Category Archives: United Nations

United Nations: Young People Discuss Change at CSW62 Youth Dialogue

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article from UN News

Building on the successes and lessons learnt from the Youth Forums of CSW60 and CSW61, the Youth Dialogue at CSW62 held on 17 March 2018 provided a space for cross-regional networking among young people engaged in various areas of gender and social justice. Following the theme of the Commission of the Status of Women, the Youth Dialogue at CSW62 provided a stage for young women, girls, trans, intersex and gender non-conforming youth from rural areas to raise their voices, address the challenges and opportunities in achieving gende equality and empowering their peers.

The opening of the Youth Dialogue was attended by Executive Director of UN Women Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and moderated by the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake.

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Question for this article

Youth initiatives for a culture of peace, How can we ensure they get the attention and funding they deserve?

What is the United Nations doing for a culture of peace?

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The Youth Envoy framed the conversation by emphasizing that “We are the largest generation of young people that the world has ever seen. We are 1.8 billion strong and if we are to see transformational change, then it is our generation, that can make that change happen.” By sharing their personal stories, the panel of youth activist gave concrete examples of creative ways to open doors and thereby highlighted how young people mobilize to make change in their communities every day.
More than 300 young people participated in the Youth Dialogue, which provided a space to exchange ideas on how young woman and girls from rural areas can be increasingly involved in addressing issues that directly affect them  such as climate change, health, land rights and environment, education, gender-based violence, child marriage, economic justice, and media and technology. With the principle of leaving no one behind as an overarching theme for the conversation, the Youth Dialogue also included young people from various marginalized and vulnerable groups, such as persons with disabilities, indigenous communities and communities in conflict and post-conflict settings.

Based on a series of online youth consultations and break-out sessions during the Dialogue, a set of recommendations to policy makers were developed on how to better include the voices of young women and girls from rural areas in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Among these were specific recommendations to provide accessible education to enhance skills development for young girls in rural areas; strengthen laws to prevent and respond to all forms of gender-based violence; implement progressive legislation that addresses the gender pay gap; improving connectivity in rural areas to bridge the existing digital gap; and investing in quality and inclusive youth-friendly healthcare, including mental health and sexual and reproductive health and rights services in rural areas.

United Nations: ‘Global clarion call’ for youth to shape efforts to forge peace in the most dangerous combat zones

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article from UN News

The First International Symposium on Youth Participation  in Peace Processes concluded on Wednesday in Helsinki, Finland, with a global policy paper, according to reports, that aims to integrate their efforts, interventions and contributions towards sustaining the search for peaceful solutions to conflict.


Click on image to enlarge

In her keynote address, General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa highlighted Youth, Peace and Security as one of her seven priorities.

She called young people “agents of change” and outlined examples in which they have helped foster inter-communal dialogue, such as in Kenya, and consolidate peace, such as in Sierra Leone, Liberia and other countries.

Ms. Espinosa also addressed the importance of gender equality, decent work and the support for young migrants and refugees. 

The General Assembly President concluded by underscoring that the world must improve youth participation in national and international decision-making and encouraged Member States to embrace young people in their delegations and to work closely with the Office of the Secretary-General’s  Youth Envoy,  Jayathma Wickramanayake.

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Question for this article

Youth initiatives for a culture of peace, How can we ensure they get the attention and funding they deserve?

What is the United Nations doing for a culture of peace?

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With over half of the world’s population under-30 and an estimated 600 million youth living in fragile and conflict-affected States, it is apparent that young people must engage in conflict prevention and mediation processes – a domain where they are often marginalized. 

“Young people account for a considerable share of people living in the developing world and in conflict areas but they are often left outside of the scope of all decision-making in society, including peace processes”, said Timo Soini, Foreign Minister for Finland, one of the governments co-hosting the event.

For her part, the Youth Envoy called the Symposium “the global clarion call for a collective response in bringing voice and credibility to young people on the frontlines actively leading efforts to shape peace processes”.

Considering their sheer numbers and vital force, young people are key participants in development, democracy, peace-sustaining initiatives and peacebuilding interventions. As such, they must be empowered as decision makers to actively and meaningfully contribute to peace processes that affect their lives, according to the UN Envoy’s office.

“Young people are bridges”, said youth participant Leonardo Parraga. “They play a key role in connecting local actors like civil society organizations, with decision-making actors that have a seat inside the room”.

At the two-day Symposium ending on Wednesday, inter-generational participants exchanged views and best practices on involving young people in both formal and informal peace processes. Youth attendees, moderated, facilitated and acted as rapporteurs throughout all plenary discussions and working groups.

Noting “progress in advancing the Youth, Peace and Security agenda” Ms. Wickramanayake asserted:  “We cannot stop now”.

The event was co-hosted by the Governments of Finland, Qatar, and Colombia, and co-organized by the office of the UN’s Youth Envoy and Search For Common Ground in partnership with the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, UN Population Fund, UN Development Programme and the United Network of Young Peacebuilders.

Work-related gender gaps persist but solutions are clear – new ILO report

. . . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . . .

An article from the International Labor Organization

A future of work  in which women will no longer lag behind men is within reach, but it will take a quantum leap, not just hesitant incremental steps, to get there, according to a new International Labour Organization (ILO) report published for International Women’s Day  on 8 March. 


Photo © Community Eye Health

“We need to make it happen, and the report, A Quantum leap for gender equality: For a better future of work for all , provides a way forward,” said Manuela Tomei, Director, ILO Conditions of Work and Equality Department. 

The report is the culmination of five years of work under the ILO’s Women at Work Centenary Initiative 

It finds that in the last 27 years the difference in the employment rates for men and women has shrunk by less than two percentage points. In 2018, women are still 26 percentage points less likely to be in employment than men. This contrasts with the findings of an ILO-Gallup 2017 global report  on women’s and men’s preferences about women’s participation in paid work, which found that 70 per cent of women prefer to have a job rather than staying at home and that men agree. 

In addition, between 2005 and 2015, the ‘motherhood employment penalty’, the difference in the proportion of adult women with children under six years in employment, compared to women without young children, increased significantly, by 38 per cent.

Moreover, women are still underrepresented at the top, a situation that has changed very little in the last 30 years. Fewer than one third of managers are women, although they are likely to be better educated than their male counterparts. The report shows generally that education is not the main reason for lower employment rates and lower pay of women, but rather that women do not receive the same dividends for education as men. 

There is also a ‘motherhood leadership penalty’: only 25 per cent of managers with children under six years of age are women. Women’s share rises to 31 per cent for managers without young children. 

The gender wage gap remains at an average of 20 per cent globally. Mothers experience a ‘motherhood wage penalty’ that compounds across their working life, while fathers enjoy a wage premium. 

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(Click here for the Spanish version of this article or here for the version in French.)

Question for this article

Prospects for progress in women’s equality, what are the short and long term prospects?

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“A number of factors are blocking equality in employment, and the one playing the largest role is caregiving,” said Tomei. “In the last 20 years, the amount of time women spent on unpaid care and domestic work has hardly fallen, and men’s has increased by just eight minutes a day. At this pace of change it will take more than 200 years to achieve equality in time spent in unpaid care work.” 

The report sets out laws and practices that are changing this dynamic, for a more equal sharing of care within the family, and between the family and the State. “When men share unpaid care work more equally, more women are found in managerial positions,” added Tomei, highlighting the role of men in creating a more gender-equal work of work. 

The report also includes findings from ‘real time’ data, gathered by the professional networking website LinkedIn from five countries, covering 22 per cent of the global employed population in three different regions. This joint ILO-LinkedIn collaboration found that women with digital skills – currently a requirement for the most-in-demand and highest paying jobs in science, technology, engineering and maths-related (STEM) – are only between a third and a quarter of LinkedIn members with such skills. However, it also revealed that the women who reach director-level positions get there faster, more than a year earlier than their male counterparts. 

The Quantum Leap report shows that achieving gender equality will mean policy changes and actions in a range of mutually reinforcing areas, and it points to measures that can lead towards a transformative and measurable agenda for gender equality. The path of rights is the foundation for a more equal world of work, including the right to equal opportunities, the right to be free from discrimination, violence and harassment, and to equal pay for work of equal value. 

A future of work where everyone can care more, with time to care and inclusive care policies and structures is also strongly advocated in the report. A more caring future of work will also mean significant employment creation. The need for universal social protection and a sound macroeconomic framework is also addressed. With the wide-ranging global transformations underway – technological, demographic and climate change – the report calls for greater efforts to engage and support women through work transitions. Increasing women’s voice and representation will also be essential to ensure all the other paths are truly effective.

“We will not get the future of work with social justice we need unless we accelerate action to improve progress on gender equality at work. We already know what needs to be done,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “We need to implement a transformative agenda that includes enforcement of laws and regulations – perhaps we may even need to revisit those laws and regulations – backed by investment in services that level the playing field for women, such as care and social protection, and a more flexible approach to both working hours and working careers. And there is the persistent attitudinal challenge of attitudes to women joining the workforce and their place in it.”

“We know much more now about gender gaps and what drives them, and what needs to be done to make meaningful progress on gender equality in the world of work – the path is clear,” said Shauna Olney, Chief Gender, Equality and Diversity & ILOAIDS Branch. “With commitment and courageous choices, there can be a quantum leap, so that the future of work does not reinforce the inequalities of the past. And this will benefit everyon

UN agriculture agency chief calls on world’s mayors to make ‘global commitments local realities’

.. DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION ..

An article from UN News

It is important to make “global commitments local realities,” José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told the meeting and UN Headquarters, discussing common challenges to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as climate change and food security.


Video of the meeting

The special event, From Global Issues to Local Priorities was co-hosted by María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the UN General Assembly, alongside Mr. Graziano da Silva.

About 68 per cent of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050 – mostly in Africa and Southeast Asia, where hunger and poverty are highest.

He said that it is essential to engage local authorities to achieve SDG 11 –promoting sustainable cities and communities – fundamental for achieving all the other goals.

Focusing on SDG 2, which calls for the eradication of hunger and all forms of malnutrition, as well as the development of sustainable agriculture, he pointed out that the number of people suffering from both hunger and obesity has increased over the last three years, especially in urban areas where “people are more likely to eat cheaper processed food high in trans fats, sugar and salt.”

“We urgently need to transform our food systems,” he underscored. “We need to put in place food systems that offer healthy and nutritious food for everyone, while preserving our natural resources and biodiversity” by integrating actions “from the production to the consumption of food.”

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Questions for this article:

The culture of peace at a regional level, Does it have advantages compared to a city level?

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City dwellers can no longer be considered food consumers and rural communities food producers. 

“Sustainable development calls for the strengthening of rural-urban linkages based on a territorial approach,” he said, pushing for “a rural-urban continuum.”

Turning to the New Urban Agenda, which was adopted at Habitat III in 2016 during the Quito Conference, Mr. Graziano da Silva said the FAO Framework for the Urban Food Agenda would be launched in Rome on 7 March.

Sustainable development requires “a systems thinking, rather than granular responses,” he argued, adding that the Framework presents ideas to generate employment, strengthen local food value chains and reduce the high levels of food waste found in many cities.

Indicating that some 80 per cent of all food produced globally is now consumed in urban areas, he said that urban consumers would be “a very effective entry point in promoting the transformation to more sustainable agricultural production and value chain development.”

“Implementing the food systems approach may be challenging”, he concluded, “but it is fundamental to ensure healthy and nutritious food for all while safeguarding the planet for future generations.”

Also speaking at the meeting was UN Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif, who delivered her remarks through video message.

A host of mayors, former mayors, economists and urban development experts shared experiences of effective local practices, innovative strategies and lessons learned in addressing global challenges including climate change, food insecurity and malnutrition, food supply and consumption sustainability, and people’s wellbeing from a sustainable and resilient food system perspective.

(Thank you to Phyllis Kotite, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

What the Press Hides from You about Venezuela — A Case of News-Suppression

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article by Eric Zuesse in Transcend Media Service

8 Feb 2019 – This news-report is being submitted to all U.S. and allied news-media, and is being published by all honest ones, in order to inform you of crucial facts that the others — the dishonest ones, that hide such crucial facts — are hiding about Venezuela. These are facts that have received coverage only in one single British newspaper: the Independent, which published a summary account of them on January 26th. That newspaper’s account will be excerpted here at the end, but first will be highlights from its topic, the official report to the U.N. General Assembly in August of last year, which has been covered-up ever since. This is why that report’s author has now gone to the Independent, desperate to get the story out, finally, to the public.


Alfred de Zayas,  UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order (appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council)


The Covered-Up Document

On 3 August 2018, the U.N.’s General Assembly received  the report from the U.N.s Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, concerning his mission to Venezuela and Ecuador. His recent travel though both countries focused on “how best to enhance the enjoyment of all human rights by the populations of both countries.” He “noted the eradication of illiteracy, free education from primary school to university, and programmes to reduce extreme poverty, provide housing to the homeless and vulnerable, phase out privilege and discrimination, and extend medical care to everyone.” He noted “that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and Ecuador, both devote around 70 per cent of their national budgets to social services.” However (and here, key paragraphs from the report are now quoted):
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22. Observers have identified errors committed by the Chávez and Maduro Governments, noting that there are too many ideologues and too few technocrats in public administration, resulting in government policies that lack coherence and professional management and discourage domestic investment, already crippled by inefficiency and corruption, which extend to government officials, transnational corporations and entrepreneurs. Critics warn about the undue influence of the military on government and on the running of enterprises like Petróleos de Venezuela. The lack of regular, publicly available data on nutrition, epidemiology and inflation are said to complicate efforts to provide humanitarian support.

23. Meanwhile, the Attorney General, Tarek Saab, has launched a vigorous anticorruption campaign, investigating the links between Venezuelan enterprises and tax havens, contracting scams, and deals by public officials with Odebrecht. It is estimated that corruption in the oil industry has cost the Government US$ 4.8 billion. The Attorney General’s Office informed the Independent Expert of pending investigations for embezzlement and extortion against 79 officials of Petróleos de Venezuela, including 22 senior managers. The Office also pointed to the arrest of two high-level oil executives, accused of money-laundering in Andorra. The Ministry of Justice estimates corruption losses at some US$ 15 billion. Other stakeholders, in contrast, assert that anti-corruption programmes are selective and have not sufficiently targeted State institutions, including the military. …

29. … Over the past sixty years, non-conventional economic wars have been waged against Cuba, Chile, Nicaragua, the Syrian Arab Republic and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in order to make their economies fail, facilitate regime change and impose a neo-liberal socioeconomic model. In order to discredit selected governments, failures in the field of human rights are maximized so as to make violent overthrow more palatable. Human rights are being “weaponized” against rivals. Yet, human rights are the heritage of every human being and should never be instrumentalized as weapons of demonization. …

30. The principles of non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign States belong to customary international law and have been reaffirmed in General Assembly resolutions, notably [a list is supplied]. …

31. In its judgment of 27 June 1986 concerning Nicaragua v. United States, the International Court of Justice quoted from [U.N.] resolution 2625 (XXV): “no State shall organize, assist, foment, finance, incite or tolerate subversive, terrorist or armed activities directed towards the violent overthrow of the regime of another State, or interfere in civil strife in another State”. …

36. The effects of sanctions imposed by Presidents Obama and Trump and unilateral measures by Canada and the European Union have directly and indirectly aggravated the shortages in medicines such as insulin and anti-retroviral drugs. To the extent that economic sanctions have caused delays in distribution and thus contributed to many deaths, sanctions contravene the human rights obligations of the countries imposing them.Moreover, sanctions can amount to crimes against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. An investigation by that Court would be appropriate, but the geopolitical submissiveness of the Court may prevent this.

37. Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns with the intention of forcing them to surrender. Twenty-first century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees. A difference, perhaps, is that twenty-first century sanctions are accompanied by the manipulation of public opinion through “fake news”, aggressive public relations and a pseudo-human rights rhetoric so as to give the impression that a human rights “end” justifies the criminal means. …

39. Economic asphyxiation policies are comparable to those already practised in Chile, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nicaragua and the Syrian Arab Republic. In January 2018, Middle East correspondent of The Financial Times and The Independent, Patrick Cockburn, wrote on the sanctions affecting Syria: There is usually a pretence that foodstuffs and medical equipment are being allowed through freely and no mention is made of the financial and other regulatory obstacles making it impossible to deliver them. An example of this is the draconian sanctions imposed on Syria by the US and EU which were meant to target President Bashar al-Assad and help remove him from power. They have wholly failed to do this, but a UN internal report leaked in 2016 shows all too convincingly the effect of the embargo in stopping the delivery of aid by international aid agencies. They cannot import the aid despite waivers because banks and commercial companies dare not risk being penalised for having anything to do with Syria. The report quotes a European doctor working in Syria as saying that “the indirect effect of sanctions … makes the import of the medical instruments and other medical supplies immensely difficult, near impossible”. In short: economic sanctions kill. …

41. Bearing in mind that Venezuelan society is polarized, what is most needed is dialogue between the Government and the opposition, and it would be a noble task on the part of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to offer his good offices for such a dialogue. Yet, opposition leaders Antonio Ledezma and Julio Borges, during a trip through Europe to denounce the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, called for further sanctions as well as a military “humanitarian intervention”. …

44. Although the situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has not yet reached the humanitarian crisis threshold, there is hunger, malnutrition, anxiety, anguish and emigration. What is crucial is to study the causes of the crisis, including neglected factors of sanctions, sabotage, hoarding, black market activities, induced inflation and contraband in food and medicines.

45. The “crisis” in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is an economic crisis, which cannot be compared with the humanitarian crises in Gaza, Yemen, Libya, the Syrian Arab Republic, Iraq, Haiti, Mali, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia, or Myanmar, among others. It is significant that when, in 2017, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela requested medical aid from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the plea was rejected, because it ”is still a high-income country … and as such is not eligible”. …

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Question(s) related to this article:

Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

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46. It is pertinent to recall the situation in the years prior to the election of Hugo Chávez. Corruption was ubiquitous and in 1993, President Carlos Pérez was removed because of embezzlement. The Chávez election in 1998 reflected despair with the corruption and neo-liberal policies of the 1980s and 1990s, and rejection of the gulf between the super-rich and the abject poor.

47. Participatory democracy in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, called “protagónica”, is anchored in the Constitution of 1999 and relies on frequent elections and referendums. During the mission, the Independent Expert exchanged views with the Electoral Commission and learned that in the 19 years since Chávez, 25 elections and referendums had been conducted, 4 of them observed by the Carter Center. The Independent Expert met with the representative of the Carter Center in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, who recalled Carter’s positive assessment of the electoral system. They also discussed the constitutional objections raised by the opposition to the referendum held on 30 July 2017, resulting in the creation of a Constitutional Assembly. Over 8 million Venezuelans voted in the referendum, which was accompanied by international observers, including from the Council of Electoral Specialists of Latin America.

48. An atmosphere of intimidation accompanied the mission, attempting to pressure the Independent Expert into a predetermined matrix. He received letters from NGOs asking him not to proceed because he was not the “relevant” rapporteur, and almost dictating what should be in the report. Weeks before his arrival, some called the mission a “fake investigation”. Social media insults bordered on “hate speech” and “incitement”. Mobbing before, during and after the mission bore a resemblance to the experience of two American journalists who visited the country in July 2017. Utilizing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, critics questioned the Independent Expert’s integrity and accused him of bias, demonstrating a culture of intransigence and refusal to accept the duty of an independent expert to be neutral, objective, dispassionate and to apply his expertise free of external pressures. …

67. The Independent Expert recommends that the General Assembly: (g) Invoke article 96 of the Charter of the United Nations and refer the following questions to the International Court of Justice: Can unilateral coercive measures be compatible with international law? Can unilateral coercive measures amount to crimes against humanity when a large number of persons perish because of scarcity of food and medicines? What reparations are due to the victims of sanctions? Do sanctions and currency manipulations constitute geopolitical crimes? (h) Adopt a resolution along the lines of the resolutions on the United States embargo against Cuba, declaring the sanctions against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela contrary to international law and human rights law. …

70. The Independent Expert recommends that the International Criminal Court investigate the problem of unilateral coercive measures that cause death from malnutrition, lack of medicines and medical equipment. …

72. The Independent Expert recommends that, until the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court address the lethal outcomes of economic wars and sanctions regimes, the Permanent Peoples Tribunal, the Russell Tribunal and the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission undertake the task so as to facilitate future judicial pronouncements.

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On January 26th, Britain’s Independent headlined “Venezuela crisis: Former UN rapporteur says US sanctions are killing citizens”, and Michael Selby-Green reported that:

The first UN rapporteur to visit Venezuela for 21 years has told The Independent the US sanctions on the country are illegal and could amount to “crimes against humanity” under international law.

Former special rapporteur Alfred de Zayas, who finished his term at the UN in March, has criticized the US for engaging in “economic warfare” against Venezuela which he said is hurting the economy and killing Venezuelans.

The comments come amid worsening tensions in the country after the US and UK have backed Juan Guaidó, who appointed himself “interim president” of Venezuela as hundreds of thousands marched to support him. …

The US Treasury has not responded to a request for comment on Mr de Zayas’s allegations of the effects of the sanctions programme.

US sanctions prohibit dealing in currencies issued by the Venezuelan government. They also target individuals, and stop US-based companies or people from buying and selling new debt issued by PDVSA or the government.

The US has previously defended its sanctions on Venezuela, with a senior US official saying in 2018: “The fact is that the greatest sanction on Venezuelan oil and oil production is called Nicolas Maduro, and PDVSA’s inefficiencies,” referring to the state-run oil body, Petroleos de Venezuela, SA.

Mr De Zayas’s findings are based on his late-2017 mission to the country and interviews with 12 Venezuelan government ministers, opposition politicians, 35 NGOs working in the country, academics, church officials, activists, chambers of commerce and regional UN agencies.

The US imposed new sanctions against Venezuela on 9 March 2015, when President Barack Obama issued executive order 13692, declaring the country a threat to national security.

The sanctions have since intensified under Donald Trump, who has also threatened military invasion and discussed a coup. …

Despite being the first UN official to visit and report from Venezuela in 21 years, Mr de Zayas said his research into the causes of the country’s economic crisis has so far largely been ignored by the UN and the media, and caused little debate within the Human Rights Council.

He believes his report has been ignored because it goes against the popular narrative that Venezuela needs regime change. …

The then UN high commissioner, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, reportedly refused to meet Mr de Zayas after the visit, and the Venezuela desk of the UN Human Rights Council also declined to help with his work after his return despite being obliged to do so, Mr de Zayas claimed. …

Ivan Briscoe, Latin America and Caribbean programme director for Crisis Group, an international NGO, told The Independent that Venezuela is a polarising subject. … Briscoe is critical of Mr de Zayas’ report because it highlights US economic warfare but in his view neglects to mention the impact of a difficult business environment in the country. … Briscoe acknowledged rising tensions and the likely presence of US personnel operating covertly in the country. …

Eugenia Russian, president of FUNDALATIN, one of the oldest human rights NGOs in Venezuela, founded in 1978 before the Chavez and Maduro governments and with special consultative status at the UN, spoke to The Independent on the significance of the sanctions.

“In contact with the popular communities, we consider that one of the fundamental causes of the economic crisis in the country is the effect that the unilateral coercive sanctions that are applied in the economy, especially by the government of the United States,” Ms Russian said.

She said there may also be causes from internal errors, but said probably few countries in the world have suffered an “economic siege” like the one Venezuelans are living under. …

In his report, Mr de Zayas expressed concern that those calling the situation a “humanitarian crisis” are trying to justify regime change and that human rights are being “weaponised” to discredit the government and make violent overthrow more “palatable”….

Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world and an abundance of other natural resources including gold, bauxite and coltan. But under the Maduro government they’re not easily accessible to US and transnational corporations.

US oil companies had large investments in Venezuela in the early 20th century but were locked out after Venezuelans voted to nationalise the industry in 1973.

Other than readers of that single newspaper, where has the public been able to find these facts? If the public can have these facts hidden from them, then how much trust should the public reasonably have in the government, and in the news-media?

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. 

United Nations: Guterres underlines climate action urgency, as UN weather agency confirms record global warming

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article from the United Nations

In the wake of data released by the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO), showing the past four years were officially the ‘four warmest on record,’ UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for urgent climate action and increased ambition, ahead of his climate summit in September.


The five data sets used by WMO to monitor global temperatures confirm that the past four years have been the warmest on record. (Click on image to enlarge.)

His reaction on Wednesday came after WMO issued a report confirming that 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 were the four warmest years recorded to date. The analysis, based on the monitoring performed by five leading international organisations, also shows that the global average surface temperature in 2018 was approximately 1° Celsius above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) baseline.

“The long-term temperature trend is far more important than the ranking of individual years, and that trend is an upward one,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “The 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years. The degree of warming during the past four years has been exceptional, both on land and in the ocean.”

“Temperatures are only part of the story. Extreme and high impact weather affected many countries and millions of people, with devastating repercussions for economies and ecosystems in 2018,” he said.

“Many of the extreme weather events are consistent with what we expect from a changing climate. This is a reality we need to face up to. Greenhouse gas emission reduction and climate adaptation measures should be a top global priority,” said Mr. Taalas.

Noting “with concern” this data, which was first released in November 2018, UN Secretary-General Guterres said it confirms “the urgency of addressing climate action”, and echoes the science presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its October 2018 special report on the impacts of a global warming of 1.5°C.

The IPCC report that found that limiting global warming to 1.5°C will require “rapid and far-reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities” and that global net emissions of carbon dioxide, attributable to human activity, would need to fall by about 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050.

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Question for this article:

 
Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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The Secretary-General stated that, “to make these transformations, we need to significantly increase the global level of climate action and ambition”.

In order to mobilize political will, Mr. Guterres is convening a Climate Summit on 23 September this year, focusing on nine key areas:

1 Raised ambition on climate mitigation measures.

2 How to manage the transition to alternative energy sources.

3 Managing industrial transition.

4 Coming up with solutions through agriculture, oceans, forests and nature-related environments.

5 Focus on infrastructure, cities and through local action.

6 Issues of climate finance, notably carbon pricing.

7 Increased resilience and adaptation, especially for the most vulnerable.

8 A focus on social and political drivers.

9 Citizen and political mobilization.

The Secretary-General is working closely with Member States and non-party stakeholders to enable outcomes in these areas to the Summit, in order to send “strong market and political signals that can inject momentum into the race” to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, in which countries committed collectively to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Informing the discussions at the Summit alongside other key scientific reports, WMO will issue the full 2018 State of the Climate report this coming March.  It will provide a comprehensive overview of temperature variability and trends, high-impact events, and key indicators of long-term climate change such as increasing carbon dioxide concentrations; Arctic and Antarctic sea ice; sea level rise and ocean acidification.

It will be accompanied by UN-wide policy recommendations statement for decision-makers on the interplay between weather, climate and water supply, and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

(Thank you to Phyllis Kotite, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

US attack on Venezuela: alternative media coverage

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An analysis by CPNN

For the most part the major mass media supports the attack on Venezuela led by the government of the United States. They give the headlines to the US and EU charges against Venezuela, and imply that the Chinese and Russian refusal to go along with the American initiative at the UN Security Council is simply a revival of the Cold War.

According to the news agency of the United Nations, some other countries also gave reasons to oppose the US initiative during the Security Counil meeting, as described below.

Meanwhile, the website Common Dreams carries a statement from 70 intellectuals opposing the US initiative.

Here are the remarks at the UN Security Council from the representatives of South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, Cuba, Bolivia and St Vincent and the Grenadines:

JERRY MATJILA (South Africa) emphasized that, in any country, political parties choose the provisions on which to conduct elections.  Recalling that Venezuela held presidential elections in May 2018 on the basis of its national laws, he voiced deep concern over the “clear attempt […] to circumvent the country’s constitutional legal mechanisms which govern its elections”.  Any grievances or disputes should be resolved in a peaceful manner through the proper mechanisms, without external influence.  Echoing calls for the swift de-escalation of tensions to prevent violence, and for the relevant actors to commit to inclusive and credible political dialogue, he urged the international community and United Nations entities to work with Venezuela and its neighbours to assist those in need.  South Africa stands against any attempt at undue constitutional change of Government in Venezuela, he stressed, warning that the Council must never be an instrument that validates such attempts.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) appealed to Venezuelans to arm themselves with courage and wisdom to overcome this crisis.  The solution, aside from being peaceful and democratic, must be in accordance with the Venezuelan Constitution.  The situation in Venezuela is an internal matter and does not pose a threat to international peace and security, and the Security Council must be cautious in that regard.  The main focus of the United Nations and the Council should be on encouraging the parties to negotiate the differences that are “pushing them to the edge”.  The international community “should not put fuel” on the situation, but rather, facilitate a dialogue.  External interference will only exacerbate tensions.  Recalling the suffering caused by foreign interventions in the Middle East and Africa — “only to change a regime and without any consideration of what could happen afterwards” — he said Equatorial Guinea acknowledges, respects and adheres to the constitutional order of Venezuela.  He expressed hope that all parties will resolve their differences through dialogue, calling on Secretary-General António Guterres to use his diplomatic experience to mediate this crisis.

PAUL OQUIST KELLEY (Nicaragua) reiterated his Government’s full solidarity for the legitimately elected President, Mr. Maduro.  The situation in Venezuela does not represent a threat to international security, he added, strongly urging that the sovereign decisions of the country’s people be respected.  The interest and insistence of the United States to include the subject of Venezuela in the agenda of the Security Council is another form of interventionist action into another nation’s internal affairs.  Its clear objective is to impose a change of Government and replace the constitutional Government of President Maduro through a coup d’état.

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Question(s) related to this article:

Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

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These actions do not contribute to a political solution, which belongs to the Venezuelan people as the ones to exercise their right to self-determination, he said.  What characterizes the situation in Venezuela are the brazen attempts to destroy prior achievements made in health, education, housing and reducing poverty.  Nothing should hinder the peace zone of Latin America and the Caribbean and therefore any threat of military aggression is condemnable.  Venezuela is defending non-interventionism and the multilateral order based on independence, sovereignty and the equality of States.

ANAYANSI RODRÍGUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba) said the Caribbean is the stage for threats that are incompatible with the region’s zone of peace, recalling that the 2014 proclamation signed at the second summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) enshrined a duty to uphold the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, notably to refrain from interference in internal affairs, and respect for sovereignty and equal rights.  The current United States Administration appears to have “dusted off the Monroe Doctrine”, and in a fresh extension of imperialism in the region, gone so far as to say that all options are on table.  The region is like a lawn during a drought — a single spark could set off an uncontrollable fire that damages the interests of all, she said, calling it a “tinder box”.  She rejected statements by the United States delegation made today, seeking to exploit the Council to illegitimately campaign against Mr. Maduro’s constitutional leadership.  The main threat to the region is the bullying by the United States and its allies, she said, calling it a flagrant affront to the popular will of Venezuelans.

She voiced unwavering support to the Bolivarian revolution, the union of the Venezuelan people and their democratic Government.  She condemned in the strongest terms, attempts, through a coup d’état, to install a lackey Government to United States interests.  She supported Venezuela’s right to chart its own future.  She decried unilateral coercive measures, calls for a military coup to topple Venezuela’s Government, warnings that the use of military might is an option, the 4 August attempt to assassinate Mr. Maduro, actions by a group of countries, the shameful role of OAS and attempts to apply a worthless policy of regime change, which has been frustrated, time and again, by the resistance of the Venezuelan people.  She advocated respect for the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, expressing Cuba’s unwavering support for the principles of sovereignty, non-use of force or the threat thereof, and non-interference in domestic affairs.  History will judge those who push for a coup d’état, she cautioned.

GARETH BYNOE (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) said his county has been monitoring developments in Venezuela at the bilateral and multilateral levels and expressed deep concern over the unfolding events.  Stressing his Government’s adherence to the principles of non-interference, non-intervention and sovereignty, along with respect for human rights and democracy, he emphasized the need for meaningful dialogue among all stakeholders.  “We are undoubtedly living in an unpredictable era and must reject all attempts to aggravate dangerous situations or engender change of democratically elected leaders,” he said.  The history of Latin America and the Caribbean is indelibly scarred by military interventions and imposition of dictator Governments.  The need to triumph over its lingering remnants drives the countries in the hemisphere “to be viscerally abhorrent to any semblance of its re-emergence”.  Constitutionally, Venezuela has an elected President in Mr. Maduro, but an unconscionable crusade against the legally elected President, orchestrated by OAS, aims to erect a parallel unelected Government.  OAS has abdicated its role of arbiter.  Venezuela is not a threat nor represents a danger to international peace and security.  History teaches that rejection of dialogue is often the precursor to unilateralism and war, he said, an option that cannot be allowed in the region’s zone of peace.

Australia: Conference Calls for Mainstreaming Human Rights Education

…. HUMAN RIGHTS ….

An article by Neena Bhandari from InDepth News

More investment is needed in human rights education and strengthening of civil society to address inequality and sustainability – the main objectives of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This was the key message from the Ninth International Conference on Human Rights Education (ICHRE) held in Sydney, Australia.


A glimpse of the exhibition on human rights education. (Photo credit: NGO Working Group on Human Rights Education and Learning)

Drawing inspiration from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which marks its 70th Anniversary this year, the ICHRE 2018  (November 26-29) recommended all stakeholders to mainstream human rights education as a tool for social cohesion towards peaceful coexistence; and strive to bridge the significant gap between integrating human rights education in the curricula and its implementation.

“Beyond human rights education, people have to be enabled and empowered to exercise their inalienable rights, to live by those rights, and to uphold their rights and the rights of others,” said Dr Mmantsetsa Marope, Director of UNESCO’s International Bureau of Education, in her opening address.

She highlighted: “Three core factors – good governance, good health, and quality and relevant education – converge to enable and empower people to create and live a culture of human rights. These three factors are paramount, because they determine other factors that can facilitate or impede the realization of human rights.”

The sixth consultation of the implementation of UNESCO’s 1974 Recommendation  in 2016 reported that more effort was required to strengthening teachers’ capacity to implement human rights education.

Equitas – International Centre for Human Rights Education, which provides tools and training to teachers and people working with children to integrate human rights values and approaches in the work that they do, reaches out to 100,000 young people across 50 communities in Canada each year.

Equitas Executive Director Ian Hamilton told IDN, “Currently our programme is focused on helping to educate primary school children aged between 6 and 12 years and adolescent youth between 13 and 18 years.

“Through our program, Play It Fair  we use a series of games and activities to introduce human rights to children and encourage them to think critically about what is happening around them and how they can promote human rights values – equality, respect, inclusion and exclusion.

“For example, we ask children to play musical chairs the traditional way and then play a cooperative version and use that as an entry point to talk about inclusion and exclusion.”

Hamilton added: “We have seen that these tools also transform the people, who are working with children. They learn the content about the same time as the children, but it also makes them feel empowered, being equipped to deal with these issues.” 


Equitas also works with young adults using similar participatory approaches and results, and through its virtual forum: speakingrights.ca.

Youth is the focus of the fourth phase  (2020-2024) of the UN World Programme for Human Rights Education launched in September 2018.

Elisa Gazzotti, Programme Coordinator and Co-chair NGO Working Group on Human Rights Education and Learning, Soka Gakkai International Office for UN Affairs in Geneva, told IDN, “We use the technique of storytelling to engage young people to share how through human rights education they were able to steer their lives in a positive direction and become fully engaged actors in their communities.”

“We organised a workshop here around Transforming Lives – the power of human rights education exhibition, which was co-organised by SGI together with global coalition for human rights education HRE2020, the NGO Working Group on Human Rights Education and Learning and others in 2017 to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training. It shows how human rights education has transformed the lives of people in Burkina Faso, Peru, Portugal, Turkey and Australia,” Gazzotti added.

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Questions for this article:

How can we promote a human rights, peace based education?

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Arash Bordbar, a third-year engineering student at the Western Sydney University and Chair of the UNHCR Global Youth Advisory Council had fled Iran at the age of 15 years and stayed in Malaysia for five years before being resettled in Australia in 2015. He is now a youth worker at the Community Migrant Resource Centre, where he is supporting newly arrived migrants get education and find employment.

Similarly Apajok Biar, 23, who was born in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya and came to Australia in 1997 with her family under a Humanitarian visa, is chairperson and co-founder of South Sudan Voices of Salvation Inc, a not-for-profit youth run and led organisation. As youth participation officer at Cumberland Council in Sydney, she has been working to ensure that young people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to have a say in decisions that affect them at all levels – local, state, international.

“Knowledge of these rights can both improve relations between people of different ethnicity and belief, and nourish civil society,” said Dr Sev Ozdowski, Conference Convener and Director of Equity and Diversity at Western Sydney University.

Over 300 representatives from international human rights organisations, civil society, educational institutions, media and citizens participated in the ICHRE 2018, a series initiated by Dr Sev Ozdowski, to advance human rights education for the role it plays in furthering democracy, the rule of law, social harmony and justice.

While UDHR has been reinforced by several legal instruments, including conventions, charters, declarations, and national legislation, and the global discourse has broadened to include gender equality, people living with disabilities and LGBTIQ communities, the biggest challenge is the threat facing human rights organisations and defenders.

“That is the most dangerous threat because if we silence those voices then our capacity to educate and mobilise the public reduces and we will end up excluding most people,” Equitas Executive Director Hamilton told IDN.

In many countries, human rights are still not a priority. Tsering Tsomo, Executive Director of Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, an NGO based in Dharamsala (India) said: “In Tibet, the Chinese authoritarian regime has criminalised the UDHR itself by punishing people who translated the UDHR in Tibetan language and disseminated it amongst Tibetans.

“This happened in 1989 when 10 Tibetan monks were sent to jail for propagating the UDHR, just a year after the Chinese government publicly acknowledged the existence of Human Rights Day. Along with celebrating the 70th anniversary, we also observe the 30th anniversary of the imprisonment of the 10 Tibetan monks.”

UDHR holds the Guinness Book World Record as the most translated document. It is now available in more than 500 languages and dialects.

“In Tibet, there is a lot of rhetoric about human rights, but no implementation. Instead there is total impunity for the crimes committed by security forces and an upsurge in government spending on domestic security, which has long surpassed defence spending. This has resulted in a series of human rights violations.

“The challenge for the UN and human rights organisations is to counter the economic and political pressure exerted by powerful countries in reframing the international human rights discourse and in silencing critical civil society voices,” Tsomo told IDN.

Speaking on the path from UDHR to the World Programme for Human Rights Education, Cynthia Veliko, South-East Asia Regional Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Bangkok said: “The shocking retrenchment in leadership on human rights in many States across the globe over the past few years poses a real threat to the historic progress made, often painstakingly, over the decades that followed the 1948 adoption of the UDHR.”

“The continued realisation of the principles set out in the UDHR ultimately cannot be achieved without human rights education. It is an essential investment that is required to shape future world leaders with the principles of humanity and integrity that are required to build and sustain a humane world,” Veliko added.

The ICHRE 2018 Declaration  also raised concerns on the human rights implications of insufficient progress in climate change mitigation and adaptation, increasing food and water insecurity, rising sea levels, inter-state and internal conflict leading to increased migration, escalating new arms race among major powers, and rising levels of violence – particularly violence against women and children.

The Declaration called for greater awareness of the opportunities and risks of new forms of communication and media opportunities, which will help engage and reach more children and young adults, but also pose the threat of human rights abuse online.

(Thank you to the Global Campaign for Peace Education for calling our attention to this article.)

UNESCO and Angola to establish Biennale of Luanda, a Pan-African Forum for the Culture of Peace

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article from UNESCO

Carolina Cerqueira, Minister of Culture of Angola, and Firmin Edouard Matoko, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Priority Africa and External Relation, today [December 18] signed an agreement for the creation of the Biennale of Luanda – Pan-African Forum for the Culture of Peace, whose first edition will take place in September 2019.


Carolina Cerqueira, center, and Firmin Edouard Matoko, right

The Luanda Biennale, organized through a partnership between the Government of Angola, UNESCO and the African Union, is designed to promote the prevention of violence and the resolution of conflicts by facilitating cultural exchanges in Africa, inter-generational dialogue and gender equality. The Forum is to nurture reflection and facilitate the dissemination of artistic works, ideas and knowledge pertaining to the culture of peace. It will bring together representatives of governments, civil society, the arts, sciences and international organizations.

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(Click here for a French version of this article.)

Question related to this article:

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

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“It is very gratifying for Angola to host the Biennale because my country knows the value of peace. With the help of the African Union and of civil society organizations, we will be in a position to establish strong links of solidarity and brotherhood between the old and the young so that they may dream of a prosperous and peaceful Africa, which will only come to be if we work together,” the Minister declared at the signing ceremony. On that occasion, he also thanked all who made this agreement possible, notably UNESCO.

“The agreement is very important for UNESCO as it will allow us to carry out a project we initiated a few years ago to organize a culture of peace festival, notably with the support of the African Union,” declared UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Priority Africa and External Relation. “We believe in the future of this project and its ability to contribute to the transformation of the African continent,” he added.

The Biennale is part of UNESCO’s operational strategy for Priority Africa (2014-2021) which aims to provide “explicitly African responses to the changes at work in African economies and societies.”

The first Biennale of Luanda, in 2019, will be four-pronged: It will serve as a space for reflexion, or intellectual forum, on the future of Africa, as a Festival of Cultures to showcase the cultural diversity of African countries and the African diaspora enabling them to demonstrate their resilience in the face of conflict and violence. It will also feature international cultural and sport events; and encourage the mobilization of partners to support projects throughout the continent.