Tolerance – A Building Block and Pre-condition for Prerequisite For Peace

PEACE WATCH [18th November 2011]

Tolerance – A Building Block and Pre-condition for Prerequisite For Peace

The United Nations International Day for Tolerance

In 1997 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Declaration of Principles of Tolerance and proclaimed an International Day for Tolerance “in order to generate public awareness, emphasize the dangers of intolerance and react with renewed commitment and action in support of tolerance promotion and education”. In doing so the General Assembly emphasised that the Charter of the United Nations affirms tolerance as one of the principles to be applied to attain the United Nations’ aims of preventing war and maintaining peace and that “tolerance is the sound foundation of any civil society and of peace”. The African Charter on Human and Peoples rights lays it down that reinforcing mutual respect and tolerance is a duty [Article 28] and to relate to others in the spirit of tolerance is part of the preservation and strengthening of positive African cultural values [Article 29].

State Initiatives to Promote Tolerance in Zimbabwe

This year the International Day for Tolerance has come at a time when tolerance is sorely needed in Zimbabwe – “tolerance is especially necessary to guard against the politics of polarisation” [UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon]. Political violence has been escalating over the past few months. Talk of early elections has raised the political temperature and violent confrontations have become endemic. In the last few weeks the situation deteriorated to such an extent that on 7th November President Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara met to discuss the problem of violence. They mandated the executives of the three political parties in the inclusive government to meet to discuss means of putting an end to violence.

Political Parties Agree to Code of Conduct

On Friday 11th November the executives of the three parties duly met. The meeting was attended by the three party presidents, President Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and Professor Welshman Ncube. Vice-President Nkomo represented the Organ for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration. They all committed themselves to stopping inter-party violence and there was talk of the need to form inter-party committees that would preach peace and reconciliation at grassroots levels. It was agreed to implement a Code of Conduct drafted by the Organ for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration; it is expected that there will be a signing ceremony in the coming week. Peace Watch will distribute the Code when it is released. [In the present Electoral Act there is an Electoral Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Candidates set out in the Fourth Schedule, but it only applies once an election has been called and during the election period. Breaches have to be resolved by multiparty liaison committees formed at national and lower levels – but those are only formed once nomination day has passed and candidates have been nominated. At the moment, therefore, this statutory Code is not operational.]

The litmus test will be if the Code will be taken seriously, and implemented at all levels of all political parties down to the grass roots.

Provisions to Promote Tolerance in the GPA

The necessity for promoting tolerance features several times in the GPA:

• In the preamble the three parties dedicate themselves to “putting an end to the polarisation, divisions, conflict and intolerance that has characterised Zimbabwean politics and society in recent times”; recognise, accept and acknowledge that “the values of justice, fairness, openness, tolerance, equality, non-discrimination and respect of all persons without regard to race, class, gender, ethnicity, language, religion, political opinion, place of origin or birth are the bedrock of our democracy and good governance”; and express their determination to “act in a manner that demonstrates respect for the democratic values of justice, fairness, openness, tolerance, equality, respect of all persons and human rights”.

• In the body of the GPA the parties invoke the need for tolerance when providing for National Healing [Article VII] and the National Youth Service Training Programme [Article XV]. There are also important references to tolerance in Article XVIII [Security of Persons and Prevention of Violence] and Article XIX [Freedom of Expression and Communication], which state that political parties and the media must refrain from the use of abusive language that may incite hostility, political intolerance and ethnic hatred or that unfairly undermines political parties.

Unfortunately the inclusive government has not effectively carried through the necessary measures to ensure implementation of these provisions.

Highlights of The UN Declaration of Principles of Tolerance

The Meaning of Tolerance [from Article 1 of the Declaration]

• “Tolerance, the virtue that makes peace possible, contributes to the replacement of the culture of war by a culture of peace.”

• “It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication and freedom of thought, conscience and belief. … It is not only a moral duty, it is also a political and legal requirement.”

• “Tolerance is the responsibility that upholds human rights, pluralism (including cultural pluralism), democracy and the rule of law. It involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism and affirms the standards set out in international human rights instruments. “

• “Tolerance is an active attitude prompted by recognition of the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. … Tolerance is to be exercised by individuals, groups and States.”

• “It means accepting the fact that human beings, naturally diverse in their appearance, situation, speech, behaviour and values, have the right to live in peace and to be as they are. It also means that one's views are not to be imposed on others.”

Tolerance and the State [from Article 2 of the Declaration]

• “Without tolerance there can be no peace, and without peace there can be no development or democracy.”

• “Tolerance at the State level requires just and impartial legislation, law enforcement and judicial and administrative process. It also requires that economic and social opportunities be made available to each person without any discrimination. Exclusion and marginalization can lead to frustration, hostility and fanaticism.”

• “States should, in order to achieve a more tolerant society, ratify existing international human rights conventions.”

Social dimensions [from Article 3 of the Declaration]

• “Tolerance is necessary between individuals and at the family and community levels. The promotion of tolerance and the shaping of attitudes of openness, mutual listening and solidarity should take place in schools and universities and through non-formal education, at home and in the workplace.”

• “The communication media are in a position to play a constructive role in facilitating free and open dialogue and discussion, disseminating the values of tolerance, and highlighting the dangers of indifference towards the rise in intolerant groups and ideologies.”

• “Particular attention should be paid to vulnerable groups which are socially or economically disadvantaged so as to afford them the protection of the laws and social measures in force.”

• “Appropriate studies should be undertaken to analyse root causes of intolerance and effective countermeasures taken as well as policy-making and standard-setting action by Member States.”

Education [from Article 3 of the Declaration]

• Education is the most effective means of preventing intolerance. The first step in tolerance education is to teach people what their shared rights and freedoms are, so that they may be respected, and to promote the will to protect those of others.”

• “Education for tolerance should be considered an urgent imperative; …[to] address the cultural, social, economic, political and religious sources of intolerance – major roots of violence and exclusion.”

• “Education for tolerance should aim at countering influences that lead to fear and exclusion of others, and should help young people to develop capacities for independent judgement, critical thinking and ethical reasoning.”

Highlights of UN Messages for 2011 International Day for Tolerance

From Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

“This is a period in which the old world is slowly but irreversibly changing and the contours of a new one are just beginning to take shape. Traditional institutions are being challenged. Budgets are being squeezed. Families are being stressed. All of this flux and churning creates enormous anxiety. At times of change, we must stay true to the ideals and principles that are at the heart of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Among those core values is tolerance. Our practice of tolerance must mean more than peaceful coexistence, crucial as that is. It must be an active understanding fostered through dialogue and positive engagement with others.

This is especially critical in combating the discrimination that causes so much divisiveness, destruction and death. We all have a responsibility to protect those vulnerable to discrimination, whether based on race, religion, nationality, language, gender, sexual orientation or other factors. Practicing tolerance can serve as the antidote to prejudice and hatred…. let us remember that active tolerance begins with each of us, every day.”

From the President of the UN General Assembly

“Today, as our world goes through a period of unprecedented transition, it is more pressing than ever that we foster tolerance …. In this time of change … openness, communication, freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience and belief are essential elements for peace, respect and appreciation of diversity. There is growing acknowledgement of the need for tolerance and dialogue among different cultures and groups of people. However, we are also witnessing the continuation, and in some cases an increase, of discrimination, extremism and radicalism.

The challenges of today’s world call for enhanced respect, understanding and appreciation between individuals, families and communities. Integral to this approach are attitudes of openness, mutual listening and solidarity. …schools, universities, the home and the workplace are all important places for further promoting tolerance. Greater efforts need to be made, in particular, to teach children about tolerance and human rights, about diversity and other cultures, and about other ways of life. Peace education needs to be a part of the teaching in all educational institutions. The media also has an important, constructive role to play in facilitating free and open dialogue.”

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