DEVELOPING A CULTURE OF PEACE IN CALGARY AND ALBERTA

 

We aspire to “fundamentally alter the way we think and do things … work to change behaviors, forge values and incite institutional transformations from the current culture of war and violence to a Culture of Peace and Non-violence.”  The United Nations Culture of Peace Program, to which Canada is a signatory.

 

Introduction

Massive forces are transforming the 21st century, driven by technology and innovation. Society will change.  Our task is to understand and redirect these forces toward a Culture of Peace and Non-violence.

Peace and the prevention of violence is everybody’s business.  Of course, there is an even higher duty on the part of our community leaders to set the example, provide vision, direction and support for the rest of the community.

The Mayors of Calgary and Edmonton recently became “Mayors For Peace”.  Mayors For Peace is an important group because of their contribution to worldwide efforts to abolish nuclear weapons, to inform the public about the dangers of nuclear weapons and to encourage the united nations and state governments to make nuclear abolition a priority.  Mayors For Peace also formally commit to pursuing lasting world peace by working to address the “problems that threaten peaceful coexistence”.

Peace starts at home – in our case, here in Calgary , here in Alberta , with each one of us.

 

What’s Happening?

In addition to the many local and provincial programs that have been growing for many years (for example, see http://www.peace.ca/albertapeaceeducation.htm ), there is a list of new events of significance currently taking place in Calgary and area which herald changing attitudes that we must significantly reduce the human cost of direct and indirect violence, at home and abroad.

These initiatives include:

·         New consortiums for peace studies at the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta in Edmonton ;

·         An Alberta Peace Education email listserver as a tool for communication, networking and information dissemination;

·         Annual Alberta Peace Education Conferences, linked to the Annual National Peace Education Conferences;

·         A major conference of the International Peace Research Association with as many as 1,000 or more researchers from around the world at the University of Calgary June 29 – July 3, 2006;

·         Annual YMCA Calgary and Edmonton Peace Medal Awards which are given out every year to honour achievements in peacework by individuals and groups in our local communities and world;

·         Annual Assemblies (since 1932) for peace and world understanding of Rotarians from Alberta and Montana at Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, including the development of a vision and plans for an International Peace Park Institute in Waterton.  Waterton-Glacier was the first International Peace Park in the World, and now is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

·         The home of Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace (“CCTP”).   CCTP’s peace website at www.peace.ca has been ranked number 1 by Google with over 50,000 visitors per month, and makes a foremost contribution to peace education in Canada and the world.

·         The home of the Canadian Culture of Peace Program (“CCOPP”).  CCOPP’s website at www.cultureofpeace.ca provides the most extensive information on the development of national culture of peace programs in the world.

·         The Alberta Social Forum has hosted annual conferences, most recently in Calgary February 25-27, 2005, with the theme “Another World is Possible: Another Alberta is Possible”.  (ref. www.albertasocialforum.ca )

·         An emerging new group in Calgary called Peace Leaders with a mission to promote the value of peace-building connections and respectful relationships with everyone … youth, cultural/religious organizations and business alike. (ref. www.peaceleaders.ca )

·         Many Albertans have written important books and articles about peace, including Douglas Roche ’s superb treatment of United Nations activity and resources including the culture of peace in "The Human Right to Peace". (ref. http://www.peace.ca/humanrighttopeace.htm )

·         Many Alberta youth have become active in peace, including several Peace Festivals.

 

The Cities of Calgary, Edmonton and the other Canadian Mayors For Peace pledging to help prevent violence at home and abroad leads the way in guiding Canadians in the creation of a safer world, for our children and future generations. 

 

What Needs to Happen?: The Education Challenge

As my friend retired Senator and active peace champion Douglas Roche has said, “Peace is hard work – it is very hard work”.  The way to war is a richly paved and traveled highway, while the path to peace lays ahead of us and is ‘starved’ of resources (information, human, financial and time). 

I was very happy, for example, for the University of Calgary ’s Centre for Military and Strategic Studies when they announced that the Arthur Child Foundation has donated over $1 million for a chair/program in defence economics and the Canadian Government has donated over $1 million for a program to research, teach and explore a military culture.  Now, wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone would create two new chairs at the University of Calgary for a program in Peace Economics and to research, teach and explore a Culture of Peace and Non-violence?  We must work on that.

“To Reach Peace, Teach Peace.”  We know that peace education is at the heart of building a Culture of Peace and Non-violence, at home and abroad.  Peace education simply defined is learning the attitudes, skills and behaviours to live together successfully.  It includes community neighbours and international neighbours.  In simple terms, raising our “Social Intelligence”:

Figure 1 - The Interconnectedness of a Culture of Peace and Social Education

Unfortunately, despite its importance, most Albertans (and Canadians) would admit that they are lacking in the knowledge to significantly reduce the human cost of direct and indirect violence, in our communities and world.  Transforming our education systems further along the path to a Culture of Peace and Non-violence, to encourage the learning and application of these skills, is admittedly a long term task.  There is natural resistance to change, no matter how worthwhile the cause, unless there is a shared urgency for action.  It requires engagement of all key stakeholders.  The first step is to provide the necessary information to all key stakeholders, and then host much dialogue.  Collaboration is essential.  This process is an excellent example of peacebuilding, and building social intelligence, in operation.

 

What Needs to Happen?: The Leadership Challenge

There is a sense of urgency in our discussions and actions.  Literally, there is a human cost if conflicts are not transformed successfully and peacefully.  In the post 9/11 world, we find ourselves in what some have called “a crisis” – facing terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and potential environmental disaster.  In our communities, we are also seeing intolerable and avoidable incidents of violence.  The Chinese symbol for crisis is a combination of danger and opportunity.  We need to make the best of it, and I see this and every “crisis” as part of the learning experience of Peace Education. 

Furthermore, most of our leaders (government, business, education, NGOs, religious, etc.) would admit that they are lacking in the knowledge to significantly reduce the human cost of direct and indirect violence, in our communities and world.  And most peace professionals would admit that they are lacking in knowledge about leadership skills, attitudes and behaviours.  This is a major gap that needs filling.  Again, an educational gap.

We have been giving this some serious thought at the Canadian Culture of Peace Program.  I have recently developed a presentation on “Leadership in The Transformation of The Peace Profession”.  (ref. www.cultureofpeace.ca )  It blends two contemporary leadership models: Servant Leadership and Situational Leadership.

We will need to address root causes of violence.  This will require systemic change. Because such deep, cultural change will test our character and friendships, we need some underlying guidelines.  In the development of the Canadian Culture of Peace Program, we have drafted a “Protocol To Guide Our Conversations and Relationships” at http://www.peace.ca/CCOPPprotocol.htm .  I believe that everyone who chooses to continue our journey together to build a better Alberta and world should read and will be assumed to agree with this Protocol unless we choose to refine it in light of the Alberta experience.  Suggestions are welcomed.

The good news is that this does not all depend on one or a few leaders.  We are all leaders and followers – hence there is shared leadership to build peace.  Also, we are all peace educators and co-learners; hence we need to understand leadership expectations and skills from all perspectives/roles.  Our audience includes government (political and bureaucrats, all jurisdictions); Alberta Culture of Peace Program participants; peace and non-violence organizations (and other NGOs); Education System “governors” (including Ministries and Boards of Education, Universities, Teachers’ Unions, Teachers); commerce (business, including media, and unions); and the general public.

If you want a picture of the “Alberta Culture of Peace Program Organization Structure”, do not think of a typical hierarchical, pyramid.  Instead, picture a web of interconnected organizations and individuals pulling for a common cause (similar to a spider’s web, but more like the Internet):

Figure 2 - Alberta Culture of Peace Program Organizational Structure = Stakeholders' Web or Network

You can read about the nature of Stakeholder Webs at www.cultureofpeace.ca .

As peace leaders, our mission is to lead the way to a Culture of Peace and Non-violence.  “Foresight is the ‘lead’ that the leader has.  Required is that one live a sort of schizoid life.  One is always at two levels of consciousness.  One is in the real world -- concerned, responsible, effective, value oriented.  One is also detached, riding above it, seeing today's events, and seeing oneself deeply involved in today's events, in the perspective of a long sweep of history and projected into the indefinite future. … Leadership by persuasion has the virtue of change by convincement rather than coercion.  Its advantages are obvious.”  Robert Greenleaf

The key to success is going to be goodwill on everyone’s part connected with a Calgary and Alberta Culture of Peace Program, otherwise the negative consequences can not be understated.  That places a burden on each Member to work towards consensus.

 

Recommendations

In no particular order:

n      reappropriate the word ‘leadership’ (it is a necessity to build peace)

n      give solid steps “What to do to build a Culture of Peace”; provide a ‘toolbox’; clear goals

n      train the trainer (teacher) workshops; give some ‘answers’ and how to find your own

n      find and grow ‘Champions’ (to provide leadership in key areas)

n      mentor those who wish to learn and act

n      engage the ‘perceived enemies’ (i.e. constructive engagement); listen to understand; dialogue (in fact, there are no ‘enemies’, only those where we lack a mutual understanding sufficient to become friends)

n      collaborate: how to unify the movement; prepare summary of what is going on

n      develop a Marketing Campaign, to ‘Sell’ Peace (reappropriate the word ‘Peace’, which has been given a bad reputation in some circles) (for example, http://www.cultureofpeace.ca/CCOPPmarketingstrategy.htm )

n      develop a base of social services, including a base of ‘wealth’ that people can rely on

n      infiltration tactics, but honestly, ethically and transparently (eg. informal curricula)

n      fill the peace education gaps (ref.         http://www.peace.ca/CCOPPpeaceeducation.htm )

n      proclaim the positives (eg. We are closer to a Culture of Peace); use an asset building approach predominantly (needs based approach to a lesser extent)

n      communication: non-violent and compassionate; cross-cultural communication learning to reduce the barriers to peaceful communication

n      conflict transformation education and resources (in every community)

n      encourage people working for peace (“actionists”)

n      encourage peace studies students to drive change in Universities, and research & development

n      adopt schools in your community and working within to see if awareness can change the thinking

n      Can we describe an ideal community that lives a Culture of Peace?  What are the benefits the people are enjoying?  How can we build such a community?

n      Peace resource centre (library of books, videos, etc., and people to talk to)

n      consider building a ‘Peace Learning Centre(s)’ (consider the model in Indianapolis ; consider ‘Peace Cafes’ in every community)

n      video lectures of peace ‘experts’ (eg. Roche, Laureates, Galtung, etc.)

n      convene a Governance/Leadership and Alberta Culture Of Peace Program (“ACOPP”) Workshop soon; to develop a workable (and continuously improving) leadership model for the ACOPP; consider the Canadian Peace Initiative Charter of Principles (ref. http://www.peace.ca/CPImission.htm at bottom)

n      address systemic problems, social and behavioural issues

n      increase public discourse about these vital things

n      initiate Chairs in Peace Studies at each University and College

n      initiate an Alberta Peace Education Foundation to formalize fundraising, with professional fundraising expertise

n      Help those organizations with peace goals to achieve their goals (eg. Service Clubs such as Rotary, Lions; Universities and Colleges; etc.)

n      Initiate an accountability mechanism to the public/others (measure results, monitor, report, redirect)

n      Don’t duplicate; utilize existing infrastructure/institutions as much as possible and ask them to fill gaps (if they don’t, then you do; no turf wars/empire building/ hegemony)

n      Share

n      Be the guide, catalyst and process

n      Other (to come)

 

What Needs to Happen?  The Personal Challenge

As a society, and as individuals, we will have to change with the times to achieve our full potential, that of future generations, and to avoid increasing real perils of violence.  We will have to “live on purpose”.  We will have “walk the talk” (particularly with respect to Peace).

The people who need the most peace education is peace educators.  Peace truly starts with you and me.

We need to work smarter not harder, expose current paradigms (their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats), cross pollinate new ideas and collaborations, develop new tools and language, craft a new narrative, infiltrate all institutions, everywhere, find opportunities for change, support communities of fans, recapture the spirit of the citizens and amateurs who are good citizens, levering our power of information and social capital for the common good, be entrepreneurial, developing sustainable action.  We must champion peace and all its elements.  I said, “Peace is very hard work.”  But, done properly, it is ultimately rewarding.

In the process, we will become better people.  Most importantly, our children and future generations will become better people.

But it will test us.  While none of us is perfect, continuous improvement in understanding, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration will be necessary.

The social and behavioral side of living together is about psychology and sociology.  That is why it is complicated – people’s minds are complicated.  It includes my psychology, and the psychology of those I am trying to influence.  But of those two, my psychology is the most important.  Hence the phrase, “Peace starts with me”.  As a leader, builder and educator, I have to get my act together.  Hence the other phrase, “The people who require the most peace education is Peace Educators.”

There is a real danger of frustration, burn-out and depression.  You are of lesser use if you are frustrated, burned-out, depressed or dead.  We must take good care of ourselves: acknowledge the perils, rid yourself of the toxins, deal with them, resolve/transform the internal conflict, see the greater good in the world, be optimistic.  Pessimists are people who burn their bridges before they get to them.  Pessimism can not bring about systemic change – only optimism can do that.

We must also realize that we are not in control or responsible for others.  They are.  They can do anything they put their minds to.  They can only help and serve others, voluntarily.  Everybody is an educator and leader, hence education and leadership is shared: it is not “all up to me”.  We can provide the right environment to ‘open space to open minds and hearts to peace’ (ref. www.peace.ca/ost.htm ) - this is very liberating for ‘peace passionates’.

We can be the patient gardener: cultivate ground, plant seeds, encourage growth, change environment.  We must do this with humility: be the humble servant – accept that I am not perfect, I do not know everything, I must be the first to learn, and many heads are better than one (collaboration). 

"God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that can be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish one from the other"  Reinhold Niebuhr

In the meantime, it is important for all of us to patiently support each other, and to celebrate peace champions who have stepped up to the ultimate challenge.  Peace champions are dearly important to us – we need every one we can get.  These people who have generously committed to “walk the talk”, and invest their personal time, efforts and money to build a peaceful coexistence.  This is not some abstract promise to them – it is the ultimate reality show.  And anyone can become a peace champion.  In fact, we must encourage everyone to become a peace champion. 

 

Conclusion

To the other Mayors and leaders in Canada (government, business, educational, philanthropical, Service Clubs, NGOs and other leaders), and to all citizens who have not yet made a sincere peace pledge, we challenge you to look in the mirror and ask yourselves, “Am I doing the best that I can to build a better world – a world with peace – for future generations everywhere?”

We can help each other do this.  It is in our power.  If not us, if we do not rise to meet the challenge, then who will build a better future – a future with peace?

We peacebuilders, leaders and educators in Calgary and area have the opportunity and responsibility to help the city and province meet its peace goals, and possibly become an innovative centre for peace education in the world.  Please help.

The preceding material has been based on the example of the Canadian Culture of Peace Program (ref. http://www.cultureofpeace.ca ). This is a work-in-progress, to be built upon by future dialogue among Calgarians and Albertans. 

 

“We need to adopt the mindset of most professional futurists and become systemic optimists - those who believe that life can get better, but only if we fundamentally alter the way we think and do things.  We need to embrace whole-system change.”  A better future is a future with peace.

Prepared by Robert Stewart, C.A., C.M.C.
Director, Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace http://www.peace.ca and
Director, Canadian Culture of Peace Program http://www.cultureofpeace.ca

October 20, 2005

mailto:stewartr[at]peace.ca