A decade-by-decade look at some people and events in the world-wide struggle against war and violence.


 Selected by Margaret Melicharova

  peace action worldwide


1990-99 Towards a Culture of Peace

THE CONFERENCES FOR PEACE EDUCATION exist to promote a culture of peace in which the decisive element is peace education, including disarmament, human rights, tolerance and development. Seminars and symposia have been organised in Mexico, Uruguay and India. World conferences in peace education have been held in Copenhagen (1986: Educate for Life), Bonn (1988: Think and Teach Globally, Act Locally), Budapest (1990: Teach and Learn to Live in Peace), Paris (1992: International Comprehension, Peace Education, Children’s Rights), Northfield, Vermont (1995: Educating for a World Without Violence). Continental Conferences were held in 1992 (For a Europe of Peace), 1996 (Educating for Human Rights), and 1996 (Building a Culture of Peace in Europe). The first African Conference (A Challenge for Peace Education) was held in 1995. The North American Conference (Development of a Culture of Peace) was held in Montreal in 1998. A new organisation, the International Association of Educators for Peace, has also been created.

1990 Foundation of the Gandhi Information Centre for Research and Education on Non-violence, based in Berlin. The Centre has revived the Anti-Conscription manifestos of 1926 and 1930 (which can now be signed on the Internet). ‘It is high time to demilitarise our minds and our societies, to speak out against war and all preparations for it.’

WOMEN IN ISRAEL: The Joint Palestinian/Israeli Women’s Co-ordinating Committee, set up in 1989, held a rally in 1990 after a successful petition for the right to demonstrate in East and West Jerusalem. They issued a statement, signed by major Israeli and Palestinian personalities covering a wide range of political opinion, which began: ‘We, Palestinian and Israeli women, share a vision of freedom and equality. We are joined in a common struggle against discrimination and oppression of any type....We declare our commitment to the peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to reconciliation as the ultimate source of liberation for both our peoples.’

1991 The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Burma’s Democracy party leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.

AUNG SAN SUU KYI became the leader of a democratic opposition which employs non-violent means to resist a regime characterised by brutality. She also emphasises the need for conciliation between the sharply divided regions and ethnic groups in her country. The election held in May 1990 resulted in a conclusive victory for the opposition. The regime ignored the election results. Suu Kyi refused to leave the country and was kept under strict house arrest for six years. Since her release, her attempts to travel in Burma have been repeatedly blocked, and democracy supporters have been imprisoned and otherwise harassed. The Nobel Prize committee said: ‘Suu Kyi’s struggle is one of the most extraordinary examples of civil courage in Asia in recent decades. She has become an important symbol in the struggle against oppression. The Committee wishes to show its support for the many people throughout the world who are striving to attain democracy, human rights and ethnic conciliation by peaceful means.’
   Aung San Suu Kyi’s non-violent principles are inspired by her Buddhist faith and by Gandhi’s teaching. ‘It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.’ ‘Truth, justice and compassion... are often the only bulwarks against ruthless power.’ [more]

1991 Peace vigils, peace walks and marches, petitions, human chains, rallies and demonstrations took place round the world against the Gulf War.

1991 Boutros Boutros-Ghali, taking up his post as Secretary-General of the United Nations, called for UN peace-making, peace-building and peace-keeping by pursuing ‘an active preventive diplomacy’ to monitor developing crises and find ways to defuse them.

THE INSTITUTE FOR MULTI-TRACK DIPLOMACY was established in America to ‘promote a systems approach to peace-building and to facilitate the transformation of deep-rooted social conflicts’. It has worked in Bosnia, Cuba, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Tanzania and Somalia. A recent workshop in Jordan made use of Aikido as a ‘metaphor for conflict resolution’ (‘know where you stand, meet the other, see what we can do together); and intervention strategies applied the principle ‘Do no harm’.

1991 People attending an International Peace Festival in the Philippines heard with delight that the Philippines Senate had rejected a treaty for US bases to continue there.

1991 An International Women’s Day (March 8) statement from the Women’s Conference at the Palais des Nations said that the Gulf War showed the need for chemical and biological weapons to be destroyed, for nuclear disarmament and total disarmament to be undertaken, and for global relations to be based not on military force but on co-operation.

AT THE GRASS ROOTS: Words from the director of the Centre for Peace, Non-violence and Human Rights in Osijek, Croatia, during the war between Serbia and Croatia: ‘We had to find out how to show our resistance to violence. First we overcame our fear and then we started working to abolish the division of people caused by violence. We refused to be nationalistic in orientation; we focused on defending basic human, universal values. We were experiencing a sort of reconciliation process with people of other nationalities. In this way we built a non-violent community which grew rapidly.’

1991 The Campaign Against the Arms Trade launched its ‘Clean Investment Campaign’, revealing and protesting against investments in arms trade suppliers made by churches, local authorities, charities and universities, health trusts and other organisations.

1992 Foundation of the War Resisters of Izmir, Turkey, the first non-violent anti-militarist organisation in Turkey. Its criticism of government policy caused it to be banned, but it continued to work, using telecommunication links – such as now unite peace groups and individuals the world over.

1992 Foundation of Scientists for Global Responsibility, uniting a number of anti-war scientists’ groups, and supporting the International Week of Science and Peace.

1992 The International War Crimes Tribunal found President George Bush of the USA and others guilty on 19 charges of crimes against peace and against humanity during the Gulf War.

1992 Foundation of ‘Ecumenical Service in the Conciliar Process’ in Germany, an organisation of Christians and churches committed to new forms of service for justice and peace. ‘The purpose of all our events (orientation days, courses, practical training, seminars, and retreats) is to guide, empower and train people who wish to deepen their spirituality and to become more actively engaged in active non-violence.’

STOP THE HAWKS: In 1993 Chris Cole, a Christian pacifist, was discharged after a jury found him not guilty of criminal damage. Chris had been charged with damaging nose cones for military aircraft: BAe Hawks bound for Indonesia and repression of East Timorese. This was the 50th action in a series of ‘swords into ploughshares’ disarmament acts round the world, and the second in the UK. The judge told the jury: ‘Silence itself can be a crime. The history of this century taught us this if nothing else’. Individual and group protests against Indonesian repression of East Timor continued throughout the decade, and other direct actions against Hawk aircraft in particular have had a similarly sympathetic hearing in court.

1994 In Tavistock Square, London, Michael Tippett unveiled the memorial stone to conscientious objectors. The stone – a piece of 450m-year-old volcanic slate – is incribed:’To all those who have established and are maintaining the right to refuse to kill. Their foresight and courage give us hope.’ [more]

1994 Foundation of the independent and non-profit-making Bonn International Centre for Conversion, which investigates how ‘people, skills, technology. equipment, and financial and economic resources can be shifted away from the defence sector and applied to alternative civilian uses’.

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, representing Pax Christi and speaking also for Methodists: ‘The doctrine of nuclear deterrence is morally corrupt. This view stems from a belief in the sanctity of life, a perspective shared by other world religions: Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism.’
Myrla Baldonado, People’s Task Force for Bases Cleanup, Philippines: ‘Being the victims of the nuclear age, we ask you to listen to the suffering voices silenced by attribution of priority to a precarious “peace” maintained by military means.’
Simon Carroll, Greenpeace International: ‘Do we want our children to live in a world in which the inseparable links between military and civil applications of nuclear power exist in every nation and where the environment daily deteriorates?’
Janet Bloomfield, Abolition 2000 and Oxford Research Group: ‘Effective solutions for global security will require co-operation, imagination and vision, not nuclear threats and coercion. The ‘hardware’ approach of the Cold War must change to a ‘software’ solution which replaces present military-based notions of security with co-operation, confidence-building, transparency, disarmament, conversion, demobilisation and demilitarisation. The meeting rooms of the UN are familiar with these concepts. Implicit in the agenda of all the UN World Conferences in the 1990s, beginning with the Children’s Summit in New York and including the Earth Summit in Rio, the Beijing Women’s Conference and Habitat II, is a refocusing on how human security can be achieved.’

1994 The Peace School in Burundi brought together students from all backgrounds on a neighbourhood level. The children were encouraged to invent and imagine a life without war, and by doing so participated in their own local peace process. The art work they made during the project, said a teacher, ‘reflects our knowledge and our hope: that our future of peace is in the hands of our children’.

1995 Peace trains travelled from Helsinki to Beijing and around the world.

1995 – 2005 Designated the United Nations Decade for Human Rights.

1996 Mexico City hosted the World Assembly for Peace.

THE WORLD ASSEMBLY FOR PEACE statement said: ‘Let us promote international campaigns for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Let us mobilise world opinion for the dissolution of military alliances such as the Japan-US military treaty and the dissolution of NATO, as a decisive task for the future of peace in the world. Let us strengthen the movements opposing the dangerous consequences of foreign military bases, and work to develop solidarity between these movements, on an international scale. Let us strengthen the reduction of military budgets, combining the struggle for peace and for a better life. The struggle for peace cannot be dissociated from the struggle for justice and against militarism.’

1996 The World Court decided that nuclear weapons are in the same category as chemical and biological weapons. Chemical and biological weapons are illegal.

1997 Oxfam published ‘A Curriculum for Global Citizenship’, part of its educational programme for peace, justice, sustainable development and co-operation.

1999 The Hague Appeal for Peace Conference: the largest international peace conference in history attended by 10,000 activists, government representatives and community leaders from over 100 countries. It marked the centennial of the first International Peace Conference, which began this century’s process of active interaction of civil society and governments to prevent war. Unlike the UN global summits of the past decade, this conference was organised entirely by civil society.

THE HAGUE APPEAL FOR PEACE aimed to unite the diverse elements of the international peace and justice movements in an appeal to governments and citizens of the world to find ways to end war. It raised the question whether, at the end of the bloodiest century in history, humanity can find a way to solve its problems without resorting to arms; whether, from the next century onward, war is still necessary or legitimate; and whether, given the nature of the weapons currently in arsenals and on drawing boards, civilisation can survive another major war. The conference was an example of the collaboration of civil society, governments and intergovernmental organisations which has already proved its effectiveness in bringing about the treaty to ban landmines, the statute creating the International Criminal Court, and the World Court opinion on the illegality of nuclear weapons. It also acknowledged a redefinition of peace as not only the absence of conflict between and within states, but also the absence of economic and social injustice.

1990-99 Protests and demonstrations world-wide against war and the use of armed force.





Cardinal Basil Hume (1923-1999): ‘The Third World is wrong and misguided to buy weapons, but the greater crime lies with those who are responsible for this death trade.’

Michael Tippett (1905-1998. Composer and pacifist): ‘In every generation there has always been a group of people dedicated to the work of clarification, education, moral persuasion. The promotion of peace is their simple objective. Some, such as Gandhi or Luther King, have come right to the forefront of our civilisation. All of them are helping to turn a mass of people across the world away from the military path.’ [more]

Johan Galtung (peace educator): ‘People feel empowered the moment they feel that there are things that can be done. Then people and their organisations start exercising pressure on governments. That’s the way Europe 1989, the end of the Cold War happened....Peace education, about disarmament, diplomacy, and non-violence, played a great role. Let us remain optimistic. Never give up!’

Javier Peréz de Cuellar, then Secretary-General of the United Nations, 1990: ‘The protection of human rights has now become one of the keystones in the arch of peace.’

Jimmy Carter (1924- . US President 1977-1981) in1991: ‘The worst human rights abuse in the world is the initiation of war. If you look at the last decade, where have the wars originated? They’ve originated in the United States.’

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (1931- . Argentinian peace activist) at the War Resisters’ Triennial in Brazil, 1995: ‘We should not confine ourselves to helping to resolve a few conflicts, But should try to achieve vital social transformation.... I think we should be optimistic about the possibilities of social change, in spite of the monstrous injustice besetting our world.’

Donald Soper (1903-1998), pacifist and preacher of peace: ‘What is morally right cannot be politically wrong.’

Emily Freeman’s letter to Tony Blair,1998: ‘I don’t like the idea that you are threatening to drop bombs on Iraq. Aren’t you now only making yourself as bad as you think they are? Imagine you are just an ordinary parent, or even a child, knowing that sometime soon you may be killed. Or it may be easier to imagine that someone was going to bomb families in Britain because Britain had a nuclear bomb. How would YOU feel? isn’t there a better way to sort out problems than violence?’




0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10


  P E A C E  P L E D G E  U N I O N  1 Peace Passage London N7 0BT, Britain.
  phone  +44 (0)20 7424 9444  fax: +44 (0)20 7482 6390     CONTACT US