Build a World Where We All Get Along

If we want peace in the world, each of us must take part in creating it. This means not only stopping war and engaging in non-violent behavior, but also building cultures of peace at every level – within ourselves, in our families, neighborhoods, communities, nations, and the world. Here are key initiatives we in the United States along with other countries could undertake or reinforce to bring about more peace in the world.

1. Trumpet the vision that we aim to build cultures of peace at every level. Make this a central dimension of foreign policy. In 2001 the United Nations agreed to devote the next decade to building cultures of peace for our children. Detailed work has been done on how to go about this. Canada set up a national “culture of peace” program to promote peace throughout the country. The U. S. and other countries who have not done so should follow suit and re-affirm allegiance to this goal. Citizens need to see that national leaders follow through. Success stories show that building cultures of peace is powerful and doable.

After huge riots in South Africa, ordinary black and white citizens, sick of the killing, became more fully proactive for peace. In 1991, they drew a picture of what harmonious living would look like, called it the National Peace Accords, shopped it around the entire country for leaders and citizens to sign, trained 26,000 peace monitors to come between clashing peoples, and started running “culture of peace” vigils, demonstrations, and festivals. This had the effect of marginalizing those prone to violence and prepared the way for a peaceful transition to a black president, Nelson Mandela.

Europe, committed to preventing war again on its land, has created in our generation a new entity – the European Union. There is a new currency, new governing bodies, new “Europe parks,” new Europe festivals. One highly successful mechanism has been “city twinning”: older member cities become partners with cities new to the Union. Much exchange is going on as people forge personal ties with others who once were of another tribe!

2. Make clear public statements, accompanied by dramatic acts, affirming the desire to be at peace with countries now seen as adversaries. Take the United States and Iran, for example. The U. S. Secretary of State could publicly name the ways Americans respect the Iranian people and lift up Iranian contributions to world culture. This could be accompanied by a gift to the Iranian people of a Persian work of art in U. S. possession and an invitation to strengthen people-to-people exchange. In Stable Peace, sociologist Kenneth Boulding says, “The only guarantees of peace are compatible self-images.” Friendly reassuring overtures foster the hope that it is possible to work together for the well-being of both countries.

3. Train people at all levels of society in peace building skills. For the Poor People’s March on Washington in 1968, thousands of people took non-violence training. You would see mothers minding their children by the sandbox reading everything Gandhi had written. Mindfulness, the art of being present in the moment, breathing deeply and observing thoughts and feelings, is a key to inner peace. Folks in the Mindfulness in Education Network teach this skill to school kids. Peace training is happening in many places. It must be expanded. The Canadian dream is to have Peace Cafes or Community Centers for Teaching Peace in every major Canadian city. What if we encouraged the establishment of Peace Cafes around the world?

4. Build on common ground. Successful peace builders start by identifying common goals and concerns. Most nations are firm on wanting to alleviate poverty. This is a win for all. Negotiations between adversaries could begin with that common goal. Experience with an effective working partnership builds understanding to deal with more divisive issues.

5. Support and increase unarmed civilian peacekeepers. This was Gandhi’s strategy. He deployed teams of trained civilians called an Army of Peace to trouble spots around India where they quelled riots and taught peace. Groups like the Nonviolent Peaceforce now are having success rescuing child soldiers, protecting human rights workers, and averting violence. Local peacekeepers are doing similar work and have the advantage of knowing the local situation first-hand.

6. Create a comprehensive strategy to strengthen weak states and prevent them from failing. Key components are: poverty alleviation; democracy support; market access; peacekeeping and security reform; increased professional staff at the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development; partnerships with allies, international institutions and developing nations. These are recommendations from Susan Rice and Stewart Patrick who, at the Brookings Institution, created a tool to assess 141 developing countries on their performance of four core functions of statehood: providing security; maintaining legitimate political institutions; fostering equitable economic growth; and meeting their people’s human needs.

7. Establish new international agencies to deal with particularly troublesome situations. For example, experts could be convened to examine moral atrocities and then recommend international interventions. In High Noon: 20 Global Problems 20 Years to Solve Them, J. F. Rischard proposes what he calls Global Issues Networks, whose business, civil society and government members would come together to solve key international problems. They would define their issue, surface options, and then recommend and exert pressure for action.

8. Take the lead in destroying all nuclear hardware and putting into place intrusive inspections. Abolishing all nuclear weapons must be on the table for discussion. It is disturbing to see that foreign commentators call the United States a “rogue nation. Nuclear non-proliferation and multi-lateral disarmament make us all safer as a civilization.

Results We Can Expect: a stronger international commitment to make peace the norm rather than violence through using available tools to manage differences.

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