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.

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.