The preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of humankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.” Moreover, article 1 of the Declaration states that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
The task of the United Nations to save future generations from the scourge of war requires transformation towards a culture of peace, which consists of values, attitudes and behaviours that reflect and inspire social interaction and sharing based on the principles of freedom, justice and democracy, all human rights, tolerance and solidarity, that reject violence and endeavour to prevent conflicts by tackling their root causes to solve problems through dialogue and negotiation and that guarantee the full exercise of all rights and the means to participate fully in the development process of their society.
Conscious of the need for the creation of conditions of stability and well-being and peaceful and friendly relations based on respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion, the General Assembly declared 5 April the International Day of Conscience.
The General Assembly invited all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations, as well as the private sector and civil society, including non-governmental organizations and individuals, to build the Culture of Peace with Love and Conscience in accordance with the culture and other appropriate circumstances or customs of their local, national and regional communities, including through quality education and public awareness-raising activities, thereby fostering sustainable development.
Origins of a Culture of Peace
The concept of a culture of peace emerged from the International Congress on Peace in the Minds of Men, organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Côte d’Ivoire in July 1989. Since then the promotion of a culture of peace has increasingly been seen as a worthwhile objective of the international community. The evolving concept has inspired activities at so many levels and in so many regions with the full participation of civil society that the culture of peace is gradually taking on the characteristics of a global movement.
Within the United Nations system, the concept dates back to the Constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), adopted more than 50 years ago, wherein that organization is called upon to construct the defences of peace in the minds of men because “a peace based exclusively upon the political and economic arrangements of Governments would not be a peace which could secure the unanimous, lasting and sincere support of the peoples of the world, and … the peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind”.
Building a Culture of Peace
The task of constructing a culture of peace requires comprehensive educational, cultural, social and civic action, in which each person has something to learn and something to give and share. It addresses all ages and all groups; it is an open-minded global strategy with a specific purpose, namely, to make a culture of peace inseparable from culture per se and to take root in people’s hearts and minds. Peace is not only the absence of differences and conflicts. It is a positive, dynamic, participatory process linked intrinsically to democracy, justice and development for all by which differences are respected, dialogue is encouraged and conflicts are constantly transformed by non-violent means into new avenues of cooperation.
Based on this broadest and most positive meaning of peace, a culture of peace is a set of values, attitudes, traditions and customs, modes of behaviour and ways of life that reflect and are directed towards respect for life, for human beings and their rights, the rejection of violence in all its forms, the recognition of the equal rights of men and women, the recognition of the rights of everyone to freedom of expression, opinion and information, attachment to the principles of democracy, freedom, justice, development for all, tolerance, solidarity, pluralism and acceptance of differences and understanding between nations, between ethnic, religious, cultural and other groups and between individuals.
The UN and a Culture of Peace
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations play an important role in fostering the intercultural dialogue. They conduct activities related to the culture of peace and non-violence and make efforts in promoting a culture of peace through a number of practical projects in the areas of youth, education, media and migration, in collaboration with governments, international organizations, foundations and civil society groups, as well as the media and the private sector.