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Peace Building

"In the power to change yourself is the power to change the world around you."

Anwar Sadat

I heard an elementary school principal on the radio a while ago. She was very concerned about her students. She pointed out how often children are exposed to violence (a child can watch one violent incident on television every six minutes; the average child is likely to watch 8,000 screen murders by the end of elementary school). She explained that her school was big on peace building. They had taught students various conflict resolution skills and techniques to deal with disagreements. They had also made it clear that violence was not an acceptable part of the school's culture. But since the terrorist attacks of September 11, this principal had noticed an increase in students playing war games during recess. In some cases, it had gotten out of hand -- children were punched or kicked. The principal was feeling frustrated. While she and the teachers in her school were trying to teach children about resolving conflicts in a constructive, nonviolent manner, children saw the President of the United States on the evening news talking about catching terrorists "dead or alive." She wondered how we can expect children to respond to these two conflicting messages. Which message carries more weight -- the one from the teachers or the one from the President?

Conflict, security, violence, war, and peace are issues both young and old struggle with. They are complicated issues. They are also critical to the legacy we pass on to future generations. This section is all about practical actions you can take and activities young and old can do to make a contribution toward a world that resolves conflicts constructively rather than destructively.

A peace builder is someone who acts in small ways every day to make the world a more peaceful place. There is something very liberating and hopeful about young people and older people working together to build peace. An atmosphere is created in which boundaries are relaxed and each group gains a new appreciation of the abilities and the integrity of the other. Sometimes, the views of older people can become entrenched. A young person may be able to provide the inspiration and motivation for an older person to change their view of a situation. We change the context in which we interpret our own lives by changing the stories that guide us. This kind of change isn't easy, but can be sparked by our need for generativity and the responsibility we feel to those who come after us. At the same time, older adults can often share past experiences that add depth to present events for young people.

As human beings, we have incredible potential. Peace building is based on the hope that we can tap into that potential. It doesn't offer an easy or quick solution. It is an ongoing process of learning for young and old.

We are born with an urge to play and create, to be curious and inventive, to experiment and explore. Our education either affirms these tendencies or smothers them. Education -- in the broadest sense of the term -- is central to peace building. Said Maria Montessori, "Preventing conflicts is the work of politics; establishing peace is the work of education." Education means listening, asking questions, and seeking to understand the nature of a problem. It means looking at the problem from your own perspective as well as the perspectives of others. It means learning skills and using them creatively, balancing a concern for yourself with a concern for the larger community. It means building on the past while finding new ways for people to live together peacefully in an increasingly shrinking world.

Peace building may take many forms: global peace education (international studies); conflict resolution programs (training to resolve interpersonal conflicts constructively); violence prevention programs (reducing violent behaviors); development education (values, human rights); and nonviolence education (emphasizing positive images of peace).

Peace building requires confrontation with conflict. In confronting conflict, we can choose to take a violent or nonviolent approach. Like violence, nonviolence is a learned behavior. In families, schools, and local communities, young and old can develop: an understanding of conflict and its consequences; skills in recognizing and nurturing healthy relationships with people like and unlike themselves; knowledge of (and the capacity to deal with) the workings and power in social and political systems; and the skills and motivation to use a broad base of conflict resolution processes.

There are three key areas to keep in mind as you work on peace building: 1) addressing emotional issues; 2) modeling effective conflict resolution; and 3) developing communication and thinking skills.


Addressing emotional issues has to be the first step. Many children and adults still have a great deal of emotion around the events of September 11, and all the events that have followed. These emotions must be acknowledged and worked through.

Peace building involves making individuals conscious of their own responsibility for peace. But this is difficult for children who have experienced war and violence firsthand. Their emotional recovery must come first, and it can be a very long, slow process. Even children living in more peaceful circumstances are a challenge. Studies of the development of children's conception of peace and war suggest that for most children these concepts are difficult to integrate into their world vision in a realistic way. There must be an appropriate emotional and cognitive foundation in place before they can take hold.

Some general tips for addressing the current emotional needs of young and old, particularly children:

  • Children need an opportunity to express their feelings and to talk about their fears. Shielding children from the facts doesn't help. Be honest about what's happening because children have a strong sense when they're being misled and this can make them even more insecure. When they want to talk, parents, grandparents, teachers, and other adults must be willing to take the time to listen. Giving children the freedom to talk to you and ask questions about what's going on gives them some measure of control and helps them feel safe.

  • Answer questions as honestly and as simply as possible. Say that there has been a terrible tragedy, but that police, firefighters, and other public safety workers are doing everything they can to help the people who have been hurt and their families, and make sure that no one else is hurt.

  • It's fine to express how serious a situation is, but avoid projecting your own fears onto children. Your fears are best discussed with other adults. At the same time, communicate that it's okay to feel scared or upset or sad sometimes. Discuss how to cope with these feelings and how to continue with a normal life despite these feelings.

  • Preschoolers basically just want to know that you will take care of them and that they are safe. School-aged children generally want more information. Teenagers will often push for "answers."

  • Children under seven or eight years of age should not watch graphic images on TV. They're simply too immature to understand what's going on. What they need most from you is the reassurance that you love them and that they and their family are safe. You can decide to let older children see some images, but limit them, especially images of those who have been hurt. Young teenagers can start to absorb more information about events and their historical background.

  • An open discussion about violence can make things less frightening. It puts the threat to personal safety into a broader context. It's important to keep events in perspective: the violence is isolated; bad things do happen, but the likelihood of them happening to you is low. Give children concrete information about the likelihood that something bad will happen to them. This means being informed yourself and being careful not to fall into a pattern of fear. The chances of something happening to you, even in these uncertain times, is very low. Caution is different than paranoia, and as adults we have to be careful how we walk that line so that we can be a good role model for children. Also keep in mind that the media by its very nature focuses on the sensational, horrific, and dramatic. The world really isn't like what you see on television. The media offer a misrepresentation of what society -- and the world we inhabit -- is really like. Most of the time, people in this part of the world are safe.

  • Sometimes you may have to initiate conversations with children to find out where they're at. You can open discussions with questions like, "What have you heard about the bombing in Afghanistan?" or "Do you think about what happened at the World Trade Center?" or "Are kids talking about what happened? I'd be really interested in hearing what you and your friends think."

  • The most important thing a parent, grandparent, or teacher can do is LISTEN. Let children's comments guide the discussion.

  • After listening, it's best not to inundate children with information or your own opinions. You can correct factual inaccuracies, but let their feelings and understanding develop over time through interaction and discussion. Rather than telling a child or teenager they're wrong, there are respectful ways of disagreeing, such as "I experience things differently. I think that..." It's important to stress the importance of examining a variety of points of view, as well as your own, and learn to analyze what each has to offer. It's also important to stress that a person's opinions can change, and that a decision reached today might change tomorrow when new ideas and information are available.

  • Sometimes children may seem amused by or desensitized to events. Everyone has different defense mechanisms, and talking over time will help children put events into perspective and deal with them. At the same time, the reporting of violence sometimes takes on the tone of a sports event. So, children may not be as sensitive to the human suffering created by tragedies. It is in these situations that intergenerational interaction, particularly with older adults who have experienced war, can help to bring a sense of humanity to media reports. It's important to talk about the fact that violence means human suffering and loss and that it is not okay. You might try gently saying something like, "There are many children who don't have a mom or dad now. What if I was on that plane or your father was in that building? How do you think you'd feel?"

  • Talk about war in general. Explain that war is most often a political decision made by government to protect one nation or group against another. When a people's existence, safety, honor, power, or influence is somehow threatened, leaders may decide to send soldiers to fight whoever is posing the threat. You may personally believe that sometimes war is a necessary, unavoidable action that a country or group must take to defend itself, its citizens, or what it believes. Or you may feel that war is nothing but a bloody game that leads to more violence. Whatever your personal or political opinions, because children are our future citizens and leaders, they should be encouraged to see war and violence as a very serious and undesirable course of action. Children need to understand that war is a last resort. Other approaches to resolving conflicts must be explored.

  • Children need to believe that there are alternatives to using violence to solve problems. Children, and adults, need to regain some sense of hope, power, and control. Try to focus conversations about terrorism, violence, and war on the hope for a peaceful resolution. Remain confident about the future of the world, and keep an optimistic attitude that eventually military and political leaders will be able to achieve justice while at the same time ensuring a peaceful world for all. Emphasize that physical conflict is not the only way. In many situations, like a schoolyard disagreement, make it clear that it is the wrong way. Children need to know and apply this in their daily life. They need to know that trust and cooperation are possible. They need to see the possibilities for the future. This approach gives young and old hope.

  • It's also important not to teach children that people in the "enemy" group are evil, cruel, and treacherous while "we" are right, peaceable, and humane. Nothing is ever that clear-cut. There are some people in all groups who do very bad things, but the entire group does not deserve a single label. Differentiate between a radical group of terrorists and the majority of people. Don't make generalizations, inappropriate assumptions, or use labels about groups of people based on race, ethnicity, religious background, or national origin.

  • Get into the habit of discussing current events with children, and exploring the history behind them so that events can be put into a context. Broaden discussions so that the focus is taken away from the event itself to the bigger patterns and issues which are important.

  • The current situation raises some big questions: How and why can just a few terrorists affect the entire world in such a dramatic way? Why do people hate? Why do horrible tragedies happen? You won't have all the answers to why bad things happen. But be willing to discuss difficult issues and find out more information. Keep an open mind yourself. When you and your children or grandchildren explore difficult questions together, you may not find answers, but the process teaches them that they have some power in the world to try to understand things. You can make a statement like, "I don't know all the answers. But there are many good thinkers in the world who are working hard to understand the issues."

  • It may seem to children that terror and violence go on interminably. It's important here to have the insight of other generations. In life, all people experience good times and bad.

  • Children and adults need relief from the tension. Turn off the news. This doesn't mean denying what's happening. It just means not dwelling on it. Keep what's happening in perspective. Keep your conversations and concerns balanced with other things going on in your life.

  • Maintain your regular daily routines. This gives everyone a sense of stability. Children need consistency and security in their day, especially when the rest of their life seems unpredictable. Provide a framework that's the same from day to day (see The Magic of Traditions & Rituals section of this kit).

  • Physical comfort is important -- a hug, a cup of hot chocolate, reading and cuddling together.

  • Children and adults should make sure they are getting proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Children also need time to play, to just be children.

  • Like adults, many children may need to do something to feel as though they can regain some power and security in their environment. This could involve raising money for relief efforts, writing letters to officials, or working on activities like the ones in this kit with their family or in their school.


Once emotional needs have been addressed, modeling effective conflict resolution becomes very important. Our view of the world, our story about the world and the people in it, as shaped in childhood and adolescence to a large part determines our adult perspective (see the Storytelling for Hope section of this kit). I believe that children do look to the adults in their own lives as models for how to interpret and handle the world. Violence is constantly presented by the media, usually with little explanation or background information. War toys flood the market. Peace is hardly ever an issue. It is up to the parents, grandparents, and teachers in a child's life to make peace an issue, talk about it, and walk their talk.

Confronting conflict is something daring and challenging. It takes great courage. Most people don't like conflict because it's uncomfortable. But conflicts are a normal and natural part of everyone's life. Disputes and disagreements occur between people because we have different perspectives, backgrounds, values, and beliefs. Conflict can be negative, but it can also have positive effects. It can prompt growth and progress. It can help us understand each other better. It can be an opportunity to get everyone's feelings and ideas out on the table, come up with better ways of doing things, and make relationships stronger. It's true there are no guarantees. Much depends on how you handle conflict. You can take a leadership role in handling conflict effectively.

The goal of conflict resolution isn't to get rid of conflict. It's to help people learn from conflict and resolve disagreements constructively rather than destructively. Conflict resolution that is nonviolent and constructive meets the needs of the people involved and improves relationships. All involved parties should feel good about the resolution. They may not get everything they wanted, but they feel heard and that the process was fair.

Keep in mind that many conflict resolution skills and concepts may be too abstract for very young children to master. But introducing them to the skills and concepts lays a foundation for when they are older. Be as concrete as possible. Help children see the relationship between cause and effect. Help them see the whole problem and how specific actions and behaviors contribute to it. And try to expand children's choices. Help them see what will happen if they pursue one course of action, and then help them develop other options.

The "Personal Peace Building Basics" sheet is a quick overview of how you can approach and model effective conflict resolution -- whether you're dealing with children or other adults, in your family or in the workplace. The sheet can be used by adults and teenagers. Much of the information is based on the work of the Harvard Negotiation Project (see books by Fisher, Ury, and Stone).


Finally, peace building can only be achieved through developing communication and thinking skills.

Values are an important part of thinking skills. All human life and all human civilization is about values. Values usually involve other people. A logically correct solution to a problem may be unacceptable because it goes against people's values (which may be illogical). Most situations involve different values for different people.

Being able to think rationally, insightfully, and creatively is key to building peace. It is hard work trying to understand someone's perspective and values, deal with the bigger forces in play, and try to generate creative solutions. Rational thought is seen as the highest manifestation of intelligence and one of the most powerful learning tools that human beings -- and human beings alone -- possess. At its best, thinking comes up with conclusions based on valid arguments that draw out implications and accurately and completely capture a state of affairs. Rational thought enables us to describe complex situations, and brings to the surface what's important in them. Unfortunately, our ability to be logical is often subverted by our strong desire to be right. We tend to select and accept, relatively uncritically, evidence or arguments that seem to confirm what we believe, or would like to be true; and we tend to neglect or explain away that which is uncomfortable.

Harvard researcher William G. Perry, Jr., has traced the nine stages college students (who put in the work) move through as they evolve from a simplistic view of knowledge to a more complex, contextual view of the world and themselves. In very general terms, the early stages of development involve "dualism," in which there is a belief that all knowledge is known. There is certainty that Right and Wrong answers exist for everything and that knowledge is a collection of information. The next stages involve "multiplicity," in which there is a belief that in some areas there is certainty about knowledge, but in most areas we really don't know anything for sure. There is a certainty that there is no certainty (except perhaps in a few specialized areas). Hence, "do your own thing" -- all opinions can be just as valid or invalid as others. The latter stages move into "contextual relativism," an orientation that all knowledge is contextual, all knowledge is disconnected from any concept of "absolute truth." However, right and wrong, adequate and inadequate, appropriate and inappropriate can exist within a specific context and are judged by rules of adequacy that are determined by expertise and good thought processes. The final stage is a kind of wisdom. It is one of positive resolve -- resolve to continue with competing and interlocking perspectives and aspects of one's self and one's life, which may not always result in a simple resolution of conflicts.

The development of thinking skills is closely related to the development of communication skills. Further, how we talk across generations affects the stories we pass down, the stories we believe to be the "truth." How we talk is also a model in itself for children. In How To Talk So Kids Can Learn at Home and in School, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish make this comment:

It occurred to us that we had an additional responsibility to today's generation of children. Never before have so many young people been exposed to so many images of casual cruelty. Never before have they witnessed so many vivid demonstrations of problems being solved by beatings or bullets or bombs. Never before has there been such an urgent need to provide our children with a living model of how differences can be resolved with honest and respectful communication. That's the best protection we can give them against their own violent impulses. When the inevitable moments of frustration and rage occur, instead of reaching for a weapon, they can reach for the words they've heard from the important people in their lives.

Delinquent behavior is considered "acting out" by psychologists. To teach young people how to express in words what they feel is to help them "speak out" rather than "act out" conflicts at school and at home. To teach children how to communicate to find alternative solutions to a problem helps them to recognize that they have options in their lives.

It is words which incite people to commit acts of violence just as it is words which can unite and heal. Words have tremendous power. So it is important to encourage dialogue and thought about conflict, security, war, and peace, while at the same time watching our words.

When we talk about conflicts and the issues behind them, we have to go beyond the superficial reporting you'll find in most newspapers and on the TV and radio. www.workablepeace.org/now.html is an excellent resource for high school classes, as well as adults. It offers an analysis model for communicating and thinking about a variety of perspectives. For example, the answer to the question of what the US should do in the wake of September 11 depends in part on our understanding of history. It's important to learn more about US policies and actions in the Islamic world, as well as the perspective of Muslims. The answer also depends on the ways we understand and prioritize our interests, values, emotions, and identities. By engaging in thoughtful dialogue about a number of perspectives, both young and old can make a significant contribution to peace building in their own corner of the world.


Many organizations, websites, and books related to peace building are listed in the resources section of this kit. There are a few in particular I'd like to draw to your attention. Organizations and websites: Association for Conflict Resolution; Creative Response to Conflict; Educators for Social Responsibility; Pathways to Peace; Peace Education Foundation; Workable Peace Project; www.accuracy.org; www.mediate.com; www.workablepeace.org/now.html; www.peacejam.org; www.sadako.org; www.tolerance.org.

Books for adults that offer insight and inspiration (some of which you can share with children) include: War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars by Andrew Carroll; Architects of Peace: Visions of Hope in Words and Images by Michael Collopy; The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours by Marian Wright Edelman; A Call to Character: A Family Treasury by Colin Greer and Herbert Kohl; The Cow of No Color: Riddle Stories and Justice Tales from Around the World by Nina Jaffe and Steve Zeitlin; Material World: A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel; Children Learn What They Live: Parenting to Inspire Values by Dorothy Law Nolte; Silent Night: The Story of World War I's Christmas Truce by Stanley Weintraub.

Books for adults that offer information include: How To Talk So Kids Can Learn at Home and in School by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish; Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury; Creative Conflict Resolution and Teaching Conflict Resolution Through Children's Literature by William J. Kreidler; Playing With Fire: Creative Conflict Resolution for Young Adults by Fiona Macbeth and Nic Fine; The Friendly Classroom for a Small Planet: A Handbook on Creative Approaches to Living and Problem Solving for Children by Priscilla Prutzman et al; Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone et al; Getting to Peace: Transforming Conflict at Home, at Work, and in the World by William Ury.

Storybooks are a great way to explore conflicts, conflict resolution, and peace with children (and adults!) and generate discussion. Some books I'd recommend: When Sophie Gets Angry -- Really, Really Angry... by Molly Garrett Bang; Sweet Dried Apples: A Vietnamese Wartime Childhood by Rosemary Breckler; The Arrow Over the Door by Joseph Bruchac; So Far from the Sea by Eve Bunting; Dia's Story Cloth by Dia Cha; Mandela: From the Life of the South African Statesman by Floyd Cooper; The Big Book for Peace by Ann Durell; One Thousand Paper Cranes: The Story of Sadako and the Children's Peace Statue by Takayuki Ishii; Talking Walls by Margy Burns Knight; The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln; Peace Tales: World Folktales to Talk About by Margaret Read MacDonald; We Can Get Along: A Child's Book of Choices by Lauren Murphy Payne; The Seed by Isabel Pin; Music and Drum: Voices of War and Peace, Hope and Dreams by Laura Robb; Peace Begins With You by Katherine Scholes; The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss; The War With Grandpa by Robert Kimmel Smith; Let's Be Enemies by Janice May Udry; Sorry by Jean Van Leeuwen; The War by Anais Vaugelade; The Quarreling Book by Charlotte Zolotow.

The holiday season is also the time of year when we refocus on humanity's hope for greater understanding among all people. Read books related to peace, understanding differences, and other cultures and religions to reinforce this message with children. Some suggestions: Come Out and Play by Maya Ajmera; Old Henry by Joan W. Blos; What I Believe: A Young Person's Guide to the Religions of the World by Alan Brown; For Every Child by Caroline Castle; To Every Thing There Is a Season by Leo and Diane Dillon; Whoever You Are by Mem Fox; Children Just Like Me by Barnabas and Anabel Kindersley; I Have a Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Prayer for the Twenty-First Century by John Marsden; People by Peter Spier; What a Wonderful World by George David Weiss; Making the World by Douglas Wood.

For information and inspiration, make sure you read the Peace on Earth, Good Will to All section of this kit. The Storytelling for Hope section has activities which can complement the activities below. The activities that follow emphasize intergenerational interaction and provide an introduction to and reminder of key areas in peace building.

Activities: Intergenerational Peace Chain; Balloon Cooperation; Toothpick Togetherness; Conflict Web; Everyone Has Their Own Perspective; An Emotional Alphabet; Red Flags; Magic Words; Brainstorm!; Conflict Cards; Conflict Comics; Peace Place; Toy Makeover; Conflict Jar; Peace Award Certificate; The Gift of Peace.


Intergenerational Peace Chain

Connections: Schools (Social Studies, History, Language Arts, Art); Community Groups; Seniors Groups/Facilities; Families.

What You Need: 2 x 11 inch strips of paper (white paper or various colors of construction paper); scissors; pencil crayons and/or markers; tape or stapler. Optional -- copy of Prayer for the Twenty-First Century by John Marsden.

Doing It:

As part of the Legacy Project, we created a paper peace chain to remind us of what we must all work toward. The national chain has ended, but you can still do the peace chain in your own home, classroom, or community.

If you'd like to make your own Intergenerational Peace Chain, the steps are simple. Get a group of young and old together to create a paper chain of remembrance, healing, and hope. Everyone from a preschool child to a very old adult in a nursing home can participate. You can make your chain as part of a special meeting, a regular gathering, a Grandparents Day event, or a holiday celebration.

As part of your paper chain-making session, you may want to share John Marsden's inspiring book Prayer for the Twenty-First Century. The Intergenerational Peace Chain can also be combined with "The Day Everything Changed" activity in the Scrapbooking & Other Photo Fun section of this kit, or any of the activities below.

The Intergenerational Peace Chain is a very powerful activity. First, it brings young and old together to share their thoughts and feelings, and learn from each other. You'll be surprised at the "magic moments" that can occur. Second, it creates a visible symbol of peace that you can hang during the holiday season.

For the youngest young, participating in this activity offers comfort. Recent news events have made many children fearful. The barrage of reports promotes what Dr. John Murray, a child psychologist who has done research on the effects of violence on children, calls "mean-world" syndrome. By doing something positive like creating a paper peace chain with other children and adults, children are reassured that indeed, most of the time, the world is a good place and most people in it are caring. They also have an opportunity to express their feelings.

For adults, especially the oldest old, this symbolic activity provides some assurance that we will listen to and learn from their experience -- and never forget. Many have personal memories that remind us that war is tragedy not glory. Many older people have a strong need to feel as though they are making a difference. The word "generativity" was coined by psychoanalyst Erik Erikson. It is a rich and deep concept that has to do with a need not only to nurture the generations that follow us, but to create legacies and leave the world a bit better than we found it. There was a woman who wrote out her favorite quotation about peace on her strip of paper. Another wrote down her brother's name, birthdate, and death date. He had been killed in World War II. Still another glued on a photograph of her newborn baby granddaughter.

Much of the magic of this activity lies in the discussion that takes place as children and adults share what they put on their paper strip and why. A teenager in one group, expressing his feelings of frustration and powerlessness, commented that it was "all just words." One of the older adults in the group pointed out that it is words which incite people to commit acts of violence just as it is words which can heal and unite. Words have tremendous power.

Cut strips of paper 2 inches by 11 inches. This size allows enough room for writing and drawing. You can use heavier white paper or various colors of construction paper.

Each person puts their name and age on their strip of paper. They can then decorate it in any way they wish with their message of peace. Older children and adults may want to write something onto the strip. Younger children can use colors and pictures to communicate their feelings and thoughts.

After everyone has decorated their paper strip, go around the room and have young and old share what they put on their strip and why. This is often a time when people share memories, insights, and feelings that make the event memorable and meaningful.

Make a paper chain with the decorated side of each strip facing outward. Begin by forming one of the strips into a loop and use tape or staples to join the ends. Take a second strip and stick it through the center of the first loop you made, and tape or staple the ends together. Continue this process until you've used all the strips. Hang the completed peace chain from the ceiling, through corridors, down walls, and wherever else it can serve as a reminder of peace. If two separate groups have come together to make the chain, each can take half to decorate their own building.

As part of the national chain, we sent messages of hope and peace to the United Nations. Children can still write to the United Nations and learn what it does.

The United Nations is the major peacekeeping body in the world. The main goals of the UN are to maintain international peace, to promote equal rights and people's self-determination, and to achieve cooperative solutions to international economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian problems.

The opening words to the United Nations charter are: "We the peoples of the United Nations have determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind."

Founded in 1945 by 51 nations, the UN has almost quadrupled in membership. There are now 189 UN member states. It employs 52,100 people at the UN headquarters in New York and 29 other organizations scattered around the globe. Created in the aftermath of World War II as a shell-shocked world's hope for peace, it remains the unique global gathering place for nations rich and poor, large and small to try to settle international problems. While there are many international organizations working on individual problems, only the UN is capable of creating solutions that encourage the full cooperation of the entire world community of nation-states.

The idea of a forum of nations is a natural one and an excellent one. It derives its power not as a single world authority but as a collection of member nations. There are organizational channels for meetings and communication. Matters can be argued in private or in a public forum. If there is a need to condemn some wrongdoing, the UN passes a Resolution recommending that a certain action ceases or takes place. The UN has met with considerable success and things would be much worse in the world without it. At the same time, it has limitations and can be improved. As it stands now, the UN is structurally incapable of carrying out effective conflict resolution. The representative nature of its main body makes a third party role difficult because of different allegiance groupings. Some things can be done to address this situation. For example, the UN could set up regional negotiation and mediation centers, a world arbitration service, a cross-cultural research base, mediation "SWAT" teams, along with regional conferences and workshops on conflict resolution.

The United Nations and Secretary-General Kofi Annan won the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to achieve a "more peaceful world." The Nobel Peace Prize Committee said it wanted to mark its centennial this year by proclaiming that "the only negotiable route to global peace and cooperation goes by way of the United Nations."

Annan was born in 1938 in Ghana. He became UN Secretary-General in 1997, but has worked with the UN since 1962. He has devoted almost his entire working life to the world body, and was applauded for "bringing new life to the organization." Annan said he was both humbled and challenged by the prize. "It honors the UN but also challenges us to do more and do better, not rest on our laurels."


Balloon Cooperation

Connections: Schools (Physical Education, Social Studies); Seniors Groups/Facilities; Community Groups.

What You Need: Balloons.

Doing It:

Cooperation is important to building peace. We all have to work together in this world, no matter who we are or how old we are.

Balloon volleyball is an activity children can do as a group, and is also a great...

From Holiday Activity Kit by Susan V. Bosak ©2003