The Guardian 16 February, 2005

World Peace Forum
coming to Vancouver

Kimball Cariou

Peace activists and progressive organisations should mark an important date on their calendars: June 21-28, 2006. That's when people from across the planet will converge on Vancouver for the World Peace Forum (WPF), the largest and most diverse such gathering in Canadian history.

The proposal for the WPF emerged from two simultaneous events: the huge mass movement against the US invasion of Iraq, and the historic election of a progressive majority to Vancouver City Council in November 2002.

When the new Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) led council immediately gave its support to the anti-war movement, the idea of reviving the city's former peace committee soon arose.

That body was formed during the 1980s, when Vancouver's End the Arms Race coalition organised annual marches of 100,000 or more across the Burrard Street Bridge. Unfortunately, victories by the right-wing Non-Partisan Alliance during the early 1990s spelled the end of the city's official involvement.

One of COPE's new city councillors, Ellen Woodsworth, moved quickly to initiate a new Peace and Justice Committee, including prominent local figures in the movement for peace and global social justice, such as StopWar co-chairs Jef Keighley and Irene MacInnes.

The Peace and Justice Committee's main project became the idea of a World Peace Forum, inspired by the World Social Forums held in many other cities. Vancouver City Council has adopted in principle the proposal for hosting the WPF, overlapping with the World Urban Forum also being held here from June 19-23, 2006.

Plans for the WPF were extensively discussed at a Preparatory Conference held November 26-27 at the University of British Columbia (UBC), on the city's western peninsula. Over 200 delegates took part, mainly from Canada, but including a wide range of speakers from anti-war movements in other countries. The weekend made it clear that the WPF will not be limited to "safe" platitudes; for example, there was virtually unanimous acceptance of the reality that justice for the Palestinian people is the key to achieving lasting peace in the Middle East, which is crucial for progress on wider international dangers.

As the Preparatory Conference progressed, the mood of delegates went from a mixture of interest and scepticism, towards eager anticipation of convening a massive, colourful global dialogue on the difficult issues confronting humanity.

Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell welcomed delegates, outlining his views on the WPF. Campbell is one of over 600 "Mayors for Peace," based in Hiroshima, Japan, which calls for an end to nuclear weapons.

In fact, the overarching theme of the WPF will be "Cities and Communities: Working Together to Stop War, and Build a World of Peace and Justice". The strategy is to use the world's local governments, which are being robbed by the arms race of resources to provide vital services, as a base to help build unstoppable mass support from below to press national governments into action.

Funding from progressive foundations and from Vancouver City Council will be used to help coordinate and publicise the World Peace Forum. Delegates to the Preparatory Conference discussed an astonishing range of ideas, from a huge peace rally during the event, to a multitude of workshops and panels, concerts, parades, art exhibits, and other actions. Accommodations for some 3000 delegates will be available at UBC, with room for thousands more at a special International Youth Camp, private homes, and other places.

The scope of the WPF is limited only by the imagination of participants. The planning bodies for the WPF will not have funds to pay directly for international speakers and travel, but the backing of local officials (including the School Board and Park Board) will ensure that venues can be found for virtually any size of workshop or event.

Organisations are being encouraged to submit proposals as soon as possible, so that groups which come up with similar ideas can be placed in contact with each other to facilitate joint planning for workshops and events.

People's Voice, Canada's communist newspaper

The World Peace Forum ph+ 604 687 3223fax+ 604 687 3277

The official website is still very limited, but a range of information can be found by using Google. Search for "World Peace Forum + Vancouver".

Back to index page