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Culture of Peace Demands Tolerance but Trump Calls for ‘Zero Tolerance’

In 1999, the UN member-states unanimously adopted General Assembly Resolution 53/243 declaring the Programme of Action for a Culture of Peace that called for all parts of society to come together and take active steps to move away from a culture of war and violence that has marked our history and is the root of the rampant world crises and toward a culture of peace. This culture is “a set of values, attitudes, traditions and modes of behaviours and ways of life” that are based on key principles like respect for life, human rights, justice and tolerance [1]. The resolution encourages a circular process increasing inclusivity of all people, rather than a policy like the one Donald Trump has put in place that both divides and alienates people from each other. Resolution 53/243 is meant as a guide for governments, civil society and international organizations, emphasizing the importance of education and the media in promoting these values and allowing individuals to learn these norms. A critical part in this movement towards cooperation and nonviolence is eradicating racism and xenophobia and instead, “advancing understanding, tolerance and solidarity among all civilizations, peoples and cultures, including towards ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities” [2]. The Culture of Peace doctrine calls for a symbiotic international system where development and progress are not at the cost of others, but propelled by the inclusion of all. In light of the General Assembly’s resolution, the Trump administration’s ‘Zero Tolerance’ Policy signals a huge step backwards.

The Policy and Relevant Events

Images of boys in cages and audio of crying children being taken away from their parents have filled the media, along with a myriad of responses from our nation and others, ranging from outrage to satisfaction. While Trump’s presidency has been filled with turmoil, the ‘Zero Tolerance’ Policy drew an especially volatile reaction. Before diving into the larger implications of this policy, it is important to outline key events and actions defining ‘Zero Tolerance.’ In May of 2018, Attorney General Jeff Session announced the government’s plan to no longer detain families together, but rather turn over all adults that have crossed the border to federal prosecutors immediately [3]. This is where families are separated. Parents are sent to jail and children to detention centers, including those of ‘tender age’ like toddlers and babies[4]. In response to national outcry, Trump ended this policy on June 20th—seeking to keep families detained together—after a reported 2,000 children were severed from their parents, but the administration now faces the complex task of reuniting families [5]. Within a week of Trump’s reversal of the policy, federal Judge Sabraw in California decided to hear a suit brought by the ACLU; the ruling temporarily stopped family separation and required children to be reunited with their parents within thirty days and be able to call them within ten days [6]. Amid this ruling, the executive order and mixed messages from border officials, the current crisis is not over, but national outcry and Judge Sabraw’s ruling represent hope and a shift in the right direction. Much of the Trump administration’s rhetoric and policy rest on falsities and distortions of who is crossing the border and why. The United States’ immigration ‘issue’ reveals how misinformed perceptions of immigration are, and how current policy works against the principles of the Culture of Peace Programme.

Photo from inside the detention centers for boys separated from their parents or family. [14]

Tolerance and its Role

The Culture of Peace Programme is based on new perspectives and approaches to development and conflict; largely because a culture of peace depends on empathy and educated decisions to create cooperative, mutually beneficial progress for all states and stakeholders involved. During his election campaign, Trump spewed hateful rhetoric about immigrants, women and other ‘social groups’ in the media that are deeply counteractive to the values of a culture of peace that requires all levels of society to “foster understanding, tolerance and solidarity,” especially towards “vulnerable groups” [7]. Trump’s ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy actively undermines key written principles of the Culture of Peace Doctrine by disregarding the human rights of the vulnerable individuals coming to the US or seeking asylum and attempting to justify the treatment of migrants through slander and false generalizations. The Declaration on the Culture of Peace calls for support and “solidarity with refugees and displaced persons” and “with migrants,” while Trump’s family separation policy causes chaos and potential mental and physical health issues for thousands entering the country illegally and legally[8]. There have been reports of border officials obstructing asylum seekers from reaching ports of entry and legally entering the country, which is a violation of US and international asylum law [9].

Trump critically misrepresents who is coming across the border and why, threatening the empathy and tolerance allocated towards migrants, immigrants and others crossing the border into the US. He calls them “animals” that commit violent crimes, but in reality most of the illegal immigrants are fleeing immense violence in Central America [10]. Even if individuals are trying to seek asylum legally, Trump has distorted their reasoning, saying that they are abusing asylum law, saying the law acts as “loopholes” for entering the country quickly [11]. But, legally or illegally, most of these individuals are escaping the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador), which is “experiencing record levels of violence” and no signs of improving economies [12]. El Salvador and Honduras have been placed in the top five most violent countries worldwide [13]. This proves that fleeing population’s fears are valid and demonstrates why incorporating empathy into a policy solution for all stakeholders is not only humane, but critical.

The Culture of Peace relies on all parts of society, government and civilians, to be educated and behave within the international human rights framework that supports and uplifts suffering and vulnerable groups. Trump’s ‘Zero-Tolerance’ policy demonstrates how a culture of violence and aggression allows decision-makers to abuse and mistreat vulnerable groups for abstract political objectives. The Culture of Peace is vital for developing an environment that works through the equitable development and respect of all states, individuals and social groups. To help fight policies like these and keep the Trump administration in check, make sure you are registered to vote and voice your opinions.


  1. UN General Assembly. “Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace” 6 October, 1999. (A/RES/53/243). Official Record. New York, 1999.

  2. Ibid.

  3. Rhodan, Maya. “Here Are the Facts About President Trump’s Family Separation Policy.” Time, June 20, 2018.

  4. Morris, Meagan. “What Are Tender Age Shelters?” Metro US, June 20, 2018.

  5. Shear, Michael D., Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Thomas Kaplan, and Robert Pear. “Federal Judge in California Halts Splitting of Migrant Families at Border.” The New York Times, June 27, 2018, sec. U.S.; Rhodan, Maya.

  6. Shear, Michael D., Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Thomas Kaplan, and Robert Pear.

  7. UN General Assembly.

  8. Ibid.

  9. Shear, Michael D., Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Thomas Kaplan, and Robert Pear.

  10. Scott, Eugene. “In Reference to ‘Animals,’ Trump Evokes an Ugly History of Dehumanization.” Washington Post, May 16, 2018.; Stratfor. “Who’s Really Crossing The U.S.-Mexico Border.” Forbes, May 2, 2017.

  11. Meyer, Maureen, and Elyssa Pachico. “Fact Sheet: U.S. Immigration and Central American Asylum Seekers.” WOLA. Accessed June 27, 2018.

  12. Meyer, Maureen, and Elyssa Pachico; Stratfor.

  13. Meyer, Maureen, and Elyssa Pachico.

  14. Cullinane, Susannah. “Inside Border Protection’s Processing Detention Center: Chain Link Fences and Thermal Blankets.” CNN. Accessed July 20, 2018.

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