||Posted: Feb. 01 2012,12:08
CPNN is pleased to reprint with permission this account of the UN DPI briefing on the culture of peace by Alex Freedman of the Railroad Street Youth Project.
Railroad Street Youth Project brought a contingency of bright-eyed, big-hearted Youth to the UN’s first NGO/DPI briefing of the Year. And what could have been a more appropriate and more inspiring topic for a year of incredible transition and change than “The Culture of Peace.” An expert panel of speakers, including Ambassador Chowdry of Bangladesh, Dorothy Maver, Mike O’Malley of Soka Gokkai International (SGI), and Cora Weiss, each spoke briefly about their views and experiences with Peace – “waging peace”, struggling for peace, working to Build peace, amongst the entrenched and powerful monolithic structures of Violence and War. But most powerful was the crowd that the briefing and the topic itself pulled together: a room full of Future Peacekeepers. It was inspiring to see how many people from so many cultures, talking about Peace and Ending War. Everyone brought positivity, sincerity, compassion, and a sense of urgency. The space truly held the intention of creating peace – all of our personal differences seemed insignificant in the face of such a righteous and pressing Universal need.
The briefing immediately considered the most fundamental of questions: What is peace? There are many definitions, touching on the many different causes, sources, and results of war. One called war “Jealousy of the Old towards the New”, calling attention to the attitude towards Youth and their perspectives and ideas in conflict. Another acknowledged Peace as the recognition that “the Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts”, encouraging us to look away from egoism and towards collaboration and cooperation if we wish to build a peaceful society. But all of the perspectives on war and peace echoed the sentiment that Peace requires Non-Violent Conflict Resolution. Conflicts are inevitable – it is how we choose to resolve those conflicts that determines our ability to maintain Peace. Many called attention to the need to study the science of human relationships if we are to become effective peacemakers. Cora Wells said poignantly, “Peace is not the Absence of War: it is the Presence of Security, and Non-Violent Conflict Resolution.”
There was a general consensus that the societal systems we have in place are honed for a culture of Violence, and that civil society needs to speak out; we need to exercise our human right to Peace. But as Albert Einstein said, “No problem can be solved on the level that it was created” – so to effectively change the paradigm, we need a new approach. This brought us to a question of extreme importance to aspiring Peacebuilders: How do we Wage Peace?
The panelists discussed how a culture of peace requires an Infrastructure of peace: that would mean Ministries of Peace, Universities of Peace, PhDs in Peace (http://peace-ed-campaign.org/). Peace needs to be a part of our primary education – there need to be widespread efforts to teach for & about social justice, traditional and modern peace practices and strategies. Even small-scale, community efforts and programs can encourage a culture of peace, such as programs that give children to trade in their violent games and toys for non-violent ones. Youth Initiatives, such as WE day and Generation Waking Up, were spoken of highly by the panelists as signs of a new wave of Peacemakers gaining momentum and power, set on establishing the Culture of Peace.
Ambassador Chowdry voiced a perspective on Peace that the other panelists echoed: to find peace, we need to seek Peaceful Conflict resolution in our own personal lives; then, once we have individually found ways to live in peace, we can spread that knowledge into others, such as our friends and family. The message of peace is received based on our personal interactions. The foundation of peace is built inside of us, by our own personal efforts.
Furthermore, peace does not have to be an expense or a burden on the government: Cora Wells brought up the statistic that compared to every dollar spent on war, 2.5 times more jobs are created by every dollar spent on Education. By spending more on education, we can create an economy that depends on Peaceful, regenerative practices and organizations, rather than violent practices and businesses.
Many questions were asked of the panelists concerning the role of Youth in creating the culture of Peace, and the panelists unanimously felt that Youth are and will play a defining role in the development of world peace. There was a general feeling of welcoming and even appreciation towards all of the youth delegates and guests at the briefing, from the panelists and other NGO delegates. The air of excitement created by ambitious, driven, focused, and passionate Peacemakers, like the youth representatives from Railroad Street Youth Project, was infectious.
By the end of the briefing, almost every Youth member of the RSYP delegation had their hand raised to make a comment or ask a question. Although not everyone got a chance to speak, the work had been done – the culture of peace is on our minds and in our hearts, and we have a group of Peacebuilders committed to creating a Culture of Peace, starting with ourselves and in our community. It certainly won’t be the last time that Railroad Street Youth Project’s youth ambassadors come to the UN, the beating heart of the Culture of Peace Initiative, to contribute and exchange ideas, support, and strength