The Seville Statement on Violence

VII CICA, Seville, 10-16 May 1986

In the late seventies of the past century, the International Society for Research on Aggression (ISRA) decided to launch a UN-Committee that, among other goals, would aim at organizing a series of symposia under the auspices of UNESCO. It was hoped that these symposia would eventually lead towards a UNESCO statement on human violence following the example of what had previously been achieved by UNESCO with regard to the notion of 'human race'. In Mexico City, during the IV World ISRA Conference (1982), an UN-Committee was selected for this purpose.

A provisional program was drafted and submitted to UNESCO and to other governmental international institutions. After an initial burst of enthusiasm, there was a very long silence! In spite of this lack of any official support we, scientists from very different disciplines, kept freely and openly discussing the proposed agenda. The main question we wanted to answer was whether modern natural and social sciences knew of any biological factors that were an insurmountable or a serious obstacle to the goal of world peace.  Efficiently coordinated by David Adams, at that time professor at Wesleyan University, we exchanged the latest information about animal behavior, psychology, brain research, genetics, and other related sciences. A draft was elaborated and sent to all of us to study. Finally about twenty odd from 13 countries and many different disciplines, met in Seville and La Rábida. (see photo gallery). In 1492 this place became famous for Columbus started his discovering trip to the New World from there.  After almost five centuries and one week of practical seclusion, the final Seville Statement on Violence was born - hopefully giving rise to another new world - a world of Peace.  It was May of 1986, the UN declared International Year of Peace.

Later it has been endorsed and published by more than 40 scientific organizations and disseminated by another 35.  UNESCO, by decision of its General Conference at its 25th session (Paris, 16/11/1989) also ordered its dissemination around the world.  It has been translated into many languages.

(to see the 25th Anniversary of SSV, press here)


The Seville Statement on Violence (to see full text click here) contains five core ideas:

   1. "It is scientifically incorrect to say that we have inherited a tendency to make war from our animal ancestors."

   2. "It is scientifically incorrect to say that war or any other violent behavior is genetically programmed into our human nature."

   3. "It is scientifically incorrect to say that in the course of human evolution there has been a selection for aggressive behavior more than for other kinds of behavior."

   4. "It is scientifically incorrect to say that humans have a 'violent brain'."

   5. "It is scientifically incorrect to say that war is caused by 'instinct' or any single motivation."

The statement concludes: "Just as 'wars begin in the minds of men', peace also begins in our minds. The same species who invented war is capable of inventing peace. The responsibility lies with each of us."

In plain words, the SSV says that peace is possible and that wars and violence can be ended, making clear that there is nothing in biology that stands in the way of making a world without war. War is not in our genes, and we need not accept human aggression as a fate; as the Nobel Price winner Lorenz pointed out, "we shall not improve our chances of counteracting [intra-specific aggression] if we accept it as something metaphysical and inevitable, but on the other hand, we shall perhaps succeed in finding remedies if we investigate the chain of its natural causation" (1963).  Far from condemning humanity to war, thus, biology makes it possible to end violence and the suffering it causes and, consequently, to achieve peace. We offer, thus, a message of hope: since violence is not biologically determined, it is avoidable and, consequently, we are capable of cooperation and non-violence (see: Adams, 1991; Ramirez, 1994, 1996).


Here is the list of the 20 signataires (see more):

  CICA History
  Past CICAs
  CICA Gallery


        David Adams, Psychology, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, U.S.A.

        S.A. Barnett, Ethology, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

  1.      N.P. Bechtereva, Neurophysiology, Institute for Experimental Medicine of the Academy of Medical

  2.      Sciences of the U.S.S.R., Leningrad, U.S.S.R.

        Bonnie Frank Carter, Psychology, Albert Einstein Medical Center, Philadelphia, U.S.A.

        José M. Rodriguez Delgado, Neurophysiology, Centro de Estudios Neurobiológicos, Madrid, Spain

        José Luis Díaz, Ethology, Instituto Mexicano de Psiquiatría, México D.F., Mexico

        Andrzej Eliasz, Individual Differences Psychology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland

        Santiago Genovés, Biological Anthropology, Instituto de Estudios Antropológicos, México DF, Mexico

        Benson E. Ginsburg, Behavior Genetics, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, U.S.A.

        Jo Groebel, Social Psychology, Erziehungswissenschaftliche Hochschule, Landau, Germany

        Samir-Kumar Ghosh, Sociology, Indian Institute of Human Sciences, Calcutta, India

        Robert Hinde, Animal Behaviour, Cambridge University, Cambridge, U.K.

        Richard E. Leakey, Physical Anthropology, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya

        Taha H. Malasi, Psychiatry, Kuwait University, Kuwait

        J. Martín Ramírez, Psychobiology, Universidad de Sevilla, Spain

        Federico Mayor Zaragoza, Biochemistry, Universidad Autónoma, Madrid, Spain

        Diana L. Mendoza, Ethology, Universidad de Sevilla, Spain/Mexico

        Ashis Nandy, Political Psychology, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi, India

        John Paul Scott, geneticist, Animal Behaviour, Bowling Green State University,  Ohio, U.S.A.

        Riitta Wahlstrom, Psychology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland