The culture of peace has returned to its source in the heart of Africa. UNESCO and Côte d’Ivoire celebrated the origin of the concept that took place in Yamoussoukro twenty five years ago and that has changed the way we understand peace.
It was indeed at the International Congress of UNESCO held in 1989 in Yamoussoukro and dedicated to the theme, "Peace in the mind of men," that UNESCO adopted this vision where "Peace is more than the end of armed conflict "and where" Peace is a behavior”.
To commemorate the idea that was newly conceived twenty-five years ago - and also to demonstrate its relevance for our time - UNESCO and the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Foundation for Peace Research again joined forces under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire to organize a meeting in Yamoussoukro entitled "Peace in the minds of men and women“ on September 21 - 23, 2014.
This event had the dual aim of measuring the progress made since 1989 and exploring future avenues, including launching the activities of the Network of Foundations and Research Institutions to Promote a Culture of Peace in Africa, established in September 2013 in Addis Ababa.
Wishing to counter the intolerance and religious extremism that mark the news of our time, the organizers arranged that the meeting should be opened with an ecumenical ceremony for peace. The ceremony was held on September 21, the date of the International Day of Peace, in the Basilica “Notre Dame de la Paix” of Yamoussoukro. It was addressed by religious personalities including the Rector of the Basilica, the Imam of the Grand Mosque of Yamoussoukro, a Methodist Pastor and representatives of other religious communities.
On Monday, September 22, the opening ceremony included a tribute to Minister Joachim Bony, Former Secretary General of the Houphouet-Boigny Foundation for Peace Research. Speeches were delivered by Mr. Albert Tévoédjrè, Ombudsman of the Republic of Benin, Mr. Jean Kouakou Gnrangbe, Mayor of the Commune of Yamoussoukro and Mr. Jean Noël Loucou, Deputy Secretary General of the Houphouet-Boigny Foundation for Peace Research.
The celebration began with a video message from the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms. Irina Bokova, who welcomed the commitment to peace by the authorities of Côte d'Ivoire. She urged us to "respond boldly, with a vision of peace in the broadest sense, which goes well beyond the end of fighting, and which touches the heart of humanity." She said that this vision "should guide us in our understanding of the many crisis situations and violence in the world."
The Assistant Director-General of UNESCO for Africa, Ms. Lalla Aïcha Ben Barka, concluded her speech by saying "I am convinced that the culture of peace will continue to mobilize more and more our energies for a future of Africa under the sign of peace and sustainable development."
Then, the floor was given to H.E. Mr. Mohamed Sameh Amr, Chairman of the Executive Board of UNESCO and Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Egypt to UNESCO. He recalled the milestones of the concept of culture of peace, beginning with its proclamation in 1989 by UNESCO’s Members States and leading to its full adoption by the United Nations, including the high point that was undoubtedly the Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the children of the World (2001-2010). This Decade was under the auspices of UNESCO which now continues its leadership with the Decade for the rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022) focused on intercultural and interreligious dialogue.
Various international and regional organizations were represented including the African Union, the African Development Bank, and the Mano River Union. Ms. Hiroute Guebre Sellassie , the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the Sahel, stressed the importance of "further developing strategic partnerships between UN agencies to ensure synergy of actions and efficacy of results. As part of my mission I am committed to working in this direction with UNESCO and other partners to establish a culture of peace, a major tool for development and lasting stability."
In a video message, the former Director General of UNESCO, Mr. Federico Mayor, welcomed the fact that, thanks to the efforts of UNESCO and its partners, Africa is now in the forefront of the culture of peace in the world. He also highlighted the advances in Latin America, particularly Bolivia and Ecuador which have included the culture of peace in their constitutions.
The celebration ended with a speech by H.E. Mr. Daniel Kablan Duncan, Prime Minister of the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, who focused on the importance of culture of peace in his country as a bridge towards national reconciliation after the period of post-election turmoil which had plunged Côte d’Ivoire into chaos.
In the afternoon, roundtables gave voice to great witnesses of the culture of peace, some of whom were present at the creation of the concept 25 years ago.
Then the participants adopted the "Yamoussoukro +25” declaration, which reaffirms the need to promote the culture of peace in all regions of the world. They pledged to participate in the implementation of the "International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures", and the "Action Plan for a culture of peace in Africa” adopted in Luanda (Angola) in 2013. Participants expressed their support for the creation of a "Biennale of Culture of Peace in Africa", as proposed by the Government of Angola to UNESCO. This recurring event will be a progressive review of the implementation of this program on a continental scale.
The day ended with the award ceremony of the support mechanism "Springboard for youth social entrepreneurship and a culture of peace", organized by the Centre d’Etudes et de Prospective Stratégique (CEPS) in partnership with UNESCO and in the presence of the Minister of Culture and Francophonie, representing the Prime Minister of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire. A sum of 10,000 US$ was awarded to a young Ivorian entrepreneur to create an online training tool.
The following days were devoted to the work of the Network of foundations and research institutions to promote a culture of peace in Africa, created in 2013 at the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). The 39 Network’s members defined their action plan for the next two years and the terms of their cooperation.
The Yamoussoukro celebrations ended on September 24 with the preparatory meeting for the first Biennale of the culture of peace in Africa, to be held in Luanda (Angola) in 2015.
Download the Yamoussoukro +25 Declaration