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)

UNESCO_logoThe Seville Statement on Violence contains five core ideas:

(to see full text click here)

 

“It is scientifically incorrect to say that we have inherited a tendency to make war from our animal ancestors.”
“It is scientifically incorrect to say that war or any other violent behavior is genetically programmed into our human nature.”
“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.”
“It is scientifically incorrect to say that humans have a ‘violent brain’.”
“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).

Dalai Lama’s comments on the SSV (1998)

from The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D., 1998, Riverhead Books, page 58 (1998)

In recent years… the tide [of philosophical, psychological and other scientific evidence] appears to be turning on this [previously described] profoundly pessimistic view of humanity, coming closer to the Dalai Lama’s view of our underlying nature as gentle and compassionate. Over the past two or three decades, there have been literally hundreds of scientific studies indicating that aggression is not essentially innate and that violent behavior is influenced by a variety of biological, social, situational, and environmental factors. Perhaps the most comprehensive statement on the latest research was summarized in the 1986 Seville Statement on Violence that was drawn up and signed by twenty top scientists from around the world. In that statement, they of course acknowledged that violent behavior does occur, but they categorically stated that it is scientifically incorrect to say that we have an inherited tendency to make war or act violently. That behavior is not genetically programmed into human nature. They said that even though we have the neural apparatus to act violently, that behavior isn’t automatically activated. There’s nothing in our neurophysiology that compels us to act violently. In examining the subject of human nature, most researchers in the field currently feel that fundamentally we have the potential to develop into gentle, caring people or violent, aggressive people; the impulse that gets emphasized is largely a matter of training.

ORGANIZATIONS THAT SUPPORT THE SEVILLE STATEMENT

ORGANIZATIONS THAT HAVE ENDORSED THE STATEMENT
American Anthropological Association
American Association for Counseling and Development
American Psychological Association
American Orthopsychiatric Association
American Sociological Association
Americans for the University of Unesco
Anurrrat Vishra Bharati (Global Organization)
Associacion Peruana de Estudios e Investigación para la Paz
Association for Humanistic Education and Development (US)
Association of African Women for Research and Development
California State Psychological Association
Canadian Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Community of the Peace People (1976 Nobel Peace Prize)(Northern Ireland)
Czechoslovak Unesco Commission
Danish Psychological Association
Danish Unesco Committee
Honduras National Spiritual Assembly of Baha’i
International Association of Educators for World Peace
International Council of Psychologists
International Society for Research on Aggression – Commission on Violence
Italian National Unesco Commission
Laboratory of Education for Peace (Greece)
Medical Association for Prevention of War (UK)
Mexican Association for Biological Anthropology
Minnesota Psychological Association
Movimento por la Vida y la Paz (Argentina)
New York State Psychological Association
New Zealand Psychological Society
Norwegian Unesco Commission
Open International University for Complementary Medicines
Polish Academy of Sciences
Psychologer for Fred (Norway)
Psychologists for Social Responsibility (US)
Society for Psychological Study of Social Issues (US)
Spanish Unesco Commission
University of Montreal Department of Psychiatry
Veterans for Peace
West Virginia Psychological Association
World Federalist Association (US)
Yamoussoukro International Congress on Peace in the Minds of Men
ORGANIZATIONS THAT HAVE DISSEMINATED THE STATEMENT
American Political Science Association
Arab Writers Union
Associación de Estudios Bahá’ís–Chile
Association for Counselor Education and Development (US)
Association for Humanistic Psychology (US)
Association for World Education
Baha’i International Community
Canadian Psychological Association Section on Social Responsibility
Consortium on Peace Research, Education and Development (US)
Contemporary Trends in Development of Psychology (book) (China)
Finnish Psychological Association
Finnish Peace Research Association
Greek Pedagogical Association
Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation (US)
International Peace Research Association
International Political Science Association Peace and Conflict Committee
International Social Science Council
International Society for Comparative Psychology
International Society for Human Ethology
International Studies Association
International Union for Psychological Sciences Peace Committee
Japanese Psychologists for Peace
Japanese Research Association of Psychological Science
Mouvement Universel de la Responsabilité Scientifique (France)
New Zealand Council for Educational Research
Norwegian Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War
Norwegian Psychological Association
Peace Education Institute (Finland)
Permanent National Commission of Education for Peace, Ministry of Education (Peru)
Scientist Against Nuclear Arms (Australia)
Shanti Ashram (India)
Tampere Peace Research Institute (Finland)
USSR Academy of Sciences (Psychology)
World Association for Orphans and Abandoned Children
World Goodwill Newsletter