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News of the Alliance > 2003, June

You might also wish to read the results of the Alliance Forum for Building Peace, which took place from December 2001 to June 2002, by no means obsolete

The following information has been sent by Marti Olivella, from Barcelona, Director of NovaCis, in charge of the e-forum of the International Facilitation Team of the Alliance and John Stewart, from Zimbabwe, member of the International Governing Council of the Non Violent Peace Forces . Web site of the "Nonviolent Peace Forces"

You will also find a short presentation of the fourth Dialogue and Controversy Round Table, which was one of the innovations of this latest edition of the WSF.

4. Against the wars of the 21st century, how can peace be built between peoples?

Here are several articles written following the latest WSF, Porto Alegre 2003. Through them, we wish to illustrate the diversity of the Allies’ contributions to this event.

Economy of Solidarity Becomes Major Theme for International Civil Society - Workgroup on a Socio-economy of Solidarity (WSSE)
Philippe Amouroux and Françoise Wautiez

"Mapeadores" at the WSF - Experience of a mapped appreciation of the debates
Véronique Rioufol, with the contribution of the "mapeadores"

Re-enchantment of the World Social Forum - The Alliance Artists’ Network
Hamilton Faria

Proposals for the Future of the Alliance - Report on the meeting of the Allies in Porto Alegre
Marti Olivella and Laia Botey

This is the presentation made by Nadia Aïssaoui, an Algerian living in Lebanon, during the controversial debate of the World Social Forum of Porto Alegre last January on the question: Against the wars of the 21st century, How can peace be created between peoples?

Doomed to Hope
Nadia Leila Aïssaoui - Algeria-Lebanon -

Nadia AïssaouiHow is the problem understood?

Speaking about building peace today seems more like expressing utopian ideals than a possible reality.

How is it possible to face up to the global unleashing of violence that we are now witnessing?

In my speech, I shall attempt to present several directions of consideration on the reasons for war and on our responsibility in building peace.

How can war be defined?

War is the symbol of the failure of humanity and its powerlessness to stem the death wish within every human being.
War is not only armed conflict but covers all systematic forms of violence that have become intrinsic components of society based on a patriarchal system that has always glorified the use of domination and force as means of assertion.
War is all forms of injustice that generate violence. Whether these forms are racism, sexism, economic discrimination, occupation of another’s territory or armed conflict, what is at stake is human dignity and rights.
The alarming figures of the United Nations Development Programme for 2000, describing the living conditions in today’s world, show that the stakes of economic and political power have become far clearer at global scale, with the progression of neo-liberal ideology that has declared war against millions of human beings.
For example, it states that:

  • more than a billion human beings live on less than one dollar a day;
  • the fortunes of the 200 richest persons in the world exceed the revenues of 41% of the world’s population (2.8 billion human beings);
  • the fortunes of the three richest persons in the world exceed the GNP of the 48 poorest countries together;
  • 300,000 children and millions of women are subject to slavery and prostitution;
  • 26 wars are now in progress around the world (including 18 in Africa).
  • 2.5 million have been killed and 12 million others have been displaced during the last ten years.

In view of all these figures, it should not be forgotten that spending on defence contributes to the wealth of a war-based economy maintained by the military-industrial complexes whose beneficiaries are powerful Western countries (especially the United States) and their allies in the regimes of the third world.
These military-industrial complexes control a large share of the media that generates a climate of all pervading fear. Television channels overflow with serials (often offered free to the countries of the South) that promote violence and virility. Since television has taken the place of parents crushed by work, it has become a vector of socialisation and education for violence and sexism.
At the same time, censorship, misinformation and control of information are current practice when used to justify defence budgets and they prevent transparency regarding the nuclear sector and its impact on the environment and the world.

How can the Arab context be understood on the basis of these global conditions?
To return to the sources of wars and violence, we can see that violence in Arab countries (and perhaps in many other countries around the world) is meted out at several levels: in family relationships, in social relationships (political and economic) and in the management of public affairs by the different regimes in place.
- On family relationships: The hierarchical structure of the patriarchal family gives total authority to men and their male successors. They wield coercive power and control over women, so that the latter introvert and reproduce the systems of domination from which men profit in every way.
- On social relationships: Social organisation is directly founded on the family structure to such an extent that the strategic positions of power are exclusively monopolised by men, thereby relegating women to the private sphere, despite the fact that women are increasingly asserting themselves in the world of work. Thus it is not surprising to observe the increase of violence expressed towards them and to any social actor that disputes the dominant order. This violence is expressed by threats to the safety of women in public life but also by the radicalisation of laws inspired by religious texts that regulate their personal status, turning them into second-class citizens. Other categories in society that call this order into question are also subjected to severe repression if not total absence of freedom and democratic expression.
- Regarding the management of public affairs by the regimes in place: the Arab world is ruled by dictatorships often installed by military coups d’états, that have generated a system relying on clientilism and secrecy rife with corruption, the monopolisation of wealth by a minority, and the marginalisation of women, thereby creating frustration, and giving rise to and widely expressed by radical political Islamism.

However, the Arab world is also faced with a complex and unique situation stemming from the Israeli colonisation and occupation of Palestine. This colonisation and occupation have been supported for decades by the United States. Europe, on the other hand, remains silent about this aggression suffered by the Palestinians and which paralyses the entire region, strengthening the authoritarian regimes in place by giving them pretexts for militarisation, while accumulating tension, frustration, anger and hate.

All the dimensions and stakes of the war exist in Palestine right now. It is precisely in this conflict that the credibility of those in favour of progress by action in the world is at stake, exactly as it was in the South African combat against apartheid.

Peace Demonstration in Barcelona What can be done to build lasting peace?

As we see it the question is not so much the existence of proposals for peace, or how to implement them, since the balance of power has swayed in favour of the logic of war.
From this standpoint I shall try to present several proposals and return to Palestine once again, as I repeat that only a just peace in this country and the liberation of its people will contribute towards considerably modifying the entire situation in the region and thus the world.

The construction of a culture of peace requires work that must be done at several levels:

  • The individual and collective level: freeing ourselves of patriarchal logic requires that each of us also frees ourselves from the present hierarchical system and seriously calls into question the scale of dominant values. The feminist movements, for example, succeeded in formulating critical thinking when women were able to demystify the ideologies and stereotypes inculcated by patriarchal society. Deglorifying the myth of war and the warrior is the first step required to build a culture of peace. Then it is necessary to use education to emphasise the importance of values needed for life, that is to say solidarity, equality and justice instead of competition, domination, money and profit.
  • Work for the construction of participatory democracies that take into consideration the hopes of peoples, and replace the military, monarchical and reactionary regimes that govern the Arab world. This must be done through efforts that bring together progressists and aim at changing the present balance of power. Political culture, practice and commitment are essential for creating another balance of power. We are greatly inspired by the Brazilian system insofar as Brazilian society has succeeded in freeing itself from dictatorship without bloody consequences. The pluralism and dynamism of the left offers wider horizons than previously with the renewal of thinking.
  • To succeed in bringing about democratisation, the construction of alliances between civil societies at international scale can constitute a means of pressure by mobilising public opinion via mass demonstrations and politically by voting, boycotts (oil companies, networks supporting the occupation), and so forth. This is the surest way of inciting Western governments to demand respect for human rights and the freedom of the individual before any economic co-operation agreement between our countries.
  • The cancellation of the third world debt is vital for their economic development provided that it is accompanied with international monitoring to avoid corruption and waste.
  • The reform and democratisation of international economic and political institutions (IMF, the World Bank and the WTO).
  • The need to reform the systems of the United Nations, whose role is limited at present to validating double standard policies imposed by the United States and their allies to suit their own interests. The examples of Israeli contempt for UN resolutions is blatant when compared to the situation of Iraq. The reform would concern the abolition of the right of veto, held by the five powers responsible for selling more than 90% of the world’s arms. It would also concern taking into account the position of civil societies and their proposals, since their views are seldom or not at all represented by their governments.
  • Civil society must constitute a laboratory for renewing politics and redynamising political parties, currently hamstrung by their rigidity and incapacity for regeneration. Civil society in democratic countries has the means to influence those who govern them. It is a responsibility towards the just and legitimate causes of peoples gagged by their own leaders or colonisers. The Palestinian cause, to give an example, has never been given as much media exposure or had as much support from public opinion since the commitment of Western and international activists. They are capable of making their public opinions aware and thus influence internal and external political strategies through the ballot box.

Now, returning to the question of Palestine, the proposals are concrete and have been widely diffused:

  • the organisation of an international campaign for the application of UN resolutions (194 voted in 1949 related to the refugees’ right of return, resolutions 242 and 338 voted in 1967 related to the Israeli retreat from the occupied territories, resolution 1392 voted in 2002 related to the creation of a Palestinian state).
  • the retreat of the Israeli army from all Palestinian territories occupied since 1967;
  • the dismantling of all the Israeli colonies in the occupied territories
  • an independent and sovereign Palestinian state in control of its borders, air and water, with East Jerusalem as its capital;
  • the right of return for the refugees;
  • recognition of responsibilities to make reconciliation possible.
    Without an independent and viable Palestinian state, the peoples of the region will never live in peace and security.

Finally, on the question of Iraq, it is vital to face up to the war and American-British aggression, while supporting the Iraqi people to rid itself of its dictator. Now is the moment to mobilise or never.
There is also the issue of facing the consequence of this war on Palestine and the Palestinian people, especially if, tomorrow, Israel elects a war criminal (Sharon) at its head for the second time running. He will certainly use the pretext of the war in Iraq to take his destructive ambitions for Palestine and its people to their logical conclusion.

We are condemned to hope and are above all condemned towards building and giving life to this hope.

© 2001 Alliance pour un monde responsable, pluriel et solidaire. Tous droits réservés.