The writing of the United Nations resolutions on a culture of peace was based on an analysis of the values, attitudes and behaviors that are necessary for a culture of war and violence. What are they?

    Audiences throughout the world have responded to the question by making their own lists of the characteristics of the culture of war. The lists differ in the terms used and in the order they are presented, but they have a remarkable consistency. Apparently, the culture of war and violence is present and recognized throughout the world. In the following table these results are presented in terms of eight characteristics, each expressed in several ways:

    Power based on force / Belief that violence works / Military training
    Enemy images/ Intolerance and prejudice against people who are different / Extreme patriotism / Religious intolerance (suspicion and fear)
    Authoritarian governance / Corruption / Obedience to orders from the top down (subservience and fear)
    Propaganda / Secrecy / Government control of media / Militaristic language / Censorship
    Armaments / Armies / War preparations / Military industry
    Disregard for human rights (people living in fear)
    Profiting from the exploitation of people and nature within and/or between countries (greed)
    Male domination and power / Patriarchy

    These audiences proposed alternatives to each of the eight points of the culture of war and together these alternatives provide a coherent vision of a culture of peace (see the table below).

    Belief in power that is based on forceEducation for a culture of peace
    Having an enemyTolerance, solidarity and international understanding
    Authoritarian governanceDemocratic participation
    Secrecy and propagandaFree flow of information
    Exploitation of peopleHuman rights
    Exploitation of natureSustainable development
    Male dominationEquality of women and men

    When the UN Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace was drafted by UNESCO in 1998 UN document document A/53/370, the eight characteristics of a culture of war were taken into consideration and alternatives proposed to each one. To quote the document, it provides a “conceptual framework” to address “the deep cultural roots of war and violence” and “the basis for a coherent strategy for a transformation to a culture of peace and non-violence.” To give one example, the document states “There has never been a war without an ‘enemy’, and to abolish war, we must transcend and supersede enemy images with understanding, tolerance and solidarity among all peoples and cultures.”

    The document proposed by UNESCO was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1999 (Resolution A/53/243) after they had stripped away any mention of the culture of war.

    If we keep in mind the analysis of the culture of war, now we can define a strategy for the transition from a culture of war and violence to a culture of peace and non-violence. If the culture of war is starved of the nutrients it needs, then it cannot continue. As the culture of peace grows, the culture of war can no longer survive. Without an enemy there can be no war. Without authoritarian governance, propaganda and secrecy, and the belief that power comes from force, the people will no longer accept to go to war. Without armaments it becomes more difficult to carry out wars.

    At the same time, peaceful alternatives are provided for the necessary functions now performed by the culture of war and violence, including governance, solidarity and economic and social development. The very concept of power is redefined as listening, dialogue, negotiation and cooperation instead of force.