Building for a Culture of Peace
An Address to the Symposium on Peacebuilding and Post-Conflict Societies
University of Alberta, Edmonton
March 10, 2000
By Senator Douglas Roche, O.C.
Chairman, Middle Powers Initiative
I welcome everyone to this symposium and congratulate the Human Rights Education Foundation and the University of Alberta for convening it.
It is an ideal moment to hold this meeting.
The new millennium has awakened our hopes for a life of peace. And the experience of the last Millennium, the last century particularly, has shown us that there is no hope for peace if "we the peoples of the world" do not work for it.
My own hope that we can get beyond the culture of war - and move to a culture of peace - lies in the blossoming of intelligence about ourselves as a human community in a world that is inter-connected in every sphere of activity. Despite the news of war, hunger, homelessness and disease affecting millions, the world is in fact moving toward a new, more participatory, people-centered way of conducting international affairs. The potential power of this movement can create the conditions for a culture of peace.
We are here today to discuss peacebuilding in post-conflict societies.
I see peacebuilding as action to identify and support structures which will tend to strengthen and solidify peace in order to avoid a relapse into conflict.
Recently, three such institutional bases for peacebuilding have been developed.
- The 1997 treaty banning anti-personnel landmines has been ratified by 89 countries and signed by 136. By September 1998, 40 countries had ratified the treaty, thus making it international law, ushering in a legal regime and a plan of action that will save millions of lives and foster development free from fear.
- Last year, 120 states voted for an International Criminal Court that will help end the device of impunity traditionally enjoyed by those cloaked in statecraft, and establish accountability for crimes against humanity. The creation of the International Criminal Court, when it comes into operation, will be a giant step forward toward real human security, protecting all people against the most egregious violations in humanitarian law.
- Last January 21st, a Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the Child agreed to raise from 15 to 18 the minimum age for recruitment and participation in armed hostilities. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that the Protocol represents "a most significant step towards eliminating any role for children in warfare." Canada's peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction efforts can lead the way toward the demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers in war-torn and conflict prone countries. These are three examples - I would even say vibrant examples - of how the international community can institutionalize peacebuilding to create a culture of peace.
There is obviously much more to do: disarming previously warring parties and restoring order; the custody and destruction of weapons; repatriating refugees; training for security personnel; monitoring elections; advancing human rights; reforming and strengthening governmental institutions.
All this constitutes the human security agenda. And we can be grateful that the Government of Canada is taking the lead in advancing this agenda through our current participation in the U.N. Security Council.
The Canadian effort takes the security of people, rather than the security of states, as a central point of reference in developing foreign policy. Only in this way can we successfully promote a sustainable environment for human security.
All these efforts will come to naught if we do not strengthen the role of the Security Council as the guarantor of peace. Aggressive military action, even in the name of humanitarian intervention, must not be taken without the mandate of the Security Council. The Council, for its part, must be ready to act, and act rapidly. Thus Canada must continue to support the creation of a U.N. Rapid Reaction Force to prevent conflict.
Preventive diplomacy is crucial to peacebuilding. We must prevent future massive devastation by the elimination of nuclear weapons just as we must avert intra-communal genocide by new legal structures.
Let us never be down-hearted in this great struggle for peace. The work of peacebuilding will lead us to a humane world.