Building a culture of peace for the advent of peaceful and inclusive societies: a collective approach for a sustainable world after COVID

by Nasser Yassine, AISA NGO International

The SIETAR SWITZERLAND 2020 Congress World Café focused on an issue related to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals: building a culture of peace for the advent of peaceful and inclusive societies. As Vincent Merk underlined during his presentation, we need to move from passive diversity to inclusion by nurturing a sense of community.

But in a globalized world where borders tend to fade through digitalization and global economy, what meaning can we give to community in the 21st century? 

Global warming, massive loss of biodiversity and social exclusion are global challenges facing humanity which call for a consciousness and a sense of belonging that transcend cultures, religions and nations. This is why AISA NGO International launched the initiative for an International Day of Living Together in Peace in 2014, which concluded with UN Resolution[i] A/RES/72/130, unanimously accepted by the 193 Member States on 8th December 2017. The International Observatory of Mayors on Living Together, which represents more than fifty cities around the world, welcomed the proclamation of this resolution and, at its second summit in Düsseldorf, pledged  to build more inclusive communities and cities[ii]. The aim of this resolution is to open a new door for all humanity and to consider what blueprint for society we want to achieve. Will we pursue our path of exclusion, everyone for themselves, excessive individualism and the destruction of our environment? Or will we understand that the 21st century is the time to connect all human beings to meet the global challenges ahead. If we are obliged to live together on Earth, we can choose how to live together. And more than ever, we need to live together in peace.

How then can we extricate ourselves from the culture of conflict and violence in which we are immersed daily, to move towards a culture of peace? 

If we consider that the culture of conflict and violence is fed by a pyramidal system, based on domination and exclusion, then the culture of peace is based on inclusion and the symbolism of the circle, where all points are at an equal distance from the center. This “reading grid” provides a new reading of the opposite point or perspective as complementary, permitting us to break free from a dualistic perception and move towards a unitive vision.

Cooperation within nature is a perfect illustration of this circular functioning. Long before our monetary economy existed, nature knew how to manage a harmonious economy, providing all beings with abundance for 4.5 billion years. Its secret lies in the circularity of all the organizational systems it creates. Let us look at the forest: trees grow, bear fruit and, in the autumn, lose their leaves. These leaves in turn nourish a whole chain of fungi, bacteria, and insects that will restore nutrients to the soil to again feed the trees through their roots and thus the loop is closed. Waste does not exist in nature. Each element has its place and each being has its role to play from the smallest bacteria to the largest mammals.  The human being, by contrast, in his desire for domination, has left this circularity to create linear and pyramidal systems of organization. One only has to look at our production systems and our workplaces to understand the waste of energy, time and money.

Are we able, today, to draw inspiration from nature and the common heritage of wisdoms in order to create circular systems of organization that rely on synergy as the basis of all relationships ? 

In his latest book, “The Invention of Yesterday”[iii], Tamim Ansary invites us to consider how human beings in history have always constructed identity as an exclusive “we”: “What we know as the history of the world is actually a socially constructed somebody-centric world historical narrative. There’s a Euro-centric one, an Islamo-centric one, a Sino-centric one, and many more. How many more depends on how many collections of people on Earth think of themselves as a “we” distinct from others. “Actually, this exclusive (and distinct from others) “we” is nothing more than an egocentric “I” on a collective scale.

So how do you move from an exclusive “I” culture to an inclusive “We ” culture ?     

No single community or nation can meet all of the global challenges on its own. We must therefore find a common ground, in order to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for the prosperity of all: eradicate poverty, fight global warming, develop an economy that is not predatory but fair, regenerate the biosphere, build peaceful and inclusive societies, initiate an inclusive global governance that respects diversity. These huge challenges confront us with our primary responsibility: to educate the next generations toward assuming global citizenship and reinforce an inclusive human identity. Promoting the vision of a single human family, united in its diversity, in the image of a body where each citizen, each community and each nation constitutes an indispensable member for the harmony of this body makes it possible to build an inclusive “we”.

In this sense, the culture of peace represents a unifying cement which overcomes partisan divisions through human and universal values ​​such as kindness, empathy and solidarity. These values, which are the basis of cooperation, enable us to “build the world of tomorrow with one another and not against each other”, as Cheikh Khaled Bentounes likes to remind in his plea[iv].

This is why AISA NGO International works to create an international dynamic for the introduction of education for a culture of peace[v] in school curricula, not as a subject in its own right, but as a transversal axis allowing school education to be linked to human values.  We will open our first public school based on an education for the culture of peace in 2022, in the city of Almere in the Netherlands.

If the 20th century made it possible to connect all human beings through the Internet, the 21st century will connect humans through their desire and their will to live together in peace. So, let’s connect to this creative energy that promotes listening, welcoming others, kindness, empathy, justice and respect for diversity in all its forms and at all levels of society. Only then will we be able to build a desirable and livable future for all living beings on planet Earth.

References

[i] UN General Assembly, Resolution for the International Day of Living Together in Peace, 8th December 2017, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N17/436/49/PDF/N1743649.pdf?OpenElement

[ii] Düsseldorf Declaration, 2nd International Mayors Summit on Living Together, 1st September 2019,

https://observatoirevivreensemble.org/sites/observatoirevivreensemble.org/files/dusseldorf_declaration_-_signed_0.pdf

[iii] Tamim Ansary, The invention of yesterday: A 50,000-Year History of Human Culture, Conflict, and Connection, New York: Public Affairs, 2019.

[iv] Cheikh Khaled Bentounes, A call to our brothers and sisters in humanity, 16th May 2020, https://fcfba7a3-9bfa-45a5-912b-2acd827eed2d.usrfiles.com/ugd/fcfba7_08aee848a0e6456ebe0d1b4652ecaa38.pdf

[v] AISA NGO International, Education in the culture of peace, 30th March 2019, https://16mai.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/culturedepaix_en.pdf

Photo credit : Sahila Elcarouchi, inauguration of the House for Peace in Almere, The Netherlands
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