of a project in schools coordinated by UNESCO, found that there were already thousands of such initiatives in existence by 1996:
"Judging from the early results, school based programmes of conflict resolution are most developed in the United Sates and Canada, where, in response to a significant increase in violence among youth, there was a rapid upsurge in the last decade. There are a number of high quality training Centres and several thousand school programmes. A similar upsurge now appears to be starting for similar reasons in other areas of the world. In Europe a number of Centres have emerged recently and in 1990 a European Network for Conflict Resolution in Education was formed. In Australia and in Israel there are a number of well-developed Centres and school programmes. Little data was forthcoming, however, for Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, Arab States and Africa, with the exception of South Africa where there are several very active conflict resolution centres. The report includes full case studies of eight programmes from Australia, Japan, US, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Israel, Norway and France."
Although the UNESCO project was never established due to bureaucratic obstacles, there was an international meeting in Sintra, Portugal, which issued a remarkable statement on the need for such an approach. See the Sintra Plan of Action available on the Internet at UNESCO (1996).
The History of the Culture of War