Category Archives: Mideast

The World Forum for the Culture of Peace in the Hague

… EDUCATION FOR PEACE …

An article from the International Peace Institute

The definition of peace has shifted in the United Nations community from the absence of conflict to a more active, “positive peace.” Looking at peace from this perspective requires a shift in focus from identifying and combating the causes of wars to understanding the factors that foster peace and inclusivity. To view a holistic perspective of peace, it is necessary to explore the connections among culture, peace, security, and development.


The “culture of peace” recognizes the link between peace, development, and human rights. Defined in 1999, the term seeks to tackle the root causes of conflicts emphasizing the importance of dialogue, negotiation, and cooperation among individuals, groups, and nations.

On June 13, 2019, the first annual World Forum for the Culture of Peace took place in The Hague on “Peace Education for the Protection of Cultural Heritage.” It was organized by the Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation with support from IPI, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the University of Leiden, and the Carnegie Foundation.

High-level representatives from around the world discussed the importance of peace education for the protection of cultural heritage with a particular focus on Iraq, Yemen, and the Central African Republic. The day-long forum ended with “Messages for Peace” from global leaders including:

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly (Video Message)
Marzouq Al-Ghanim, President of the Kuwaiti National Assembly
Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain, Chairman, Abdulaziz Saud Albabtain Cultural Foundation
Faustin-Archange Touadera, President of the Central African Republic
Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, President Emeritus of Malta
Abdullah Gül, Former President of Turkey
Hassan Arfaoui, Representative of the President of Tunisia
Laurence Konmla, Special Envoy of the President of Liberia
Ammar al-Hakim, President of the Reform and Reconstruction Alliance of Iraq

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Questions for this article:

What is the relation between peace and education?

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In Session III of the forum, IPI President Terje Rød-Larsen moderated a panel on Promoting the Culture of Peace through Education.

Other Attendees Included:

Joke Brandt, Representative of the Dutch Government and the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Erik de Baedts, President, Peace Palace / Carnegie Foundation
Prince Turki Alfaisal Alsaud
George Vella, President of Malta
Haris Silajdžiž, Former President of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen, Secretary-General, Organization of Islamic Cooperation
Taieb Baccouche, Secretary-General of the Arab Maghreb Union and Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tunisia
Khaled al-Yamani, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Yemen
Peter Maurer, President, International Committee of the Red Cross
Hilal Al Sayer, President of the Red Crescent Society, Kuwait
Leoluca Orlando, Mayor of Palermo
Shaikh Mohammed Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kuwait
Ali Al-Shukri, Representative of President of Iraq
Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa, President, Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, Kingdom of Bahrain
Abdullah Lamlas, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Government of Kurdistan Region, Iraq
Yusuf Goran, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Government of Kurdistan Region, Iraq
Michael Frendo, Speaker Emeritus of the Parliament of Malta and former Minister of Foreign Affairs
Hamed Al-Azemi, Minister of Education of the State of Kuwait
Madame Sylvie Baipo Temon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Central Republic of Africa
Tokia Saïfi, Member of the European Parliament
Moukadas Noure, Minister of Education of the Central African Republic
Mounir Bouchenaki, Advisor to UNESCO for Cultural Heritage
Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, President of the International Court of Justice
Carl Stolker, President of the University of Leiden

UN chief welcomes power-sharing deal between Sudanese military and opposition

…. HUMAN RIGHTS ….

An article from UN News

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Friday he was “encouraged” by reports of a newly-inked power-sharing deal between the Forces for Freedom and Change – a coalition of opposition and protest groups – and Sudan’s ruling military council.
The two sides have reportedly agreed to share power for three years, and then hold elections for a return to full civilian government. Mr. Guterres welcomed the decision to establish transitional governing bodies, and congratulated the African Union, Ethiopia and the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), for their role in mediating the talks.

Video from Deutsche Welle

News of the deal reportedly brought thousands of people onto the streets to celebrate and raised hopes that a peaceful transition of power can take place, following months of turmoil since December’s civilian revolt began.

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Questions related to this article:

How effective are mass protest marches?

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The Secretary-General, said a statement from his Spokesperson, is now encouraging all stakeholders to “ensure the timely, inclusive, and transparent implementation of the agreement and resolve any outstanding issues through dialogue.”

The statement also noted that Mr. Guterres welcomes the parties’ commitment to conducting an independent investigation into the violence perpetrated against peaceful protesters, including the events on 3 June, when security forces and militia fired on pro-democracy protesters in the capital Khartoum, leaving dozens dead and many more injured.

The UN chief expressed his solidarity with the people of Sudan, and reiterated the commitment of the United Nations to assist in the transition process.

Following a series of strikes and protests early in the year, long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir was overthrown by his top generals in April. Hopes were high that the military and opposition could reach a deal, but since the military-led violence of 3 April, talks were at an impasse until the latest round of negotiations began in the capital Khartoum earlier this week.   

Just last Sunday, there were nationwide demonstrations demanding the transfer of power to civilian hands, in which at least seven were reportedly killed, with more than 180 injured.

On Wednesday, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on Sudanese authorities to lift restrictions on the internet and launch independent investigations into all acts of violence against demonstrators, and allegations of excessive force, including attacks on hospitals. Ms. Bachelet said her office had received numerous allegations that excessive force had been used by security forces against protestors.

Dr. Garbis Der-Yeghiayan Elected Chair of Rotary Middle East Initiative Council

. .DISARMAMENT & SECURITY. ,

An article from the Massis Post

The Executive Committee of Rotarian Action Group For Peace recently elected Dr. Garbis Der-Yeghiayan as Chair of the newly-established Middle East Initiative Council. In the month of March, 2019, a high-ranking Rotary delegation headed by Dr. Der-Yeghiayan visited Israel and Palestine meeting with numerous government officials,leaders of peace-promoting organizations, university presidents and students. as well as Rotarians. The idea of establishing a peace council was conceived during the delegation’s visit to the Holy Land.


Dr. Garbis Der-Yeghiayan

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Question related to this article:

How can a culture of peace be established in the Middle East?

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Upon his election, Dr. Der-Yeghiayan said: “This is a fresh approach led by Rotarians and youth groups to create a culture of peace. It is based on shared values and desired outcomes of all concerned to include: 1. Safety and Security; 2. Prosperity; 3. Quality of Life. We are committed to full participation in a process to equitably meeting the needs of current and future generations”.

The proposed projects of the Council include: Organizing peace conferences and workshops to address the root causes of conflict among parties with the participation of Rotarians and international thinkers with global experience. Offering a summer program for teens to help them learn about the history, culture and politics of the Middle East. Publishing position papers authored by Council Members and other scholars on events in the Middle East. Working collaboratively with like-minded peace organizations in the region to affect change. Organizing annual peace missions to the region to learn and to better understand the status quo.

The Council will be composed of prominent Rotarians, scholars,statesmen, peace-builders, former ambassadors, former members of parliaments and youth representatives.
Dr. Der-Yeghiayan is a seasoned Rotary leader. He is the first Armenian American elected to serve as a District Governor (California-Nevada, USA) in the history of Rotary International. He has held all senior positions in Rotary, including the chairmanship of Rotarian Action Group For Peace. He is the recipient of Rotary’s highest honors.

Dr. Der-Yeghiayan expressed his gratitude for the honor bestowed upon him and concluded: “Every conflict is an opportunity for better understanding. We encourage openness from people in disputes because direct communication is the best way to find solutions.”

Sudan: top UN official demands cessation of violence and rape against civilians by security forces

…. HUMAN RIGHTS ….

An article from the United Nations

Following recent reports of attacks and rape by security forces and paramilitaries against the pro-democracy protesters in Sudan who have been holding a sit-in outside army headquarters in the capital, Khartoum, the United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, expressed  “grave concern” on Thursday [June 13] and called for an “immediate and complete” end to the violence.


Ahmed Bahhar/Masarib. Protesters take to streets in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. 11 April 2019.
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According to her Office, despite restrictions on communications in Sudan, reports of serious human rights violations have emerged since the beginning of the month.

These include reported rapes and gang rapes of protesters, women’s human rights defenders and women medical personnel working in hospitals near the sit-in perpetrated by the “Rapid Support Forces” or RSF – a paramilitary group run by the Sudanese Government, primarily composed of the Janjaweed, a party to the Darfur conflict – and other militias.

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Questions related to this article:

How effective are mass protest marches?

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“I demand the immediate and complete cessation of all violence against civilians including sexual violence,” stated Special Representative Patten, noting that the RSF have consistently been listed in the UN Secretary-General’s annual report on conflict-related sexual violence.

“[They] should take effective measures to prevent and punish sexual violence in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolution 2467,” she added.

After the three-decade autocratic rule of President Omar al-Bashir ended in a military takeover in April, talks faltered in May between protesters and the ruling Transitional Military Council over a timetable for civilian rule.

On 3 June, security forces and paramilitaries fired on pro-democracy protesters  holding a sit-in outside army headquarters in the capital Khartoum, leaving a number of people dead and many more injured. Three days later, the African Union suspended the participation of Sudan in all its activities until the effective establishment of a civilian-led transitional authority.

Pending verification of the alleged incidents by relevant UN bodies, Ms. Patten highlighted the fact that “the weakness of the rule of law and a general climate of impunity” is further compounding a highly-volatile context.

“I urge the prompt investigation of all credible allegations of sexual violence and accountability for those responsible,” said the Special Representative, adding that she strongly supports the rapid deployment of a United Nations human rights monitoring team to examine the situation on the ground.

She also called upon the international community, including members of the UN Security Council, to use “all possible diplomatic channels with leaders of Sudan to pave the way for a swift transition to a civilian administration and an end to all forms of violence and intimidation against civilians”.

On Tuesday, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), sounded the alarm over the  killing and injuring of dozens of minors  in the protests backlash.

Celebrating arrests, but still pushing for change, protesters rally in Algeria

…. HUMAN RIGHTS ….

An article by Ulf Laessing in Reuters

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in the Algerian capital for the 17th consecutive Friday, demanding the removal of the ruling elite and prosecution of former officials linked to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.


Demonstrators carry banners and flags during a protest demanding the removal of the ruling elite and prosecution of former officials linked to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in Algiers, Algeria June 14, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina
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After 20 years in power, Bouteflika quit on April 2 under pressure from protesters and the army, but protests have continued.

The demonstrators are pushing for radical change and seeking the departure of senior figures, including politicians and businessmen, who have governed the North African country since independence from France in 1962.

There was no official count, but a Reuters correspondent estimated that the number of people protesting was higher than last Friday. It was still smaller than in the weeks before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in May, however.

At this week’s rally they celebrated the arrest of several former officials and business people linked to Bouteflika on anti-graft charges, demanding more action.

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Questions related to this article:

How effective are mass protest marches?

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“You have built prisons, you will be imprisoned there all,” read one banner held up by protesters marching through central Algiers, scene of mass dissent since February.

On Thursday, the supreme court remanded ex-prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal in custody over graft allegations.

State media also said police had arrested Mourad Eulmi, head of the private firm SOVAC, a partner of Germany’s Volkswagen AG, at a car assembly plant in the western province of Relizane in connection with “corruption cases”. It did not elaborate. Volkswagen declined to comment.

On Wednesday, the supreme court ordered the detention of another former prime minister, Ahmed Ouyahia, for alleged involvement in corruption.

Bouteflika’s youngest brother, Said, and two former intelligence chiefs have also been placed in custody by a military judge for “harming the army’s authority and plotting against state authority”.

Protesters rejected an offer from interim President Abdelkader Bensalah to hold a dialogue with all parties after authorities postponed a presidential election previously planned for July 4. No new date has been set for the vote.

“We need real dialogue”, read one protest banner. Protesters have rejected Bensalah as too close to Bouteflika.

Armed forces chief Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaed Salah, who has been managing the transition, has called on parties and protesters to meet among themselves to discuss a way out of the crisis.

He also called for the prosecution of officials accused of being corrupt, after which the wave of arrests started.

Many Peaces in Iraq: Creating a Foundation for Conflict Transformation Through Peace Studies

.DISARMAMENT & SECURITY.

An article by Aala Ali, Adham Hamed & Muntather Hassan from Impakter

“We heard children singing ISIL songs, and saw them role play executions in an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp playground. We were distributing humanitarian aid. It was then that I realized, if we don’t do anything about this … a new, more extremist generation will be born,” Ziena, 27 years old.

Ziena graduated from one of six youth-training workshops hosted by UNDP Iraq partner, Iraqi Al-Amal Association, in 2018. Focused on preventing violent extremism (PVE) and conflict transformation, Ziena is one of 146 university students and youth activists who have been supported to carry out creative community-based activities in their universities and local communities.


In the Photo: IDP Camp Children with Song Book. Photo Credit: Iraqi Al-Amal/2019

Struck by her own experience in an IDP Camp, Ziena created a children’s songbook; filled with words of peace and ideas that support a non- discriminative, gender equal, and non-violent future for Iraq. Each page of the book is decorated with the artwork of IDP children, which today, Ziena and her team of volunteers take to IDP camps to share. She hopes that music and song will guide these children toward a culture of peace and a future free from divisive ideologies.

But, whilst her story is heartwarming and her hands are those working to directly mend the hearts of conflict-affected communities, Ziena is addressing just one layer of conflict in Iraq’s peace-building process. She is instrumental in building a bridge between academic ideas and concepts required to frame a new culture of peace in Iraq, and the tangible actions made in her community, where she encounters survivors of conflict every day. Both aspects are necessary, and indeed complimentary, but there is another layer which is critical to ensuring sustainability of peace in Iraq — the structures that enable peace. For this, the active engagement of the government is crucial.

Recognizing the complexity of this task, the UNDP-funded project, Education for Peace in the Iraqi Higher Education System,” implemented by national NGO Iraqi Al-Amal Association  and the UNESCO Chair for Peace Studies at the University of Innsbruck’s Unit for Peace and Conflict Studies, is designed to address all three levels of conflict — grass-roots, middle and high-level — through a combination of community level programming, curriculum development with the Iraqi Universities Consortium for Peace Studies and government engagement through the  Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research (MOHESR).

Between October 2018 and March 2019, this culminated in the development of the first national Diploma for Peace and Conflict Studies, which will be piloted at the University of Baghdad later this year. Such an endeavor required an in-depth reflection about the potential meanings of peace and the impact of different notions of peace in the Iraqi context.

Defining Peace

UN Sustainable Development Goal 16 (SDG 16) calls for the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development — providing justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. In the same vein, on the International Day of Peace 2018, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated, “There is more to achieving peace than laying down our weapons.”

Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.

So, what are the potential meanings of peace beyond the absence of war and direct violence? The preamble of the UNESCO constitution provides a helpful reference point: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.” Such an understanding of peace opens up a possibility to think about the idea of peace beyond a single universal notion that could be applied in all places and all times, regardless of the respective socio-political and cultural circumstances.

Wolfgang Dietrich, UNESCO Chairholder for Peace Studies at the University of Innsbruck, proposed the idea of “many peaces;” a concept that suggests that there are as many interpretations of peace as there are human beings in the world. This perspective provides an alternative avenue to universalist notions of how peace ought to be. By contrast it introduces a human-centered approach that puts people and the diversity of their lived experiences at the center of conflict transformation work. In the Iraqi context, which has long experienced external interventions, this makes the radical shift of agency to Iraqi citizens, who are now considered the central agents for formulating their own understandings of peace.

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Question related to this article:

A culture of peace in Iraq, Is it possible?

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Conflict and Violence in Iraq

From the first Gulf War and the authoritarian rule of Saddam Hussein, to the 2003 invasion, the subsequent 8-year Iraq war and ISIL’s occupation between 2014-2017, it is no surprise that the scars of war and conflict have marred the economic and social development potential of Iraq, despite its considerable oil resources. In 2017, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace, the economic impact of violence on the global economy was 14.76 trillion US Dollars or the equivalent of 12.4% of the global GDPBeyond Conflict Resolution

If it were the case that families, communities and societies could be fixed like the engine of a broken car, narrowly focusing on the material aspects of conflict might be a sufficient response. However, human relationships are more complex than the mechanistic qualities of an engine and they are not always rational, with messy human traits tied up in our experience, including crucial sexual, emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions that all constitute a part of human existence.

All of these aspects contribute to the tangible costs of conflict, and using short-term solutions alone to address them will only temporarily suppress conflict — with a strong likelihood that it will appear again, somewhere new. This is why, beyond the idea of simple conflict resolution, a more comprehensive approach to conflict transformation needs to put the relationships of people living and surviving in protracted conflicts at the center of a journey toward peaceful communities.

We know from experience that conflict transformation processes require years, decades or even generations, in the case of large-scale violence. The concept of the “200-years present,” first introduced by sociologist Elise Boulding, explains how an experience of violence will continue to resonate in subsequent generations, through the trans-generational dimensions of trauma. Which is why episodes of violence, such as those experienced during ISIL’s occupation of Iraq, will likely affect the relatives of survivors and witnesses for many years to come.

Hence, while immediate interventions for peace are necessary to address the material dimensions of conflict, such as reconstruction, it is equally crucial to consider the mid and long-term processes of relational work through trauma healing and peace education. This is not only much more cost-effective than investing in further securitization and militarization, but it also opens up the possibility for long-term change processes through the education sector, strengthened to provide platforms for peace. Peace education provides a possibility to think about “many peaces” and conflict transformation as a means of addressing personal and collective challenges that remain deeply ingrained in families, communities and societies moved by the experiences of war and violence. It’s an approach that in the spirit of the UNESCO Constitution starts with the human mind as a central resource for defending peace. And, from experience we know that this may not only contribute to the prevention of further outbreaks of direct violence but that it’s actually a means of transforming cultures of violence to cultures of peaces; equipping people with alternative and effective tools to transform their conflicts peacefully, such as dialogue, and mediation.

Peace education can also be used to help people develop their own ways of living and fostering cultures of peace, and to avoid the belief that their reality is directed by external forces. In Iraq there is a widespread belief that violent conflict is merely imposed by foreigners. This sense is built up from the community level and challenges the notion that people were living in peace before foreign intervention. Whilst we can recognise that there are many external factors contributing to instability in Iraq, we also see how this recognition is used as a strategy to avoid personal responsibility and agency, limiting the possibility of addressing conflict from within one’s own context. Avoiding agency frequently occurs as part of a denial phase after trauma. However, the inclusive, and elicitive approaches in peace education can facilitate ownership for Iraqis, enabling them to take forward this type of peace work and enhancing their level of responsibility on foundational issues.

A Catalyst for Change

The development of a national pilot curriculum for a “Diploma of Peace and Conflict Studies” is an intervention that has come after many years of armed conflict. At the beginning of this project, promoting peace education in the Iraqi higher education sector was the goal, but how can you continue academic life in a context marked by war, where lecture halls and libraries have been destroyed or burnt to the ground? And beyond material damage and destruction: How do you continue academic work and life in a meaningful way after experiencing the kind of atrocities that put all meaning of life into question?

Whilst the circumstances in post-ISIL Iraq are in many ways different from the political, cultural and social situation in Europe post-World War II, there are also certain parallels. Most strikingly we see a new-found momentum to establish a foundation of Peace and Conflict Studies as an academic discipline — and a recognition that the neighboring discipline of International Relations, founded after World War I, was largely unsuccessful in finding the answers to prevent genocide and the use of weapons of mass-destruction. This had a direct effect on the development of a broad range of applied conflict transformation methods, which have been of utmost use for transforming conflicts in a non-violent manner, and which, with the right methodologies, may achieve positive results in Iraq too. This consideration was at the heart of the “Education for Peace in the Iraqi Higher Education System” project. But why academia? Because Iraqi academics have collectively demonstrated a desire to actively contribute to national reconciliation, with a strong will to work together to address the questions of peace and conflict transformation through establishing Peace and Conflict Studies as a new discipline in Iraq.

This culminated in the formation of The Iraqi Universities Consortium for Peace Studies, between 2016-2017, with support from Iraqi Al-Amal, UNDP Iraq and Eastern Mennonite University. The Consortium — comprised of academics from the Universities of Baghdad, Tikrit, Anbar, Basra, Karbala, Kufa and Mosul — became a vocal advocate for the development of Peace Studies in a post-conflict Iraq and actively participated in capacity building activities to train academics and in-turn contribute to the development of a context appropriate curriculum.

Jordanian National Action Plan for the Implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security 2018 – 2021

. . . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . . .

An article from UN Women – Jordan

The (2018-2021) Jordanian National Action Plan (JONAP) for advancing the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (UNSCR 1325), and its subsequent resolutions, was developed to respond to the country’s latest security and military challenges. It is in line with Jordan’s commitments to promote and respect human rights, justice, equality and participation—all of which are embodied in various national frameworks, such as The National Strategy for Jordanian Women (2013-2017) and The Comprehensive National Plan for Human Rights (2016-2025).

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Question for this article:

UN Resolution 1325, does it make a difference?

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The JONAP for advancing the implementation of UNSCR 1325 aims to integrate a gender-based approach towards women’s participation in prevention and protection processes during conflicts, as well as in peace building, and maintaining stability and sustainable security.

Parallel to these efforts, the JONAP specifically responded to the 2015 UN Security Council resolution 2242, which highlights the importance of cooperation with civil society and the role of women as key partners in preventing and combating violent extremism. It also reiterates the importance of engaging men and boys as partners in promoting women’s participation in the prevention and resolution of armed conflicts.

The process of drafting the JONAP on resolution 1325 began as Jordan and other countries were endorsing the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Agenda’s overall objectives—and Goal 5 and its targets in particular—represent an opportunity to transform development and planning approaches and mechanisms for implementation, to ensure equality of opportunity and the empowerment of women. Furthermore, they provide a means to ensure the inclusion and participation of all segments of society, for the fair and efficient implementation of comprehensive and sustainable development. 

Mohamed Sahnoun, 1931-2018: Advisor for Culture of Peace

. . TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY . .

An obituary from Initiatives of Change International

September 24, 2018. It is with immense sadness that we announce that Ambassador Mohamed Sahnoun, former President of Initiatives of Change International, died on 20 September 2018.
Mohamed Sahnoun was chosen by two UN Secretary-Generals as their Special Representative in some of Africa’s most intractable conflicts. They knew him as a man with a remarkable ability to persuade warring factions to meet and talk.


Photo from Early History of the Culture of Peace

FThis was partly a product of his wide experience as a diplomat. He had been Deputy Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity and of the Arab League. He had served as Algeria’s Ambassador to Germany, France, the USA and Morocco.

But even more, it was a product of his approach to life. As a young man, during Algeria’s struggle for independence from France, he had been arrested by the French authorities and severely tortured. Yet as a diplomat he established warm relations with French leaders. As he said later, ‘My passion is to save endangered populations from the extreme insecurity of war, famine, drought and disaster,’ and he sought to enlist all who could help in that task.

His approach did much to resolve the tensions arising from the process of decolonisation across the African continent. His help was sought in situations large and small. His most satisfying task, he said, was mediating the transition of South-West Africa into the new country of Namibia. But he also dealt with innumerable places where towns and villages, divided by colonial straight-line borders, had to be adjusted. Sahnoun was often the person who mediated a solution.

UN Secretary-General Boutros Ghali chose him as his Special Representative to Somalia in 1993, when the country had erupted into severe conflict. Sahnoun reached out to all sides, and a basis for resolving the conflict was emerging. Then Boutros Ghali told him that the USA intended to intervene militarily. Sahnoun protested vehemently and, when told that the decision had been made, resigned. The US intervention was a disaster.

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Questions for this article:

Where in the world can we find good leadership today?

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Sahnoun was always searching for more effective ways to bring peace. He supported the UNDP initiatives for ‘human security’, which focused on meeting the basic needs of citizens and thereby overcoming insecurity. He advised UNESCO on its Culture of Peace programme and advised Kofi Annan on environmental and development issues. He was a member of the Brundtland Commission.

He served as co-chair of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which developed the concept of Responsibility to Protect. ‘Mohamed had an extraordinary capacity to bring people together and bind wounds,’ wrote his co-chair, former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans. ‘He played an indispensable role in searching out the common ground between North and South which made possible the birth of Responsibility to Protect. We will particularly remember his delightful capacity to defuse tensions, usually with African parables involving lions, monkeys, crocodiles, scorpions or all of the above.’

In 2008, together with Cornelio Sommaruga, former President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, he launched the Caux Forum for Human Security. As he said in an interview with the Huffington Post, ‘The idea came from my sense of the deep insecurity in today’s world. Insecurity is born of fear. We must look to the root causes of that fear, and address it with far more energy and cohesion.’

He chose the IofC centre in Switzerland, Caux, as the venue because ‘it is a place where interreligious dialogue is deeply established. I had heard about Caux and Moral Re-Armament (the previous name of Initiatives of Change) from friends over many years. Caux was a safe place where people could build trust in one another.’

In Sahnoun’s view, achieving human security depended on progress in five areas, which he defined as just governance, inclusive economics, intercultural dialogue, environmental sustainability and healing historical wounds. ‘So often the understanding of security has focused purely on physical security,’ he said. ‘But human security is about the very fundamentals of our existence. I place special emphasis on healing wounded memories. In Algeria, Northern Ireland, the Balkans and other places of long pain and violence, the feelings run so deep that a special effort is called for.’

The Caux Forum brought together several hundred people each year, who explored these five concerns jointly. Many initiatives have emerged. In Eastern Europe there is a new emphasis on uncovering and healing the wounds resulting from war and authoritarian rule. And Caux is now doing much to bring the importance of land restoration to international attention.

Sahnoun served as President of Initiatives of Change International for two years [2007-2008], and his insights have helped shape Initiatives of Change programmes throughout the world.

Watch Mohamed Sahnoun’s opening speech  of the 3rd Caux Forum for Human Security in 2010 and an  interview  with him in 2011. 

Pope hopes his Arabian trip will help Islam-Christian relations

. TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY .

An article by Philip Pullella from Thomson Reuters (reprinted by permission)

Pope Francis said on Wednesday [February 6] he hoped his historic trip to the Arabian peninsula will help dispel the notion of an inevitable clash of civilizations between Christianity and Islam.


Photo: Pope Francis leads the weekly general audience at Paul VI hall at the Vatican February 6, 2019. REUTERS/Max Rossi
(click on photo to enlarge)

Francis returned to Rome on Tuesday from the United Arab Emirates, where in Abu Dhabi he presided at the largest public Mass ever celebrated on the peninsula where Islam was born.

“In an era, like ours, where there is a strong temptation to see a clash between Christian civilization and the Islamic one, and even to consider religions as a source of conflict, we wanted to send another clear and decisive signal that encounter is possible,” he said at his regular general audience.

Francis was referring to a document he signed during the trip with Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Egypt’s al-Azhar mosque and university, one of the most authoritative theological and educational institutions in Islam.

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

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The pope said the “Document on Human Fraternity” was proof that “it is possible to respect each other and hold dialogue, and that despite differences in culture and traditions, the Christian and Islamic worlds appreciate and protect common values …”

The document, signed on Monday, called on “all concerned to stop using religions to incite hatred, violence, extremism and blind fanaticism, and to refrain from using the name of God to justify acts of murder, exile, terrorism and oppression.”

He invited everyone to read the document, saying it would offer ideas on how individuals can work for tolerance and coexistence.

Ultra-conservative Catholics have been opposed to any dialogue with Islam, with some saying its ultimate goal is to destroy the West.

On the plane returning from Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, a reporter asked Francis about possible negative reaction to the document by Catholics “who accuse you of allowing yourself to be used by Muslims”.

Francis, a progressive who has been in the crosshairs of conservatives since his election in 2013, responded with a joke: “Not only the Muslims. They accuse me of allowing myself to be used by everyone, even journalists. It’s part of the job.”

But he said “from a Catholic point of view, the document had not strayed a millimeter” from teachings on inter-religious dialogue approved by the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council.

“If anyone feels bad, I understand. It is not an everyday thing. But it is a step forward,” he said on the plane.

The project of Arab cultural capitals and cities: 22 years later, diagnosis and perspectives

.. DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION ..

An article by Mohamed Salah Kadri from Leaders (translated by CPNN and abbreviated)

The Cultural Capitals project originated in Europe in November 1983 . . . , when Melina Mercouri (1920-1994), then Greek Minister of Culture, invited her European peers to “rethink the role of culture in a European construction first based on the economic integration of its members”. The Council of European Ministers responsible for culture responded to this call and Athens (1985), Florence (1986), Amsterdam (1987) and West Berlin (1988) were respectively dedicated to “European cities of culture”

Also, at the end of the treaty of the Union of the Ibero-American Cultural Capitals (UCCI) signed on October 12th, 1982, Bogota was declared in 1991, Cultural Capital and La LaPaz, was benefited of this title in 1999 and now, after almost twenty years, the title is again awarded. . . The cities Montevideo (1996) and Havana (1997) were chosen as part of the UCCI. . . .
This recognition of belonging to a common cultural area is also at the heart of the “East Asia City of Culture” program, which seeks to foster mutual understanding between Japan, South Korea and China. . . .

Cultural capitals and cities in the Arab region

The objectives documented in the feasibility paper of the Arab Cultural Capitals Project prepared by ALECSO and endorsed by the 1998 Conference of Ministers of Culture in Arab Countries, were summarized as follows:

– to reaffirm the importance of Arab cultural unity and present a clear image of the Arab-Muslim civilization,

– to promote the participation of local populations in cultural life,

– to include culture as a vector of economic and social development,

– to encourage cultural and creative industries in Arab countries,

– to strengthen cultural cooperation between Arab countries and with the rest of the world.

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(Click here for the original in French.)

Questions for this article:

How can culture of peace be developed at the municipal level?

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The program of Arab capital cities and cultural cities continued on a regular basis from 1996, with one capital per year. From 1996 to 2018, a number of 21 Arab capitals enjoyed the title: Cairo (1996), Tunis (1997), Sharjah (1998), Beirut (1999), Riyadh (2000), Kuwait (2001) , Amman (2002), Rabat (2003), Sanaa (2004), Khartoum (2005), Muscat (2006), Damascus (2008), Jerusalem (2009), Doha (2010), Sirte (2011), Manama (2012), Baghdad (2013), Tripoli (2014) , Constantine (2015), Sfax (2016), Luxor (2017) and Oujda (2018). For the next five years, these will be: Port Sudan (2019), Bethlehem (2020), Irbid (2021), Kuwait (2022) and Tripoli (Lebanon 2023).

The merits and the limits of the project: some observations

The record of the Arab Cultural Capitals to date proves that they have the potential to act as a catalyst for local development and cultural tourism. The event was a good opportunity for new infrastructure to be built and others refurbished. Historical and archaeological sites are highlighted and artistic activities have multiplied. However, the lack of a cell or structure, even ad-hoc, at the level of the ALECSO responsible for monitoring this program makes it difficult, today to establish an exhaustive report of the actions carried out. . .

There is a tendency, more and more, to be limited to an opening ceremony and a closing ceremony. . . .

While the Arab Cultural Capitals project was a milestone on the agenda of the Arab Decade for Cultural Development (2005-2014), it is eminently recommended now with the launch from Tunis on 22 June 2018, by ALECSO, of an Arab Decade of Cultural Law for the period 2018-2027, to rehabilitate the project of the Capitals of Arab Culture in the light of the objectives of the said Decade. The Capitals of Culture chosen for the next few years should take into account in their programs new developments, namely to protect cultural rights as human rights and to promote the culture of peace, tolerance and the improvement of culture. mutual understanding between Arab countries and the rest of the world. In addition, it also seems advisable to work towards mutual alliances, to form partnerships and to make twinnings between the Arab Cultural Capitals and their African, Islamic, European, Asian and Ibero-American counterparts. De facto, a work on the image of the winning city requires borrowing cultural policies likely to enroll the younger generations in the era of time and prepare them to live in a plural world. On the other hand, did the 29th Arab Summit held in Dhahran (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) on April 15, 2018, present an opportunity to rethink the status of culture in Arab countries, calling for the organization of an Arab summit exclusively dedicated to the cultural question “Better to keep one promise than to renew one hundred”.