Globalization and World Peace: The Interaction of Power and Civil Society

The Second World War with its countless victims was a great tragedy for all humanity. One of the most important motivations for opposing any acts of aggression and violence should be the remembrance of millions of fallen, mutilated, and tortured victims of concentration camps.

After 1945, the world changed and global interactions became more complex and dynamic. The interests of politicians and businessmen, elite and commoners, manufacturers and consumers of goods, military and civilians, younger and elder generations, and representatives of different ethnic groups, cultures, and religions intermingle and sometimes compete.

Here, figuratively speaking, the time available for understanding problems and the capacity for minimizing their negative consequences tend to shrink like the peau de chagrin [a "magic skin" in a novel by French author Honore de Balzac that shrinks each time its powers are invoked, along with the life force of the person who invokes it].

In contrast, the capacity for making and carrying out decisions should increase corresponding to the need for economic development, promotion of democracy, and social progress. Civil society will have an increasing role in helping to implement such decisions, especially in the spheres of ethnic, international, and intercultural relations.

This is especially true for Russia as a state with a federal structure and with more than 180 nationalities and ethnic communities who preserve their unique culture, language, customs, and traditions.

For centuries after its emergence the Russian state has been developing as a multinational entity, with widely varying processes of integration, inter-dependence, mutual penetration, and inter-mixing of peoples.

According to academician V.A. Tishkov, Russia is a multi-ethnic nation both politically and in its civil society. Its ethno-cultural communities have long and rich histories as well as a shared experience of state governance and social cohesion.

It is well known that after the collapse of the USSR, our nation's ethnic problems have increased considerably, based on the rapid growth of national consciousness. Unfortunately, even today we have to deal with various manifestations of inter-ethnic tensions, separatism, and xenophobia.

Therefore, the key strategic priority for public authorities and civil society should be to strengthen interethnic understanding, form an all-Russia national identity, preserve Russian society in all its diversity of cultures and languages, create conditions for the further development of multiculturalism, and shape the public consciousness and everyday practice of the principles of a culture of peace.

At the federal level, Russia's Ministry of Regional Development is the executive body that formulates state policy and regulates national policy and inter-ethnic relations, protects the rights of national minorities and small groups of indigenous peoples living in the Russian Federation, and interacts with the Cossack associations.

However, given the intersectorial nature of national policy, a number of aspects of its implementation are in charge of other Federal bodies with executive power, in particular the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Communications, Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Economic Development, and Ministry of Sports.

Certain aspects of implementing national policy, particularly preventing ethnic and political extremism and suppressing the incitement of national and religious enmities, relate to the authority of other executive bodies (in particular, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Federal Security Service, and the Federal Migration Service).

In addition, this June the President of the Russian Federation established the Council for Interethnic Relations in order to promote interaction among the federal, state, and local government bodies, public associations, scientific organizations, and other associations in implementing Russia's national policies.

At the level of subjects of the Russian Federation, various types of executive structures exist to carry out national policies: of the 83 constituent entities of the Russian Federation, 26 regions have separate ministries, committees, or departments for national policy; in 32 regions it is the responsibility of subdivisions to interact with public organizations and local self-government bodies; in 12 regions there are state bodies or departments of internal policy; in eight regions there are regional bodies for education and culture; and in five regions local officials are responsible.

In the majority of the Russian Federation's constituent entities, there are Advisory Councils for Inter-ethnic Relations which interact with national and cultural organizations and special groups to harmonize inter-ethnic relations.

State authorities also interact with various structures of civil society. According to official data, there are more than 360,000 non-commercial organizations (NCOs) in Russia, and about 40 percent of them are active. Some researchers (E. Pain and A. Panfilova) note that the underdevelopment and low levels of activity of so many NCOs create a gap between public organizations and government bodies. Nevertheless, public associations working in the sphere of interethnic relations, as a special type of civil institutions, play an important role in addressing the ethnic and cultural needs of the citizens; they help preserve national identity on the basis of self-government and encourage free development of culture, language, and traditions. They certainly play a constructive role in developing interethnic relations.

These focus primarily on the national-cultural autonomies that were created after the adoption of the Federal law on national-cultural autonomies in 1996 related to national-cultural self-determination. About 350 autonomies exist at the federal, regional, and local levels. There are associations of Russian citizens who identify with a certain ethnic community or national minority living in a given area, and they focus on issues of preservation of identity, language development, education, and national culture.

Some public associations in the Russian Federation are all-Russia entities and thus have federation-wide responsibilities. Among them are the Assembly of the Peoples of Russia, the Union of Diasporas of Russia, the All-Russia Azerbaijani Congress, the Russian Congress of the Peoples of the Caucasus, and the Youth Assembly of the Peoples of Russia. They are gradually taking on a coordinating role, helping to regulate interethnic relations, interacting with state-level legislative and executive bodies, consulting with decision-makers, promoting harmonious relations between peoples, reducing conflicts, and helping to prevent conflicts. One of the main tasks of these organizations is to reduce conflict between ethnic and cultural groups and promote greater tolerance in attitudes and actions.

The Assembly of the Peoples of Russia has a special role in promoting harmony among people of different ethnicities and cultures. It was established in 1998 to promote national policies, and approved by the President’s Decree № 909 of June 15, 1996, as a key mechanism for implementing national policy. The Assembly is organized into regional offices, branches, and representative offices that function in the majority of the Federation's entities. The heads of the branches are generally people who have achieved high authority and respect among the population and governmental structures of that territory. The Board of the Assembly includes heads of regional branches, federal national-cultural autonomies, other public organizations, prominent state and public figures, deputies of the Russian Federal Duma, members of the Council of the Federation, and representatives of academic circles and the creative intelligentsia.

In our work we apply a wide range of methods to promote harmony, including forums, conferences, congresses and round tables, exhibitions and presentations, national holidays and festivals, international meetings of youth and veterans, seminars and relay races of friendship, and many other activities. The Assembly's activities have been widely acclaimed by officials and the public.

In the substantive part of our work, the cultural and humanitarian component is very significant. According to the words of Ramazan Abdulatipov, Chairman of the Board of the Assembly of the Peoples of Russia and a Deputy of the State Duma of the Russian Federal Assembly, culture is the key factor of human life, the most complicated and important set of values, ideals, morals, and customs of different countries and peoples, ultimately ensuring the sustainability of the community.

The methodologies and techniques of our work are based on principles and values that are consonant with those adopted in the UN Declaration and Program of Action of a Culture of Peace. We fully share the idea of commitment to cultural diversity, dialogue, mutual understanding, and cooperation.

In the modern era of globalization, it is impossible to reach understanding without dialogue; without mutual understanding no cooperation can be productive. Therefore, with the expanding globalization and growing ethnic and cultural diversity in the world, we need to pursue compromise in inter-civilizational and intercultural dialogues and promote a peacekeeping consciousness in our communities.

Sergei Kuchinsky

Author: Sergei Kuchinsky

Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Council of the Assembly of the Peoples of Russia

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