The International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World (2001 to 2010)
The United Nations (www.un.org), a respected world body and forum for global issues, including peace and security, is once again a leader in pressing societies for the establishment of initiatives promoting reconciliation. The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (www.unesco.org) acting as the lead UN agency, is promoting the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010) (www3.unesco.org/iycp) The Decade’s mandate stresses the principles of non-violence espoused so strongly during the International Year for the Culture of Peace’s (IYCP-2000) but focuses increasingly upon the plight of millions of children worldwide, and the need to create and implement non-violent strategies to alleviate to that plight.
Originally, the Culture of Peace Programme (CPP) was created in 1994 for the promotion of standards which would encourage and enhance peaceful co-existence. The successful programme blossomed into the Year for the Culture of Peace (2000). With the popularity of the principles of the Year, and the perseverance of peace and non-violence advocates, the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World was established by UN General Assembly resolution 53/25. (www.un.org/Depts/dhl/resfiles/a53r025.pdf)
An indispensable component of the smooth transition from the Year to the Decade is the Manifesto 2000 (www3.unesco.org/manifesto2000/default.asp). The Manifesto, written by a coalition of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, was astoundingly popular throughout IYCP. Although the Manifesto was presented to the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Harry Holkeri of Finland, in the fall of 2000, the document is still open for signature. At the time of presentation to the General Assembly, 60 million people had signed and committed themselves to the principles of peace and non-violence that the Manifesto espouses. The Manifesto ensures that the Year’s principles are both continued and rejuvenated in a coherent manner for the purposes of the Decade. For instance, the National Commission for UNESCO in India received 24.8 million signatures, while the National Commission for UNESCO in Brazil received 5.9 million signatures. These signatures are not simply a statistic. Through the action of signing, signatories commit themselves to a personal peaceful mentality and to progressive contributions towards the goals enunciated in the Manifesto.
The International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World is not just a continuation of the principles of IYCP. The mandate for the Decade specifically emphasizes the need for the international community to recognize and implement strategies to focus on and ensure assistance for children exposed to harmful and violent situations. In order to facilitate the Decade, children must be provided with the ability and opportunity to participate and to centre activities around their own needs. Clearly, decision makers who do not receive input and direction from those people affected by their plans and actions, in this case children, will not be able to provide an effective medium for the implementation of activities directed towards establishing a mentality conducive to non-violence. The participation of those affected by violence is necessary for the creation of effective policies and practices for the Decade.
Chief among the activities required to promote non-violence among children in all communities is education. Both formal and informal education provide children with the necessary tools for acquiring the knowledge base, skills, values, attitudes and behaviors associated with non-violence. The basic values and attitudes for life, as enunciated in the General Assembly Resolution establishing the Decade, are considered by the UN to be elements essential for capturing the essence of non-violence.
The media play an important role with respect to the evolution and promotion of the principles of non-violence and peace. Especially within the span of the last decade there has been a fundamental transformation of the communications industry. The Internet has become a viable communications medium conducive to bridging the knowledge gap on many levels, while at the same time providing a form of communication through user-to-user interaction. As a medium that is especially appealing to children, the Internet has the ability to provide an effective means by which children are able to communicate with other children, with outreach organizations and with policy creation and lobbying organizations worldwide.
There are, however, regions of the world where the Internet and/or computers are not readily available and people do not have the requisite skills to make use of this burgeoning technology. Supportive outreach programmes must be provided by regional or international organizations. Messages must also be tailored to meet the needs of the primary target audience – children. Plans detailing more varied means of formulating and initiating effective communication must be developed. Subsequently, effective resources and alternative plans must be initiated to make communication mediums more universally accessible. Communication is essential if people are to become more organized, with the ability to create focus and interest groups capable of making their voices heard and heeded.
The media can highlight issues in societies that are unacceptable to the broad majority. By pointing out aberrations in the moral fabric of society, the media can encourage and pressure for change. As one example, using exposé techniques, the media can successfully join with other groups to pressure sectors of industry for better working environments. A greater awareness of problems will always prompt debate and can encourage and initiate solutions conducive to the creation of a sustained and sustainable culture of non-violence.
A positive result of the International Year for a Culture of Peace was that it enabled groups such as the World Parliament of Children to have a legitimate and high profile forum in which to express their beliefs and their mounting concerns for other people and themselves, all of whom continue to cope with a violent world. These youth wrote the Youth Manifesto for the Twenty-First Century. This Youth Manifesto was presented to UNESCO’s General Conference on October 6, 1999 and to the Canadian Parliament on April 20, 2000. The Year provided essential publicity for a movement for peace. It is possible to replicate this in other countries through the involvement of children, for the benefit of children. Such efforts help make "peace" a public issue, increasing the consciousness of the general public.
Tolerance of differing mentalities and opinions is essential for the creation of a lasting culture of peace. Additional UN-designated Years and Decades are intertwined throughout the International Decade for the Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World. One such year is the International Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations (2001) (www.un.org/Dialogue/). Information and communication are inevitably vital to guarantee the effectiveness of this Year. A central message of the Year is the conviction that communication is not only vital in a nation-to-nation sense, but that internal and international communication between groups of people with common interests and bonds is required if tolerance and a culture of peace are to take root and flourish.
The fundamental principles of the International Year for a Culture of Peace continue and have been enhanced with the launch of the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence Among the Children of the World. Awareness of issues concerning non-violence must become imperative for the successful advancement of a culture of peace during the first decade of the new millennium.