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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 19, Number 1, September 2006

World Peace Forum: Educating a generation to create a culture of peace

by Jane Turner

Forty-five hundred people came to Vancouver to participate in the World Peace Forum from June 23–28, 2006. From over 92 countries delegates attended workshops, discussed and debated peace initiatives and took part in the 13,000-strong peace march. At its closing, the WPF launched the Vancouver Appeal for Peace (to view the full document go to www.worldpeaceforum.ca).

The Vancouver Appeal for Peace calls upon civil society to raise its collective voice to:

  • build a just peace based on social justice, human and democratic rights, and economic equality.
  • educate our children and youth to cultivate a culture of peace.
  • recognize the needs and aspirations of all indigenous peoples.
  • respect the dignity of difference.
  • ensure the leading role of women and youth as peacemakers.
  • declare war as a crime against humanity and demand an end to war.
  • insist on the protection of the environment.
  • work to eliminate nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and terror.

Specifically, to achieve this, we call for:

  1. the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
  2. a negotiated settlement in Israel/Palestine within the framework of International law and UN resolutions.
  3. a commitment to address global warming and sustainable energy policies.
  4. implementation of UN Resolution 1325 to ensure the full and equal participation of women.
  5. the end of torture and the closure of the Guantanamo prison.
  6. governments to reduce military spending and invest in human needs.
  7. governments to constitutionally renounce war (e.g. Japan’s Article 9).
  8. a stronger role for the UN General Assembly.
  9. the UN to declare a special session and decade for disarmament.
  10. all states to negotiate verifiable and irreversible nuclear disarmament.

We commit ourselves to:

  • mobilize cities, communities, and citizens for peace (C4P).
  • promote a culture of peace and strengthen the human spirit through peace education, the arts, and the media.
  • build more effective networks and increase global capacities across divides, building co-operation and finding common ground, relying on the strength of our diversity.
  • ensure collaboration across generations.
  • support those who work on other social and sustainability issues that are ultimately related to a just peace.
  • learn from the past and insist on redress and reconciliation for past injustices.
  • realize the capacity of civil society to make and build peace.

We want a world without war—the world our children deserve.

Along with civil society in general, teachers were given a special role in fulfilling the promise of the Vancouver Appeal for Peace. We are challenged and charged with cultivating a culture of peace in our schools and for our students. Fortunately, the keynote speakers and workshop presenters at the International Peace Education conference held as part of the World Peace Forum provided some direction for us.

The keynote speakers at the education conference articulated the broad range of work that teachers can engage in under the rubric of peace education. Mary Gordon, the creator of the Roots of Empathy program, described the changes that occur when seven- to nine-year-olds are educated about the care and development of babies. A young student who had been shipped around to various foster homes after his parents abandoned him as a baby asked his teacher if she thought a child who had never been loved could be a good parent. Dr. Budd Hall from the University of Victoria exhorted everyone to do peace aerobics, where one leans to one side and listens, then leans to the other side and listens, then twist and turn and shake hands with those around you. Hall, who is a poet, knows that the serious problems facing our world need to be leavened with humour. However, Hall’s poetry contained spearing words that skewer the insanity of war. Nurit Peled, an Israeli educator encouraged the participants to keep a sharp eye for nationalist stereotypes about historic enemies that can pervade curriculum and textbooks. Dr. Michael Apple, from the University of Wisconsin, drew the link between peacemaking and the neo-liberal global agenda for privatization of public education. Keynote speakers, like Cora Weiss from The Hague Appeal for Peace set the challenge for delegates to engage in peace making by critiquing the actions of those in power and standing up and speaking out as members of civil society. "If we wait for the politicians to create peace, we’ll be waiting a long time", said Weiss as part of her keynote presentation.

That sentiment was echoed throughout the conference. It is up to us individually and collectively to stand up for peace, to demand peace and create a culture of peace in our schools. The delegates at the World Peace Forum have asked us to step up and help ensure a world without war becomes a reality for our students.

Jane Turner is an assistant director in the BCTF’s Professional and Social Issues Division.

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