Towards a Culture of Peace and Sustainable Development Drawing From A Philippine Experience. By Cecile Guidote-Alvarez.
UNESCO Artist for Peace, 2003 / UNESCO DREAM Center 2011 President, International Theatre Institute’s Cultural Identity and Development Committee
Delivered October 16, 2012 at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris
All of us here in Paris: Goodwill Ambassadors, Artists for Peace and Champions for Sports in this historic gathering are committed to help carry out the vision of a ’new humanism’ articulated by the first woman Director-General of UNESCO, Dr. Irina Bokova. As an Artist for Peace and Director of the ITI- Earthsavers Academy/ Ensemble also honoured as UNESCO DREAM Center from the Philippines, we thank UNESCO and Madame Bokova for this unique global stage setting on the occasion of the launching of the 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report ‘Youth and Skills: Putting education to work. Indeed, education is the key to unlock the gridlock of underdevelopment.
Culture is the catalyst to realize the Education for All. Our collective presence today is a testimony of hope, a manifestation of a creative army harnessed under the banner of UNESCO, willing and able to help persuade the world that we can win the war against poverty and pollution, drugs and despair, crime and corruption, terrorism and tyranny, ignorance, inequity and injustice, not by compulsion BUT BY PERSUASION, not by force BUT BY ART.
Instead of billions spent on arms and missile deployment and bombs that destroy life, we must mobilize our diverse cultural traditions and heritage, artistic resources, and talents to affirm life, to interest, inform and motivate people, to assist the common goal of achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals and confronting the crisis of global warming. Theatre, as a meeting ground of all the arts is a powerful engine for development, a dynamic force for learning and a facilitator for social change to create the womb of values—from apathy and greed, to caring and sharing. Compassion is the sensitivity to be hurt and to cry when people are suffering and are in pain, and to be happy when people are blessed with good fortune. This will underscore our common humanity and the importance of the gift of life.
Culture is an essential ingredient for development. Development plans are retarded or accelerated depending on the creative and dynamic integration of culture in development planning.
We must democratize the right to culture. Cultural Caregiving Services must be accessed to the vulnerable groups—the oppressed, those with disabilities, those suffering from trauma, victims of war and disaster, the abandoned, the street kids, the out-of-school youth, the delinquent, the indigenous youth who feel helpless, excluded or desperate. It is a vehicle to discover the goldmine of their abilities and dig the oil well of their confidence to cope and transform their social realities to achieve and live a dignified life. Free arts training in all disciplines and participation in multi-media presentations that draw meaning and power from the lives and language of our people can fire their imagination, stimulate innovativeness, crystallize the will to overcome difficulties, develop their artistic skills of expression to pursue their dream for a better, healthy, just and peaceful world. Just like our endangered species, equally threatened are our indigenous communities. We must preserve bio- cultural diversity for the continuation of a meaningful life on earth.
Besides employment expansion opportunities through the Arts for our transformed and recycled handicapables, we have also encouraged the creative industries of our indigenous peoples who must be mainstreamed through the curriculum, the media and through venues for partnerships with the business sector, the civic and religious groups who can help them with micro-lending, cooperative development and marketing.
The first giant step towards peace was undertaken in our country with the signing of a framework agreement with our Muslim rebels by President Benigno Aquino III, the son of the martyr Ninoy Aquino. It is meant to address the immemorial problem of poverty through an economic formula utilizing culture as a creative weapon for people empowerment and to discombobulate the culture of corruption that will instil a mind-set of good governance and responsible citizenship.
There is a clarion call to give peace a chance. A theatrical concert by artists in areas of conflict can conscienticize and fertilize the ground for diplomatic dialogue to address grievances with ethics and equity. At the demilitarized zone, Artists for Peace can include performers from North and South Korea to spur tolerance and international undestanding. In the Spratly Islands, a contested place at the West Philippine Sea can include artists from countries with contending claims to prevent armed conflict and destruction of lives and livelihood.
Where politics almost certainly divides, Arts can unite and heal, bond and cement a nation and peoples together. Theatre recharges memory.
Without memory, we will never learn from the mistakes of the past and we would not know where to draw our strength as a springboard to reach our goals and realize our dreams of sustainable development.
On the first week of December in Doha, at the conference of the parties, a Tri-Continental South-South Dialogue on Defying Disasters as an approved side event will include a cultural component: a multi-media arts installation providing a global panorama of illustrated pledges, comprising a Tree of Action to confront climate change complemented by eco-music videos, short films and relevant messages from environmental heroes and the UN family of agencies led by Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.
The launching of the global movement of Mobilizing Cultural Diversity for the UN Millennium Development Goals was held on the occasion of the 31st International Theatre Institute Congress and Theatre Olympics of the Nations in May 2006 in the Philippines, through a UNESCO General Resolution and a Presidential Administrative Order. The successful event with 80 countries participating has been able to generate attention and impact on policy. A full Culture Chapter was inscribed in the Philippine Medium Term Development Plan. There were Presidential proclamations for a UNESCO-ITI World Theatre Week, World Dance Day, Heritage Month, and Indigenous Peoples Month. We apply a hexamedia approach. We endeavour to have community events and performances documented, disseminated and shared through broadcast: radio and TV Drama and illustrated theatre through publication of comics, cinema, webcast and other information technology forms. A comprehensive interdisciplinary communications program to popularize science and generate involvement in a national action agenda of survival is necessary. Culture as an essential ingredient of sustainable development was inscribed in the Rio+20 Declaration. The Philippine Artists for Peace have initiated the concept of a World Arts Education Week in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Korea that merited a UNESCO Resolution for its annual observance in the last week of May.
The Philippines honoured as the 1st ASEAN Culture Capital for 2 years 2010-2011 to forge regional identity and pride of habitat, heritage, history, language and creative industries was the venue for the first commemoration of Dia Del Galeón on October 8, 2010 connecting continents. This UNESCO General Conference Resolution recognizes the importance of the Manila-Acapulco trade route as a precursor of globalization and a vital vessel of cross-cultural exchange for 250 years. We are providing a 21st century approach to its observance not just by recharging memory, but through an artistic reflection with a balanced affirmation of Hispanic heritage and indigenous traditions for collaborative new routes of expression from ancestral roots focused on the concerns of UNESCO: Cultural Rapprochement, Biodiversity, Ocean Care and Seafaring, Climate Change mitigation through sustainable energy, reforestation, gender equity and health issues.
People must be informed through cultural symbols they can relate to, empathize and not be alienated, involved and not disinterested, to understand the complex issues connecting them directly to their daily existence. They must be inspired to respond to act and do something to shift the balance, to be passionate in solving their problems. More than speeches—a painting, a poem, a song, a play, a dance piece, a film, animated legends inspiring stories of love, heroism and courage of commitment– CAN BRING THE MESSAGE ACROSS. We must carry the cries of children and women especially orphans and widows to stop the violence against mankind and Mother Earth.
Together, as a rainbow network of UNESCO marching under the command of Director-General Bokova we have faith we can triumph over poverty and environmental devastation. We must end procrastination. No more delays. We can’t wait. We must act now to secure a better, peaceful, sustainable world for our children up to the 7th generation. Thank you for attention.
Know more activities from the UNESCO Dream Center and Ms. Cecile Guidote-Alvarez:
This article was published on January 30th: School Day of Non-violence and Peace in Global Education Magazine