"Lifting Up the World: Building a Culture of Peace"

by Alyn Ware

Remarks by Alyn Ware, International Coordinator, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament
Presented at the 5th Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates Rome, Italy November 11, 2004  

Note: This presentation included slides of peace education in action. Most of the photos and additional information is available from the New Zealand Ministry of Education brochure Peace Education in Schools.

I am honoured to listen and learn from the wisdom and experience and visions and achievements of the Nobel laureates and others who have spoken over the past two days. I have happily drunk my fill from this fountain of wisdom. I am enriched and inspired and energized by this. I don’t think that that I can add to such wisdom. But what I would like to add are some examples of actions and initiatives to realize some of these visions – to help us move from a divided world to a united world.

A key ingredient in moving from such visions towards building a culture of peace – is education – education to help people, especially young people, to learn the skills, attitudes and values to transform conflict and division, fear and pessimism, hatred and misunderstanding into unity and optimism and success and hope and love. I recall that Martin Luther King once said that "We must learn to live together as friends or perish together as fools". So I will look at a few practical ways of making peace a reality – of building a culture of peace – through peace education. Education for peace requires action at a number of levels – and I will focus briefly on just a few – schools and youth, parliamentarians, governments and civil society. I will be drawing from the excellent education programmes being promoted and developed through the International Decade for a Culture of Peace, the Global Campaign for Peace Education, the UN Study on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education and the UN CyberSchoolBus. I will also use some examples of peace education being implemented through schools in Aotearoa/New Zealand – which now has integrated peace education into the curriculum and where the Ministry of Education and from peace education organizations are very active. The brochure Peace Education in Schools, for example, developed by the Ministry of Education on ideas for peace education, was distributed to every school and kindergarten in the country last year.

So briefly what is peace education? I was pleased to hear Mikhail Gorbachev refer to the commencement address John F Kennedy gave at American University on June 10, 1963 – for in that address President Kennedy noted that peace is a process – a way of solving problems and that no problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Thus peace education is not merely an aversion to violence and war, but is about helping people to understand and transform conflict in their own lives, in the community and in the world at large. Peace education is about helping people find and develop their own solutions to conflict.

In New Zealand schools, for example, children role play different conflict scenarios, trying out their ideas for solutions. Simulation games are a fun and powerful way to learn conflict resolution concepts and skills – such as win-win approaches to conflicts. In one game pupils can win a prize if they get the other team across the line three times in fifteen seconds. Some choose to fight and neither team wins. Those who choose to cooperate find that both teams can win – and thus learn the principle of win-win solutions to conflicts. Other games are employed to help children practice cooperation and trust-building, learn to experience differences between them and others and practice helping others. Students are also trained to be mediators and so that they can mediate actual conflicts that occur at school. Peer mediation programmes are now established in elementary and high schools throughout Aotearoa-New Zealand and have led to a considerable reduction in conflicts and violence in schools. Student mediators also study national and international conflicts and learn that the skills and approaches they use to solve disputes at school and home, are the same skills and approaches used by international mediators such as Jimmy Carter and the United Nations Secretary-General. The terms may be slightly different and international mediations might be more complex, but the basic steps are the same.

The Minister of Education has also determined the week commemorating the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be Schools' Peace Week – a week of activities in schools for peace. One of those activities is making origami – paper – cranes, the Japanese bird of peace and a youth activity calling for no more nuclear war. Education activities to prevent nuclear war and achieve nuclear disarmament are carried out in the wider community by a number of organizations – including some present at this conference. Many of these are working together as part of Abolition 2000 – an international network of over 2000 organizations working for nuclear abolition.

A new an exciting initiative is the Mayors for Peace Emergency Campaign for Nuclear Abolition. Established by Mayor Akiba from Hiroshima and Mayor Itoh from Nagasaki, there are now over 600 mayors from around the world working together to encourage governments to negotiate a nuclear weapons abolition treaty. Another new and exciting initiative is the Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament which in just a few years has gathered over 300 parliamentarians from 50 countries to work on nuclear disarmament. One of the areas of interest for many PNND members is the criminalization of the threat, use, development and possession of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations Security Council, through UN SC Resolution 1540, is now requiring governments to adopt criminal law on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons applicable to non-State actors. As Jonathan Granoff mentioned, terrorism is terrorism regardless of whether it is committed by non-State actors or governments. Thus some parliamentarians are looking at legislation – like that adopted in New Zealand – which prohibits such acts from both State and non-State actors (See also International Ju-Jitsu: Using Security Council Resolution 1540 to Advance Nuclear Disarmament).

One initiative to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons until they can be eliminated is an international appeal, signed by Nobel laureates, parliamentarians and civil society leaders, calling for the reduction of the threat of nuclear weapons. I encourage you to add your endorsement to this appeal. I would like to also acknowledge the UN High Level Panel on Threats Challenges and Change, which was reported on earlier in this conference. (Report of the High Level Panel) The International Peace Bureau presented the Florence Appeal - an international appeal with recommendations - to the UN High Level Panel last week in New York and copies are available at this Summit.

I want to conclude by returning to the subject of youth. For it is not just enough to educate youth in peace – we have to engage them in the process to build a new world – not just because they are the citizens of the future, not just because they are the source of new leadership – but because they are crying out to be heard, recognized, and involved. Just look to the music of the youth and you will see this yearning. Black Eyed Peas recently had an international hit with the song “Where is the Love” – a modern day funk hit possibly as powerful as John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Just look at the lyrics: But if you only have love for your own race Then you only leave space to discriminate And to discriminate only generates hate And when you hate then you're bound to get irate Madness is what you demonstrate People killin', people dyin' Children hurt and you hear them cryin' Can you practice what you preach And would you turn the other cheek Yo', whatever happened to the values of humanity Whatever happened to the fairness in equality Instead of spreading love we spreading animosity Lack of understanding, leading lives away from unity That's the reason why sometimes I'm feelin' under That's the reason why sometimes I'm feelin' down There's no wonder why sometimes I'm feelin' under Gotta keep my faith alive till love is found Where is the love?

The youth are crying out for hope – for love – for possibilities for peace - for all the things represented by this Nobel Summit. Young people could learn so much from being here – from drinking from the fountain of wisdom and hope and visions that I have experienced being here listening to and engaging with Nobel laureates. If young people could participate in this forum, to share with Nobel laureates, I feel that they, like me, would be inspired to go back out into the world and reach out to their friends and colleagues – to the citizens and leaders of the future - with inspiration and hope and knowledge that love and peace is alive in the international community and that a new world of unity not division is possible and, with the engagement of youth, will be built and we will indeed bear witness to a future of peace throughout the world. Thank you.