Opinion

Department of Peace - Atamanenko column

Alex Atamanenko, MP for BC Southern Interior - file photo
Alex Atamanenko, MP for BC Southern Interior
— image credit: file photo

In this column I would like to share part of the speech I gave to those attending the “Open Forum” on a culture of peace and Department of Peace in Canada which took place in Ottawa early in November of 2012.
Arms trade is big business – in 2010 total military spending in the world was around $1.6 Trillion.  According to the World Bank, 1.5 Billion people live in areas affected by fragility, conflict or large-scale organized criminal violence.  No low-income fragile or conflict-affected country has yet achieved a single UN Millennium Development goal.
It is troublesome that military expenditures in fragile and conflict affected countries grew by 15% between 2009-2010, while Official Development Assistance (ODA), grew by only 9%.
Between 1990 and 2006, Africa lost an estimated cumulative total of $284 Billion as a result of armed conflict – an average of $18 Billion per year.
To put this into context, it is estimated that an annual requirement of $14 Billion is needed in Africa to scale up effective HIV prevention and universal access to AIDs treatment across the continent.
I would think that a Canadian Department of Peace could play a key role here.
The next piece of information I would like to share with you are some of the initiatives for peace undertaken by US Congressman Dennis Kucinich, a strong advocate for peace in the individual and social spheres, and in national and foreign policy.
He believes that the US government must develop a new broad-based approach to peaceful, non-violent conflict resolution, both domestically and abroad.
On February 3, 2009 Congressman Kucinich introduced H.R. 808, which was first introduced on July 11, 2001.  This bill was to create a Cabinet-level Department of Peace and Non-Violence which embodies a broad-based approach to peaceful, non-violent conflict resolution at both the domestic and international levels.
His bill includes the establishment of a “Peace Day” as well as a “Cultural Diplomacy for Peace-Grants” to be used by schools, non-profits and NGOs for the purpose of developing international cultural exchanges, including the arts and sports.
In a statement released on October 3rd, Mr. Kucinich stated that the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war began in Congress prior to the first bombs being dropped on March 20, 2003.  He recalls how he and 132 of his colleagues stood in solidarity to oppose the war.
As Kucinich states, “Ten years ago, Congress began the journey that led us to 4,488 killed Americans and more than 33,000 injured.  As many as 1 Million Iraqi civilians were killed staining the conscience of our nation.  We wasted trillions of dollars while our economy and infrastructure crumbled at home.”
He ends his statement by saying, “Imagine what could have been if Congress had maintained the courage to say no to the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld war machine.  Imagine and demand – never again”.
Appearing on a live broadcast, Congressman Kucinich explained his H.R 808 which currently has 52 sponsors.  “The main message of the Department of Peace is that we are not chained to this wheel of violence.  War is not inevitable.  It is not inevitable that we descend into some circle of Dante’s hell.  This is the core of the Department of Peace:  the faith in the evolution of human consciousness”
What I find interesting is that Kucinich sees his Department of Peace as getting to the root of conflicts before they occur.
“If we create these wars (Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq), we are not accepting the consequences of what we have done.  To leave it to peace keepers and conflict resolution experts, we are disconnected from our own actions.  We have a country that has not been able to shed our imperial instincts.  The idea that we can dominate the world through a global war on terror is insanity.  All our peace-building efforts will fall apart as long as we believe we can control the world through the use of force.  We must acknowledge that every time we drop a bomb, it expands the war and ripples into the future ultimately coming back to us.”
It may seem that I have spent a little too much time talking about Congressman Kucinich and his initiative, but I thought it was important to put my Bill C-373 as well as his legislation into context.

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