Community Consultation: A Culture of Peace?

I proposed and facilitated a discussion with the local community on the subject of a Culture of Peace.   This is a report that was the outcome of the meeting.


Culture of Peace Discussion

Held at City of Whittlesea, Waterlily Room

23 March 2009


1.0              INTRODUCTION

Susan Carew, Manager of Funny business OWN Empowerment is a Rotary Peace scholar, market analyst and community trainer in conflict resolution and wellbeing.  Susan convened a meeting with a range of community members interested in a Culture of Peace.  The meeting was held at the City of Whittlesea and entitled ‘Is a Culture of Peace Possible?’   The discussion was attended by local police, health representative, education specialist, volunteer coordinator, religious faith, Rotarian, Humanist Society members and artists.   Apologies: Mayor City of Whittlesea                                     

The purpose of the meeting was to inform, consult and connect with divergent community members about realistically creating a Culture of Peace.  This is in response to the UN Decades call for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World and engaging the public at the local level.   A Culture of peace ethos is essential given community concerns regarding: family fragmentation, negative media and increasing anti-social behaviours that undermine safety and a sense of community cohesion. 

The meeting is a first step in a process of raising community awareness of the critical importance of bringing disparate groups together who are actively engaged in promoting a productive, positive cultures that foster peacefulness and civic values in our communities.  Further public speaking engagement with senior police is in process and Susan Carew is available to talk to more groups to further strategy development and training with local experts and local government.  This process will generate interest in catalysing initiatives based on the principles of a Culture of Peace.



The term Culture of Peace is promoted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).   According to UNESCO a Culture of Peace comprises of:

“values, attitudes and behaviours that reflect and inspire social interaction and sharing based on the principles of freedom, justice and democracy, all human rights, tolerance and solidarity, that reject violence and endeavour to prevent conflicts by tackling their root causes to solve problems through dialogue and negotiation that guarantee the full exercise of all rights and the means to participate fully in the development process of their society.”

The discussion workshop was designed to be interactive, informative and to inspire contemplation of Cultures of Peace.  Brainstorming was conducted to ascertain participant perceptions and ideas about what key concepts mean from a range of perspectives.

Participants were asked ‘what is a Culture of Peace’, as follows:

International, respect, global unity – acknowledge different belief systems, environmentalism, equality, tolerance and solidarity,  oneness, unity, solid, standing, bridge building ie. common project and infrastructure, consensus – not winners/losers, altruism, inclusion, positivity – contribute to positive outcome, creativity, solutions, willingness, relaxed, confident, anti-discrimination and justice.

Participants highlighted some of the UNESCO principles and expanded on them including other issues of positivity to enhance creativity, solutions, willingness and the important principle of justice thus, treating people equally or fairly (anti-discrimination).

UNESCO refers to the 8 principles of a Culture of Peace.  These are:

  1. Promote equality for men and women
  2. Preservation of the planet
  3. Tolerance & Solidarity
  4. Share with others
  5. Promote democracy
  6. Respect all life
  7. Listen to understand
  8. Promote non-violence

All these principles were mentioned throughout the discussion in different contexts, however  overarching principles clearly shared by the group, as members of a community, was not evident. 

It is important to note that values such as integrity, equality, love and sharing highlight natural orientations shared by human beings rather than directive examples that people may not understand or agree with.  Values are central to shifting to a Culture of Peace.  Therefore, determining shared values that all people can practice in their lives and be acknowledged by their community is important.  Certainly the principles espoused by UNESCO are reasonable aspirations, however, it is important that they are inclusive and universal to ensure a sustainable foundation.

The foundation of community and indeed the notion of a Culture of Peace is effective when based on values (principles) that are integrated and lived as shared life principles.  It was further suggested to the group that a Culture of Peace is a key strategy for the prevention of violence.

3.0       WHAT ARE VALUES?

Values are natural inner drivers that prompt positive behaviours and unity.   Ethics and morals are social norms that are learned from one generation to the next.  They change from generation to generation as collective ethics change.  Intrinsic values are important keys to developing a Culture of Peace that is sustainable.

The participants were asked ‘what are values’, they identified values as the following:  

ethics, morals, respect, passions, beliefs, understanding, culture, identity, friendship, compassion, importance of values and peace.

The group referred to both intrinsic values (internal) and what is valued (externally).   There is a difference given that values are basis human virtues that generate unity on some level.  External aspects valued are learned such as: ethics, morals and identity. 

Passionate people who live their values are exemplary as role models to the community demonstrating the potential of what people can become.  The impact on youth is critical. 

A Culture of Peace requires the establishment of clear and sustainable values that become symbolic of the community people wish to aspire to become.



The participants were asked to brainstorm what is not a culture of peace, what is conflict and what is power. 

Participants indicated that ‘what a culture of peace is not’, as follows: 

Conflict, violence, judgementalism, war, intolerance, group identity – nationalism, fear, common – not at peace, distrust, anger, disrespect, poverty, greed, and 7 deadly sins.

The group mentioned negative traits and areas of where division occurs on the basis of group identity, income, judgement and lack of respect for others.  Others referred to feelings which are the basis of conflicted states such as fear, distrust, intolerance, anger and greed.

Participants were asked to brainstorm ‘what is conflict’, as follows:

Fighting, power, thinking your always right, different interests, different values, beliefs, getting satisfaction, prejudice, winners/losers, violence, opposing opinions, self importance.

Responses indicated aggression and contrasting interests, values, beliefs, discriminations.  Others mentioned personal enjoyment of conflict.   The group was further asked if conflict is positive.  It was agreed by members of the group that conflict is not always a negative engagement and can produce challenges and growth.  Violence on the other hand is destructive.

It was suggested to the group that violence is a public health issue.

Participants were asked ‘what is power’ as follows:

Dominance, strength, knowledge, communication, influence, confidence, wealth, education, culture, perception, communication, cunning, truth, health, housing, money, control, integrity, beauty, freedom, weapons, unity, uniform, love

Participants viewed power in terms of power over others in a variety of ways, such as: knowledge, groups, psychology, resources, position, aesthetics and uniforms (symbolic).  Others referred to inner power in terms of:  confidence, truth, integrity, freedom, love and unity.

In the area of conflict resolution and bullying it was suggested to the group that power over is seen as powerlessness seeking to gain power through the use of fear and control.   Real power in conjunction with a Culture of Peace refers to inner values and principles which work for the betterment of the growth of the person and the group as a whole.



Participants were asked ‘what is Bridge Building’ in the community.  Responses were as follows:

Interpreting (linguistically), mentoring refugees, doing more than expectations, putting yourself in their shoes, (empathy), go into their environment,  community support – funding, partnerships – engaging, empathy, common purpose, acknowledgment, fun, food (sharing), festivals, giving someone else a go, arts/creative – involved, new skills, express ideas, love – cross culture relationships, sports (team like a family)

Bridge building for participants was considered in a range of ways, in all comments there was a degree of meeting in the middle or sharing involved that expanded the skills and talents of the community.   Other comments referred to: stepping into the shoes of another, experiencing empathy and this was exemplified by entering the environment and thoughts of others.    It was important to come together through sharing through food, fun, festivals, exchanging skills and ideas.  Another important factor was acknowledging what community members are doing.   Bridge building in the community also requires developing partnerships and funding.

 Within the theme of a Culture of Peace Bridge Building in the community is an important component of encouraging the connection of community members, fruitful exchange and acknowledgement of works well done. 

It was suggested to participants that the following ingredients are important to establishing a Culture of Peace, as follows:

  • Commitment – political will, determination
  • Leadership – vision, responsibility, role models, representative
  • Values – universal, intrinsic
  • Inclusive:  consultation, collaboration, community involvement and ownership
  • Designing new pathways:  creativity, positivity and innovation
  • Training:  e.g. peace building skills
  • Funding: investment, grants, fundraising



Cultures of Peace in others parts of the world as inspired by UNESCO’s decade for a Culture of Peace were highlighted as follows: 

  • Hague Appeal for Peace (1996-99):
    • 100,000 individuals, 12 campaigns to foster non-violent alternatives to war
    • Global campaign for peace education to integrate into curriculum’s
    • Promoting meditation for inner peace
    • Developing tolerance and understanding in youth, although there were issues with negative media and the necessity to promote positive media and role models
    • Exhibitions as expressions of ‘victory over violence’
    • Formation of peace clubs, human rights clubs for youth and run by youth
    • Promotion of a Culture of Peace to scouts/guides, international exchange, sports, universities and youth organisations.

Key issues from a study of UNESCO’s case studies and other research suggested the following:

  • Violence is a public health issue, costly to the community
  • Violence inhibits individual and societal potential
  • A Culture of Peace is a key strategy for the prevention of violence
  • To develop and strengthen peace building networks
  • To encourage government and community ownership
  • To promote peace education to Departments of Education
  • Integrate peace education into curriculum and teacher training
  • To educate the Media e.g. the media promotes violence, video games, films etc.  Journalists require training in a Culture of Peace
  • Funding – Federal, State, Local levels, Philanthropists


Table 1 (overleaf) highlights strategies to develop a Culture of Peace at the local level.     Key strategic actions that  foster a Culture of Peace include:  education, developing skills, networks, change management, business practices and promoting legislative change.  

The key actions refer to training in conflict resolution, community awareness raising through media campaigns and lobbying.  The interventions are suggested to be aimed at individuals, community, service providers, schools and with a focus on children.

It was suggested that the child be considered at the centre of a Culture of Peace given they are the stakeholders of the future.  

Local government and community action aimed at skilling the community in conflict resolution, problem solving, creative thinking and wellbeing become the spokes of the wheel that enables sustainability and positive social change.


Funny business OWN Empowerment has expertise in market research, forums, training and education programs.  Susan Carew suggested to participants a range of approaches to empower the community.  The options are developed as a framework for community engagement at the local level.

1)      Establishing a Culture of Peace Network (working group)

2)      Establishing positive peace networks (meeting monthly)

3)      Community consultation: survey, focus groups investigating community perceptions about violence, wellbeing and a proposed Culture of Peace

4)      Community campaigns: media and information dissemination

5)      Community forums:  (monthly)

6)      Community training:

  • Adults, staff, management
    • Channels: CAEs, TAFE, local government workshops
    • Youth
      • Channels:  Scouts/guides, YMCAs, schools, youth groups
      • Children
        • Government/private schools: kindergarten, primary, secondary

7)      Training programs include:  

i)        Conflict resolution, problem solving, creative thinking, wellbeing (stress relief, happiness), anti-bullying, values, human rights, spirituality, democracy, work/life balance, life skills, peace education, mediation, restorative justice, children’s circle parliament, Alternatives to Violence Project and clowning/circus skills

8)      Other:  community peace building centres/circles e.g. neighbours, children etc., peace prizes, public acknowledgement of peace actors, promote funding of peace initiatives, media peace awards, community peace charter, speakers corner, values based governance


8.0              COMMUNITY CAMPAIGNS

To communicate the concept of a Culture of Peace a themed campaign focussing on democracy framed from values could be an interesting way to educate the community and enhance community values.  The values model entitled REAL HOPES was developed by Funny business and frame the campaign on the basis of values.    Suggested features of the campaign were proposed as follows:

Theme ‘Celebrating Democracy’

  • Responsibility:   Celebrating rights and responsibilities
  • Empathy:              Celebrating how we feel about each other
  • Awareness:          Celebrating our understanding of democracy and citizenship
  • Love:                      Celebrating love and nonviolence
  • Honesty:               Celebrating truth and visibility
  • Oneness:               Celebrating diversity in unity
  • Peace:                    Celebrating peace and harmony 
  • Enjoyment:         Celebrating happiness and fun
  • Service:                Celebrating giving and sharing with others

Other campaigns can be developed to assist the public in focussing on issues that are interest and concern to empower community ownership of collective problems.



Funny business OWN Empowerment is dedicated to promoting and facilitating a Culture of Peace which trains the community in pro social skills and behaviours that counter anti-social behaviours and growing fears in the community.

Factors associated with antisocial and criminal behaviour include child disability, low self-esteem, poor social skills, alienation and impulsive behaviour.  School related factors  include: school failure, deviant peer group, bullying, peer rejection and inadequate behaviour management.  Family factors include: teenage mothers, father absence, disharmony, family violence, family break up and divorce.   The family is consistently presented as having the greatest influence on children. [6][1]    A myriad of factors associated with child violence and aggression include child maltreatment and poor parental child-rearing practices.    The child is trained to be aggressive through early coercive familial interaction patterns.   Parents model and children learn coercive behaviours to escape negative stimuli.[2]

Dr Christie from Queensland University of Technology states that schools have been long recognised as the primary sites of violence.[3]     Violence ranges from verbal assault to criminal assaults.   Moreover, it was found in a study that between 50-60% of boys and 40% of girls had homophobic feelings.  In Western Australia (1992) boys were suspended for physical assault 25 times more than girls.  In Victoria, 83% of students suspended were boys mostly for physical and verbal abuse. [4]

It is suggested that programs developed for a Culture of Peace training focus on general community training, conflict resolution and anti-bullying for business and non-violence and peace education for children.

Funny business OWN Empowerment suggests the following programs:

  • Communities-In-Harmony Peace Prize Caravan:  Peace Clown travelling around schools collecting submissions for a peace ideas, solutions and disseminating peace information
  • REAL HOPE values based peace, nonviolence and anti-bullying program for primary schools. Taught by a World Peace Clown
  • Children’s Circle Parliament – democracy in classroom
  • Youth Peace Day – full day workshop, secondary schools
  • World Peace Day – values, wellbeing – students, teachers, parents
  • Laughter, Empathy & Anti-bullying workshop – hospitals, health industry
  • Happiness 4 Life/Laugh Out Loud – community, business, schools
  • Conflict Resolution 4 Wellbeing – business, organisations
  • Workplace Bullying and Conflict resolution – business, organisations
  • Creative Thinking for innovation/Values Management – business, organisations
  • Clowning Around – community empowerment, giving, connection and personal development (reduces fear)
  • Alternatives to Violence Project – community nonviolence training, prisons, offenders (since 1975)
  • Market Research (consultation) into violence, wellbeing, Cultures of Peace

The Culture of Peace initiative is an opportunity to create positive cultures in a world becoming increasingly violent. It is essential for communities to proactively create the environment that promotes pro social skills.  If these skills are not taught to children and community members then unnecessary violent and social fragmentation will continue to occur.  This is an opportunity for proactive organisations and local government bodies.

[1] Christie, Reducing and Preventing Violence in Schools,’ Factors underlying violence’ ..
Online at:  ,

[2] Christie, op.cit, ‘Factors Underlying Violence’

[3] Christie, op.cit. ‘Introduction’ .

[4] Christie, op.cit, ‘ Violence in Schools’.

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Mohandas Gandhi

“Nonviolence is a weapon of the strong”