Education for the Abolition of War

UN High Level Panel on “the Scourge of War”:  Tasks for Peace Educators

(Originally posted June 2013)

“Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.” This challenge posed by President Kennedy in a 1961 address the UN General Assembly has yet to be joined. Although the organization was founded with the “dream” of its becoming an agent to “bring an end to war,” wars continue to take human life, steal resources from addressing human suffering and threaten to end the human experience. But the institution itself has yet to be challenged as promised in The UN Charter Preamble “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”

As with most major advances in the international system, energies emerging from civil society, under the leadership of Cora Weiss, UN NGO representative of the International Peace Bureau are pressing the organization to take up the Preamble promise and the Kennedy challenge. The first step in a serious consideration of these challenges was taken at a special briefing convened in the ECOSOC chamber on June 6th that was organized by the Department of Public Information (DPI), in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of Switzerland. Click here to view the UN webcast of the panel, that featured H.E. Mr. Paul Seger, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations, Ms. Jody Williams, 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Mr. Ralph Zacklin, Former United Nations Assistant-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, and Ms. Nounou Booto Meeti, Programme Manager, Centre for Peace, Security and Armed Violence Prevention.  Click here to watch the video “Determined to Save Succeeding Generations from the Scourge of War” that opened the special briefing. 

The Global Campaign for Peace Education takes up the issue as one to be confronted by educators in a set of commentaries on the philosophic foundations of the right to peace by Dale Snauwaert and on the need to criminalize war and those who make it by Betty Reardon.  These thought pieces and guiding inquiries are offered as an invitation to peace educators to focus professional action on the possibilities for the abolition of war.


Upholding a Human Right to Peace (Philosophical Arguments)
Dale T. Snauwaert

In a groundbreaking session at the United Nations on June 6, 2013 members of civil society opened a very significant inquiry into fundamental questions of the desirability and possibilities of bringing an end to war. Some have posed this query in terms of whether there is a fundamental human right to peace. The United Nations, members of the global civil society, and scholars have engaged in a significant effort to articulate a human right to peace (See for example, Alston 1980, Roche 2003, Weiss 2010), and the UN Human Rights Council has established an open-ended intergovernmental working group to draft a United Nations declaration on the right to peace. This brief essay is intended to launch that same discussion among peace educators by offering some philosophical arguments that up-hold that right. 

Read or download the entire article here…

Criminalizing War and Those Who Make It
Betty A. Reardon

As members of global civil society committed to global community values; and as citizens of an emerging world-wide civic order, we are bound by our civil and community responsibility to denounce and seek to abolish the institution of war. This lethal institution threatens to abort the young civic order, destroying the global community and the societies that comprise it. This commentary – as does Dale Snauwaert’s essay – seeks to enlist peace educators and activists in the peace and justice movements in this abolitionist effort through establishing the right to peace and the abolition of armed conflict thorough criminalizing war and those who make it.

I join and hope to extend Snauwaert’s arguments that peace is the condition in which justice prevails as validated by international standards. And, as asserted in this piece, that the survival of our species requires that the abolition of war be actively pursued by members of global civil society who seek to expand the realms of justice in the present world system.  It should be recognized that violating the right peace and the standards that uphold it constitutes criminal injustices and those who commit them are criminals. These essays propose to open discussion on the criminalization and abolition of an institution that achieves its purposes in ways that are – in all circumstances other than a declared state of war – recognized and punished as crimes. Some of them so egregious as to have been designated “crimes against humanity.” So long as war exists, justice will be thwarted. 

Read or download the entire article here…