Cities for Peace Programme
In Nairobi in 1995, at the Second Preparatory Committee, we had the opportunity to introduce any global concept into the documentation being written for the United Nations Habitat II Conference. The New Zealand Government had decided not to send a delegation, so by default Megan Howell, Mark Tollemache and Heidi Mardon, three students from the Planning Department of the University of Auckland, became our representatives.
Their global concept needed to be simple and easily translated into seventy languages. Because we were close to the point where half the world’s population would be living in cities, Habitat II was becoming popularly known as the ‘Cities Summit’. We took the commitment of the UN to peace and the focus on the city. The idea of ‘Peaceful Cities’ was born.
Megan and Mark flew to New York to defend the concept at the Third Preparatory Committee, and thus it came through to Istanbul, but our New Zealand ambassador arrived with a speech not adequate for the occasion. We wrote another speech. Bob Harvey got Don McKinnon out of bed to get the changes ratified by government, and our ambassador duly announced the concept of Peaceful Cities to the UN Habitat II Plenary Assembly in 1996.
As Arc-Peace (formerly IAPPNW or “International Architects, Designers and Planners for the Prevention of Nuclear War”), an organisation which I had co-founded, had accreditation to United Nations, I was able to thank Bob for his crucial role by nominating him for the Mayors for Peace prize, which he was awarded in Stockholm.
Understanding something of the history of Peaceful Cities makes it easier to understand the important distinction between an external and an internal commitment to peace.
A city like Auckland can easily speak out about what other people ought to be doing. However making a commitment to actually being a Peaceful City is more complex. Our built environment is violent to our stories, our heritage, our landscape, our diversity, and our culture. There are endless design issues we need to address. Most windows in Auckland homes, for example, look into other windows. It is a recipe for alienation, resentment, and ultimately the break down of human relationships. We spend our time looking at other people rather than ourselves.
It is a tragedy that the Unitary Plan not only does not make any top-level commitment to peace, but also will lead to anger, ill will, and violence. The very concept of a legal battleground, which will only produce winners and losers, turns Auckland into a war zone. Bureaucratic control is not a solution. Peace is a positive idea.
Peace begins with respect. A peaceful city begins with a built environment that respects and enhances the unique eccentricity of every citizen. In a peaceful city every person would be filled with joy, while also embracing the anguish and agony that comes from being fully alive.
We need to challenge our architects, but before that we need to ask ourselves the right questions. Peace is an attitude.
Christchurch – First Peace City in New Zealand
By Kate Dewes
From 2000-2003 I served as the New Zealand non-government ‘government expert’ on the UN Secretary General’s Study on Disarmament and Non-proliferation Education.[i] UN Cities for Peace and the urgent need for peace education and training about disarmament and non-proliferation were recognised with the adoption by consensus, in November 2002, of a resolution introducing the Study Report, which included 34 far-reaching recommendations.
One of these encouraged municipal leaders, working with citizen groups, “ to establish peace cities, as part of the UNESCO Cities for Peace network, through, for example, the creation of peace museums, peace parks, websites, and production of booklets on peacemakers and peacemaking.
The report also encouraged educators to use a variety of teaching methods, including participatory learning approaches. It advised those preparing educational material to be sensitive to various audiences, cultures, customs and situations and to find ways to present it in the language of the recipients: “In addition to computer-based learning, model United Nations programmes, other role-playing and simulation games, videos, electronic games, film, dance, song, theatre, puppetry, poetry, photography, origami, graphic art and creative writing are all useful methods.”
In New Zealand we implemented these UN recommendations by declaring Christchurch the first Peace City in 2002, and holding four peace exhibitions, which then travelled nationwide. The first was the exhibition from the Mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which went to sixteen cities, then followed a smaller photographic version without artefacts which toured schools to mark Peace Week.
There were very successful exhibitions on Mahatma Gandhi, and on the health effects of depleted Uranium munitions. The twentieth anniversary of the passing of New Zealand’s historic nuclear free legislation in 2007 provided another opportunity for a major exhibition, which showcased iconic peace movement memorabilia. As the first nuclear free city in 1982, it was appropriate to host this first in Christchurch.
The exhibition included the original 1963 petition calling for a Southern Hemisphere nuclear free zone, banners, posters, stickers, badges, photos, magazines, stamps, artwork and music. It was a celebration of the diversity, imagination, courage and stamina of the peace movement and some key politicians over the last 60 years.
In Christchurch we have also instigated an archive collection and now have the collections of Larry Ross, Harold Evans, Jack Rogers and other conscientious objectors, in the MacMillan Brown Library at the University. There is a collection of peace books in the Canterbury Public and peace movement artefacts in the Museum. The World Peace Bell Association in Japan gifted Christchurch a World Peace Bell and the Mayor of Nagasaki gifted a seedling from the camphor tree which survived the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.
In 2002 our Mayor was Garry Moore who had been a member of our peace groups in the 1980s. He became a strong advocate of peace issues and was appointed one of the 8 international Vice Presidents of the Mayors for Peace. He visited both Hiroshima and Nagasaki and signed a special peace declaration with the Mayor of Hiroshima. The Mayor of Nagasaki then visited Christchurch to strengthen links with the city.
The City Council and the Disarmament and Security Centre organised a sculpture designed by Kingsley Baird to gift to the Nagasaki Peace Park, which was then unveiled by Hon Phil Goff who was Minister of Defence and Disarmament at the time. The City Council also instigated Peace Awards which were given to leading personalities and groups in 2002 to mark the 20th anniversary of Christchurch becoming Nuclear Free. They included Larry Ross, Harold Evans, Mia Tay, Rev Maurice Gray, Dr Neil Cherry, Christian Pacifist Society, Sumner Peace Group.
The Peace Walk will have to be reviewed following the devastation caused by the recent earthquakes. The wall featuring a Peace Mural has been demolished. Visit Christchurch Peace City initiatives website for more information.
The larger group allayed some of the concerns but presented new challenges. While the larger group of humans provides a greater range of people to interact with, a more flexible work force and therefore an ability to solve en masse problems, it also provides specialisation within the work force and access to greater comfort. Collective structures start to diminish personal freedoms. The risks however also increased, the potential challenge to personal safety with many intensively cohabiting increase, especially as kinship bonds weaken. The worry about who will attack or rob you increases with larger numbers of people.
As civilisation moved to cities, more challenges occurred. A city is three things- a mass conglomerate of humans, a series of nested villages, and a swarm of individuals. In a large city, the individual is always surrounded by others, and in a world that never sleeps, there is increased potential for social interaction in duration, frequency and intensity. However, in city living, the individual is more alone, detached from close kinship relationships, with space, time, competition and social pressures effecting issues surrounding identity and belonging.
Stephen Pinker, author of ‘The better angels of our nature’ points out that our current era is the most peaceful time in human existence (!). Rates of violence at a personal, tribal and state level are the lowest that they have ever been, he writes. This sounds counter intuitive, for which he provides two reasons. Pinker suggests it is because we know of a lot more of the individual violence acts, in our instant communication, socially networked, mass media driven lives. Secondly our tolerance for violence has decreased faster than the rate of decrease of violence.
The world is less violent, but we are more appalled by it now than ever before, so it seems to be very violent.
What does a peace city offer? There will always be the threat to personal violence when there are both a means and a motive. The competition for scarce resources preys on an unstable minds that imagine that happiness can be gained through forceful redistribution, retribution, or retaliation. Living in a world of machines, high risk technologies and disruptive ecological systems may lead to accidents, disrupted social identity, and misuse of property.
A peace city consciously acknowledges the problem. By promoting peace, through awareness, discussion, events, and spaces through networking, the peace city aims to provide safety options for individuals, groups and as a safety mechanism for all. A city actually implies peace. A peace city makes a civil commitment explicit.