Ref. :  000001927
Date :  2001-10-11
Language :  English
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Culture of peace


Author :  Patrice Vermeren

"The notion of a culture of peace means a lasting peace, which is not simply the absence of war, but a dynamic process founded on democratic principles". Those were the words of Federico Mayor as he declared the main philosophy behind his work at the head of this organization, that was soon taken up by the UN (General Assembly declaration, September 1999): convince men to move away from a culture of war to a culture of peace. An historic undertaking as it presupposes not only that war is not humanity’s natural and tragic destiny, but also that the construction of peace is primarily a cultural matter.

How have we come from philosophies of war to philosophies of peace, then from those to the demand for a philosophy of the culture of peace? The history of philosophy attests to three possible ways of examining the relationship between war and peace, after Antiquity and the Middle Ages when war was considered a universal law and the future for the world:

1 - either, peace is the truth of war, which is only an alteration of nature (an accident of the substance that is peace). This position founded on the law is that of Thomas Aquinas. It allows for righteous wars, which are the way to re-establish politics through natural means.

2 - or else war is the truth of peace, and the purest form of violence governs States. This for example is the theory of the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who in ‘Leviathan’ describes war as the natural state with everyone against everyone.

3 - or else peace is an ideal that needs to be instituted, as in Kant’s Perpetual Peace(1795) – following after those of the abbé de Saint-Pierre and Jean-Jacques Rousseau – a project restated within its intrinsic philosophy, categorically formulated as a universal law of practical reason.

To be a citizen of the world, in this sense, would mean to disassociate national and territorial citizenship by conceiving of dual citizenship – a citizenship of belonging and a citizenship of residence. Whereas in a philosophy of war, everyday relations between men are marked by violence, in a philosophy of peace, war would only be tolerated as a means of leading to peace. However, one must go further than this: not only regulating and limiting war, but also suppressing the possibility of it as a recourse. The right to peace realised as a law of peace. The idea of an perpetual peace proceeds through its institution. Which presumes a shared will to establish a perpetual peace through law. For Kant, this will is not a will of means, but one of ends, and in the last instance, morality is the foundation for a refusal to go to war. Peace is therefore not a circumstantial aim, but should be way of life. It demands the institution of a new world order, where peace will be everlasting, meaning universal. How is it possible to realise this moral argument within politics? Through a Society of Nations, and through instituting a public law of nations.

Only when peace is conceived of at a world level could a law possibly be extended universally with the consent of all states. The Briand-Kellogg pact, signed August 27th 1928, proposed extending the renunciation of war to all the world’s states. A few days earlier René Cassin had written in the Journal de Genève that the decisive importance of this pact was to ‘hand the implementation of outlawing war from the moral to the political domain’. This would mean that peace is an idea of reason, an objective to attain, which you can only tackle asymptomatically.

UNESCO’s constitutive Act, following the Second World War, stipulated that ‘Wars are born in the minds of men, and so it is in the minds of men that defenses for peace must be erected’. Identifying one of the main causes of the Second World War as the exploitation of ignorance and prejudice through the use of pseudo-scientific theories about inequality between races and men, UNESCO holds regular meetings for scientists to combat this scientific ideology. This is how the Seville manifesto on violence was adopted on May the 16th 1986, which refutes the theories that war instinct and violence have a biological basis and assigns violence cultural and social origins. It follows that ‘species that invented war is equally capable of inventing peace. The responsibility lies with each and every one of us’. It was then at the Yamoussoukro Congress (Ivory Coast, June 1989) that Federico Mayor asserted that the human being, in its indivisible globality, should be placed at the centre of the critical issue of peace. If conflict is a component of human interaction, then it is not a question of eliminating these conflicts and arriving at a consensus, but to allow free expression of dissensus on a stage that is not violence or war.

Peace and the conditions that make it possible, the culture of peace, will from now on be indissociable from (a) democracy understood as a political system founded on freedom of expression, active participation of citizens in public life, tolerance and dialogue between people and cultures, and recognition and respect for human rights, (b) sustainable development with a human face, which means the reduction of inequality in economic and social development, which are often primary causes of conflict, and the fight against poverty, exclusion, rural decline, urban destitution, large migrations, environmental degradation, alongside new pandemics such as Aids and the arms trafficking, drugs and internal organs from children, or the effects of a faceless or at the very least inhuman globalisation – without values of sharing and solidarity.

The best way ‘to go from the reason of force to the force of reason’ (F. Mayor) is through education. For all that, it is not just a question of working on the four directions that have been emphasized up till now – extending education, improving the syllabus, teaching methods and teaching studies –, but of conferring on them the objective of promoting a culture of peace, whilst developing the critical faculty of all, tolerance and respect for plurality, dialogue of thought pathways and philosophical instruction for all.

Despite the fact that the UN has declared the year 2000 ‘International year for the culture of peace’, Federico Mayor has however failed in his strategy aiming to make the right of the human being to Peace a Human Right in itself. If men do not have a culture in which they can develop their faculty to judge in common their common conditions of communal life, peace is only ever the temporary outcome of a successful war. And if culture is in fact what makes our relationship with reality and others visible and quantifiable (Stephane Douailler), then the idea of a culture of peace needs to be restated in order to move away from an externally enforced peace to peace in and amongst men and nations, – the in between being the location where a common world could be achieved.

Bibliographical indications :
Emmanuel Kant : Perpetual Peace (1795), Françoise Proust, Paris, Garnier-Flammarion, 1991
Rada Ivekovic and Jacques Poulain: Guérir de la guerre et juger la paix, Paris, L’Harmattan, 1998
Anaisabel Prera Flores and Patrice Vermeren: Philosophies de la culture de la paix, preface by Federico Mayor, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2001

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