A.N. Samarin


Culture of Peace and Social Conflicts





Soon after the end of the Cold War against a background of the initiated disintegration of the USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and complete disappearance of a number of states coalitions, within UNESCO and on the initiative of its Director-General Federico Mayor there is being worked out and later on is being developed the Culture of Peace Programme.[1]


During this meeting there was approved the Declaration made in Seville (1986) by 20 prominent scientists, which underlay a culture of peace, thus being a scientific proof that any war is based on cultural, not biological causes. The same species that has invented war can invent peace as well, - rightly assumed the authors of the Declaration. The Declaration of the Congress in Yamoussoukro called for the creation of a new vision of a culture of peace based on the universal values: life, freedom, law, solidarity, access expansion, human rights and equality between men and women".[2] Officially the Culture of Peace became the Programme of UNESCO activities in 1992.

With the loss of former existing balance of forces in the bipolar world the conflict processes on the international as well as the nation-state level have not disappeared but even began to aggravate resulting in a series of civil and local wars in places where they seemed to have been long forgotten. Moreover, disintegration of once great states and alliances with not long ago powerful armies became the breeding ground and incentive for separatist terrorism and, at the same time, for expansionism. The former limiting factor in the form of fear balance disappeared and there was found no adequately effective replacement. The signs of impending large battles turned up here and there. The rushing globalization which replaced the Cold War, destroyed, on the one hand, the former barriers, and, on the other hand, brought about new threats. International relations monocentric management with unlimited powers of a world policeman was fraught with the greatest dangers including the danger to the idea of a culture of peace. As the most recent international practice has shown, constellation of facts favourable for the peace ideology remained for a short time, and the subsequent onrush of the culture of war was on the contrary most severe and sweeping.

F. Mayor and his colleagues tried by mobilisation of ideological and cultural means to neutralize or to temper the growing wave of armed conflicts. Their original principle was simple and had already been once stated in the Charter of UNESCO. All wars begin in peoples minds. And there exactly must be found foundations for peace. The strong historic tradition, which considers wars an acceptable means to settle disputes, must be opposed by a non-violent ideological and psychological and value alternative. Since a whole complex of cultural aims fixed by institutions still serves the preparation to wars, it is necessary to transform society from this culture of war to its opposite which thus was called the culture of peace.[3].

The authors of the Programme realized that wars have not only intellectual or value premises, but their powerful socio-economic stimulants as well. Therefore the Culture of Peace calls not only for intellectual and moral transformation of people, but also for the reduction of economic differentiation levels, other social security measures, all this demands efforts and work not only from states, but also from individuals and social groups concerned. It was an attempt to prevent conflicts by eliminating their root causes, in order to solve problems by dialogue and mutual coordination - recalled later one of the leading developers of the Programme the objectives of the joint work on it.[4]

The formation of the global ethics with planetary perception is an essential aspect of this ideological and enlightenment research work. The UN and UNESCO documents on a culture of peace state that mankind needs a new global ethics. The lessons of the past indicate that without moral guidelines the science and politics may become a source of terrible human tragedies, - says about it Hance Kung, the president-founder of the organization Global Ethics.[5]

Experts in the Preamble found one of the vital premises to the UNESCO Charter (adopted in 1945). It states: Peace based solely on political and economic management of states will not be the peace that might ensure unanimous, long-term and sincere support of the people all over the world The peace must therefore be based, if we do not want to fail, on intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind.[6]

Further research has shown that there is no stable peace without respect for human and peoples dignity; there is no stable peace without freedom and democracy; there is no stable peace without justice and sustainable development. According to the Programme the main goal of a culture of peace is: to encourage the current and future generations to actively participate in creation of a more humane, fair, free and flourishing world without wars and violence. As it is aimed at instilling the idea of peace protection in peoples mind, for it is mainly addressed to the youth and their education in the direction of peace creation, tolerance and non-violence.[7]

A great importance in the formation of the Culture of Peace ideological potential acquired the world humanistic heritage (including tendencies of non-violent change of the world by L. Tolstoy, M. Gandhi, M. Luther King), and contemporary researches of conflicts, search for means of their settlement. A culture of peace, - remarked UNESCO Director-General F.Mayor, - is an alliance of scientific austerity and our determination to discover new ways for democracy, freedom and tolerance all over the world.

The alternative to the past on the value level is to promote space for socio-cultural and economic development of individuals, social groups and peoples, to extend their constructive cooperation, to boost total productivity. Under this context the consolidation of a culture of peace is understood as creation of peaceful, non-violent behavioural patterns aimed at organizing cooperation, harmonic interaction on individual and group level. The detailed interpretation of such patterns was strongly influenced by democratic ideas and ideals.

So, according to the Programme, peoples cultural and moral growth is impossible without the freedom to inform and stay informed. Free flow and receipt of information is a condition of an authentic image of reality free from narrowness and extreme ideology. In many cases it prevents military manipulation of minds. The information on cultural diversity of the world and instilment of respect for national and civilization peculiarities are most crucial. One of the top objectives of the mass media and education institutions is to transfer true information about the world, its problems and ways to solve them.

It is also necessary to pay attention to the fruitful change of scientific paradigms in the research of conflicts, which contributed to the development of a culture of peace. Among the initiators of this change are J.Galtung, J. Berton, L. Kozer. In former theories of conflicts the point was to aggravate conflicts (and to show the final victory of one of the confronting parties), but the current knowledge of conflicts (conflictology), now a more nature, profound and independent branch of science, underlines the role of integrative processes, puts in the forefront the ideal of constructive and non-violent settlement of disputes between the parties. In the same direction develops the Russian conception of conflicts (. V. Dmitriev, . I. Stepanov, E. R. Taghirov, L. I. Nikovskaya and others). Its development, in its turn, is incited by the values that have appeared within the Culture of Peace.

It views the world in two possible versions; the world in minimum negative sense is connected with absence of war as an international armed conflict. But there is a broader vision of the world, which includes elimination of any structural violence, within the national community as well. Implementation of a culture of peace implies a rise from the end of wars to the universal elimination of the widespread structural violence. It requires a humanistic recognition of rights and dignities of any person and maximum renunciation of violence, suppression and oppression as legitimate means of human interaction. Fight on violence deep rooted in the system is the most difficult task on the way to the ideal of non-violence.

In Russia structural violence goes hand in hand with liberal and reformative ideology and practice, and its destructive consequences will certainly surpass human victims of the communist era. Reformation in Russia from the position of liberal fundamentalism, as was earnestly brought out by a Nobel laureate, J.Stiglitz (Joseph E. Stiglitz), can lead only to economic collapse, and, consequently, to a great number of victims. Proponents of this ideology in this country consider it quite acceptable to rapidly compress population up to 60 million people, which means that over 80 million of our fellow citizens would die out. Liberalism of the kind is absolutely contrary to the values of democracy and tolerance. Intolerant elites that ignore vital interests of the majority are the main obstacle to a culture of peace, and not only in Russia.

A means to avert wars and violence might be mass involvement and participation of individuals in democratic declaration of will and in decision making which cannot be an exclusive privilege of elites, especially those that advocate destructive values. Segregation and discrimination of any social and ethnic groups (all the more, their genocide) may become a hotbed of not only tension, but severe armed conflicts as well. It is therefore necessary to provide a fairly equal access to the welfare and social opportunities, and in connection with this the realization of human solidarity must be formed. If such solidarity does not become widespread, the world will enter the era of most cruel militarism. The signs of a possible unfavourable turning point are already emerging, for it has become evident that basic natural resources are scarce and exhaustible, all this extremely exacerbates the fight to get them.



Unfortunately, the high ideal of the early 90s soon clashed with the reality. It turned out that too many social institutes and individuals in the head of them are oriented on opposite goals and practice.

The years that have passed since the declaration of the Culture of Peace as a programme of the most impressive and powerful international organizations were disappointing. These organizations have lost their prestige as well as real abilities to control and guide the world events. The culture of war pushed aside in the politics and mass media the noble ideals of peacemaking. As the peacemakers themselves unanimously write, the already scanty financing of their activity was cut down. And some, the most ardent supporters of the world expansion even suggested giving up peace programs and leaving a cult of non-violence and tolerance only as a gift to the conquered peoples. They do not hide the aim of this gift to anaesthetize the minds of the most active and resistive forces. Globalization weakens nation states, many of which are on the brink of collapse. They loose their ability to secure socially their population, and this triggers the growth of xenophobia, social tension which cannot but result in new conflicts. We are afraid that there again will be a great number of victims in the course of new wars before the ideas of the Culture of Peace are reconsidered and implemented in the right way.

The roots of the decay of the peacemaking ideas of the Culture of Peace Programme lie in dominant mechanisms of unscrupulous competition on the part of the world monopolies and oligopolies sustained by force. In such a situation respect for the rights of individuals and peoples is out of the question. In the competition like this, when unilateral use of force is allowed, people will not take seriously the ideas of tolerance and non-violence that in such circumstances are reduced to hypocritical rhetoric, which covers up predatory actions. This incongruity between good intentions and reality is more striking in Russia. We wouldnt like these intentions cover up contrary actions.

In this situation a unilateral acceptance of a culture of peace by peoples, victims of external expansion, without any reservations would sooner resemble a unilateral moral disarmament. In other words, morally it may be compared with the spirit of Munich of 1939, which, as is known, was a sheer encouragement of Nazi aggression. A culture of peace can be effective only when world leaders and countries possessing the most powerful military forces back it up. It will be firmly established as something real only when it becomes their voluntary self-restriction in the use of arms, otherwise it will be reduced to an abundant dose of futile public hypocrisy.

It is clear that we cannot wait when these countries or leaders deign to accept the idea of non-violence, but we must put as much pressure on them as possible by all means available and establish no confrontational methods to settle conflicts. Sooner or later the high ideals of Tolstoy, Gandhi, M. Luther King will triumph.



[1] The pioneer in the field and author of the notion culture of peace, much ahead of his time, was a scientist and priest Felipe MacGregor, who first published in Spanish in Peru (1986) a book titled Culture of Peace.//MacGregor F. Cultura de Paz/. The same year at the UNESCO conference in Seville there was announced much similar by implication Declaration on violence signed by 20 prominent scientists.

[2] Adams D. UNESCO and Culture of Peace. UN ,2004.//http://www.culture-of-peace.info/monograph/contents.html

[3] We thought an appropriate working definition of this notion was the one given by the Russian authors (Rats M.V., Kravchenko L.P., Rokityansky V.R., Stchedrovitsky L.P.) They formulate it like this: In general CP (i.e. Culture of Peace A.S.) is understood as a set of those norms, standards and patterns of interaction of subjects in conflict social situations that allow to settle the conflict without violence, or disparagement of any party, without infringement of their vital interests and human rights/ Rats M.V., Kravchenko L.P., Rokityansky V.R., Stchedrovitsky L.P. Concept and basic directions of Culture of Peace Programme in Russia.// www.geocities.com/anatoly_49447/Km3redR.htm/

[4] Adams D. UNESCO and Culture of Peace. UN, 2004.// http://www.culture-of-peace.info/monograph/contents.html

[5] Grigoryev E. Superlaundery of the Globalisaion Time .// NG, 2.11.1999;www.creation.crimea.com/text/114.htm

[6] Constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization.// Manual of the General Conference. Paris, UNESCO, 2002, p.7. ( http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0012/001255/125590e.pdf ).

[7][10] www3.unesco.org/iycp/uk/uk_sum_unescoactivities.htm

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