||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
Over the centuries, as the state has increasingly monopolized the culture of war, the city, town and local region has lost its culture of war, ceding it to the national authorities. If we visit European cities, we can still see fragments of the old city walls with their turrets spaced close enough together for archers or musketeers to shoot an invading enemy on all fronts. In many cases we will see the old gates that could be closed to keep out an invading enemy or to control who could come in and out of the city, much as today's states control the traffic through their customs or douanes at each port of entry into the state.
No longer do cities and towns maintain armies to protect against invasion or to put down internal rebellions. Police forces are armed to encounter one or a few potential "enemies", and one does not imagine them to have tanks, missiles, nuclear weapons and the weapons of the modern battlefield (although there is a problem with their use of automatic weapons). The same is true for the various other areas of the culture of peace in the context of local government. One finds that policies in most of these areas are much less aligned with the culture of war than their equivalents at the national level, and instead one finds considerable evidence of the culture of peace.
Sustainable development is highly developed at the local level. This is reflected in the work of ICLEI, (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives). ICLEI is a membership association of over 987 local governments, representing over 300 million people worldwide that have made a unique commitment to sustainable development. Their work is based on United Nations decisions, beginning with Agenda 21 that was adopted by the United Nations after the Rio Conference on Environment and Development in 1992. It is described as follows on their website at http://www.iclei.org :
"Through its international campaigns and programs, ICLEI works with local governments to generate political awareness of key issues; establish plans of action toward defined, concrete, measurable targets; work toward meeting these targets through the implementation of projects; and evaluate local and cumulative progress toward sustainable development.
Many towns and cities are putting a priority on the development of local, sustainable agriculture, realizing that the increasing globalization of agriculture carries a serious risk of dependence on petroleum and on the global economy. If these should fail, the local community will need to have food resources at its disposal in order to survive. Two examples are the city of Curitiba in Brazil; and Cuba, which, though not a local government, has coped with isolation from the global economy by developing a self-sufficient agricultural system.
"Curitiba is referred to as the ecological capital of Brazil, with a network of 28 parks and wooded areas. In 1970, there was less than 1 square meter of green space per person; now there are 52 square meters for each person. Residents planted 1.5 million trees along city streets. Builders get tax breaks if their projects include green space. Flood waters diverted into new lakes in parks solved the problem of dangerous flooding, while also protecting valley floors and riverbanks, acting as a barrier to illegal occupation, and providing aesthetic and recreational value to the thousands of people who use city parks
"Cuba has given birth to an ecology-based agriculture. A number of alternative production techniques have been introduced to cope with the lack of chemical inputs and limited fuel, electricity and machinery in food production for domestic consumption. These include organic fertilizer, animal traction, mixed cropping, and biological pest controls. Some have called Cuba, in only a slight overstatement, a national laboratory in organic agriculture. Cuba's production is also much more diversified, more integrated, and smaller in scale, which leads towards greater sustainability. A major factor in domestic food production has been the explosive growth of urban gardens, which now produce half of the vegetables consumed in Havana, a population of two million people."
Human rights has been measured at the city level by the City of Sao Paulo (2008) in Brazil, with the methodology and results available on their Internet site. The city's 31 subprefectures are mapped to indicate whether they have high, good, medium or low guarantees of human rights. The measures employed correspond to many of the priorities of every modern city including housing, health care and sanitation, education, and public safety. This is discussed further in the next chapter.
Democratic participation is often more developed at the local level than at the national level. It is sometimes said that this is simply because the scale is smaller, but there are other reasons as well. Cities and towns are relatively free from the enormous influence of the military-industrial complex and the monopoly corporations and financial institutions that weigh so heavily on national policy.
The most important recent advance in democratic participation, participatory budgeting, which began in Latin America (presupuesto particpativo or orçamento participativo) is now spreading to cities and towns throughout the world. The following description of participatory budgeting is drawn primarily from the online page of Wikipedia, and supplemented by other sources.
"Participatory budgeting first developed in the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil, starting in 1989 as a response to severe inequality in living standards, including slum conditions for one third of the city's residents. The process occurs annually, starting with a series of neighborhood, regional, and citywide assemblies, where residents and elected budget delegates identify spending priorities and vote on which priorities to implement.
The International Observatory on Participatory Democracy (2006) has produced a methodology for evaluating participatory democracy which is available on the Internet. In addition to participatory budgeting, it provides suggestions for the evaluation of other municipal processes such as the preparation of strategic municipal plans, local economic development, sustainability, and education projects. The extensive interaction of democratic participation with many other relevant programme areas in this case illustrates once again the holistic unity of the culture of peace.
The History of the Culture of War