UNESCO and the International Year of Peace

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Unesco and the International Year of Peace

UNESCO'S activities during the International Year of Peace from part of a continuing effort which began forty years ago. The Preamble to Unesco's Constitution, adopted on 16 November 1945, pledges the Organization to advance, "through the educational and scientific and cultural relations of the peoples of the world, the objectives of international peace and of the common welfare of mankind for which the United Nations Organization was established", and states that "peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind".

Unesco's commitment to "international peace" and "the common welfare of mankind" is in a sense the keystone of all its work and permeates every one of its activities without exception, whether in education, science, culture or communication. Its approach to these issues is based on the conviction that they cannot be dissociated from the wider canvas of interrelated contemporary problems which must be tackled globally by the international community. More specifically, Unesco's efforts to achieve and preserve peace are today embodied in a wide range of programmes relating to intenational understanding, human rights and the rights of peoples, and to the elimination of prejudice, intolerance, racism and apartheid.

First of all, Unesco has sought to define the very meaning of the world peace. A resolution adopted at the 18th Session of Unesco's General Conference in 1974 stressed that peace "cannot consist solely in the absence of armed conflict but implies principally a process of development, justice and mutual respect among peoples designed to secure the building of an international society in which everyone can find his true place and enjoy his share of the world's intellectual and material resources".

Two years later, at its 19th Session, the General Conference went further, adopting a resolution on "The Role of Unesco in Generating a Climate of Public Opinion Conducive to the Halting of the Arms Race and the Transition to Disarmament". This resolution reflected the conviction that disarmament would make it possible to redistribute vast material and intellectual resources for social and economic development and help to prepare the ground for equitable political and economic relations between the countries of the world. In April 1978 Unesco organized an expert meeting on "The Obstacles to Disarmament and the Ways of Overcoming Them", as part of its preparations for the United Nations First Special Session on Disarmament held in the same year. Participants stressed that the purpose of disarmament education was to promote the goal of general and complete disarmament, and recommended the holding of a world congress to propose measures aimed at the establishment of specialized education in favour of disarmament.

This World Congress on Disarmament Education was duly organized by Unesco and held in June 1980, in Paris. Some 250 participants and observers from all ove the world attended. The Congress set forth a number of guidelines for an action plan to cover the Second Disarmament Decade of the United Nations, ending in 1989, and defined a series of principles relating to disarmament education as an essential component of peace education. Unesco was asked to produce a Teacher's Handbook on Disarmament Education designed for secondary schools. This book, now in preparation, gives a detailed presentation of the links between disarmament and development education.

Unesco followed up the World Congress on Disarmament Education by convening a series of expert meetings and training seminars for teachers devoted to practical questions of teaching about disarmament issues in their relationship with peace; strengthening international understanding and security; development; a new international economic order; respect for human rights and the rights of peoples. …