“Peace4Culture” – A Global Call
“Protecting our cultural heritage by promoting a positive peace”
“Think not just what culture can do for peace, but also what peace can do for culture.”
“Peace4Culture”: positive peace and protected cultures
Protecting culture and historical-cultural places from the consequences of emergencies, wars and terrorism and achieve sustainable development are among the main global challenges. Wars, confrontations and conflicts have always represented a serious threat to the cultural heritage of humanity and had a devastating effect on culture and heritage, including through intentional destructions of significant markers of identity.
In a world of turmoil, uncertainty and constant strains the importance of capturing the positive impact of peace and peacefulness is clear to us all, and the urgencies for such positive impact grow with intensity each year. Once conflict subsides and new reconciliations are pursued, the inevitable and negative consequences of disruptive conflicts become apparent. Violent conflict between people brings threat and destruction to their heritage and identities, bringing sometimes unintended and long-term consequences, sowing the seeds for either continuing or permanent strains or a return to violence at some later time.
A positive peace is far more than the mere absence of violence and conflict. It is a way of being, a set of attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peacefulness in and between communities and societies. Similarly, positive culture is more than a description of characteristics and identities. It is a set of values, behaviours and attributes, as well as the physical manifestations in buildings and monuments that enable and promote human flourishing, reinforce collaborative compassion and peaceful co-existence. The destruction of physical infrastructure, of heritage, of buildings and artefacts, of institutions and communities yields irreplaceable loss to humanity and actions that are impossible to overturn.
25 years ago, at its General Conference, UNESCO introduced the concept of a ‘culture of peace,’ which is now used to refer to values, attitudes and behaviours that reflect and inspire social interaction and sharing, based on the principles of freedom, justice and democracy, all human rights, tolerance and solidarity. This powerful reminder of how we can be and are stronger together than separate has focused essentially on relationships between people of difference, between people with different identities and heritage, yet between people with common aspirations.
This “culture of peace” recognised the link between peace, development, and human rights and the term sought to highlight and tackle the root causes of conflicts through attention to culture, broadly defined, placing emphasis on the importance of dialogue, negotiation, and cooperation among individuals, groups, and nations. This challenge was taken up in 2008 with the initiation and establishment of the Baku Process – a collaboration between international organisations, governments and non-governmental agencies and scholars and practitioners. The Baku Process, through its World Forums for Intercultural Dialogue has set standards and agendas for the dialogue and intercultural cooperation understood to be so critical for peace.
Our understanding of peace has developed in the United Nations community from the absence of conflict to a more active positive peace. Looking at peace from this perspective demands a shift in focus from identifying and combating the causes of wars to understanding the factors that foster peace and inclusivity, and to understand the real obstacles to peace. To view a holistic perspective of peace, we explore the connections between and among culture, peace, security, and development. The significant report on “Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace” (2018) from UN Secretary-General Gutteres set out several of the challenges including the limitations inherent in the focus on merely preventing conflict. Preventing crises and addressing the root causes of conflict can reduce distrust, enmity, hostility and violence within and between communities, but alone it will not promote trust, cooperation, common bonds, harmony, and peace.
What is also needed is the promotion, measurement, and tracking of those factors that foster peacefulness in societies, what we call the positive elements, such as trust, harmony, cooperation, and social integration -all promoted actively within the Baku Process. We must also consider how positive peace helps to protect our cultural heritage.
Without the protection of our cultural heritage, and its physical forms of buildings, monuments, mosques, churches, synagogues and societal and international peace will remain fragile. Destruction of the cultural heritage constitute a gross violation of UNESCO standard setting instruments, such as the Hague Convention of 1954 for protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict, and its Two Protocols, as well as the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. More research is needed to show that communities can be less fearful and more likely to live peacefully with each other if they have strong roots in their histories and cultures. Cultural heritage need not threaten those of different traditions but can give confidence for cooperation.
Global communities understand well the role that culture, heritage and identity can bring to the building of peace and how each and all of these can bring positive influence around shared values and common interests. Therefore, based on its past successful experiences, Azerbaijan has launched a new international initiative #Peace4Culture Global Call in partnership with UN Alliance of Civilizations and ICESCO in June 2021.
The “Peace4Culture” Global Call will consider this challenge
Projects to be implemented within the global campaign: