Coronavirus as a Chance for System Change: 5 Suggestions from Tamera


An article from Tamera

We’re living in times in which things are happening we didn’t think were possible up until recently. We see the worrying developments towards totalitarian societies. We see communities and societies across the globe experiencing losses of loved ones in great and growing numbers, as well as widespread chaos, the disruption of support networks and a shortage of necessities. We see that this disproportionately impacts elders and historically marginalized populations. We see misery, fear and loneliness as so many are restricted to isolation and quarantine. We see health systems overwhelmed, and support staff overworked and underpaid.

But we also see many examples of courage and solidarity. And we experience nature taking a deep breath of relief. What will all this lead to? Will we return to everyday normality in any foreseeable future? Or will we as humanity seize this opportunity for a deep system change? Will we make a fresh start and build a culture aligned with life? Many friends have asked us what we think about the coronavirus crisis and how we are dealing with it. There are many answers on different levels. In the following, we summarize some of our thought-lines and suggestions for action.

For all those who love life and this Earth, the crisis represents a great opportunity, in addition to all its challenges: now, we have the opportunity to join forces worldwide to achieve a shared goal, develop social cohesion, set up decentralized structures, a solidarity economy – a genuine reboot. In times of such upheaval, it can be easy to become distracted by differing opinions. We invite the consideration that what we do, think and imagine now will help to shape the future.

We believe that a likely outcome of this crisis will be an economic collapse and thus significant restrictions to supply systems. In addition, there’s the danger the crisis will be used to attack democracy and civil rights and to impose totalitarian structures and mass surveillance with the help of modern technology. In some countries (such as China, India, Israel, and the Philippines) we are already observing such developments and the great suffering of those affected. In this scenario, a climate of fear and the avoidance of contact will make social cohesion increasingly difficult – therefore aggravating people’s attempts to organize, offer mutual support and resist human rights violations.

It’s right to act in solidarity now, also regarding the instructions of governments. But when we witness lies, injustice and human rights violations, we cannot remain silent.
In this situation, it’s imperative we work in a constructive direction. Now our global collective intelligence is needed. The situation challenges us all to understand and thoroughly transform the structures of society and our own inner patterns. Some suggestions from our perspective of system change:

1. Understand and disarm fear

The most dangerous and infectious virus is the virus of fear. Undetected and unconscious fears have always triggered defensive behaviors that become solidified in aggression, wars, fascism and the persecution of historically oppressed populations. If we are privileged enough to be able to stop our busyness for a while, let’s use it to understand our fears and disarm them.

This also includes a critical approach to information. We know the mechanisms of mainstream mass media and the pressure to think alike, especially in crisis situations. However, it would not be the first time in history that the one single story explaining the situation turned out to be wrong. That is why we must maintain our critical perspective, remain open to other sources of information, and have the courage to say what we believe to be true – while remaining open to hear the views of others.

2. Solidarity

As a community, Tamera is guided by the ethical principles of responsibility, truth and mutual support. We believe these values to be essential, especially during such times. Now is the moment to ensure that connections and relationships developing in the worldwide community are strengthened, rather than eroded.

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Question related to this article:
How can we work together to overcome this medical and economic crisis?

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Above all, let’s not forget those who are suffering most under the crisis. This includes refugees at closed borders and in large camps; all people in tight conditions such as slums; the homeless, street children, and undocumented people, especially in countries with totalitarian tendencies.

We invite you to consider how you can act in solidarity from where you are, leveraging your privileges and your voice. Let’s speak out against the restrictions of human and civil rights being imposed in the name of health and safety, and especially to resist any kind of divisive propaganda that blames “others” (especially people of color) for this crisis.
Tamera is currently closed for visitors and so we’re unable to meet our network partners in the region, but we’re committed to keeping in close touch and staying alert for where support and solidarity are needed.

3. Decentralization

Let’s make ourselves more independent from a collapsing globalized system! Now is the time to strengthen our regional networks and organize our food, water and energy supply as far as possible in a regional and decentralized way. Let’s support the farmers and producers in our region. Let’s grow our own food – always in cooperation with nature. Let’s share the surplus with those who can’t do that. Let’s save seeds. Let’s get to know and care for our water sources. Let’s collect rainwater in local retention structures and swales and use it wisely. Let’s strengthen decentralized energy production through solar and wind power – let’s share information and construct alternative energy technologies together, such as solar cookers and biogas systems for cooking.

Decentralization also includes taking responsibility for health, education and communications: we also need independence from global suppliers by establishing reliable regional cooperation in these areas.

4. Envisioning

The power of the dominant capitalist system is partly based on people’s inability to imagine functioning alternatives. Buckminster Fuller said, “The world is now too dangerous for anything less than utopia.” For those who have access to outdoor spaces, this situation is a special opportunity to rediscover our contact with nature and with life itself. In this time where normality is interrupted, we have the chance to truly ask ourselves: How do we want to live? What does a world look like in which people live together in solidarity and contact with nature and each other? What opportunity do we have to build functioning decision-making and supply structures in food, water and energy? How can we regain lost power to think, to love, to be there for each other? Let’s allow ourselves to connect with these visions, for they are so much more than individual fantasies. They are actually possibilities aligned with an evolutionary direction inherent to life.

5. A global direction

Now that old systems are failing, our prayer is that more people will gain a deeper understanding of a possible, shared direction for which we can join forces: a fundamental system change towards a culture of partnership. We believe this includes building communities that dissolve mistrust and historical trauma among themselves and become capable of trust, truth, and autonomous thinking; regions that produce their own food and energy on the basis of cooperation with nature; a deep understanding of the sacred matrix and the Earth as a living being; healing love and reconciliation of the sexes; and cooperation with universal powers – the indefinable mystery to which we all belong. This also includes overcoming old pictures of what an “enemy” is. Even viruses don’t need to be seen as enemies, but parts of the shared body of life, bringing corrections to light that are necessary for healing.

All this encompasses what is meant by the Healing Biotopes Plan. We’re now taking the time to study its basic ideas anew and to deepen them. (From May 11 to 31, we will offer an online course on this topic!)

To conclude, we would like to give you some inspiration from the unpublished essay, “Future Vision” by Sabine Lichtenfels. It was written in 2008 and is very relevant for today. It is a description of a possible future, looking back on the essential changes that were part of the construction of a new nonviolent world. She writes:

“We had no other choice left. The external pressure increased enormously and compelled us to awaken our inner awareness and power for change. The external circumstances forced us to become impeccable. They forced us to discover and develop the place within us where we were truly unassailable. The decisive event, which was even now able to initiate a new future, was the return to the certainty of God’s existence. The luminous quality that we habitually projected into the afterlife is in reality already present in our bodies. A great certainty and joy of being suddenly awoke and motivated us to renew our actions. We knew: If we are able to live a life in which we understand how to end war fully, then this will bring about a new reality.”

PAYNCoP Gabon and Engineers Without Borders join forces to fight COVID 19


Sent to CPNN by Jerry Bibang

As part of the fight against COVID 19, the Youth Association for Development (JED), member of PAYNCoP Gabon, and the NGO Engineers Without Borders (ISF) yesterday, Wednesday, April 1, served the populations of the district behind the Ecole Normale Supérieure, in the 1st arrondissement of the commune of Libreville, with a station for hand-washing.

(click here for the original version in French.)

Question related to this article:
How can we work together to overcome this medical and economic crisis?

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The initiative is part of a project which consists of setting up handwashing stations in the under-integrated districts of Libreville and its surroundings, especially those experiencing difficulties in supplying drinking water. “The situation is more complex in these districts because access to drinking water is a real challenge for people, and sometimes they live together in small rooms, so it is difficult to respect the 1 meter distance. This is why we have targeted these areas,” said Darel Oliny, Executive Director of Engineers Without Borders in Gabon.

For Jerry Bibang, the National Coordinator of PAYNCoP Gabon, this is an action that supports the efforts of the Government in the fight against the pandemic which is currently ravaging. “The public authorities started the war against COVID 19, as citizens and patriots, it is up to us to stand up and go to the front against the common enemy” he added before inviting the residents to respect barrier gestures for better prevention.

After Behind the École Normale Supérieure, the Nzeng-Ayong district, in the 6th arrondissement of Libreville, will be the next step in this citizen initiative.

Cuba’s Coronavirus Response Is Putting Other Countries to Shame


An article by Ben Burgis in Jacobin

Cuba is caricatured by the Right as a totalitarian hellhole. But its response to the coronavirus pandemic — from sending doctors to other countries to pioneering anti-viral treatments to converting factories into mask-making machines — is putting other countries, even rich countries, to shame.

Cuban doctors prepare to leave for Italy to provide medical aid. Twitter

Last week, the MS Braemar, a transatlantic cruise ship carrying 682 passengers from the United Kingdom, found itself momentarily stranded. Five of the cruise’s passengers had tested positive for the coronavirus. Several dozen more passengers and crew members were in isolation after exhibiting flu-like symptoms. The ship had been rebuffed from several ports of entry throughout the Caribbean. According to sources in the British government who spoke to CNN, the UK then reached out to both the United States and Cuba “to find a suitable port for the Braemar.”

Which country took them in? If you’ve paid attention to the Trump administration’s xenophobic rhetoric about “the Chinese virus” and its obsession with keeping foreign nationals out of the country, and you know anything about Cuba’s tradition of sending doctors to help with humanitarian crises all around the world, you should be able to guess the answer.

The Braemar docked in the Cuban port of Mariel last Wednesday. Passengers who were healthy enough to travel to their home countries were transported to the airport in Havana. Those who were too sick to fly were offered treatment at Cuban hospitals — even though there had only been ten confirmed cases in the whole country, and allowing patients from the cruise ship to stay threatened to increase the number.

Cuba Mobilizes Against the Virus

Despite being a poor country that often experiences shortages — a product of both the economy’s structural flaws and the effects of sixty years of economic embargo by its largest natural trading partner — Cuba was better positioned than most to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The country combines a completely socialized medical system that guarantees health care to all with impressive biotech innovations. A Cuban antiviral drug (Interferon Alfa-2B) has been used to combat the coronavirus both inside the country and in China. Cuba also boasts 8.2 doctors per 1,000 people — well over three times the rate in the United States (2.6) or South Korea (2.4), almost five times as many as China (1.8), and nearly twice as many as Italy (4.1).

On top of its impressive medical system, Cuba has a far better track record of protecting its citizens from emergencies than other poor nations — and even some rich ones. Their “comprehensive, all-hands-on-deck” hurricane-preparedness system, for example, is a marvel, and the numbers speak for themselves. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew killed dozens of Americans and hundreds of Haitians. Not a single Cuban died. Fleeing residents were even able to bring their household pets with them — veterinarians were stationed at the evacuation centers.

The coronavirus will be a harder challenge than a hurricane, but Cuba has been applying the same “all-hands-on-deck” spirit to prepare. Tourism has been shut down (a particularly painful sacrifice, given the industry’s importance to Cuba’s beleaguered economy). And the nationalized health care industry has not only made sure that thousands of civilian hospitals are at the ready for coronavirus patients, but that several military hospitals are open for civilian use as well.

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Question related to this article:
How can we work together to overcome this medical and economic crisis?

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Masks: A Tale of Two Countries

In the United States, the surgeon general and other authorities tried to conserve face masks for medical professionals by telling the public that the masks “wouldn’t help.” The problem, as Dr Zeynep Tufekci argued in a recent New York Times op-ed, is that the idea that doctors and nurses needed the masks undermined the claim that they would be ineffective. Authorities correctly pointed out that masks would be useless (or even do more harm than good) if not used correctly, but as Tufekci notes, this messaging never really made sense. Why not launch an aggressive educational campaign to promote the dos and don’ts of proper mask usage rather than telling people they’d never be able to figure it out?

Many people also wash their hands wrong, but we don’t respond to that by telling them not to bother. Instead, we provide instructions; we post signs in bathrooms; we help people sing songs that time their hand-washing. Telling people they can’t possibly figure out how to wear a mask properly isn’t a winning message. Besides, when you tell people that something works only if done right, they think they will be the person who does it right, even if everyone else doesn’t.

The predictable result of all of this is that, after weeks of “don’t buy masks, they won’t work for you” messaging, so many have been purchased that you can’t find a mask for sale anywhere in the United States outside of a few on Amazon for absurdly gouged prices.

In Cuba, on the other hand, nationalized factories that normally churn out school uniforms and other non-medical items have been repurposed to dramatically increase the supply of masks.

Cuban Doctors Abroad

The same humanitarian and internationalist spirit that led Cuba to allow the Braemar to dock has also led the tiny country to send doctors to assist Haiti after that nation’s devastating 2010 earthquake, fight Ebola in West Africa in 2014, and, most recently, help Italy’s overwhelmed health system amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Cuba offered to send similar assistance to the United States after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, but was predictably rebuffed by the Bush administration.)

Even outside of temporary emergencies, Cuba has long dispatched doctors to work in poor countries with shortages of medical care. In Brazil, Cuban doctors were warmly welcomed for years by the ruling Workers’ Party. That began to change with the ascendance of far-right demagogue Jair Bolsonaro. When he assumed office, Bolsonaro expelled most of the Cuban doctors from the country, insisting that they were in Brazil not to heal the sick but “to create guerrilla cells and indoctrinate people.”

As recently as two weeks ago, Bolsonaro was calling the idea that the coronavirus posed a serious threat to public health a “fantasy.” Now that reality has set in, he’s begging the Cuban doctors to come back.

Embracing Complexity About Cuba

Last month, Bernie Sanders was red-baited and slandered by both Republicans and establishment Democrats for acknowledging the real accomplishments of the Cuban Revolution. It didn’t seem to matter to these critics that Sanders started and ended his comments by calling the Cuban government “authoritarian” and condemning it for keeping political prisoners. Instead, they seemed to judge his comments by what I called the “Narnia Standard.” Rather than frankly discussing both the positive and negative aspects of Cuban society, the island state is treated as if it lacks any redeeming features — like Narnia before Aslan, where it was “always winter and never Christmas.”

Democratic socialists value free speech, press freedom, multiparty elections, and workplace democracy. We can and should criticize Cuba’s model of social organization for its deficits. But Cuba’s admirably humane and solidaristic approach to the coronavirus should humble those who insist on talking about the island nation as if it were some unending nightmare.


Ben Burgis is a philosophy professor and the author of of Give Them An Argument: Logic for the Left. He does a segment called “The Debunk” every week on The Michael Brooks Show.

Love and Nonviolence in the Time of Coronavirus


An article by Ken Butigan in Common Dreams (licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License)

The COVID-19 pandemic has ground the world to a halt.  While Hubei province in China has begun to recover, it has done so by locking down sixty-million people and severely disrupting the patterns of life and work there.  The rest of the world is generally behind the curve in its response, with the number of cases skyrocketing and a few countries courageously taking the same drastic measures that the Chinese did toward containment and mitigation.  The United States has declared a national emergency, but the pivotal strategy of testing is severely lagging. Quite likely, the next weeks will see a dramatic increase in cases and deaths.. .

How, then, does this crisis sharpen our choice for a culture of active and life-giving nonviolence?  Doesn’t it, instead, point to a future of epidemics, social disruption, economic chaos, and an increase in the politics of fear?

There is no question that the current catastrophe could worsen an already grim trajectory of climate change, poverty, racial injustice and militarism. It could feed the flames of authoritarianism and regimes of surveillance, even as it could drive long-term economic dislocation, with harsh impacts in the lives of people everywhere.

At the same time, however, this crisis is so global, so encompassing, so pervasively universal—touching virtually every person on the planet—that it not only begs for an immediate and comprehensive response, it cracks open the possibility for a long-term cultural and planetary shift toward a more just, peaceful and sustainable order.

It is the magnitude of this cataclysmic predicament that directly confronts us, willingly or not, with the choice Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. specified for humanity half a century ago—nonviolence or nonexistence—and prompts us urgently to discover a way forward drawing on nonviolent methods toward a more nonviolent world.

While combating this pandemic with xenophobia and “us versus them” nationalism has been the reaction of some, the reality is that, if we are to survive this crisis effectively, it will require comprehensively nonviolent cooperation and approaches.  We are already seeing these in action.  When the people of Wuhan and Italy—and now Spain—join in the radical social-distancing of staying home for weeks, they are not only protecting themselves, they are engaging in a powerful, nonviolent action of social responsibility and solidarity. When societies take rapid, extraordinary steps to mitigate the shock of job loss or the expense of testing, they are pursuing nonviolent strategies—nonviolent because they resist the violence of exclusion or indifference while fostering healing and unity.  Even as we find ourselves in the midst of this disorienting and surreal disaster, we are often responding instinctively with empathy and compassion.  No doubt, this nonviolent energy, extended to the entire world, will be increasingly needed as the scale of this catastrophe becomes clearer over the next weeks and months.

Nonviolence is organized love.  A constructive force, an active method, and a powerful way of life, active nonviolence is the power of creative love unleashed to relieve suffering, to struggle for justice, and to nurture a world where everyone counts.  Now more than ever this energy is urgently required to respond to the world of hurt that the COVID-19 tsunami is leaving in its wake—the growing number of people struck down with the virus; the keen grief of those who have suddenly lost loved ones; the overwhelmed health-care systems and providers; but also those caught in its financial wreckage, including minimum wage workers who suddenly have no income; small business owners with raser-thin margins forced to shut down; and, most palpable of all, millions at the margins who have no safety net, no resources, no health care, no recourse.

The present world of pain not only presents an emergency requiring an immediate response, it throws in sharp relief the need for dramatic social change.  We have not built a world that is up to effectively dealing with this challenge. This moment of what we might call “pan-suffering”—agony reaching deeply into the lives and societies across the globe—is revealing the need for societies and systems capable of handling such transnational emergencies while providing for those most impacted by them.

From “War Footing” to “Nonviolent Mobilization”

While the metaphor of “going to war against the virus” crops up in many media reports—“Every college and university is on a war footing about this and are trying to assemble as much information as possible” (LA Times); “New York adopts war footing to ready hospitals for virus surge” (Bloomberg News); “Trump’s national emergency declaration, corporate partnership put U.S. on war footing vs. coronavirus” (Boston Herald)—the strategies in place, and the ones that will succeed, are anything but those of war-fighting.  When the media reach for a term like “war footing,” they are falling lazily into a traditional groove for describing a concerted, society-wide strategy for mobilizing people and resources to solve a monumental problem confronting the nation or the world. 

If, in fact, defeating COVID-19 will most effectively happen through nonviolent strategies, it is best to reach for a metaphor that both implies this and minimizes the possibility of violent counter-measures (as in the “war in Iraq” or even policies that have taken on this signifier, like “the war on drugs” or “the war on poverty”).  Rather than the metaphor of war, it is better to take on a metaphor from the world of nonviolence, for example, “nonviolent mobilization”: inviting people across our societies to tap their power for love, mercy, peace and nonviolent change in a comprehensive and collaborative way.  Truly ending this epidemic will require a common vision of, and policies supporting and fostering, unity, cooperation and healing.

The more we take steps now in the spirit of nonviolent transformation, healing and connectedness, the more we will glean lessons for going forward as a society and a planet.

These lessons—for example, that health-care for all lessens the spread of epidemics; that an economic safety-net for all buffers the shocks of such catastrophes; that our limited resources should be poured into meeting the human needs of all instead of military systems that buttress “us versus them” geo-politics—will point us toward and serve as a foundation of a nonviolent shift that our nation and our world desperately needs.

Pace e Bene

While many of us may have long been thinking along these lines, it is in these moments of shock and peril that we can find the gumption to take the concrete steps for making this shift a reality.

In addition to teaching at DePaul University, I work with Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, a thirty-year-old organization spreading the power of nonviolence. Pace e Bene (“Peace and Good,” a greeting used by St. Francis of Assisi) has long been working for what Joanna Macy calls “the great turning.”  Since 2014, we have been collaborating with a growing community of sisters and brothers in the US and around the world to take steps toward building and nurturing a culture of active nonviolence free from war, poverty, racism and environmental destruction. 

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Question related to this article:
How can we work together to overcome this medical and economic crisis?

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Each year since then Campaign Nonviolence has been growing—by organizing Nonviolent Cities, by facilitating trainings and workshops, by publishing books on nonviolence, by encouraging the Catholic Church to spread nonviolence (in our work with Pax Christi International’s Catholic Nonviolence Initiative), and by mobilizing nonviolent actions for a week each September, anchored by the International Day of Peace. (This year, the Campaign Action Week will take place September 19-27.)

In all of this, we have been preparing for a turning point.  Maybe it is here.

This all depends on our choice.

On the Threshold?

We can’t predict what the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will be.  Perhaps, after it passes, we will resume the life we have always known.  There is some evidence that this is what’s happening in China, where the lessening of the coronavirus spread has seen a return to pre-COVID-19 fossil fuel consumption levels.

At the same time, there is the potential for a long-term shift.  In spite of rampant nationalistic tendencies, this disease underscores the inextricable interconnectedness of planet earth. We are all literally in this together, and that togetherness does not stop at national borders.  The healing the earth’s population in the face of this global infection ultimately will hinge on the care for all, not for some. Just as humanity began to reset its self-understanding after Apollo 8’s “earthrise” photo was beamed home in 1968—a startling image that helped us “get” that we are one borderless planet, suspended in the darkness, together—so COVID-19 shocks us into an even deeper awareness: whatever threatens one threatens all.  Our survival depends on one another.  Or, to put it positively, we are being beckoned to, once and for all, outgrow our limiting conceptions of self and nation.  Our full flourishing hinges on transcending the confining cultural and social operating systems that exclude, demonize, and reject. 

COVID-19 has deepened our understanding of the Apollo 8 image: we see a planet wounded and needy, one community of communities in need of healing, compassion, and transformation, a sacred reality calling us to the nonviolent turn. Violence will not heal this brokenness and pain. Only nonviolence—purified of violence at its very roots, as Sr, Nancy Shreck, OSF has put it—can relieve this suffering in its comprehensiveness.

Whatever the outcome, the experience of this current pandemic is likely a rehearsal for the summoning of global resolve to, once and for all, tackle the series of grave “epidemics” that are mutating and growing all around us: the epidemic of economic inequality; the epidemic of racism, sexism and homophobia; the epidemic of nationalism and xenophobia; the epidemic of militarist systems and solutions; and the existential epidemic of planetary collapse.  Our current struggle offers us the gift of both seeing the “big picture” in a new way and the invitation to shift our way of life and being in foundational ways in light of that “big picture.”

It is a vivid and compelling invitation to see anew the indivisible reality of life and, consequently, to join and contribute to the global movement for this cultural and planetary shift.

Steps Forward

The immediate question is: How can we make this choice for a nonviolent shift in the midst of the current chaos?

First, within our own lives.  As one nation after another goes into lockdown in order to interrupt the transmission of COVID-19, more and more of us will be staying put at home.  This is an opportunity to prepare ourselves for taking part in this shift. How? Instead of regarding it as a kind of involuntary imprisonment, perhaps we can envision it as a space for transformation.  In the fourth century, the first monks headed to the deserts of Egypt and Palestine to, as Thomas Merton imagined it, jump ship from the Roman Empire, which had begun to co-opt the Church.  Their life of contemplation and self-confinement was a process of being freed from empire, physically but also spiritually.  They sparked a revolution of consciousness that has rippled down to our own day. 

Similarly, let us use these coming days and weeks to take steps toward a liberation from the domination system and toward a culture of peace and nonviolence.  With intentionality, reflection, prayer and community offline and online, we can take steps to challenge scripts of fear and division and to experience healing and transformation in our lives, our relationships and in the global movement for a world where everyone counts.

In this time of anxiety, let us renew our relationship with our loved ones, even if we are in close quarters.

In this time of dislocation, let us nurture the bonds of connection and solidarity.

In this time of disruption, let us find ways to commit our lives to the healing and well-being of all.

In this time of instability, let us imagine what nonviolent practice we can take up and deepen.

A New Movement is Coming

The greatest social movement in human history is coming.  Each of us is called to join it.  It is a global movement, a movement of movements.  It is learning from the history of movements that has been accelerating over the past century.  It is rooted in the blood and tears of millions who have spent their lives throughout history clamoring for justice, working for peace, laboring for a world that works for everyone.

This movement will not appear by magic.  It requires hard work and “acting our way into thinking.”  It will be deeply nonviolent—saying No to injustice and Yes to the humanity of all, including the humanity of our opponents.

In a curious way, COVID-19 is a strange messenger.  It is calling us resolutely to join this planetary movement that is emerging.

Let us join this all-embracing movement.  We can fill our knapsack for the journey ahead by taking nonviolence trainings online, planning for action in September, imagining how your locality could become a nonviolent city—and entering the mystery of nonviolent healing and transformation.  We can ready for humanity’s next step by finding—online, or off—a small group of 4 or 5 people to reflect, study and plan together, supporting one another as catalysts for transformation, as agents of nonviolent change, as advocates for a renewed and revitalized world.

Let us commit ourselves to the dramatic, systemic transformation needed now more than ever.  The vision, principles and strategies of nonviolent movement-building will strengthen our ability and capacity as agents of nonviolent change for a renewed and revitalized world.

We do not know, yet, how the change which is needed will come about. In these days of darkness and decision, let us open ourselves to the new direction to which we are being called.

Let us choose the way of nonviolent love in this time of coronavirus.

Ken Butigan is director of Pace e Bene, a nonprofit organization fostering nonviolent change through education, community and action. He also teaches peace studies at DePaul University and Loyola University in Chicago.

Mexico: Jëën pä’äm, the illness of fire


An article by Yásnaya Elena Aguilar Gil translated and published by Toward Freedom (original Spanish version published by El Pais)

I write from Ayutla, a Mixe community in the northern mountains of Oaxaca, which is facing the coronavirus pandemic without access to drinking water. As we talk, think, and share ideas about what we can do in this situation, and the need to speak out about the emergency circumstances we’re in, I can’t help but think of other epidemics that have shaped the way our communities have been configured through history. The epidemics of the Sixteenth Century had a determining influence in the way that the colonial order was installed in these lands in the centuries that followed.

Family by FreeXero, used under a creative commons license.

The colony was established on a great demographic catastrophe, between the wars of conquest, the forced labor, the abuses and the illnesses. According to the calculations of John K. Chance, the author of the classic Conquest of the Sierra: Spaniards and Indians in Colonial Oaxaca, the Mixe did not return to our estimated population in 1519 until the decade of 1970. The stories and records of the impacts of smallpox and other imported illnesses in the native population are formidable, there were entire villages in which it became impossible to bury all of the dead.

The effects of epidemics on a population already exposed to war and forced labor dramatically reduced the native population. Specialists estimate that during the first great smallpox epidemic, eight million people died over a period of approximately two years. In a more conservative estimate (the numbers are still debated), 15 million people lived in these lands, and by the outset of the seventeenth century, there were but two million. In any case, it is impossible to deny that epidemics, along with war and subjugation, were a fundamental factor in the process we call the conquest. 

After the Sixteenth Century and through time, Indigenous people have faced additional epidemics. In oral tradition, tradition that lives in memory, elders from my community tell stories of those years: houses left deserted after the death of their occupants, daily fear, the anguish of not being able to carry out fundamental and necessary rituals so that the dead could set out on their voyage, these were the characteristics of an illness known in Mixe as jëën pä’äm, which translates as “the illness of fire” because of the high fevers that it caused, but which has yet to be fully identified.

The last words of my great-great-grandfather before he died from jëën pä’äm were passed on to me through intergenerational telling, his last words before entering in that state that is a bridge between consciousness and nothingness, made a reference to a quintessential story: in his childhood, he had been told of a great epidemic that devastated the whole region, and to avoid infection a family decided to take all of the corn and food they could and flee to a place where the illness couldn’t reach them.

Later I read in Edgar Allan Poe’s extraordinary tale The Masque of the Red Death that something similar happened to that family that didn’t worry about the epidemic and ate the food that they took outside the community. As is to be expected, the illness traveled with them, and no one could help them after death interrupted their enjoyment of that which they stole. Nobody could bury them and their bodies were left in the open and dried up in the sun. 

After telling this story, my great-great-grandfather asked those who were listening to him to refuse to believe the lie that the individual good is above the collective good. He gave a few more instructions, and he passed away a few days later. Soon after, his daughter Luisa, who had heard his words, fell ill as well. Before she entered into the extraordinary states that fever produces in the mind, she got engaged to my great grandfather Zacarías who, together with his neighbors and friends, dedicated himself to taking measures so as not to fall ill and at the same time, to look after her and her siblings, providing those who had the illness in the home of his fiancée with fresh water and food. My great grandmother Luisa managed to get better and she solemnly repeated the words of her father. Ever since those words have been repeated in my family with a kind of respect that is generated through repetition: the individual good doesn’t oppose the collective good, the individual good depends on the collective good.

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Question for discussion

The understanding of indigenous peoples, Can it help us cultivate a culture of peace?

How can we work together to overcome this medical and economic crisis?

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In one of the versions of the ideal capitalist world, life in common takes place within a state that only intervenes to protect private property, and in which all the services, products and necessary items for life are controlled by capital and private owners. In some anarcho-capitalist delusions, the individual, their liberty and property are the center of the regulation of life in common. In contrast, community organizations are described as places that experience the tragedy of the commons and free-riders, and communal organization is described as a structure that suppresses free will and individual desires in favor of a dictatorship of the majority.

A permanent tension between the individual good and the collective interest which frustrates and limits the individual has been instilled in the discourse. The exploitation of the supposed friction between individual and collective was sown as the seed of distrust to create anti-communist propaganda and is today used to discredit various struggles for the construction of social structures rooted in solidarity, mutual aid and communality. Liberal democracies establish an agreement with individuals, individual guarantees are recognized in constitutions and the foundations of rights in the neoliberal state is the individual and private property. This logic means that throughout history, the state has had trouble dealing with communities and not individuals, communities which claim land communally, collective entities which until recently didn’t have a legal framework from which to interact with the state.

That said, the experience of many people contradicts the preponderance of an essentialist opposition between the individual and the collective good. Gladys Tzul, a Maya K’iche’ sociologist, has explored how communal structures allow for the satisfaction of individual desires. My experience is similar. We are able to have what is needed to live our lives and to fulfill our desires and wishes is due in large part to the fact that many people collectively built classrooms, a system to distribute drinking water, and a structure to provide for parties and free leisure activities managed through communal work. 

My personal passion and interest in music found a place to flourish in the music classes and philharmonic bands that our communities collectively manage. This reveals how, rather than being in opposition, the individual good depends on the collective good. The individualism of people who don’t know those who live in the same building as them is explained because their individual good has been entrusted in an agreement they’ve made with the state; in exchange for paying a small amount of tax, they leave fundamental aspects of life, like the management of drinking water or the educational system, in the hands of the state.

When an extraordinary event takes place, in the form of an earthquake, or the state fails, as it constantly does, the lie of individualism is revealed: it becomes necessary to talk to a neighbor, to congregate and collectively face the extraordinary situation that brings to the table a notion that is negated but whose rhythm undergirds being human: we need each other. Even in very individualistic societies, the need for collectivity reveals itself in periods of breakdown: stopping the COVID-19 pandemic requires that we all participate, keeping a safe distance and washing our hands can save the lives of people we don’t know, and the actions of others can save the life of our octogenarian mother. If the propagation of the virus shows us the insides of the interrelated structures in which we live, it also shows that only collective care that can stop the pandemic.

The epidemics of the Sixteenth Century had a material historical, economic and political context, COVID-19 has appeared in the midst of a crisis of capitalism and this context will give it particular characteristics and will lead it to have specific consequences. Capitalism has needed the idea of individual success and personal merit, capitalism has held up the idea of the individual who fears a communist or communal plot which takes away his property, acquired with jealous zeal. But a virus is not private property.

In the peripheries of capitalism and the state we have learned other truths: the family who steals the corn of the collective to escape from illness is condemned to lack care and have their bodies exposed; the Mixe population that came out of the demographic catastrophe of the Sixteenth Century organized into communal structures to resist the gradual establishment of the colonial regime, and later the establishment of the state, and made life communally, which made it possible for us to remain, regardless of cruel epidemics, displacement and violence. The communal care that saved the life of Luisa made it possible that I can today share the dying words of my great-grandfather during a previous epidemic: the individual good is the collective good.

Author Bio:

Yásnaya Elena Aguilar Gil is a Mixe linguist from Ayutla, Oaxaca. Follow her on Twitter @Yasnayae. This column was originally published in El País and translated by Toward Freedom with the author’s permission.

(Thank you to Mazim Qumsiyeh for sending this to CPNN)

IPB Statement: Call to the G20 to Invest in Healthcare Instead of Militarization


A press release from the International Peace Bureau

The world’s oldest peace NGO, the Nobel Prize-winning IPB [International Peace Bureau] has called on G20 world leaders who are gathering via virtual means this coming week to send a message of peace and solidarity to the world as they address the global health emergency.

This is a time to open a new page in global relations to put geopolitical tensions to one side, to end proxy wars, for a ceasefire in those many conflicts around the world all of which stand to hamper a global solidarity effort.

We have to lift the shadow of war and military brinkmanship which has blighted global cooperation in recent years and work to ensure that a spirit of peace and solidarity prevails.

The IPB has long drawn the world’s attention to the increasing velocity of the global arms race.

Our communities are paying a high price for an arms race that has diverted resources from the basic health and welfare needs of the people.

We are all paying a heavy price for failed leadership and misplaced market-driven practices that have weakened our means to address this emergency, which has hit the weakest hardest.

Healthcare Stress

We are now seeing the consequences of underinvesting in healthcare infrastructure, hospitals, and staff.

Hospitals are overburdened, nurses are exhausted, materials are scarce, and life and death decisions are made on who can and cannot have access to the scarce number of ventilators available. Doctors and nurses are handicapped by the irresponsibility of past political and economic decision making.

All over the world, health systems are reaching the limits of their strength and heroic front-line staff are under massive pressure.

The coronavirus emergency shows what a weakened state our societies find themselves in to protect the people: a world driven by financialization, shareholder value and austerity have weakened our ability to defend the common good and placed human life in danger on a global scale.

Employees fearful of job and income loss are tempted to go to work sick. Older people are vulnerable and need help. The virus hits the weakest hardest.

Privatization, austerity measures, the neoliberal system have brought the local, regional and national health services to the brink of collapse.

In the last two decades the number of doctors working in the healthcare system has been reduced by a third in Western European countries.

In Italy, the healthcare budget has been cut by 37 billion euros in recent years.

The WHO warns that we are facing a shortage of 18 million healthcare workers by 2030.

Municipalities urgently need support in order to increase numbers of available staff. And now these policies are taking their toll, especially where hospitals have been closed on a massive scale in recent years (or privatized for the benefit of the rich), and in some (particularly rural) regions this has restricted basic care.

We can already draw lessons for the future:

Health is a human right for the young and old, for all people in all parts in the world.

Healthcare and nursing care must never be slashed or subordinated in the pursuit of profit through privatization.

The importance of decent work for all healthcare staff and continued investment in their education and training.

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(click here for the press release in French and click here for Spanish.)

Question related to this article:
How can we work together to overcome this medical and economic crisis?

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Time for a Global Social Contract

As each hour passes, the full scale of the crisis becomes clearer.

This week the ILO reported on the labour market consequences:

A potential loss of 25 million jobs, which is more than those lost during the 2008 financial crisis.

Working poverty is expected to increase significantly, where up to 35 million additional people could be impacted.

Income losses for workers could reach 3.4 trillion dollars.

We support the efforts of the trade union movement globally, regionally and nationally, in their call for a new social contract.

We support their call for economic measures and resources to protect jobs, incomes, public services, and the welfare of people.

This requires a commitment from the business community to keep people in work and the support they are promised to receive from their governments must be conditional on their adhering to the social contract for job security and incomes.

G20: Priority to Disarmament

The world spends 1.8 trillion dollars on military expenditure every year and is scheduled to spend 1 trillion dollars on new nuclear weapons in the next 20 years.

World military exercises cost more than 1 billion dollars each year, and arms production and arms exports are on the increase in the world’s leading economies.

The G20 cannot sweep these facts under the carpet. Military spending is 50 per cent higher today than at the end of the Cold War. It stands at a staggering 1,8 trillion US dollars a year, while NATO is demanding further increases from its members.

The G20 are responsible for 82 per cent of global military spending, account for almost all arms exports, and hold 98 per cent of the world’s nuclear bombs on their collective territory. The G20 is a shared platform that brings together the interests of the main players in the global arms race.

In addition, billions are spent on military research, money which would be better invested in health and human needs and research to help the fight against global climate change.

Militarization is the wrong path for the world to take; it fuels tensions and raises the potential for war and conflict and aggravates already heightened nuclear tensions.

Even so, the policy architecture that was put in place to control nuclear expansion and disarmament is ignored or even weakened.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ 2020 Doomsday Clock published in February stood at 100 seconds to midnight – the closest it has been to midnight in its 70-year history – and this global pandemic has pushed the second hand even closer.

World leaders must put disarmament and peace back in the center of policy making.

Global leaders have to develop a new agenda for disarmament and that includes the banning of nuclear weapons. We call once again for governments to sign on to the TPNW.

Without it, we are handicapping our fight against future health pandemics, to eradicate poverty, hunger, to provide education and healthcare for all, as well as the realization of the SDG 2030 goals.

Disarmament is one of the keys to the great transformation of our economies, to ensure that human beings and not profit are most valued; economies in which ecological challenges – above all the crisis of climate change – will be solved and global social justice will be pursued.

With disarmament the implementation of the SDGs, a global social contract, and a new global green peace deal, we can address the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

We know from the history of our own organization and many of our member organizations that in such crises, democracy must be defended above all else, and it must be defended against increasingly authoritarian states.

We are calling for a culture of peace. A peaceful path means that we need a global strategy, a global social contract, and global cooperation to ensure planet-wide support for people. This will be the human solidarity of the 21st century – for and with the people.

IPB is willing and able to work on establishing this peaceful path – in collaboration with partners all over the world.
That is why we say that an initiative from the G20 to move away from a culture of militarization towards a culture of peace is both urgent and necessary.

Switzerland: Lutheran World Federation marks World Interfaith Harmony Week


An article from the Lutheran World News (non-commercial use)

During the first week of February, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is joining with the World Council of Churches  (WCC) and many other faith-based organizations to mark the 10th edition of World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Photo from the celebration at the United Nations

The annual event was first proposed by King Abdullah II of Jordan and adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly in October 2010. The following year, the LWF Council responded by encouraging all its member churches to enhance understanding, harmony, and cooperation among people of different faiths in their respective contexts.

To mark this year’s event, the LWF’s Program Executive for Public Theology and Interreligious Relations, Rev. Dr Sivin Kit, is participating in a round table discussion entitled ‘Rethinking Interreligious Engagement in a Wounded World.’ The event, to be held on 7 February in Geneva’s Ecumenical Center, is sponsored by the WCC and includes religious leaders from different faith groups alongside diplomats, peace activists and members of grass-roots communities.

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Question related to this article:
How can different faiths work together for understanding and harmony?

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Dialogue integral to Christian life and witness

Kit, who was ordained and worked in the multifaith context of his native Malaysia, says: “Dialogue and engagement with people of other faiths, in a humble manner, is integral to our Christian life and witness.”  He adds: “Healthy interreligious relations are particularly relevant in today’s world, where we are not only aware of religious diversity and vitality in society, but also how religion is easily misused for political mileage.”

Personal relationships, practical cooperation and a shared sense of community, Kit believes, are the keys to building trust and improving interfaith harmony. To help promote greater understanding of other faith communities, the LWF is publishing an online reader with a selection of articles exploring some of the key issues at the heart of the Christian’s encounter with believers from other faith communities.

Blessed are the peacemakers

Interfaith dialogue and cooperation to build mutual understanding is a priority for the LWF and a daily reality for members of many of its member churches and World Service country programs in different parts of the globe. In 2018, World Service staff worked closely with Islamic Relief Worldwide  (IRW) to publish a practical guide entitled ‘A Faith Sensitive Approach in Humanitarian Response’. The LWF is currently working with IRW to organize an international conference in October 2020 entitled ‘Welcoming the Stranger, Shaping the Future’.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week, Kit says, is an important reminder “that we need to work harder to cultivate healthy interfaith relations by reaching out to those who are unlike us (and perhaps to those who don’t like us too). This week can serve as an opportunity for us to create safe spaces where people of different faiths can share about the rewards and challenges of living in their respective contexts.”

In some cases, he continues, “these contexts reflect highly secularized environments; in other situations, religious communities are confronted with political instability and even the threat of violence. In times like this, how do we interpret the multifaith reality we live in? Is it a threat to our religious survival or can it be an opportunity for us to be peacemakers?  The answer from the words of Jesus is clear: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”

UNESCO supports young people for reflections on emerging forms of expression in order to consolidate peace, democracy and development in Africa


An article from UNESCO

On Thursday, December 26, 2019 in Dakar, the UNESCO Multisectoral Regional Office for West Africa-Sahel, through the Human and Social Sciences sector (SHS), organized a workshop to present the study “Young people and areas of freedom in Africa: Emerging expressions of young people to consolidate peace, democratization and achieve the SDGs”.

The main objective was to define and inform public policies for young people in order to make them more relevant, inclusive and equitable. Under the chairmanship of Ms. Néné Fatoumata Sall, Minister of Youth, the workshop brought together more than forty participants, including members of the study’s scientific council, representatives of COMNat Senegal in charge of logistics coordination of the study, representatives of youth organizations, representatives of civil society, researchers and academics from The Gambia and Senegal, key partners of the Banjul Forum, members of the Multidisciplinary Research Team and the UNESCO Office staff in Dakar.

“This study constitutes a platform for exchange, consolidation & appropriation, the aim of which is to mobilize the knowledge of young people to inform public policies and accelerate social transformations in Africa,” said Ms. Néné Fatoumata Tall, Minister of Youth, employment and citizen building in Senegal.

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(Click here for the original French version of this article)

Question related to this article:
Youth initiatives for a culture of peace, How can we ensure they get the attention and funding they deserve?

Will UNESCO once again play a role in the culture of peace?

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During his introductory remarks, Dr Maréma Touré Thiam, Head of the Human and Social Sciences section of the UNESCO Office in Dakar, recalled that “for UNESCO, young people are essential actors in finding solutions to challenges, they are the solution to Africa’s development. They have always played a major role in the democratization and pacification of societies ”. Thus, this study, carried out by a team of 9 researchers (with 7 different profiles and coming from 5 countries covered by the Office), in collaboration with the Bamako Office and the Culture program of BReDa, made it possible to analyze the trends in several African countries (particularly West Africa) regarding the “emerging” expressions, creativity and capacity for innovation of African youth in terms of civic and civic engagement. The workshop was an opportunity to discuss the efforts necessary to support young people and help them work together to encourage innovation and social change, the development of their societies, fight against poverty and inequality, and foster a culture of peace.

The discussions and exchanges during the workshop made it possible to validate the results with all the participants and stakeholders, but also to underline the importance for UNESCO of supporting young people and researchers for reflections on the innovative forms of expression for young people, in order to consolidate peace, democracy and development in Africa.

“Young people have a preponderant role to play in the progress of societies because they represent the lever by which the Nations will have to rely to aspire to development” Mrs., Néné Fatoumata Tall, Minister of Youth, Employment and citizen building of Senegal

It was recommended to continue and develop scientific research on young people and to deepen it in order to make available to the authorities and stakeholders a “consolidated document” to inform youth policies. The workshop ended with the reading of the declaration of the African Regional Youth Forum, held in Banjul in October 2019.

Burkina Faso: Struggle against radicalization: Imams and preachers strengthen their knowledge


An article from Le Faso

The Minister of Territorial Administration, Decentralization and Social Cohesion, Simeon Sawadogo, presided, on January 10, 2020, the ceremony for the end of training of imams, preachers and Koranic masters on human rights, the culture of peace, health and the environment. The trainees undertook to propagate the lessons received for a Burkina Faso of peace.

We must cultivate peace

During their internship, the imams, preachers and Koranic masters learned the need to cultivate peace and this goes through the behavior and the teachings which are given in Koranic schools and mosques. The lesson seems well understood by the trainees. The first module focused on education for a culture of peace. We have learned that you have to be tolerant, just, fair and cultivate inner peace in order to share it with family, neighborhood and city members, said Harouna Tao, Imam-preacher of Titao. In this regard, he has promised to teach and work now to promote peace around him and urged his fellow believers to do the same.

The second module focused on human rights and legal remedies. The trainers taught the learners the basics of human rights and the need to respect them for better living together. We now know the rights of the individual, of people. We have also learned, when your rights are violated, how to go to court to seek redress. We will encourage these attitudes in our mosques, our preachings in order to promote a good coexistence between Muslims and other religious communities added Imam Harouna Tao.

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(Click here for the original French version of this article.)

Question for this article

Islamic extremism, how should it be opposed?

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The last module, health and the environment in relation to sustainable development, was a framework for learners to understand the need to preserve nature for future generations. A teaching that has been well received by religious leaders and who promise to apply it. A healthy and supportive environment contributes to the health of the entire population, which prepares the future for future generations. Development in the new vision must take into account the future of the planet, of future generations. If we ask ourselves which child we leave on this earth and which earth we leave to our offspring, it is important that we work to preserve the environment, added Imam Tao.

Training was necessary

The 20 days of training were initiated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and carried out in partnership with the Burkinabè government and the Circle of Islamic Studies, Research and Training (CERFI). For Siméon Sawadogo, training was very necessary in view of the national context. He urged trainees to train imams, preachers and Quranic teachers who did not participate in the training.

The government has realized that we must work to combat violent extremism and radicalization. These are facts that we have seen in our society and that the government is working to eradicate. ECOWAS has been good enough to support the Burkinabè government and the sub-region in this struggle by training the first officials who are responsible for teaching others about religious precepts.

So these are imams, preachers who have been trained here at CERFI thanks to the support of ECOWAS and in their turn, they will go to train people in the medersas so that in their preaching in mosques and religious places, they can banish hate speech and they can work so that people learn how to live together and know the true precepts of religion ;, said Simeon Sawadogo.

The interns are now envoys of the Burkinabè government to their co-religionists in order to block the road to the violent extremism and radicalization that fuel terrorism in countries of the sub-region including Burkina.

PAYNCoP Gabon advocates for the participation and support of youth initiatives at the United Nations



The National Coordination of the Pan-African Youth Network for the Culture of Peace (PAYNCoP Gabon) took part, on Wednesday, January 15, 2020, in the working session of the Under-Secretary of the United Nations, in charge of peace and security issues, Ms. Bintou Keita, with Gabonese Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).

The meeting, which took place on the margins of the 7th Peace Forum, organized in Libreville, enabled Ms. Bintou to exchange views with Gabonese CSOs on issues of development, peace and security at the national level.

Speaking on the contribution of young people to development and peacebuilding, the National Coordinator of PAYNCoP Gabon advocated for the contribution of young people on two levels: participation and action. Young people are a force for proposal and action.

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(Click here for the original French version of this article)

Question related to this article:
Youth initiatives for a culture of peace, How can we ensure they get the attention and funding they deserve?

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Unfortunately, despite the normative framework favorable to their participation, in particular resolution 2250 (young people, peace and security) of the UN Security Council, the African Youth Charter and the National Youth Policy, their participation remains a real challenge at a national level. They are marginalized and their needs and aspirations and their opinions are not taken into account. The worrying unemployment rate, the alarming situation of the education system as well as that of the National Youth Council are examples of this situation. How can young people contribute to the development of the country when if are not associated in decision-making?

In addition, alongside participation at the decision-making level, young people are in action. They take initiatives, carry out multiple and varied activities in different fields.

Unfortunately, these activities are limited due to insufficient resources. So we need support, funding to be more effective. In the associative framework, the Gabonese are excluded from certain financings because of the statute of our country (Country with Intermediate Income) whereas that remains a theoretical reality for the majority of Gabonese. In fact, decent accommodation, good training, food, treatment and decent work remains a privilege in Gabon as well as in Burundi or Sudan, classified among the poorest countries in the world.

In response to these remarks, the Under-Secretary of the United Nations promised to relay these observations to whom it should concern. She encouraged the young people not to give up because the youth is the present and the future of Gabon and Africa.