New Zealand – Operation Peace Through Unity (OPTU)
Accredited NGO in association with the UN Department of Public Information
The 1999 United Nations Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace (A/RES/53/243) makes it emphatically clear that “a key role in the promotion of a culture of peace belongs to parents, teachers, politicians, journalists, religious bodies and groups, intellectuals, those engaged in scientific, philosophical and creative and artistic activities, health and humanitarian workers, social workers, managers at various levels as well as to non-governmental organizations”.
It also urges that the United Nations, it’s Member States, and ‘We, the Peoples of the United Nations’ work together towards this end.
The Declaration has energized and inspired the increasingly powerful groups in the UK, Canada, USA, Australia, Nigeria, Costa Rica and many other countries belonging to the Global Peace Alliance, who are lobbying their governments for the establishing of ministries or departments of peace.
Among achievements can be mentioned the bill, which is presently before the US House of Representatives, hoping (with public pressure) to make it into law; the Solomon Islands that already has a Minister for Peace; and Nepal which has just established a Ministry for Peace and Reconstruction.
Although our goal is ultimately the same as these other campaigns, the New Zealand proposal has chosen a slightly different approach:
We would like to think that such a ministry would signify the beginning of a new type of governance, i.e. a full, open and dynamically interactive working relationship and partnership between peoples and government, the result of which would be a type of democracy that will leave no one out, and for which we are all mutually responsible;
Moreover, we suggest that this ministry be called a Ministry for a Culture of Peace. Although a longer name, it will keep reminding us that for peace to have any meaning it will need to become a strong and vibrant culture, demonstrated in the way we all live and relate to each other.
In May 2006 Peace through Unity (OPTU) tabled a paper for a panel discussion on this subject, organized by the UNANZ Wellington branch, which contained some background information on the ministry for peace initiative, and also a 5-point proposal for a NZ Ministry for a Culture of Peace. The text of these points is based on the UN Declaration and Plan of Action on a Culture of Peace.
We hope that these five points will serve as a basic structure, a skeleton so to speak, on which – through comprehensive community consultation and contribution – the whole body of this new organism can begin to be shaped. There is increasing agreement worldwide that it is the peoples of the world, who will need to breathe life and real meaning into the concept of democracy – becoming its heart and soul.
A small committee is emerging, currently consisting of OPTU, UNANZ branch members, teachers and Youth representatives, who are in the process of arranging consultations within schools and community groups in the Wanganui region and beyond. We warmly invite you and your group to participate in this consultation process and hope you will consider using the 5-point proposal as a basis for your thoughts, comments and suggestions as to how you think such an effective and comprehensive working relationship could come about. The outcome: a mutually agreed proposal for a NZ Ministry for a Culture of Peace to be presented to the Government of New Zealand.
OPTU’s five-point Proposal
The primary aim of a New Zealand Ministry for a Culture of Peace would be to act as an instrument for the building of a culture of peace in accordance with the guidelines of the UN Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, through:
- Identifying root-causes of conflict, disharmony and hostility within and between peoples, cultures and nations;
- Actively promoting the employment of conflict-resolution, mediation, negotiation and other peacebuilding/peacemaking skills, and encouraging that these skills become common practice;
- Acting as a focal point for comprehensive, consistent and constructive cooperation and consultation between government (and its various departments) and interest groups within the various parts of society (education, health, environment, industry, unions, science, arts, culture, laws, media, police, military, volunteers, local government etc.) ensuring that the legislative process of formulating any specific law takes into account the effect it may have on the community in its entirety;
- Forming working partnerships with international institutions and co-workers for the building of a culture of peace worldwide;
- Keeping the government and the general public aware of the UN resolutions which our Government has committed itself and us all to implement.
Some relevant quotes:
“The secret of success in all group action lies in complete unity of purpose and intention, plus diversity of expression and method” (DK)
“We are in the midst of a fundamental shift that will impact new governance. It recognizes the rise of the ‘third sector’ – civil society – and that it has a certain economic value” To make the most of this breakthrough opportunity civil society will need to meet three challenges, which are: Consciousness – Conscientiousness – Competence. (Lester Salamon, Director, Centre for Civil Society Studies, John Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies)
- A democratic system is not enough. We need to learn to live with each other, “horizontal democracy is as important as vertical democracy” (B.H. Levy, French philosopher)
Democracy: “government of the people, by the people, for the people” (Abraham Lincoln)
We hope very much that you will consider participating in this process of consultation on the possibility of establishing a future Ministry for a Culture of Peace, and would welcome the opportunity to discuss this proposal with you at your convenience.