City Peace Commissions in Brazil and the US: A Comparison

. . DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION . .

By Helena Lourenço, Santos City Peace Commission (Brazil) and David Adams, City Peace Commission of New Haven, CT (USA)

As members of the City Peace Commisions in Santos, Brazil and New Haven, USA, speaking at the New Haven Public Library on December 15, we have found much in common.


Helena Lourenco (center), David Adams (right), and Aaron Goode (left, member of the City of New Haven Peace Commission)

For example, both commissionss are in favor of promoting restorative justice practices in schools and other institutions of their cities. In Santos, 80 teachers received training in restorative justice, while in New Haven the number is more than 200, of which 44 are already qualified to train other coaches. Although it is difficult to quantify the results, there is a general agreement in schools that have both cities as it has improved the atmosphere of trust and fairness as a result. In New Haven, a problem remains that teachers have no time in their heavy schedules to engage in restorative circles, while in Santos, these have been recognized practices as an integral part of the teacher’s work.

Both committees meet monthly and their membership includes both municipal officials and representatives of civil society organizations.

Other priorities of the Santos Peace Commission include: interreligious dialogue; gender equality, including respect for homosexuals and sexual orientation; environmental sustainability: and public safety. For the latter, the city police have a course proposed for their municipal police focused on mediation. In Brazil, city police (unlike state police and federal police) do not carry weapons.

Other priorities of the New Haven Peace Commission include: protecting undocumented immigrants; the development of a civilian review board for police practices; and converting the national budget priorities. For the latter, the Commission sponsored a referendum in which 85% of the city’s voters demanded that the national budget for social services be given priority rather than military expenditure.

The New Haven Peace Commission is older, having been established during the 1980s, while the Santos Commission is new, created in 2016 after six years of preparation, which is taking its first steps.

For the month of March, a forum is being discussed in Santos to discuss topics that are important for the development of the Commission.

One of the issues discussed was how to develop the exchange and ongoing relations between peace commissions of different cities around the world.

(Click here for a Portuguese version of this article)

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