Do Lofty UN Resolutions Build Peace?

begin quotePeacebuilders need to roll up their sleeves to engage actively in ordinary politics to put these principles into action.

The following post was written by Kroc School Distinguished Professor Necla Tschirgi.

On October 5, I participated at the 6th Annual Dialogue on the Culture of Peace and Non-Violence at Soka University of America. It was timed to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the landmark United Nations Declaration on a Culture of Peace as well as the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi—the great disciple of non-violence. It was no coincidence that Distinguished Visiting Scholar Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury of Bangladesh served as the chair and facilitator for the Dialogue. Former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations, Ambassador Chowdhury is considered one of the main authors of both the Culture of Peace Declaration and the UN Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security which followed a year later.

The UN’s Culture of Peace Declaration and Program of Action involves commitment to a “set of values, attitudes, modes of behavior and ways of life that reject violence and prevent conflicts by tackling their root causes to solve problems through dialogue and negotiation among individuals groups and nations.” In other words, the concept has two inter-related dimensions: rejection of violence and prevention of violent conflicts by addressing their root causes.  Women are at the heart of the Culture of Peace both as indispensable actors in peacebuilding and as the direct targets of much violence that plagues our world today. Indeed, the UN Security Council recognized this in adopting its Resolution 1325 on 31 October 2000. The groundbreaking Resolution 1325 focuses specifically on the impact of war on women and women’s full and equal participation in conflict resolution, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and post-conflict reconstruction. The Resolution also calls for special measures to protect women and girls from conflict-related sexual violence and outlined gender-related responsibilities of the United Nations in different areas. Thus, Resolution 1325 is a natural extension of the Culture of Peace.

Distinguished Professor Necla Tschirgi and fellow panelists at Soka University.

Twenty years on, it is fair to ask to what extent these lofty UN statements have contributed to peace and non-violence. Naturally, a full answer to that question requires empirical analysis of the actual implementation of these commitments on the ground. However, I would argue that the Culture of Peace Declaration, Resolution 1325 and other UN resolutions such as the Sustainable Development Goals have a crucial role in creating a more peaceful and prosperous world. These resolutions are not simply lofty aspirations. They reflect an evolving global consensus among UN Member States and “We the People” about what binds us together as the human family. They are universal in nature and provide the moral as well as political foundations upon which decisions are made and actions are taken by governments, civil society organizations, non-governmental entities, the private sector and many other actors in the international system. 

Thus, they are indispensable tools for those of us who want to change the world for the better. Moreover, they are cumulative in nature and help create the future edifice for global governance brick by brick as a result of the difficult work of translating universal values into concrete action plans. Everything I know about peacebuilding leads me to the firm belief that transformative change happens when values are repeatedly put to the test through hard-won political action at the local, national and international levels. Peacebuilding is not simply the pursuit of high principles including non-violence, social justice, human security and universal human rights. Peacebuilders need to roll up their sleeves to engage actively in ordinary politics to put these principles into action. Whether at the UN or national capitals or at city hall, peacebuilding requires all of our efforts if we are to translate universal norms into practical realities.

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Kevin Dobyns
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