From the 16th to the 19th of October, civil society and political representatives from eleven countries met in London to lay out their vision for the establishment of Departments of Peace in their governments.
“It’s very sad that conflicts continue to exist in communities when we more or less know how 99% of them could have been avoided,” said one of the conference participants.
The countries represented at the conference were Australia, Canada, Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, Italy, Japan, Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States and Jordan.
Prominent supporters of the conference include US Representative Dennis Kucinich, Marianne Williamson, Hon. Oryem Henry Okello, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs/International Affairs of Uganda. John McDonnell – MP of the UK, Senator Lyn Allison – Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja – Foreign Affairs spokesperson for the Australian Democrats and the Hon. Dr. Arthur Chesterfield-Evans MLC.- NSW Leader of the Australian Democrats.
The conference concluded with the launch of an international initiative that will support country-level working groups to establish Departments of Peace.
The Summit was organized and sponsored by The UK based ministry for peace (mfp), whose motto is “Putting Power into Peace – Peace into Power”. mfp was launched in the House of Commons on 1st July 2003, and in October the same year Labour MP John McDonnell introduced a Ten-Minute Rule Bill for the creation of a Ministry for Peace in government. The Bill was passed unopposed but fell due to lack of time at the end of the Parliamentary session. mfp has since its launch held sixteen public meetings; it is managed by a National Coordinating Committee and has an increasing membership throughout the country. In its Manifesto for Peace mfp identifies three main aspects of violence: direct violence is the physical or verbal violence most people recognize; structural violence refers to political, social and economic structures that repress, harm or kill (dictatorship, racial discrimination, poverty..); cultural violence is the type of violence normalized by religions or ideologies.
The Canadian Working Group for a Federal Department of Peace, also founded in 2003, is gaining increasing support from prominent Canadian leaders, academics and NGOs as well as from the rank-and-file of Canadians throughout the country. The main aim of such a department would be to work for the implementation of the UN Declaration and Programme of Action for a Culture of Peace.
The Peace Alliance Foundation, USA aims ‘to reveal and foster an expanded awareness of humanity’s interconnectedness manifesting our culture of peace’. Thousands of citizens in 43 states with over 230 congressional district team leaders are working together to build support for a federal cabinet-level Department of Peace, which would serve to strengthen and support non-violent solutions to domestic and international conflicts by addressing the underlying root causes of violence in society. It would also work towards the establishment of a national peace academy.
As a result of the first Summit The International People’s Initiative for Department’s of Peace as been established.