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Prime Minister on the International year of the Culture of Peace - December 10, 1999

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 Address by Prime Minister, the Hon. Dr. Kenny D. Anthony

On the Occasion of the Official Launching Ceremony

of International Year for the Culture of Peace

Friday, December 10, 1999


Minister of Education, Human Resource Development, Youth & Sports; Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Members of the organizing committee of the National Commission for UNESCO, Madam Secretary General, Invited Guests.

We meet today for a double-purpose.  This double-purpose has significance for us as a people, and for the United Nations and UNESCO representative organisations of our civilization.

Firstly, today is International Human Rights Day.  On this occasion, people the world over, take time off to draw public attention to infringements of universal human rights and to acknowledge advances made in the continuing struggle for human rights .

Secondly, it is the day chosen by the National Commission for UNESCO to launch the International Year for the Culture of Peace, a year during which we will also usher in a new decade, a new century and a new millennium.  

As the old century wanes, its dark shadows loom over all the fresh hopes promised by a new century.  In sharp contrast to the early hopes which blossomed   after the Second World War, the global forecast is gloomy.  Economic progress has been achieved by some.  In other countries, there is widespread disenchantment as unemployment deepens and the gulf of inequalities widens.  The noise of civil strife between nations grows louder as ethnic groups engage in mortal combat.  Great wealth co-exists with terrible deprivation.  Citizens of the poorest nations have given up hope. The numbers of street children are growing with alarming rapidity throughout the inner cities of the so-called Third World.  Lawlessness, child abuse, gender violence and neglect of the elderly continue with little respite.


The mandate of the United Nations is "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war".  The United Nations has now recognized that this must be extended beyond the practice of merely engaging peacekeeping forces in areas and situations of conflict.  According to United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Anan, peace and security cannot simply be understood in military terms.  Human security, he insists:

" must encompass economic development, social justice, environmental protection, democratization, disarmament, and respect for human rights and the rule of law".


The United Nations has consequently invited the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), to collaborate with it in preparing an international programme to establish a culture of peace.

Ever since its creation at the end of the Second World War, UNESCO has taken as its mission the principle of a culture of peace.  Its constitution states that:

"Since war begins in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed".

The concept of a culture of peace first emerged during the "International Congress on Peace in the Minds of Men" held in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast in 1989.  In its final declaration, the Congress recommended that UNESCO should:

"help construct a new vision of peace by developing a "peace culture" based on the universal values of respect for life, liberty, justice, solidarity, tolerance, human rights and equality between men and women".

The term "peace culture" was inspired by the 1986 educational initiative "cultura de paz" in Peru, and by the Seville Statement on Violence, elaborated in 1986 by scientists from around the world.  These scientists proclaim that war is not determined by genes, violent brains, human nature or instincts.  Rather, it is a social invention.  Therefore, "the same species that invented war is capable of inventing peace".

In recognition of the importance of the UNESCO experience, the 52nd United Nations General Assembly in 1997 proclaimed the Year 2000 as the "International Year for the Culture of Peace". Further, the 53rd United Nations General Assembly in 1998, proclaimed the decade 2001-2010 as the "International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World".  The theme selected for the Year for the Culture of Peace is "Peace is in our Hands".


The culture of peace is meant to become a global movement.  It urges the transition from a culture of war, of violence, of oppression and of discrimination, to a culture of peace, of non-violence, of dialogue, of tolerance and solidarity.  It has been defined by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/53/243 of 13th  September, 1999 as:

" a set of values, attitudes, traditions and modes of behaviour and ways of life based on:

(a)     Respect for life, the end of violence and promotion and practice of non-violence through education, dialogue and co-operation;

(b)     Full respect for the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of states and non-intervention in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law;

(c)     Full respect for and promotion of all human rights and fundamental freedoms;

(d)     Commitment to peaceful settlement of conflicts;

(e)     Efforts to meet the developmental needs of present and future generations;

(f)       Respect for and promotion of the right to development;  

(g)     Respect for and promotion of equal rights of, and opportunities for women and men;

(h)     Respect for and the promotion of the right of everyone to freedom of expression, opinion and information;

(i)       Adherence to the principles of freedom, justice, democracy, tolerance, solidarity, cooperation, pluralism, cultural diversity, dialogue and understanding at all levels of society and among nations.

  In short, the culture of peace seeks to establish a sound foundation for a just, democratic and progressive society.


The vision and action envisaged by the culture of peace certainly poses a challenge for Civil Society at all levels.  How can we change and remould attitudes and behaviour, which increasingly accept violence as the norm?  How can peace become our culture of life? 


In St. Lucia, over the past decade or so, we have witnessed the frightening descent of this society into a reckless disregard for the rule of law, increasing intolerance and disrespect of one another, of each other's opinions, of each other's rights, and the discarding of our civil responsibilities.  This trend has led to increased and unpunished incidents of violence at all levels of society, in homes, in schools, and in communities.  Minor incidents which in the past were settled amicably, today flare up into raging conflicts.  The love and respect we once demonstrated towards the elderly is fast becoming a faded memory.  In our houses and on our streets, we are bombarded with the mind-numbing, much too loud sounds of stereo music. In many neighborhoods, cutlass wielding individuals openly terrorise the old and the young.                                                                                                                            


Some may argue that St. Lucian society has not degenerated into the kind of civil strife which has been the daily expenditure of some countries in Africa and Europe.  Absence of war, however, is no guarantee of peace.  In our societies, the attacks are mounted, not in the form of war tanks or other traditional military equipment, but in the guise of injustice, intolerance, violent settlement of disputes, illiteracy, poverty, ignorance and environmental degradation. 

There are no easy solutions to these daunting challenges which confront us on the threshold of a new millennium.  Nevertheless, the International Year for the Culture of Peace provides us with the unique opportunity to reconstruct the broken fragments of our dreams for peace, for a better world, for a secure and prosperous St. Lucia for our children and ourselves.  It is a time for quiet reflection, for consultation, for collaboration to develop strategies which will lay the groundwork for re-inventing this society.  We must seize the occasion of a new century to redesign this society and recommit ourselves to the principles of peace and non-violence.


In the new millennium, this Government looks forward to advancing a moral agenda which emphasizes:

1.      Self-respect and respect for the person and rights of all others.

2.      Education for life through all its ages and stages.

3.      Reform and strengthening of the justice system.

4.      Economic empowerment

5.      Spiritual, moral and traditional values that remain foundational to good, harmonious and peaceful human relationships.

Education has a fundamental role to play in achieving the ideals of peace, social justice and liberty.  While education has traditionally been perceived in St. Lucia as the formal transfer of knowledge and skills in an institutionalized setting, we believe that education, in order to better serve our nation, must be extended to encompass what the UNESCO International Commission on Education for the Twenty-First Century describes as the four fundamental pillars, namely:  "Learning to know, learning to do, learning to be, and learning to live together".

Education is about the development of the human potential, to reduce ignorance, exclusion and intolerance.  It is a principal means of attaining personal development and building relationships between individuals, groups and nations.  In an increasingly interdependent and complex world, it helps to foster greater understanding and peaceful interchange between peoples.  Democracy cannot do without education.


The central target of the National Programme to observe the International Year for the Culture of Peace, focuses, quite rightly, on education.  We cannot take peace for granted.  We need to learn it.  We need to understand it.  We need to believe in it.  Otherwise, we cannot practice it. 

  In constructing a society of tolerance and respect, of civic-minded citizens, the community and the media are indispensable assets.  Our media need to produce and support the broadcasting of more programmes that enlighten citizens about their rights AND their responsibilities, that promote family values, that teach them of their history and culture, that fosters critical and analytical thinking and encourages creativity and appreciation for other points of view.


A civilized and democratic society cannot be one in which justice does not prevail.  A culture of peace cannot be meaningful where there is no recourse to justice.  Likewise, if justice is dispensed unfairly, peach cannot endure.  The social fabric of any society is threatened where there is fear and distrust of a nation's police force or legal system.  Citizens must be made to feel that they can enter police stations without fear of reprisal and be treated civilly.  It is for such reasons that this government seeks to ensure that the institutions which enforce our laws and secure our stability and integrity are reinvigorated, and that good governance, transparency and integrity are restored.  These are essential elements for making this country a just, safe and better place in which to live.


If peace is to prevail, then we must continue our search for economic justice and empowerment.  Economic empowerment is about our capacity to take responsibility for our own lives and the attainment of our personal goals.  The satisfaction of these goals is a critical factor in the search for a more just and equitable world.  For a culture of peace to take root in St. Lucia, it must be accompanied by an attack on poverty and ignorance. 


We hope to establish the beginning of a better St. Lucian society. I have already announced that I shall be calling our nation to social renewal in the coming months.  Peace and an atmosphere of peaceful relations can only come when we examine and renew those areas of our lives and communities that stand in need of urgent repair.   We must not be afraid to confront our social inheritance, our social values and institutions.


We applaud the Organizing Committee and the National Commission for UNESCO for their efforts in designing concrete proposals which will include the entire St. Lucian community in making peace our culture of life.  I wish to appeal to everyone gathered here to make a special commitment to peace and to the pledges of the Manifesto 2000 drafted by the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, to respect life, reject violence, share, listen, preserve the planet and rediscover solidarity.  The responsibilities of maintaining a culture of peace are onerous, but the challenges of a culture of violence are disastrous.

  It is therefore my distinct pleasure, not only to wish you a Happy Human Rights Day as we share the concerns of those still deprived of their fundamental human rights, but also to declare open today, St Lucia's observance of the International year for the Culture of Peace.  I leave you with this simple conclusion:  Peace can only be in our hands if it exists in our hearts and minds.

  I thank you.



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