Fostering a New Culture for Living: The International Day of Peace

InternationalThe International Day of Peace was first established in 1981 by the 36th session of the United Nations General Assembly, as an effort to promote a “specific time to concentrate the efforts of the United Nations and its member states, as well as of the whole of mankind, to promoting the ideals of peace and to giving positive evidence of their commitment to peace in all viable ways.” Ambassador Emilia Castro de Barish from Costa Rica initiated the original resolution for consideration, but a prominent organization known as Pathways to Peace also played a major role in its passage, through its nascent efforts to promote the Culture of Peace Initiative. Since 1982, it has been observed annually on the 21st of September by numerous countries, political affiliates, military organizations, and cultural groups. Through the guiding efforts of both Costa Rica and Great Britain, a second resolution passed in 2001 called for a global ceasefire and day of non-violence to be held on the day of peace. Traditionally, this yearly commemoration of amity is also considered to be the inauguration day of a new UN General Assembly, which normally meets from September until December.


Photo credit: pasma / / CC BY-NC

Originally postulated as an idea for worldwide peacebuilding toward the end of World War II (1945), Pathways to Peace (PTP) first sponsored and systematized research projects in 1962 and emerged as a worldwide consulting service in 1970. In essence a worldwide educational and peace creating association, it eventually incorporated in 1983 as a non-partisan organization, and assumed its status as a primary consultative service to the United Nations in 1987. Since then, the overall objective of PTP has been to foster communication and cooperation between existing nations and organizations, as a means of lessening tension in specific areas of the world and gradually implanting a developing sense of peace. According to the philosophy advocated by PTP, peace is an evolutionary process that comes gradually through the dynamic nurturing of amity-seeking values, often referred to as a “culture of peace.” The organization works on the local and global level in sponsoring this initiative, often times through collaboration with other organizations. PTP is a regular participant in conferences held at the United Nations, where it addresses the ideals and methodology of peacebuilding.

Springing from the ideals of PTP and its founder, Avon Mattison, the Culture of Peace Initiative came into existence in 1983. Greatly affected by the destruction evident in the aftermath of World War II, Mattison has always espoused the diplomatic ideals of what she has called “wishful thinking,” or the perpetual and repeated redetermination that peace is much more than just ending a war – requiring a whole new frame of reference in acumen. She realized that once you are successful in ending one war, another springs into existence three, five, or ten years later. “We must change the culture itself that started the war. We have to make war obsolete. It must be incomprehensible that we ever tried to solve our problems in this way,” she says. To supplant the cycle of death and destruction that entails war, she envisions a society that repeatedly embraces the ideals of progress and peace. “You can’t end war by being involved in war. You have to transcend that and go to another level and create a culture of peace, based on the idea of, as Albert Schweitzer said it so well, ‘a reverence for life.’” In the early 1960s, Mattison became a member of a group that worked feverishly for the establishment of the day of peace – in the process forging a friendship with Robert Muller, the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations who also won the UNESCO Peace Education Prize in 1989. They worked together along with other dedicated individuals until the “idea reached its critical mass,” says Mattison. Pathways to Peace, the International Day of Peace, and the Culture of Peace Initiative are the results of the friendship forged between Muller and Mattison – and their tireless efforts as proponents of world peace, which also include the establishment of the University for Peace in Costa Rica.

The Culture of Peace Initiative (CPI), as established in 1983, is a United Nations sponsored effort to unite the assets of organizations throughout the world that are struggling to bring peace to practical reality. Another intention of CPI is to highlight the behind-the-scenes work of those “unseen and unheard” people that are dedicated to a culture of peace, while also demonstrating what people around the world can do to promote the International Day of Peace one step at a time. In describing and explaining CPI, the website offers the following explanation for making peace a reality in the 21st century:

■ A local-global PeaceBuilding Initiative uniting our strengths along diverse pathways to realize a Culture of Peace for All. CPI highlights inter-generational and inter-cultural PeaceBuilders who are revealing the emerging Culture of Peace.

■ A dynamic global community platform of shared learning, co-creation, inspired action and thoughtful assessment related to the emerging vital force of PeaceBuilding.

 ■ Where the many pathways of human endeavor such as business, education, environment come together to better understand each other and share activities in a way that enables deeper connections and wider systemic awareness.

 ■ Where individuals, businesses, other organizations, and networks can come together to use the PeaceBuilding compass to navigate through these turbulent times. We are at a crossroads that calls out for the best in each one of us, individually and collectively. Our purpose is to enable creativity and collaboration for finding working solutions to the toughest challenges of our times.

Timorese Celebrate International Day of Peace

Timorese Celebrate the Day of Peace
Photo credit: United Nations Photo / / CC BY-NC-ND

We live in a world that is too often dominated by a culture of death and annihilation, in which closed-minded ideologies often seem to be on the increase, undermining the ability of one culture to reach out to another in tolerant acceptance of apparent differences. At a time when mass communication has achieved the unprecedented ability to grant instantaneous worldwide contact with billions of people, global challenges and pressures too frequently sabotage social cohesion and the human capacity to reach out in understanding to one another. The Culture of Peace Initiative seeks to foster a deeper sense of the commonalities that bind us together as human beings, while also teaching the obligation to respect the contrasts amongst the diversity of cultures in the world. The mutual understanding that can stem from these efforts would include a lessening of terroristic activity in the world, since a great deal of the motivation for transnational violence comes from the very things CPI hopes to prevent preemptively. This website supports such proactive thinking strongly, but also urges you to sign the petition that you can access by clicking on the link below.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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Recording Terror: The Global Terrorism Database (GTD)

Data Bank   Do you ever have the need to research terrorist activities of the past, or want information on patterns in terrorism for any given year between 1970 and 2011? If so, look no further than the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), which includes organized data on approximately 104,000 incidents of international, transnational, and domestic terror that have taken place worldwide – with the additional intention of annual updates that will be included in the future. For each incident entered in the database, the date, geographic location, weapons involved, nature of the target, and number of casualties is recorded impeccably by an online system that can be accessed by anyone who visits the website. Additionally, those responsible for the violence – whether they are an individual, terrorist cell or political entity – are included with the information that is easily available.

Twenty Top Ranking Countries in terms of Total Terrorist Attacks and Fatalities, 1970 to 2007

Twenty Top Ranking Countries in terms of Total Terrorist Attacks and Fatalities, 1970 to 2007

The origins of GTD can be traced back to the Pinkerton Global Intelligence Services (PGIS), which trained retired Air Force personnel from 1970 until 1997 to glean through wire reports, international newspapers, and governmental information for the purpose of gauging the threat of terrorism to the clients they served around the world. As a result of the 911 attacks on the United States, researchers from the University of Maryland obtained the database – and with funding provided by the National Institute of Justice they managed to digitize the information by very late 2005. A great deal of information for the year 1993 was lost in a corporate move by Pinkerton and has never been retrieved, leaving a gap in the data for that period of time. In April of 2006, the Department of Homeland Security provided funding that allowed for extending the record of terroristic events to the year 2007, but this additional information is notably different in the sense that the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS) utilized analysts that sifted through already documented cases of terrorism, rather than the real-time, day-by-day recording of events that had occurred through Pinkerton. CETIS also applied a new definition of terrorism to this research that had not been in place prior to 2001. GTD now includes information on over 104,000 terrorist attacks up through 2011, with incidents reported since 2007 coming in the original real-time, day-by-day tradition of Pinkerton.

The Institute for the Study of Violent Groups (ISVG), located at the University of New Haven, collected data on terrorism that took place between April of 2008 and October of 2011, thereby providing information that the University of Maryland later incorporated into the database. GTD now characterizes the database in the following terms, as mentioned at the website:

  • Contains information on over 104,000 terrorist attacks
  • Currently the most comprehensive unclassified data base on terrorist events in the world
  • Includes information on more than 47,000 bombings, 14,000 assassinations, and 5,300 kidnappings since 1970
  • Includes information on at least 45 variables for each case, with more recent incidents including information on more than 120 variables
  • Supervised by an advisory panel of 12 terrorism research experts
  • Over 3,500,000 news articles and 25,000 news sources were reviewed to collect incident data from 1998 to 2011 alone

As described by GTD, “the database records up to 120 separate attributes of each incident, including approximately 75 coded variables that can be used for statistical analysis.” As each event is recorded, certain information is considered carefully as it is entered into the system, including:

  • incident date,Pie
  • region,
  • country,
  • state/province,
  • city,
  • latitude and longitude (beta)
  • perpetrator group name,
  • tactic used in attack,
  • nature of the target,
  • identity, corporation, and nationality of the target (up to three nationalities),
  • type of weapons used (up to three weapons types),
  • whether the incident was considered a success,
  • if and how a claim(s) of responsibility was made,
  • amount of damage, and more narrowly, the amount of United States damage,
  • total number of fatalities (persons, United States nationals, terrorists), and
  • total number of injured (persons, United States nationals, terrorists)

Statistics garnered from the Global Terrorism Database demonstrate that attacks have quadrupled in the world since September 11, 2001. However, deaths in terrorism attacks seem to have peaked in the year 2007, at the height of the Iraq War. In the decade following the 911 tragedy, those countries most affected by terrorism were Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Yemen – largely due to the violent activism of Islamic extremists or the ongoing war against terrorism. As summarized by The Huffington Post, the West’s war against al-Qaeda “may have simply made matters worse – while whether they made the U.S. homeland safer was impossible to prove.”  Over the forty years included in the Global Terrorism Database, more than a third of the attacks on U. S. soil occurred in the 5 urban “hot spots” of New York, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Also ranked high by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) are the cities of Chicago and Seattle. The three terrorist groups responsible for the most attacks within the U. S. homeland from 2001 to 2011 were the Earth Liberation Front (50), the Animal Liberation Front (34) and al-Qaeda (4). Worldwide, terrorists generally utilize the most readily available weapons to carry out their acts of violence: firearms and explosives. The video below is a “visualization” of the  2008 information revealed by GTD, as presented by digital artist Joao Martinho Moura. Before leaving this website, we kindly ask that you please remember to sign the petition by clicking the link below.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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