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Education for Peace Program


Meeting of Government Experts to Design a Draft Program of Education for Peace in the Hemisphere




28 September 1999
Original: Spanish


(Document submitted by the Permanent Mission of Colombia)


Issues to Be Considered in Building the Program

Bogotá, Colombia, September 1999


This document is the result of work carried out by a group of external consultants, experts in the field of peace studies, who were asked to contribute their valuable ideas regarding the three central themes proposed by the OAS for the Hemispheric Program of Education for Peace, namely: (1) Peaceful Settlement of Conflicts, (2) Promotion of Democratic Values and Practices, and (3) Promotion of Peace among States.

The suggestions made in this document are for possible consideration by persons attending the Meeting of Experts to Design a Draft Program of Education for Peace in the Hemisphere.
























During this century the peoples and nations of the world, and of the Hemisphere, have affirmed the highest ideals of peace and coexistence, respect for basic rights, and the hope of building a culture that rejects war and all forms of violence as instruments for resolving conflicts and defining political power and social, state, and national policy. However, at the close of the century, neither the world nor the American Hemisphere is free of violence. Wars between states, civil wars, and social conflicts that escalate into violence of different kinds still affect a number of nations and peoples. /

How is it that just when the world has made enormous technological progress and acquired greater global awareness of the importance of peace and respect for human dignity, wars and other forms of violence have such a devastating impact on the world? It is difficult to reach an entirely satisfactory answer, but peace has clearly not been taken on board in the construction of collective perceptions, in the ethos of nations, in the everyday customs of societies. Peace–left to the good intentions of individuals, of rulers, of the wielders of armed power, of those who wage war, and of those who create networks of violence or support them–is simply a pipe-dream. Peace has not become a reality because it has failed to shape social, political, and economic protagonists, both individual and collective, to assume the task of eradicating all forms of violence. It is clear that the political, economic, and social foundations have not been set for a new form of coexistence, that conflicts erupt amidst injustice and structural imbalances, and that institutions lack the wherewithal for addressing those conflicts peacefully. Progress in formulating political ideals of coexistence or in enacting constitutions and laws to safeguard life and human dignity is of little use if we lack actors with peace-oriented attitudes, habits, values, and skills.

Shaping social, economic, and political actors is a human undertaking that differs vastly from other fruits of human endeavor. Unlike the production of objects–which is finite, static, the result of external action on controlled matter–the shaping of actors is endless, dynamic, the result of self-creation, ever open to changing reality. The metaphor of pottery, which gives form through molding, with flexibility and creativity, reflects this process better than that of construction. The fact that actors are the product of self-training, self-creation, or self-building does not mean that no others are involved. The presence of others, in relationships woven of cooperation and conflict, is vitally necessary for the formation of social, political, and economic actors.

Since the individual is not shaped in isolation, the context to the formation of human beings must be found. The formation of social, political, and economic actors involves preexisting social, political, and economic structures that are reproduced and upheld in the process of “socialization.” Actors are shaped by patterns of society, political power, and economic relations. These are not mere ideals or abstract conceptions. They are working models that play a role in social relations. Like an artisan who reproduces a model with slight variations, the invisible hands of the collective artisan, and of each individual, create a prototype actor to express a society’s ideals and aspirations. This is the process of culture.

If war manages to overwhelm a society or relations between nations and states, if violence takes the place of social interaction, does that mean societies or nations or states are following the warrior and predator models? Not necessarily. But when war and violence are used to settle social conflicts, the reality is that force and aggression prevail over cooperation, solidarity, and respect for human dignity, even though these are still present in societies, nations, and states affected by violence. Clearly the prevalence of violence points, in one way or another, to a “failure” of the socialization processes aimed at peace and coexistence that were espoused by nations during this century--ideals more highly cherished after the terror of the world wars and other no less horrific conflicts.

This document’s reference point is the social and political reality of Colombia four months before the end of the 20th century. It asks what we, as persons responsible for education, can do in designing education-for-peace proposals, with particular emphasis on the nonviolent settlement of conflicts. While the point of reference is Colombia, we would like this document to help shape education for peace across the Hemisphere, so that the nations and states of the Americas may knit together to resist the temptation of war and violent confrontation when internal and external conflicts arise.


We should state what we mean by certain words. These definitions are not absolute. They are aimed not at settling any debate but at inviting further thought. For this Hemisphere-wide discussion, they must be formulated in accordance with each country's particular situation, inclinations, and identity. The language proposed here is intended to be both universal and specific.

• What do we mean by education, by peace, and by education for peace?

We use education to mean the global or overall process of shaping human beings as social, economic, and political actors with an existing scenario-- the social, economic, and political structures stemming from an ideal of humanity and from social and government policies. The process of shaping human beings that we call education assumes freedom and, consequently, the potential for transforming social reality, even in the form of disobedience toward structures of inequality or injustice. It also assumes limitations imposed by reality and by an existing framework of understandings. This interaction between the social and the individual, between the limits of reality and the dreams and imaginings that fuel transformations, is the cultural process.

Education thus conceived goes far beyond school work and formal learning systems. It includes social and political dynamics, economic activities, daily routines, interpersonal relations, family life, and work–in short, all the dimensions of human existence. In this way, society as a whole is seen as an educator.

The concept of peace has been evolving from a negative--the absence of war--to a positive. It now involves much more than halting hostilities or preventing them from emerging. Peace refers to structural conditions of justice and equity and the eradication of all forms of discrimination, oppression, and violence. /

Education for peace brings together the concepts of education and peace. It emphasizes opposition to all forms of violence (including symbolic violence and structures of exclusion); it sees the transformation of people as the scenario for its immediate action; it views the assimilation of values that favor life and respect for human dignity as the free and committed decision of each actor in the educational process; and it seeks to integrate concepts with attitudes, techniques, and skills for a peaceful coexistence where the nonviolent resolution of conflicts is at the core.

• Conflict and Violence

We have said that education is a process of self-creation in which human beings become social, economic, and political actor, at the individual or particular level as well as at the social or collective level. This process is forged in an interrelation between participants involving different interests, global views, characters, situations, and, above all, asymmetrical relations in the distribution of power, income, and wealth. Diversity gives rise to the potential for conflicts, which, in addition to being inevitable, are also a part of the structure of human life.

A negative view of conflicts sees them as harmful and contrary to peace. The ideal of peaceful coexistence would be a society free of conflicts. Such a view is naive and represents a moralistic approach to the emergence of conflicts. A different view, a positive and optimistic one, sees and treats conflicts as an opportunity for individuals and communities to grow. For that reason, peace is unattainable without conflicts. Peace stands in opposition not to conflicts, but rather to violence.

Violence is one way to address and settle disputes, although it is a precursor to every insurmountable conflict. Violent solutions beget new and escalating violence. However, conflicts do not always lead to violence; they can be settled nonviolently.

Just as conflict and violence do not necessarily go together, neither do violence and force. Violence is the extreme use of force, with the deliberate intent of inflicting pain or harm–bodily, psychological, emotional, economic, or cultural–on a person or group. Violence can be direct, immediately affecting the body and mind of human beings, or indirect, acting through structures that cause poverty or deny basic rights. If violence is always an extreme use of force, in contrast force is not always or inevitably violence. Force is an ability to affirm, a vital impetus for attaining goals. Moreover, countering violence requires the force of those who oppose injustice and the violation of human dignity. Resisting war and all forms of violence is an action of force on the part of human beings.

• Nonviolent Conflict Resolution

Nonviolent conflict resolution is one way to address competing interests. Resorting to war and other forms of violence as a way to settle disputes is always possible, though not unavoidable. The use of nonviolent conflict resolution is a sign of progress in a society’s political culture.

Means of nonviolent conflict resolution include negotiation, agreement, arbitration, conciliation, and judicial action. In all these undertakings, dialogue, mediation, brokership, and serving as witnesses and guarantors are fundamental mechanisms. Dialogue must be stressed a necessary prerequisite for the nonviolent resolution of conflicts. The background of the dialogue is much more important than the content of the conversation and the achievements reached, in that the experience of dialogue constitutes learning for peace. Dialogue as an exercise among parties is meaningless if it does not involve values and attitudes oriented toward peace.

It is therefore essential to base the dialogue for nonviolent conflict resolution on recognizing people’s worth, on recognizing the other party, whether singular or collective, male or female, as someone with dignity, who is worth something, who has rights, who deserves to be listened to, and who should be respected as a human being. Without this recognition of the other, resolving conflicts in a nonviolent fashion will not be possible. Violence essentially involves ignoring the dignity of others, treating them as disposable or nonessential objects or a bothersome presence that can be eliminated. The elimination of others takes place not only through the extreme form of violence that is death, but also through the exploitation of human beings, failing to acknowledge their rights, imposing silence, and ignoring their otherness and their right to be heard.

Dialogue for nonviolent conflict resolution also requires an attitude of learning. Nobody is born with the spontaneous ability to dialogue. We must learn how to dialogue, how to defuse hate and hostility, how to discern the right moment for dialogue and for compromise. We learn how to dialogue through dialogue itself, but prior preparation is necessary.


a. Defuse hate; teach forgiveness; work to bring about justice and eradicate impunity: The Hemisphere’s societies, particularly those that have gone through armed conflicts and interruptions of their democratic regimes, have experienced periods of violence and curtailed civil and political rights. Untying the knots of hatred and resentment and creating the subjective, social, and political conditions for forgiveness on foundations of truth and justice is of vital importance. Impunity in great offenses to human dignity and citizens’ rights of freedom and sovereignty constitutes a permanent threat to peace. All educational structures, including the school system, can and must contribute to training in principles of forgiveness and reconciliation and to ensuring that national societies have the capacity for truth and justice.

b. Strengthen local government programs that teach coexistence among citizens: If peace is a commitment of states and national societies, efforts made by local governments to forge new relations among citizens that do not rely on force and violence must be supported and strengthened. This refers to educational programs dealing with voluntary disarmament, restrictions on alcohol consumption together with proposals for education on that issue, programs for public safety with broad participation and an attitude of prevention and rehabilitation of criminals, practice dialogue and negotiation sessions between local authorities and communities for decision-making, etc.

c. Encourage social and political negotiation regarding major social conflicts: Social conflict caused by disparities in income and the distribution of wealth continues to be a cause for dissident social movements in the Hemisphere. Given the current situation–reduced availability of state funding; macroeconomic adjustments with the state having a smaller role in resolving social problems; conditions of poverty and exclusion that have still not been resolved in large parts of our countries–attaining formulas for agreement and social and political negotiation that avoid violent confrontations is of vital importance. Thus, the nonviolent resolution of social conflicts should make use of popular consultations, dialogue committees, consensus-building and conciliation, public debates, etc.

d. Promote an ethical reshaping of societies, based on acknowledging the diversity and experience of citizens: In the past, the Hemisphere’s societies based their moral principles on religious traditions, which were transmitted through experience within the family and at school, through social mores, and in the arena of religious expression. Today the institutions of socialization are undergoing a profound crisis and there is no ethical frame of reference claiming universality. Peaceful, respectful, and tolerant coexistence requires an ethical horizon, a scale of values that protects human life and human dignity. This value framework can and must be constructed on the basis of diversity. It is an ethical system in which everyone, regardless of their sex, with different perspectives of the world, different cultural traditions, and specific contexts and situations, can contribute toward identifying common values that we can affirm and uphold. The common fact that seems to identify us all is that we are citizens within a political community. Appealing to citizenship as a unifying concept for locating the ethical principles of coexistence helps consolidate the political vocations and identities of the Hemisphere’s peoples and nations.

e. Train people in positive approaches to conflict and in problem-solving: If in the past we have identified peace as the absence of conflicts, we must now understand that peace is built amidst conflicts and, as a result, society as a whole–together with the state, which is responsible for guiding and orienting it–is being called on to approach conflict as something inherent to the personal and collective lives of human beings. To this end, educational processes, in their widest sense, must make conflicts visible instead of hiding them, denying them, or channeling them in ways that keep them from being solved. It is never appropriate to leave conflicts without proposals for their resolution. Although conflicts are positive for social growth, they are not however desirable as a permanent and undefined situation. The creative search for solutions to conflicts is the best learning for future conflicts.

f. Establish special training programs for educators, other individuals responsible for shaping public opinion, and the local community: Peace does not arise spontaneously. The attitudes, values, and skills that peace requires, particularly conflict negotiation, come from learning. Teachers in the Hemisphere’s countries, together with other people with responsibilities in forming national societies and local communities (journalists, communicators, religious leaders, community leaders, etc.), often do not have the conceptual tools, attitudes, and skills to teach conflict resolution and the full scope of education for peace. Special programs must be created for those who perform these tasks and for inclusion in the curricula of those who are still receiving specific professional training (teacher training, media studies, journalism, etc.). In countries suffering from domestic armed conflicts this need is much more urgent and compelling, and it also involves other components, such as training in how to approach war victims, the psychological and emotional effects of violence on children and young people, as well as other problems.

g. Encourage public discussion of the high levels of television violence and of educational systems that replicate patterns of violence in the school environment: The impact of television programming on the lives of children and young people cannot be denied. The socialization of today's generations now largely takes place through the daily ritual of long hours of television and in cyberspace, which are now increasingly accessible to broad sectors of society. All these broadcasts make great riches available to children and youngsters, but they also transmit, without effective criticism, a model of humanity based on the use of violence. School systems sometimes copy patterns of violence or exclusion taken from societies: unjustified or disproportionate punishments, competition among students over and above solidarity, school programs modeled on military life (military academies for secondary-level pupils). Those of us who are responsible for constructing the education for peace agenda in national societies and across the Hemisphere must promote a public debate on these educational methods and on the avalanche of violent images transmitted by television and computer screens.

h. Establish within education systems a dual approach toward education for peace: across-the-board peace instruction combined with specific training: There are several options for institutionalizing the teaching of peace in the education system. One possibility is to make peace, and particularly conflict negotiation, a subject on the academic curriculum. Another is to incorporate peace instruction across the board, in all subjects, projects, and programs of the educational establishment: something akin to a curriculum that is present beyond explicit formulations and which therefore involves promoting behavioral habits, attitudes, techniques, and skills for coexistence, including conflict negotiation. We propose an effort to combine strategies: on the one hand, an effort to make peace the “content” about which knowledge is imparted–here irenology, research into conflict (and about specific conflicts), and theoretical and conceptual offerings are the order of the day; on the other, making peace and conflict negotiation (under different guises) take shape through skills and attitudes put into practice in every endeavor of the educational establishments–in this way, awareness of the content is enriched with the nonviolent conflict resolution implemented as a real practice within schools.

i. Promote training in cooperation, solidarity, and understanding in both interpersonal and international relations: While it is true that relations among states are conducted according to international law through diplomatic channels, peoples and nations are responsible for building and maintaining peace. Today’s armed conflicts are frequently internal, but the threat of international war must not be dismissed. The ethical foundations of societies could guide them in alleviating the causes and consequences of armed conflict, in ending wars and finding solutions. It would be useful to renew efforts to disseminate, within educational systems and to the press and the public, the Charters of the United Nations and the Organization of American States. It would also be useful to promote education for peace projects in border areas, designed by states and governments in common accord; encourage exchanges of teaching experiences in the specific field of education for peace; and work to build networks of teachers and other professionals active in this field. Confidence in international relations must rest both on the will of states to bring about peace and on goodwill and fraternity built upon national identities, particularly in border regions.

j. Promote, strengthen, and develop alternative justice systems for conflict resolution: The right to justice is highly cherished in modern societies. Citizens expect efficient, swift justice that respects the rights of the accused and determines appropriate punishments to redress harm and rehabilitate criminals. The justice system does not always meet this aspiration, however, and on occasion it deals with matters that could be resolved through conciliation mechanisms placed under the judicial umbrella. The rechanneling of judicial conflicts into alternative justice through mechanisms like conciliation requires a process of cultural transformation: discovering or rediscovering the sources of community authority and their conflict resolution methods, and imagining and creating authority among the citizens, with the state’s approval, for the peaceful resolution of conflicts in which there are no losers and where the basic principle is that of the agreement that benefits all parties.

k. Education for peace, and particularly for peaceful conflict resolution, requires cultural traditions that foster dialogue, understanding, solidarity, and cooperation: All the peoples of the Americas rely on age-old traditions of solidarity, mutual cooperation, neighborliness, and consensus-building to solve problems and, on occasion, to settle disputes. Their nations’ development does not depend solely on their ability to incorporate themselves into globalized markets, their technological reconversion, and their macroeconomic stability. Development also has to do with the growth of cultural identity. Thus, traditions that favor peace and harmonious coexistence must be reassessed and rediscovered in order to create a collective ethic that favors peace and nonviolent conflict resolution.


Adopting peaceful conflict resolution mechanisms involves a transformation of attitudes, values, and perspectives that is not always easy to assess or quantify. However, some assessment criteria can be formulated for high-profile programs and policies designed to train citizens in building peace.

There are particularly important indicators for states and governments. It is possible to measure how the incidence of violence is affected by voluntary disarmament policies and the limitation of alcohol sales to certain hours. We are talking about policies at the national and, particularly, local levels that require programs in training and communication. In addition to these policies are the coercive measures available to the public authorities regarding the carrying of weapons and the consumption of liquor and narcotics.

States and governments can also assess the effectiveness of educational programs on peaceful conflict resolution through mechanisms such as conciliation, justices of the peace, and other alternative judicial instruments, by determining the number of conflicts that reach those agencies and their impact on the formal justice system, and then qualitatively assessing the extent to which the conflict resolution mechanisms institutionalized by the state and society have been assimilated.

In the institutional life of the Hemisphere’s states and nations, one criterion for assessing education in the peaceful resolution of conflicts is the level and quality of dialogue, negotiation, and consensus-building vis-à-vis major social conflicts. The representatives of the state–of the executive in particular–as well as the representatives of different social sectors should be qualified for this. The creation of committees for dialogue, negotiation, and consensus-building, set up by mutual agreement and specifically designed to address given conflicts (land disputes, wage claims, conflicts over unmet basic needs, the quality and coverage of health or education systems, etc.), is a discernible criterion for assessment in this regard.

In the formal education system, assessment of programs for education in the peaceful resolution of conflicts can take place at several levels. The first is the system itself: Has the education system, both public and private, created a specific training plan for peace and, specifically, for conflict resolution, to train teachers in the necessary attitudes, values, techniques, and skills? Defining a special training program in this area largely determines the effectiveness of the proposal for education in nonviolent conflict resolution. Indeed, the commitment of educators to such training should be assessed in their performance evaluations.

The education system can use another important indicator. If training for peace in general and training for peaceful conflict resolution in particular do not achieve a discernible level of institutionalization in academic life, they will not be effective. In other words, the program must be incorporated in some way into the school’s activities: as an academic subject, as extracurricular instruction conducted within schools, as a special limited-duration campaign, etc. If this is not in evidence, the education system is not meeting the goal of educating for the nonviolent conflict resolution.

Part of education is what really happens at school. Here the assessment criterion must combine qualitative aspects that depend on the interpretations of teachers, parents, and students, but assessment can also be based on concrete achievements: the creation of rules for coexistence for peace and respect toward human dignity, the establishment of educational councils for resolving conflicts among students, bodies for dialogue and agreement-building involving teachers and students, the level by which violence among young people decreases (or increases), changes in the methods of teachers who promote violence and authoritarianism, etc.

For society as a whole and, in particular, for the academic world, the media, the press, and other sectors having major influence on public opinion (religious communities, social and political leaders, etc.), assessment criteria can be defined. A society progresses toward peace and toward a culture of peaceful conflict negotiation when it disavows war and violence and when the public messages of those responsible for leading social perceptions call for reconciliation, the elimination of hate, social justice, the eradication of all forms of violence, the struggle against impunity, and the search for all possible ways to settle conflicts without violence. Thus, public debate about violence on television and in other electronic media; discussions about educational models; thought, debate, and dissemination regarding civic ethics (that is, when concern for the ethics of coexistence is made a public matter): all these, and more, are indicators of the progress of societies and states on the path toward peace.

The international picture can also be assessed. The important issue here is cooperation between states and governments to create joint programs of education for peace, with particular emphasis on peaceful conflict resolution. These programs can incorporate many proposals: exchanges, study programs in border areas to promote peace and mutual trust among peoples, advisory services, academic events, comparative studies of public polices regarding education for peace, etc. If the states of the Hemisphere are not seen to cooperate on a real program of training for peace, and specifically for the peaceful resolution of conflicts, all ideals of coexistence lose their effectiveness and are reduced to isolated efforts that do not ensure the experience of peace for all the inhabitants of the Americas.




This contribution aims at suggesting a number of practical initiatives for the design of a Hemispheric Program of Education for Peace. Discussing and comparing different national experience will of course lead to their being fine-tuned and redefined so that, once restructured, they may attain the necessary level of consensus and viability.


Recently we have seen how efforts to restore and strengthen democracy in some nations of the Hemisphere were hampered not only by the precarious state of democratic institutions but also by a shortage of promoters of democracy, those who would defend, expand, and strengthen democracy (WILLS, 1999). Clearly this area requires urgent intervention if democracy is to be seen not as an alien, imposed objective but as the product of our own traditions, of a culture within which we live and act.

Thus, the formation and consolidation of promoters of democracy must take place within the domain of culture; that is, in the consolidation of an ethos that, as second nature, gives meaning to our actions. That meaning implicitly contains concepts and values, and it is expressed in habits and customs that are unquestioned because they express the common sense of a collectivity.

This ethos is a historical construct. It is the decanted product of collective experience in meeting challenges to survival, of adapting to a milieu, of overcoming adversity and building the optimal social organization. In this varied and unpredictable range of contingencies, societies learn by trial and error. But they also define the goals they will seek, the values that those common objectives enshrine, and the practices through which they will be made current within society and built into its permanent structure. This set of options defines the ethical profile of a people and enables us to speak of a people as such, not only of a haphazard collection of individuals.

This ethical consensus was not defined for all time on a single occasion in a mythical original time. On the contrary, it is a changing reality, subject to an ongoing plebiscite involving all the components of the community from their particular fields of endeavor and their individual interests. This deliberation is repeated in light of new challenges and during the ethical crises that tend to arise when the frame of reference, formed by ideas, values, and practices, is outmoded and moribund.

In recent decades, the order of the day has been the consolidation of democracy and the restructuring of coexistence against a backdrop of epoch change and a far-reaching process of globalization that requires us not only to open up to the world and establish a dialogue with other cultures, but also to redefine our internal relations and the relations between different components and external dynamics in constant, rapid movement.

Our peoples’ cultures possess valuable traditions of republicanism, solidarity, and patriotism, together with debatable attitudes regarding, inter alia, social and political matters. These elements must be taken into account since we are living in a time of ethical reformulation and redefinition of ideas, values, and collective practices, and this is a process in which we must progress with the best of our traditions, projecting them into the definition of a present that is viable through our assumption of contemporary changes and in function of the improvement and sustainability of our societies. The reshaped and redefined consensus will be the result again of wide-ranging deliberation, in which everyone is involved with their particular knowledge and expressing themselves through the means available to them.

In other words, it is not through the transfusion of supposedly universal values–regardless of how admirable they may appear or how fruitful they have been in other latitudes–that we will restructure our democratic ethics. We are not arguing for blindness toward the world and introspection regarding a past that should be more than an object of nostalgia and an unfinished identity. What we are suggesting is the appropriation by society as a whole of the traditions and new concepts and values that will allow it to survive and progress while remaining itself.

This means that a training program in democratic values and practices must be based on the consensus of all social agents and, in particular, of those who can influence the formation of opinions (civil and religious authorities, political and social leaders, academics and teachers in general, media workers, exponents of the arts). This consensus, which will always be temporary and up for discussion, must freely and spontaneously commit all these agents so that society’s construction has a shared orientation.

Creating the conditions for pluralistic and inclusive debate, stimulating it, and drawing the relevant conclusions from it must be one of the authorities’ goals, in the understanding that society itself must define the type of coexistence it deserves, the values on which it is to be based, and the quality of citizenship to which it aspires.


As stated before, this is an age of changing ideas and social ties. Not only do new technologies and changes in the flow of merchandise and data abound, but they all are transforming people’s sensitivities, changing their experiences of space and time, and modifying the way they perceive reality and interpersonal relations. Neither economic and technological changes nor the cultural mutations they cause are understood in their full nature or dimensions, preventing those who would define cultural policy from acting on sure foundations.

Current trends can point out the viability of policies as well as their limits and potential. In contrast, formulating policies without considering changing reality could mean doing so from the perspective of prejudice or groundless desires. The fact is that over the past two decades, radical modifications have taken place in rural affairs and the lot of country-dwellers, in the attitudes of young people toward education and work, in the role of women and family structures, in the use of leisure time and its relation to traditional forms of high culture, as well as in other areas.

In connection with this, it would be advisable to propose creating Observatories of Cultural Change in each country to analyze the current transformations and to identify their trends, the factors behind them, and their possible impact. The research methods and results could be shared and systematized across the hemisphere, thus providing an increasingly thorough understanding of the changes in perceptions and culture and ensuring better qualified elements for defining and negotiating the content of cultural policies.

That precisely is the first component of the project Culture for Democracy, now being carried out by Brazil’s Ministry of Culture and the Latin American Studies Center of Maryland with support from the IDB (Project TC-97-04-24-9-RG). This project’s first module involves research to draw up and analyze indicators of democratic culture within the Brazilian education system, mass media, and other noninstitutional arenas.

Similarly, support should be given to the proposal made by Néstor García Canclini (GARCIA CANCLINI, 1999) to create a Latin American Cultural Information System. As its proponent explains: “Its main function would be to gather together reliable statistics from all the region’s countries, recording developments and trends in cultural investments (state and private), in consumption (especially of cultural industries), and in intercultural perceptions (images of other countries in the region and of the Euro-American and North American spaces).” This system could also statistically monitor changes in tastes and preferences among the region’s inhabitants, particularly its young people.

These two proposals could provide the starting point for defining any policy for training in democratic values and practices: not just for officials in the state sector, but also for those in the private arena–the cultural industry, churches, or other areas–who would be involved in training promoters of democracy.


Democratic values and practices cannot be consolidated through a process of indoctrination, such as when efforts are made to take truth or civilization to people lost in error or barbarism. Having rejected the illuministic approach, democracy must be conceived of above all as a superior form of existence, as a feature of a higher quality of life. To that end, democratic practices must be generalized as proposals for improving life, as tools for better solving everyday life, and as mechanisms for building a more satisfactory coexistence. In other words, democracy will be strengthened among us when we all adopt the practical notion that life is better under democracy.

Consequently, in consolidating a culture of democracy, more emphasis must be placed on generalizing practices than on preaching values. Along with the extension of practices, and–perhaps more importantly–once they have proven their usefulness, groups and communities must reflect to discover and build, with the participants in those practices, the notions and values implicit in them.

We therefore propose three strategies for extending democratic practices:

A. Transforming Arenas in Which Authoritarianism and Exclusion Prevail

Certain arenas are often dominated by antidemocratic perceptions and practices; some are dedicated to education and training (schools and barracks), others are major forums for socialization (sporting groups, trade unions, religious communities, factories, workplaces), others are intended for reeducation (prisons, for example). In all these places democracy must be experienced as a lifestyle so that once it is an everyday reality, it can permeate into the mindsets of its practitioners.

In this regard, we can build a complex notion of democracy based on recognizing the autonomy of others, accepting their ability to decide for themselves, renouncing coercion through force or fear for carrying forward an idea or initiative, and the possibility of making decisions by appealing more to reason than to arguments of authority and of accepting compromises in order to reach agreements and consensus. A complex concept of democracy in which there is room for difference, be it on account of gender, because they think differently, because their lifestyle choices differ from the norm, or because they have different racial or social origins.

Everyday places in which we will have to learn to build public space and collective endeavors. This does not mean living in a state of permanent assembly or perpetual voting, but rather that through the experience, respect toward others as equals will be internalized as the essential value of everyday coexistence.

The democratic transformation of these milieus could take place through the deconstruction of antidemocratic practices and the identification of their protagonists (both active and passive), the interests behind them, the arguments used to justify them, and the effective measures that were required to turn them into habits or customs. This deconstruction should also specify the effects they have on others, on the type of coexistence involved, and on the quality of life in general. On the basis of this exercise of self-recognition and recognition of surroundings, the parties involved could propose alternative rules of behavior and a plan for transforming the milieu.

B. Encouraging Associative Practices

The strength of a democratic state depends on the solidity of the civil society reflected in it. At the same time, the solidity of civil society depends on how tightly woven its fabric of organizations and networks is. In an atomized and disorganized society, collective projects, public spaces, and democratic culture cannot be built. Contrary to what many people think, civil society is a necessary prerequisite for a democratic state with a high level of legitimacy.

On the contrary, totalitarian states invariably strive to wipe out the vitality of civil society, use terror to disperse the free associations it has generated, create controlled organizations that act as instruments for the dictates of power, and forge obeisant and servile leaders. In contrast, the correlate of a democratic state is a civil society with a high degree of autonomy, whose members freely and spontaneously associate regarding the issues about which they care the most. For their members, these associations provide schooling in democratic values and customs and serve as the crucible in which the leaders who reproduce and consolidate democracy are forged.

In a democracy, and in order to consolidate a democratic culture, both the state and private sectors must promote the strengthening of civil society by encouraging the fabric of organizations and networks that arise from the self-organization of people.

Hence, associations based on interests and the emergence of interest groups must be encouraged. Associations of young people dealing with hobbies, sports, and recreational activities must be promoted, together with initiatives of an economic nature. A policy of promoting democratic values and practices must also encourage the autonomous organization of women and the development of female leaders, with a view to securing equality between genders. A dynamic to strengthen social organizations, as the necessary vehicle for representing majority interests, must also be designed. But, above all, the formation of associations regarding matters of public interest, such as the environment and human rights, must be encouraged.

The incentives for organization can be varied, with the sole condition that they guarantee the autonomy of the associations created. Some French municipalities have experimented with a mechanism known as “AGIR,” which brings together all local civil associations and through which they participate in local development and receive municipal resources. Another way to strengthen the fabric of civil society organizations and networks is to provide training opportunities for association leaders and facilitators. To avoid giving an impression of political bias, this leader training should be conducted by organizations independent of the government, albeit with state support. The private sector, for example could support the creation of associations, particularly among young people, by providing assistance for activities carried out by their organizations.

One valuable incentive for associations could be a regular national prize awarded to the best initiative for a public cause carried out by young people. Excellence in this instance would be determined not only by the organization’s discourse, but also its internal democratic practices, its relations with its beneficiaries, and the quality of the impact sought. Such a contest could help promote widespread altruism, which is a prerequisite for politics to recover its nobility.

C. Praising Democratic Behavior and Criticizing Antidemocratic Actions

His conviction regarding the merits of teaching by example led the liberator Simón Bolívar to extend it into the school setting: “Morals are not imposed, nor is the imposer a teacher, nor should force be used in giving counsel . . . extraordinary acts of application, of honor, and of any other noble sentiment are not forgotten, but are rather commended to memory with esteem. To this end a register shall be kept, recording the most notable acts, the author thereof, and the day on which they were performed . . . the book shall be decorated and kept with veneration in a visible place.” On the highest national day, the glories and triumphs of the young people are to be read out, and eulogies and praise are to be given to those named in the honored book: a day of celebration and joy.

At the current time of ethical reshaping, the spirit of the proposal must be readdressed even if the suggested procedures are not viable. Instead, there are today better resources for praising notable democratic behavior and censuring antidemocratic acts. The power of the mass media facilitates both public recognition and moral sanction much more than was possible at the dawn of the republican regime.

n principle, both praise and censure should take place at the local level (school, neighborhood, municipality) to enjoy the effects of closeness and so that people are either motivated by the honored example or learn from the other person’s mistake. Of course, in this globalized age, some will argue that events in the antipodes are close to us. While true, however, this does not mean that the starting point in forming civic ethics is not direct experience within the home community.

This could be the procedure to ensure that intolerant or exclusive forms of behavior, particularly those carried out by groups or communities, are considered within our societies not only as censurable but also as the inadmissible acts of barbarism that they are.

Public discussion of individuals or actions recommended for praise or censure would give society an opportunity to express itself about these issues, develop its moral judgment, acquire ethical concepts, and achieve higher levels of dialogue, debate, and consensus-building.


Today, the legitimization of the relationships between culture and development and between culture and democracy is an established fact. Culture is at present a strategic field in the definition of any economic or political proposal. This reassessment of culture is taking place within a particular set of circumstances.

On account of new technologies and globalization, the production of cultural goods has become a genuine industry, subject to market requirements and models. The centers of the culture industry lie beyond national borders, without specific reference to one territory or cultural tradition; this gives rise to a particular form of public space. New technological resources have transformed languages, giving primacy to images over the written word and to narrative over argumentation, in a sequence that instead of being linear is like a montage of fleeting episodes reeled off in bursts. These changes, to speak only of those that seem most relevant, impact the relationships between states and the culture industry’s producers, between those producers and consumers, and between cultural output and political discourse and action; most of all, however, they affect the nature and possibilities of cultural policy.

Previously, cultural policy took place under the terms of the lettered city, as it has been called by Jesús Martín-Barbero (MARTÍN-BARBERO, 1999). By this he meant that it was exclusively restricted to literature, music, and the plastic arts, and to the framework of so-called high culture. The lettered city favored written texts as the channel for reflection and the vehicle for de-alienation. For the lettered city, the culture industry and the mass media might perhaps transmit high culture, but they neither create nor recreate it and their spaces are closed to reflection and freedom.

Nowadays, not only do the electronic media impose new languages; they also build new relations with consumers. Popular culture and traditions crossbreed and intermingle with universal languages and resources. Different arts are integrated in hypertext, which offers consumers different readings. Thus, new identities are created while traditional ones are resealed and modified.

Expectations to the contrary, new technologies allow local-level communication initiatives to develop, offering a vehicle for the interests and expectations of small communities. Such is the case with community radio and television stations, and this offers new possibilities for cultural and political work.

In this connection, we offer three general guidelines which could be fruitful if they inspire creativity:

Training in democratic practices and values must embrace new technological resources, their languages, and the new relationships with the users of those resources. Refusing to do so would not only deny us possibly enriching media through shortsightedness; it would above all pose a grave risk of rendering it incomprehensible to key sectors, such as young people. The aim is not to develop an instrumental assessment of those resources, but rather to learn to communicate within a new form of relationship that involves other languages, other discourses, and different attitudes.

In the policies they agree upon with producers from the culture industry, states should include clauses dealing with the promotion of democratic values and practices. The culture industry, particularly the producers of audiovisual and printed matter, requires protective margins to ensure both their viability and competitiveness at the global level. At the same time, guaranteeing a public space that takes national interests and national culture into account as a matter of sovereignty could be a legitimate state interest. With these overlapping interests, states can exchange protection for the promotion of democratic values and practices as essential aspects of our collective projects. Such agreements could incorporate democracy into the most widespread manifestations of contemporary culture. If, for example, the rationalists used operatic and symphonic music to express revolutionary sensitivity and the emancipatory aspirations of their contemporaries, today use must be made of information and the creative proposals offered by electronic media in order to attain similar results.

Regardless of the agreements proposed, the culture industry must adopt training in democratic values and practices as an aspect of its communications agenda and social commitment. And this commitment and agenda could well be served through consensus-building with other social institutions, such as institutes of higher education, schools in general, civic organizations, religious authorities, etc.

Those interested in training in democratic values and practices at the local level must be given access to the contemporary media, in accordance with their situations and possibilities, and so the state must facilitate access to community radio and television by those who have set themselves the task of building democratic culture. Facilitating access means not only creating an adequate regulatory framework, but also providing training opportunities so that community radio and television stations can develop properly.


While schools cannot be given the mission of guaranteeing the existence of democracy–that task belongs to other spheres of social life–creating optimal conditions among children and young people for their future enjoyment of full citizenship does seem to be a function of modern schools. The school is thus the seedbed where the first ideas of civics are learned, where moral education is furthered, and where early habits of democratic coexistence are engrained. In performing this function schools cannot be replaced, since they remain one of the first forums for socialization.

To enable schools to better perform this mission, educational discourse and educational practices must be deconstructed in order to determine the features that hinder training in democratic values and practices. There can be no doubt that the Hemisphere’s schools have made enormous progress in understanding the role of education in training citizens. It is highly possible that today’s teachers are much more aware of the possibilities and limitations of schools and of their own strong and weak points. Achieving those levels of awareness and commitment has been the work of intergovernmental agencies and international cooperation bodies and of officials at national ministries and departments responsible for education. The proposal is thus to further those developments and to consolidate them, in the conviction that educational efforts will never be superfluous in strengthening democracy.

In this regard the teacher training process would have to be reviewed so that after assuming the interrelation between moral education, training for democracy, social sciences, and, in general, school life as a whole, teachers can have the academic resources and knowledge necessary to educate future citizens. In a context of continued teacher training, it would be useful to encourage systematic exchanges of experiences regarding education in democratic values and practices, at either the local, regional, national, or international levels, and to provide communications mechanisms to ensure that the best experiences receive widespread dissemination.

With regard to students, schools must teach them to develop deep self-confidence through self-recognition and recognition of others. Confidence lies at the heart of autonomous behavior, reciprocity, and the civic community. At the same time, confidence in oneself and others is a prerequisite in these times of turbulence and of economic and cultural globalization. The development of confidence must therefore be integrated into the process of moral education and the curriculum as a whole. From the earliest age, awareness of those who are different and assessing them positively must be part of intellectual and moral growth. Exercises like excursions and exchanging letters, resources like film and literature, and subjects like history and geography are optimal ways in which to discover other ways of being and living.


The assessment of the program as a process and in terms of its results should make use of criteria like the following:

• Breadth and depth of a society's debate regarding democratic values and practices.

• Breadth and richness of consensus reached on what democratic values and practices should be promoted.

• Transformation of attitudes toward democracy and, in particular, the formation of democratic values and practices, by private and public actors participating in the debate.

• Specific agreements among private parties or between them and the public sector for developing joint initiatives to promote democratic values and practices.

• Provision of instruments for monitoring transformations in cultural opinions and trends.

• Institutions that have undertaken systematic efforts toward democratic transformation.

• Increased formation of associations, particularly among children and young people.

• Incorporating the strengthening of democracy through the promotion of democratic values and practices into the media’s agenda and institutional vision.

• Formulation of cultural policies that provide for training in democratic values and practices.

• Quality of the review of educational discourse and practice, in terms of the program, by country, region, and locality.

• Plans for reviewing teacher training.

• Regarding impact, regular assessments should be conducted of whether the population is developing greater civic behavior and whether society is exhibiting more of the traits of a civic community.





This document assumes, first of all, that conflicts among states are inevitable. Secondly, it is not very realistic to assume that war will disappear as an option in relations between states. Instead, it would be advisable to minimize the probability of that option being reached.

In order to properly focus educational tasks related to the promotion of peace among states, we should clarify the problem to which a solution is sought. The problem is, then, that of armed conflicts between states. It would therefore be useful to review what is currently known about the reasons for such conflicts.

In reality, reliable knowledge about the causes behind wars is scarce. However, in the absence thereof, we have to work with what is available, particularly information that is supported by solid empirical evidence. While not ignoring the psychological and biological factors that can contribute to the development of a war, the following is a selective recapitulation, with specific reference to the current context in the Americas, of the macro-level facts that seem to have a particular influence on the emergence of violent conflicts.

Wars between states are related to:

• Nationalistic rivalries or ethnocentrism, fueled by memories of previous hostilities and exacerbated by emotional messages in the mass media.

• Strategies launched by beleaguered politicians in an attempt to distract domestic public opinion through an international conflict.

• Arms races, in conjunction with deficient communications among states, leading simple defensive measures to be interpreted as acts of aggression.

• Intervention by rival foreign powers in internal conflicts.


Among the different ways of viewing the goal of educational processes is one, adopted in this document, that maintains that said processes are intended to strengthen and/or reorient adherence to basic values, cultivate attitudes aimed at resolving problems, strengthen and/or manage emotional reactions, develop certain skills, and expand knowledge. It should be stressed that educational processes contribute to the promotion of peace in many ways–some more remote, albeit no less important, and others more immediately. It is the latter that are emphasized below.

In light of the above factors that generate violent conflicts, it is important that educational processes support the following values and attitudes, teach people how to understand and manage the following emotional reactions, and cultivate the following skills and knowledge.

• Basic values: Respect for human rights, in particular the right to life, freedom, and equal treatment. High esteem for solidarity and justice.

• Attitudes aimed at solving problems: Support for international law (in all arenas of application), cultural diversity, the self-determination of peoples, and dialogue as the way to resolve disagreements. Respect for the opinions of others.

• Emotional reactions: Feelings of patriotism, nationalism, xenophobia. Fear of grave threats.

• Skills: For communicating, managing conflicts, and creating resolution alternatives for the conflicting interests.

• Knowledge: About the reasons for wars and their human cost; the importance people place on security and protecting their lives, honor, and property; the positive or negative role of the mass media in the origins of violent international conflicts; the ways in which political leaders manipulate the population’s feelings; and different instruments for intelligently resolving conflicts between states (diplomatic negotiation, brokership offered by third parties, international courts, etc.).

Finally, we believe one of the best ways to build confidence and, at the same time, to destroy stereotypes about the people of one state held by those of another is personal and informal contact between the two.


The initiatives that could arise to promote peace among states should include activities that take place both within classrooms and outside them; for example, in parent-teacher associations, extrascholastic groups, offices where education policy is decided, and certain international organizations.

The following are a number of recommended strategies for each case:

a. Educational establishments, at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels, could carry out activities such as:

• Within several subjects, encouraging awareness among students that conflicts, between individuals, groups, and states, are inevitable, and that they set the participants a challenge for maturing as people. In addition, opportunities must be provided in one or more courses for a systematic analysis of the nature of human conflicts, their causes and consequences, and nonviolent ways to overcome them.

• In conflicts between one’s own country and another, undertaking classroom activities (e.g., role playing) to assume the other side’s position and to understand the reasons behind the opposing point of view. Encouraging the identification of alternative solutions that are acceptable to the parties.

• Encouraging students to use the Internet, television, or other mass media to obtain information on specific aspects of other countries related to subjects studied in the classroom.

• Organizing visits by young people to neighboring countries to learn about their people, traditions, problems, and achievements.

• For problems that affect several states–environmental degradation, borderland conurbations, the drug trade, shared water resources, regional development in border areas, organized crime, etc.–promoting consideration in the classroom regarding the need for mutual assistance in resolving them.

• Universities should also support programs aimed at training specialists in the creative handling of international conflicts and encourage research into such conflicts in order to better understand them and how to overcome them.

b. Parent-teacher associations should:

• Take up the Education for Peace banner in order to cultivate among the coming generations, from the earliest possible age, a love of the basic values of life, liberty, equality, justice, and solidarity, and to encourage with their own example forms of behavior that typify them in everyday life.

c. Leaders of young people’s associations and other extrascholastic groups are invited to:

• Make use of the conflicts that arise between group members to stress the importance of understanding them and seeking out creative ways to overcome them.

d. Governments could, inter alia:

• Encourage social studies teachers to address, in a critical and documented fashion, current phenomena of growing interdependence: the reasons for wars and their human cost; the importance people place on security and protecting their lives, honor, and property; the positive or negative role of the mass media in the origins of violent conflicts; the ways in which the population’s feelings are manipulated; and different instruments for intelligently resolving conflicts between states (diplomatic negotiation, brokership offered by third parties, international courts, etc.).

• Create programs to enable organized groups of teachers and young people to visit other countries around the Hemisphere more frequently and more easily and attend academic meetings dealing with peace among states.

• Set up a system for financial assistance in each country so selected young people can attend forums, congresses, seminars, and similar events organized to facilitate meetings between the Hemisphere’s young people.

• Establish youth hostels where young people from other countries can stay briefly, at a manageable cost, while they visit the country.

• Organize training courses for educators and PTA leaders so they can successfully carry out the tasks described above.

• Require primary and secondary school curriculums to cover the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the basic principles of international humanitarian law, and the Charter of the Organization of American States. Invite teachers to encourage students to hold those documents’ ideals in high esteem.

e. The Organization of American States could undertake the following:

• Organizing an American Youth Parliament, similar to UNESCO’s World Children’s Parliament, comprising young people from all nations of the Hemisphere, to meet annually, for one week, in a different capital city, to propose, analyze, and offer specific recommendations for peace and hemispheric integration. The mass media should be motivated and encouraged to give wide-scale coverage to the event.

• Launching on the Internet a meeting place for the young people of the Americas, in order to create virtual communities that can chat freely or on specific topics, debate, play, exchange addresses and files, etc.



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