Explaining the ‘Culture of Peace’ Social Geography Project
The goal of the Social Geography Project is to collect stories and impacts of individuals and groups at a point in time (over a year) to have baseline data on which a commission could track progress toward a Culture of Peace. It would work in the same way as cities track homelessness, poverty levels and crime rates – showing in a concrete way whether we were making progress toward a culture of peace. In an ideal world, this commission would also provide a filter through which civic plans would be passed to determine the extent to which they met the six principles of Manifesto 2000.
17 years ago, some seventy-five million people worldwide signed a pledge to create a Culture of Peace for the children of the world caught up in wars, poverty and exploitation. Ten years later, inspired by Dr David Adams (formerly with the United Nations, who stated at a local conference that he believed Hamilton could be the first city in North America to develop a City Commission on Peace, supported by Civic leadership and city council. This inspiration was the impetus for the Social Geography Project to develop baseline data for such a commission. Sadly, the work has stalled for lack of funding but the concept is still alive. Below is its history and purpose.
The pledge, created by Nobel laureates, and supported by the United Nations Security Council, called for civil society to adopt six simple principles to promote this culture of peace: 1. Respect all Life. 2. Reject Violence. 3. Share with Others. 4. Listen to Understand. 5. Preserve the Planet. 6. Rediscover Solidarity.
Though these principles have not yet stopped wars or the exploitation of children, much change has taken place in society. An impressive collection of non-governmental and charitable organizations has developed. What we now call “civil society” has grown up in response to a world-wide recognition of human rights and the fundamental wrongs generated by cruelty and violence. The idea of peace is no longer jst associated with the absence of war or international conflict, but is understood to be relevant at the local community level. Peace on the streets, peace in the family, peace in the workplace, and keeping the peace, are all recognized as essentials in every community that wishes to provide a safe and nurturing environment.
If a culture is the way a community expresses its values, morals and ethics, a culture of peace is nurtured wherever people habitually try to strengthen or build peaceful relations. Here in Hamilton there are a great many groups and individuals that work to ensure human rights, and strive for policies that address human suffering like poverty, racism, homophobia, sexual abuse and other forms of violence. Though none who work in food security, in youth gyms, in community centres, in women’s shelters, in health promotion, or in environmental protection may see themselves as promoting peace, all of them are contributing to social health and therefore to a more peaceful culture. Of course, big budget institutions like schools, the police, the hospitals, and some businesses are also helping to create a culture of peace, even if they do not say so.
Currently, nobody knows the exact number of social profit groups there are in Hamilton, or about the work they are all doing. The Social Geography Project of the Hamilton Culture of Peace was seeking to find out. By using the six principles of the UN Culture of Peace, it was possible to classify the many ways such groups are making a difference in our community.
Below are some of the ways we might classify the work of various groups
The Six Principles of a Culture of Peace provide a useful map or framework for city governments to understand the broad categories and connections of the many groups that work for social harmony and justice within their local communities.
Respect All Life:
Human rights – International and Charter
Police, Courts and correctional services
Public boards of education
Universities and Colleges
Violence against women
John Howard Society,
Elizabeth Fry Society
Share with Others:
Providing safe public services – water, electricity, transportation, etc.
Food Banks etc.
Bursaries, Grants, Scholarships
Listen to Understand:
Non-violent Communication (NVC)
Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR)
Healing circles and circles of support
Preserve the Planet:
Alternate energy initiatives
Greenhouse gas reduction targets
Preserving green space (Vision 2020)