||Background Information on the Global Themes
> Peace and Violence
Peace and Violence
"Bread in times of peace is better
then cake in times of war."
What is the
relationship between peace and human rights? Is peace a human
The massive violations of human rights during world war II and
the desire and need for peace were at the origin of the Council
A culture of human rights is a pre-condition to achieve a state
of peace in any country of the world. The right to peace belongs
to the third generation of human rights or so-called solidarity
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
(Unesco) is the leading institution that has been active in promoting
this right. Indeed, in 1994, Federico Mayor, the then Director-General
of Unesco, launched an international appeal for the establishment
of a right to peace. In 1997, a proposal for a declaration presenting
peace as a human right was submitted to the Unesco General Conference
. The proposal was rejected, but the right to peace is still on
the United Nations agenda. The Commission on Human Rights in early
2001 adopted a Resolution on the Promotion of the Right of Peoples
Do you think there should be a specific right to peace, or is
it part of existing human rights already?
Then what is peace?
The concept of peace has an important cultural dimension. Traditionally
in oriental cultures, peace has to do more with inner peace (peace
in our minds or hearts) while in the western world, peace is understood
to be outside the individuals (absence of war or violent conflict).
For example, in India the word peace is "shanti" and
implies a perfect order of the mind or peace of mind. Gandhi based
his philosophy and strategy on a concept called Ahimsa, which
means broadly to refrain from anything at all harmful. He said,
"literally speaking, Ahimsa means non-violence. But to me
it has a much higher, an infinitely higher meaning. It means that
you may not offend anybody; you may not harbour uncharitable thoughts,
even in connection with those who you consider your enemies. To
one who follows this doctrine, there are no enemies". In
the Maya tradition, peace refers to the concept of welfare; it
is linked to the idea of a perfect balance between the different
areas of our lives.
They are many definitions of peace. One of them that has had
a strong influence is the distinction that has been made between
positive and negative peace by Johan Galtung, an internationally
renowned Norwegian scholar and researcher in this field.
Negative peace means that there is no war, no violent
conflict between states or within states such as the wars in the
On the other hand, positive peace means no war or violent conflict
combined with a situation where there is equity, justice and development.
We could summarise these two concepts the following way:
no war = negative peace
no war + social justice/development = positive peace
A high level of social justice and a minimum level of violence
therefore characterise positive peace.
While some people think that all the problems have been fixed
when a war has stopped, in reality a great deal of work remains
to be done, namely, to rebuild the country and develop structures
that will lead to more social justice and development for all
the people living in the countries affected.
We can therefore say that peace is not only a matter of disarmament
but it also has to do with the way people live.
Who should be responsible for implementing strategies preventing
violence of any kind in your own community?
In May 1999, 10000 peace activists
of all ages met in The Hague in the Netherlands in pursuit
of new strategies for a peaceful twenty-first century. Participants
in the historic Hague Appeal conference included 1 500 young
people from one hundred different countries. At the end
of the conference, the Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice
for the 21st Century was presented to the United
Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan. It is now an official
United Nations document, with a 50-point plan for global
action by governments and civil society.
But can we talk
about peace without speaking of violence?
There are many definitions of violence, one of which is that
violence is the use of strength - overt or hidden - with the objective
of obtaining from an individual or a group something they do not
want to consent to freely.
There are different kinds of violence. We can distinguish between
direct and indirect (or structural) violence:
- Direct violence = physical violence
- Indirect or structural violence = poverty, exploitation,
social injustice, no democracy, etc.
Therefore, there is peace when there is no direct and no indirect
What is the cost of violence?
The third Tuesday of September each
International Day of Peace
In a situation of non-peace,
the parties involved in the conflict see their economic and social
rights being violated (economy of the country disrupted, black
market, loss of jobs or homes, etc.) as well
as their civil and political rights (the right to life is threatened, as well
as the right not to be tortured or the right to physical integrity,
etc.). The short- and long-term consequences of a violent conflict
in terms of human rights violations are devastating and leave
deep scars in societies.
Linking escalating intolerance and violence, the Education Pack gives a different view on these issues; see the text following "Differences between people are not valued as an asset, they more usually lead to suspicion or rejection" .
The statistics and information below illustrate the cost of
violence in human and monetary terms.
- In Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite the 1995 General Framework
Peace Agreements, between 850000 and 1.2 million people are
still displaced internally or living as refugees; around 17000
people are still reported as having disappeared.
- 800000 people died in three months during the 1994 war in
- The total number of people who died during the first world
war was 8538315
- In the 1990s, civil wars killed 5 million people worldwide.
- 500 million small arms are in circulation around the world.
- In the 1990s, wars and internal conflicts forced 50 million
people to flee from their homes.
- 800 deaths a month are due to anti-personnel mines (landmines).
- In 1995, 53 million people - one out of every 115 people
on earth - were uprooted from their homes, either being displaced
within their countries or becoming refugees abroad.
International Campaign to Ban Landmines is co-laureate of the
1997 Nobel Peace Prize. www.icbl.org
- Around 17 million people die every year from lack of medicine.
- About 24000 people die from the effects of hunger each day.
That is about one person every 3.5 seconds.
- More than 30000 children a day die from mainly preventable
Violence in general not only leaves physical scars but also
emotional scars on any person that has participated either directly
or indirectly in conflict situations such as wars or situations
of interpersonal violence such as family violence. These scars
can provoke long-term traumas that are not visible in people.
They are impossible to estimate in terms of monetary costs but
nevertheless have a high human cost.
Do you think that there should be rules limiting the levels of
violence in TV programmes?
|Priorities in Public
Spending(as % of GDP) 40
||Public Expenditure in
||Public Expenditure on
|| Military Expenditure
|The six major military
spenders in 200039 (in billions of US Dollars)
|Rank 2000 (1999)
of world military expenditure (%)
military spending and its alternatives.41
Total Chart = Total Annual World Military
Expenditure in 2001 (US$ 756 billion)
Amount Necessary to...
A) STABILIZE POPULATION
B) STOP DEFORESTATION
C) PREVENT GLOBAL WARMING
D) PREVENT ACID RAIN
E) PROVIDE HEALTH CARE
F) ELIMINATE STARVATION AND MALNOURISHMENT
G) STOP OZONE DEPLETION
H) PREVENT SOIL EROSION
I) PROVIDE CLEAN SAFE ENERGY
Renewable Energy: US$17 billion
Energy Efficiency: US$33 billion
J) ELIMINATE ILLITERACY
K) END DEVELOPING NATIONS' DEBTS
L) PROVIDE SHELTER
M) PROVIDE SAFE CLEAN WATER
International Day for the Elimination of Violence against
Many people are convinced that
human beings are naturally violent and that consequently we cannot
avoid wars, conflicts and general violence in our lives and our
societies. Other specialists in this field claim that we can avoid
thinking, feeling and acting violently. The Seville Statement
on Violence elaborated in 1986 by a group of scholars and scientists
from many countries, North and South, East and West, confirms
this by stating that:
- "It is scientifically incorrect to say that we have inherited
a tendency to make war from our animal ancestors.... Warfare
is a solely human phenomenon and does not occur in other animals....
- There are cultures that have not engaged in war for centuries
and there are cultures which have engaged in war frequently
at some times and not at others....
- It is scientifically incorrect to say that war or any other
violent behaviour is genetically programmed into our human nature....
- It is scientifically incorrect to say that humans have a
"violent brain"... how we act is shaped by how
we have been conditioned and socialised...".
Most of us are conditioned to react aggressively and violently
by our environments. We learn to think, feel and act aggressively
and in some cases violently. Wherever we live, we are submitted
to a social and cultural pressure that conditions us to read about
violence, watch violence, and hear about violence almost constantly.
Television programmes, advertisements, newspapers, video games
and the movie and music industries contribute largely to this
situation. Before reaching adolescence, a child has seen thousands
of murders and violent acts just by watching television. Our modern
societies, whether consciously or not, make an apology for violence.
Violence is seen as being of positive value. In most cultures,
saying no to violence and avoiding physical violence or confrontation
is perceived as a sign of weakness especially for men, who are
put under a lot of pressure by their peers from a very young age.
Do you agree with the statement that violence is never justified,
even against the most violent people?
Bullying is a form of interpersonal violence among young people
and illustrates how violence is used as a means to feeling more
powerful while damaging others. In a 2001 survey, almost half
of the students interviewed from a sample of Spanish secondary
school students admitted knowing cases of fellow students who
were being intimidated by fellow students.
Apart from bullying, there are many forms of interpersonal violence:
alcohol- and drug-related violence, gang violence, forced prostitution,
slavery, violence in schools, and violence related to racism are
all manifestations of interpersonal violence that affect our lives
or the lives of many others. Some of these forms of violence affect
young people more specifically - gang violence, school violence
and racist violence, for example.
Do you agree
with the belief that a "real man" should not be afraid
"Just as `wars begins in the minds of men', peace also begins in our minds.
The same species that invented war is capable of inventing peace.
The responsibility lies with each of us."
Seville Statement on Violence
Sexual abuse and sexual violence
against children or women (or even men), are widespread phenomena
in our societies. Most of the cases take place in homes and private
places and not on the streets, contrary to what is often believed.
The offenders are very often known by their victims, and they
abuse the trust and confidence they receive to commit their crimes.
Most of the victims do not report the crime that has been committed
or wait many years before they do. There are many reasons for
this, most of the time interrelated, and , linked to the situation,
the identity of the offender, the nature (duration and frequency)
of the abuse, the personality of the victim, etc.. It can happen
that the victim is too young and does not understand what is going
on until much later; and/or they need assistance and have no one
to trust; and/or they tell the story to someone who refuses to
believe them, which happens quite often especially in the case
of children; and/or they feel too ashamed, guilty and betrayed;
and/or they are threatened and manipulated by the offender. In
the majority of the cases, the offender is a family member.