07/02/2007 - 22:00

The movement for a U.S. Department of Peace

I agree with Lawrence Wittner and Kate Hudson that there is a definite resurgence of nuclear disarmament activity. In recent years we have also seen the emergence of a movement to establish a Department of Peace. The Department of Peace offers a new approach to ending nuclear war. It will build the infrastructure necessary to address violence at its root, strengthening practical and effective means of nonviolent foreign relations at a federal level. The U.S. Department of Peace is proposed by legislation in the House (H.R. 808), which is cosponsored by 67 members of Congress. A Department of Peace will effectively increase our ability to build peace as well as specifically work in support of nuclear weapon disarmament.

A Department of Peace will have both an international and domestic reach. Domestically, the Department of Peace will support effective community peace-building initiatives such as conflict-resolution training for police, peer mediation and conflict-resolution programs in schools, and prisoner-rehabilitation initiatives that reduce recidivism rates. Internationally, the Department of Peace will play a major role in prevention and de-escalation of conflicts, as well as post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation. A Department of Peace will also oversee the creation and administration of a Peace Academy, intended to be a sister academy to the military academies.

As currently outlined in H.R. 808, the Department of Peace will feature an Office of Arms Control and Disarmament. The office will specifically work in support of disarmament of weapons of mass destruction. There are numerous offices throughout the federal government in support of peace; however, many of these offices and agencies are fragmented and spread throughout the government. A Department of Peace will unify arms control with other peace-building offices and agencies.

The notion that there should be a section of the federal government specifically dedicated to peace is not new. Benjamin Rush first called for an Office of Peace in 1792, and more than 100 bills have been submitted since in support of institutionalizing peace in the federal government. The movement was resurrected with the April 2003 launch of the Department of Peace campaign.

The US Department of Peace campaign is active in all 50 states and in more than 300 congressional districts. The student campaign formed in March 2006 and is active on 30 campuses. The legislation has been endorsed by 20 city councils across the country, including Detroit, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Chicago. The Peace Alliance , which organizes the national department of peace campaign, coordinated its third annual Mother's Day "Peace of the Pie" National Action Day in May. Grassroots supporters from 38 states organized more than 250 contacts with offices of members of Congress. About 140 offices were visited in the 2006 campaign. This year's Mother's Day action demonstrates the strength and growth of the U.S. Department of Peace movement.

The movement is not only active in the United States. The Global Alliance for Ministries and Departments of Peace is made up of members from 23 countries, and 12 countries have active campaigns. The Solomon Islands has formed a Ministry of Peace and Unity. And after a campaign lead by Nepali youth, Nepal formed the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction in March.

The Department of Peace effort is focused on creating the infrastructure necessary to encourage and support the growth of peaceful cultures. Nowhere in the highest echelons of U.S. government is there a platform from which to launch such a focused, strategic approach to reducing and preventing violence. The time has come for a fresh approach, and a movement has been born to make this vision a reality.