1986: International Year of Peace
"Peace is a virtue originating in spiritual strength." In 1986, proclaimed International Year of Peace by the General Assembly of the United Nations, Spinoza's definition remains as relevant as ever. If there has been no world war for forty years, neither has there been world peace: internecine conflicts continue to devastate certain regions, and all mankind is haunted by the spectre of a nuclear catastrophe, threatening the annihilation of present and future generations.
The defence of peace today is increasingly assuming the form of a constructive effort which is not confined to the need to prevent wars, but grapples with a whole series of imbalances that pervade the economic and social organization of the entire planet. All the contributors to this issue of the Unesco Courier, whatever their field whether they be specialists in war and peace studies, economists, historians, medical doctors, philosophers or jurists and wherever they are from, agree on this point.
Despite the different perspectives from which they analyse the situation, they also share more common ground in that they stress the interdependence of peace, disarmament and development, and regard the Third World for historical as well as economic reasons as today's theatre of violence. They examine and condemn the exploitation of peoples and the lack of rapprochement between them; the opposition of blocs; the rampant folly of the arms race with its crippling cost to humanity; anachronistic rivalry between national interests; the submission of science to political and military power. From these various approaches emerges the pressing need for a philosophy and practice of peace; here, as the present number shows, Unesco clearly has an essential role to play.
To contribute to the maintenance of peace and security is the pre-eminent task assigned to Unesco by its Constitution and, during the forty years of the Organization's existence, it has worked unremittingly, within its fields of competence, towards a world in which the whole human community may live in peace. Faithful to its mandate of constructing the defences of peace in the minds of men, Unesco is particularly concerned to promote education for understanding, co-operation and international peace.
In Japan, children have understood since Hiroshima that the destruction of an enemy is also the destruction of a friend. They make paper birds. cranes, a Japanese symbol of longevity and give them away because they wish, in their own words, "to build peace in this world."
Editor-in-chief: Edouard Glissant