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Culture of Peace and Peacebuilding

Updated: Jan 14, 2022

by Aya Taqi (December, 2020)



UN Culture of Peace

Johan Galtung’s Theory of Peace

Culture of Peace Programme and Galtung’s Theory of Peace: How They Intersect

Recommendations for the United Nations





The United Nations General Assembly started adopting resolutions in support of a “culture of peace” in 1992. These resolutions called for a “transformation from a culture of war and violence to a culture of peace and non-violence.” It was not until 1999, when the UN created and adopted the Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace created on the basis of respect for human rights, democracy and tolerance, the promotion of development, education for peace, the free flow of information, the wider participation of women and disarmament. The UN is trying to create an environment for lasting peace with their efforts under a Culture of peace. In the UNESCO Constitution

As the Romans said, "Si vis pacem Para Bellum" which translates to, "If you want peace, prepare for war." We have developed, as a society with this same mindset and in support of a culture of war, which exists in our lives continually with security threats and supporting particular wars in “secret.” For this reason, international organizations like the UN encourage a transformation of culture. It is important to note that a culture of peace is more than the absence of war and violence, it requires a profound cultural transformation.

Johan Galtung is known as the “father of peace” because of the distinction he made between negative peace and positive peace which changed how we view the concept of peace all together. Peace does not equate to the total absence of violence and conflict, instead, peace is the absence of violence in all forms and the management of conflict in a constructive way.[1]

Both the UN Program for a Culture of Peace and Johan Galtung’s theory fit into each other, the two complement and expand each other.

UN Culture of Peace

United Nations Resolution A/53/243

UN Resolution 53/243, “the UN Declaration and Programme of Action for a Culture of Peace,” was adopted by consensus on 13 September 1999. The programme of action also calls for a global movement for a culture of peace and outlines the important role governments have in promoting and strengthening a culture of peace. The resolution has been described as poetic and beautifully written by many people because of its detail. Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury of Bangladesh described the document as unique:

“I believe that this document is unique in more than one way. It is a universal document in the real sense, transcending boundaries, cultures, societies and nations. Unlike many other General Assembly documents, this document is action-oriented and encourages actions at all levels, be they at the level of the individual, the community, the nation or the region, or at the global and international levels.”

Article 1 of resolution 53/243 perfectly summarizes what the culture of peace program is all about:

Manifesto 2000 for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence

Manifesto 2000 for a culture of peace and nonviolence was written by a group of Nobel Peace Prize winners with the purpose to translate the UN resolution into everyday language so it could appeal to people more. The goal of Manifesto 2000 is to include people everywhere to make an individual commitment to promoting a culture of peace.

The transformation from a culture of war and violence to a culture of peace and nonviolence requires the participation of citizens as much as governments and international organizations. Manifesto 2000 inspired and encouraged the youth and people in society to take matters into their own hands and shape a world based on justice, solidarity, harmony and prosperity for all. Furthermore, Manifesto 2000 made it clear the responsibility we carry as civilians to protect the environment and create a desirable place for future generations.

By signing the Manifesto, individuals pledged "in my daily life, in my family, my work, my community, my country and my region, to" [6]

  • Respect the life and dignity of each human being without discrimination or prejudice;

  • Practise active nonviolence, rejecting violence in all its forms: physical, sexual, psychological, economic and social, in particular towards the most deprived and vulnerable such as children and adolescents;

  • Share my time and material resources in a spirit of generosity to put an end to exclusion, injustice and political and economic oppression;

  • Defend freedom of expression and cultural diversity, giving preference always to dialogue and listening without engaging in fanaticism, defamation and the rejection of others;

  • Promote consumer behaviour that is responsible and development practices that respect all forms of life and preserve the balance of nature on the planet;

  • Contribute to the development of my community, with the full participation of women and respect for democratic principles, in order to create together new forms of solidarity;

The Manifesto was translated into different languages and shared all over the world, inviting people to make a change and commit themselves to a culture of peace by integrating these principles in their everyday life.

UNESCO Culture of Peace Programme

At the heart of the UN’s culture of peace efforts is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which has been attempting to implement the Culture of Peace Programme since 1992 and has become the main UN entity to work on the campaign. The UNESCO Constitution opens with the quote, “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed” which perfectly describes the role of UNESCO in regards to the efforts they have implemented to transform our culture and attitudes towards peace and nonviolence, by combining both peacebuilding and post conflict resolution.

UNESCO has been working to combat issues like discrimination, racism and violations of human rights by implementing the “culture of peace” programs in specific countries. The programs have a “commitment to peace-building, mediation, conflict prevention and resolution, peace education, human rights education, education for non-violence, tolerance, acceptance, social cohesion, mutual respect, intercultural and interfaith dialogue and reconciliation, together with development considerations.”

Johan Galtung’s Theory of Peace

There is a common misconception that peace is only the absence of war and/or any other form of organized physical violence. However, it is more accurate to say that the absence of war between nations and civil war within nations is only negative peace [3].

Johan Galtung, a Norweigan sociologist and the principal founder of peace studies coined the term positive and negative peace, which changed how we view the concept of peace all together. Positive peace refers to the creation of long-term peace through the addition of social justice to the absence of structural violence. Galtung explains that to achieve lasting peace we need to establish something missing, Positive peace is not limited to the idea of getting rid of something and is all about the attitudes, institutions and structures that lead to peaceful societies [4]. Positive peace refers to restoring relationships, the creation of social systems that meet the needs of the community and constructive conflict resolution whereas, negative peace is simply the absence of the threat of physical violence. But he asserts that you need negative peace before you can really begin to make the changes that are needed to create positive peace.

Galtung further expands on his ideas of positive and negative peace by linking them to peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding [5] which are as follow:

  • Peacemaking: refers to making peace by directly stopping violence

  • Peacekeeping: keeping the peace that has been made by preventing violence from starting up again and disrupting the peace

  • Peacebuilding: creating long lasting peace by deep changes in society by supporting institutions and ensuring the community needs are being met, that way resolving and eliminating the original causes of violence.

From these three concepts, Galtung explains peacebuilding is the only one that achieves positive peace because it gets to the root cause of the violence and why it initially erupted, preventing it from breaking out again. Peacemaking and peacekeeping on the other hand stop violence from breaking out (eg. ceasefire) without addressing the root causes which creates a vicious cycle of violence and makes long lasting peace an unattainable goal. Peacebuilding weaves the mechanisms that peace is based on into social structures, and makes these mechanisms available for the system to draw upon as Galtung states, “structures must be found that remove causes of wars and offer alternatives to war in situations where wars might occur” [5].

Galtung further states, to fully accomplish positive peace we must resolve the causes of violence through six different areas of effort:

  1. Equity: equity should be a norm and no party should be exploited.

  2. Entropy: relations are “entropic”, meaning that not only governments and elites participate, “it focuses more within a state structure and not the interactions between states” [8]. Also, one must acknowledge and prepare for natural social and systemic decay, as it is a requirement for maintaining long-lasting peace.

  3. Symbiosis: symbiosis refers to a high level of interdependence, “the exchange within the system is a substantial portion of the total production of the members” [5].

  4. Broad Scope: meaning that the exchanges are not only economic but many different types.

  5. Large Domain: there are more than 2-3 parties in the exchange, it is typically around 5-6.

  6. Superstructure: A permanent infrastructure space and staff to support ongoing Peacework, like the United Nations campuses placed throughout the world.

All segments of society must work together to achieve peace and create long term transformation to truly make an impact and ensure that all members of society experience equality and justice. This will effectively eradicate violence because methods to solve conflict nonviolently would be developed and practiced, diminishing even the threat of violence breaking out. It is important to promote a positive peace culture to make this a reality.

Culture of Peace Programme and Galtung’s Theory of Peace: How They Intersect

Galtung’s theory of peace outlines that to reach a state of peace, governments need to provide the community with desirable social characteristics like education, justice and equality. This is known as positive peace. Similarly, UN resolution 53/243 describes that to create a culture of peace Member States must focus on justice, equality, respect for human rights, and education - all these factors would deeply transform society creating a culture of peace, but also cause the deep transformation of society that Galtung refers to and eliminate the original causes of violence. Galtung furthers the concept of positive peace by introducing cultural positive peace. Cultural positive peace relates to the presence of a culture that supports peace, a culture of peace promotes and teaches nonviolence instead of war and violence, that way citizens will feel strongly towards solving conflict through nonviolent and peaceful means rather than violence. The United Nations has been essential in creating and promoting a culture of peace, with the Programme of Action for a Culture of Peace and the work of multiple UN bodies, especially UNESCO.

The UNESCO Culture of Peace Programme recognized that peacemaking required as much as strategic planning as war making did. Also, the end goal was not the absence of violent relations between nations but also between citizens, human beings and the environments they inhabited. To achieve that, the Programme rooted its efforts in families, schools, the media, and virtually all facets of life to fully transform to a culture of peace. This framework closely aligns with Galtung’s idea of positive peace as it involves all segments of society and then gets to the root of problems and seeks to transform completely the way we live.

The idea of positive peace relates more to UNESCO’s Peace Programme because it goes beyond the eradication of violence, instead it addresses the root causes of the violence and constructive methods of prevention. Negative peace does not apply to the Peace Programme because the overall goal of the Programme is to transform cultures and traditions to become more peaceful, which is much deeper than negative peace.

Recommendations for the United Nations

The United Nations introduced Sustaining Peace in 2016 after it was concluded that preceding UN peacebuilding efforts were not as successful as expected. It became evident that the extensive works of peacebuilding carried out by the UN were time consuming, expensive and often lead to the relapse of conflict and violence. The UN’s version of peacebuilding was not as successful as they hoped because it was really only a compromised version of peacekeeping that did not include the steps Galtung suggests to really make long-term positive change in a society and ensure justice, equality and respect for human rights.

The efforts carried out by the UN were more focused on reconciliation, education and Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR), which only prevented the violence from breaking out in the short-term. These efforts can be categorized as Galtung’s Peacekeeping but since they did not result in long-term change that is necessary for lasting peace, they are not Peacebuilding. The UN formally combined Peacekeeping with their version of Peacebuilding and named it Sustaining Peace, as outlined in General Assembly resolution A/RES/70/262 and Security Council resolution S/RES/2282. Although the UN recognized that their original model for peacebuilding was ineffective, and changed it to more closely address the causes of violence, it is still unsuccessful. This new approach to peacebuilding promised to prevent the “outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of [violent] conflict,” and by addressing the root causes of conflict to end hostilities in order to ”save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” as stated in the opening sentence of the UN Charter.

To adequately transform our society into a culture of peace, the UN needs to implement Galtung’s ideas completely. Galtung is considered the father of peace studies because the framework he has created and developed is one of a kind and can truly change our world for the better. The revised UN model was a failure because it does not seek the deep transformation of society to eliminate the original causes of violence. The UN needs to align their peacebuilding efforts with Galtung’s theory of peace, to create long lasting peace, deep changes in society must be made by supporting institutions and ensuring the community needs are being met.


There are aspects of our society that promote a culture of violence, the media, daily interactions and people in positions of power tend to lean more towards being assertive and their overall style has a tone of aggressiveness. To achieve sustainable peace, we need to promote and implement a culture of peace throughout our media, work, government, institutions and structures. Galtung’s idea of Cultural Positive Peace supports this theory, we need to promote peace and nonviolence to take up space and push out the violent tendencies in our society. The ultimate goal is to achieve sustainable peace and to reach that international organizations and national governments support efforts that eradicate violence but also ensure that the community needs are being met and address the causes of violence. The UN Culture of Peace Programme is very similar to Galtung’s ideas, however, it does not implement Galtung’s ideas fully. The Culture of Peace Programme must be tweaked to include Galtung’s ideas to the full extent for it to truly be successful and start making a change.


[1] DIJKEMA, Claske. “Negative versus Positive Peace.” Negative versus Positive Peace - Irénées, May 2000.

[2] General Assembly resolution 53/243, Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, A/RES/53/243 (27 November 2020), available from

[3] Webel, Charles. “Handbook of Peace and Conflict Studies .” Routledge; 1st edition , April 5, 2007.

[4] Herath, Oshadhi. “A Critical Analysis of Positive and Negative Peace,” n.d.

[5] Galtung, Johan. 3 Approaches to Peace: Peacekeeping, Peacemaking and Peacebuilding. From Impact of Science on Society, 1/2, PRIO Publication No. 25-9, Oslo, Norway (1976).

[6] Manifesto 2000: For a Culture of Peace and Non-violence drafted by twenty-four Nobel Peace Prize laureates (Paris: UNESCO, 1999); 1 p.;, available from

[7] Intersectoral Platform for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence, Bureau for Strategic Planning, editor, “UNESCO’s Programme of Action Culture of Peace and Non-Violence: A Vision in Action,” UNESCO's Programme of Action: Culture of Peace and Non-Violence; a Vision in Action, 2013, p. 6.

[8] Ramey, Benjamin. “Positive Peace and Peacebuilding: Definitions and Strategies for Sustainable Peace.” September, 2020.


Adams, David. “Global Movement for a Culture of Peace .” Culture of Peace: Scientific Approach, 2020.

Bloomfield, David. Reconciliation After Violent Conflict: A Handbook. Stockholm: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 2005.

“DDR and Peacebuilding: Thematic review of DDR contributions to peacebuilding and the role of the Peacebuilding Fund” United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office, 2012.

Fitz-Gerald, Ann. SSR and Peacebuilding: Thematic Review of Security Sector Reform (SSR) to Peacebuilding and the Role of Security Reform (SSR) to Peacebuilding and the Role of the Peacebuilding Fund. United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office, 2012.

Galtung , Johan. “Cultural Violence*.” Journal of Peace Research, 1990.

Galtung, Johan. 3 Approaches to Peace: Peacekeeping, Peacemaking and Peacebuilding. From Impact of Science on Society, 1/2, PRIO Publication No. 25-9, Oslo, Norway (1976).

General Assembly resolution 53/243, Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, A/RES/53/243 (27 November 2020), available from

Gupta, Aakrati. Rep. Handbook for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence , 2018.

Gursozlu, Fuat. Peace, Culture, and Violence. Leiden: Boston, 2018.

“History.” Peace Building Initiative - History. Accessed December 7, 2020.

McCandless, Erin. Peace Dividends and Beyond: Contributions of Administrative and Social Services to Peacebuilding. United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office, 2012.


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