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


An article from Tamera

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

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

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

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

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

1. Understand and disarm fear

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

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

2. Solidarity

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

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

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

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

3. Decentralization

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

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

4. Envisioning

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

5. A global direction

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

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

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

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

Love and Nonviolence in the Time of Coronavirus


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From “War Footing” to “Nonviolent Mobilization”

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

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

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

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

Pace e Bene

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

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

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

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

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

This all depends on our choice.

On the Threshold?

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

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

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

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

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

Steps Forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Movement is Coming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defending Humanity Against the Elite Coup


Excerpts from a long article by Robert J. Burrows

. . . Evidence has been published pointing at an elite coup with governments around the world introducing draconian measures severely curtailing human rights and freedoms (including those involving the internet) and destroying national economies. . . .

[One of the articles] cites the Rockefeller Foundation’s 2010 document ‘Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development’ with its prescient description of what is taking place now: ‘LOCK STEP – A world of tighter top-down government control and more authoritarian leadership, with limited innovation and growing citizen pushback’ . . .

[Editor’s note: The Rockefeller document describes four possible scenarios:
LOCK STEP – A world of tighter top-down government control and more authoritarian leadership, with limited innovation and growing citizen pushback
CLEVER TOGETHER – A world in which highly coordinated and successful strategies emerge for addressing both urgent and entrenched worldwide issues
HACK ATTACK – An economically unstable and shock-prone world in which governments weaken, criminals thrive, and dangerous innovations emerge
SMART SCRAMBLE – An economically depressed world in which individuals and communities develop localized, makeshift solutions to a growing set of priorities.]

In this article I would like to outline a strategic response to prevent this takeover before we find ourselves moving from a version of the dystopian society described in the novel Brave New World to that outlined in the novel 1984 that many of us read as students. . . .

I have outlined this nonviolent strategy, identifying its political purpose – obviously ‘To defend humanity against a political/military coup conducted by the global elite’ – and I have set out a basic list of 26 strategic goals, of which eleven are as follows:

1. To cause people and groups all around the world to join the resistance strategy by wearing a global symbol of human solidarity, such as an image of several people of different genders .. races .. religions .. abilities .. classes holding hands.

2. To cause people and groups all around the world to join the resistance strategy by boycotting all corporate media outlets (television, radio, newspapers, Facebook, Twitter…) and by seeking news from progressive news outlets committed to telling the truth.

3. To cause people and groups all around the world to join the resistance strategy by withdrawing all funds from the corporate banks that are supporting the coup and to deposit their money in local community banks or credit unions.

4. [Note: The editor is skeptical about claims in some of the references provided to justify a fourth item that proposes refusal to submit to vaccinations: ‘COVID-19 – The Fight for a Cure: One Gigantic Western Pharma Rip-Off’, ‘The National Plan to Vaccinate Every American’ and ‘A Serious Warning about the Toxicity of Aluminum-Adjuvanted Vaccines – Especially for Infants and the Elderly’]

5. To cause people and groups all around the world to join the resistance strategy by boycotting corporate supermarkets and by supporting small and family businesses, and local markets.

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

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6. To cause people and groups all around the world to join the resistance strategy by participating in other locally relevant nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities. For this item and many subsequent, see the list of possible nonviolent actions in the document ‘198 Tactics of Nonviolent Action’.

7. To cause the workers in trade unions or labor organizations . .. all around the world to join the resistance strategy by participating in locally relevant nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities. For example, this might include withdrawing labor from an elite-controlled bank, media, pharmaceutical or other corporation operating in your country.

8. To cause the small farmers and farmworkers in organizations . . . all around the world to join the resistance strategy by participating in locally relevant nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities. For example, this might include distributing farm produce through (existing or created) grassroots networks to small and family businesses as well as local markets rather than through corporate supply chains.

9. To cause the indigenous peoples . . . all around the world to join the resistance strategy by participating in locally relevant nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities. For example, this might include utilizing indigenous knowledge to improve local self-reliance in food production and in other ways.

10. To cause the soldiers and military police in army units . . . wherever stationed around the world, to refuse to obey orders from the global elite and its agents to arrest, assault, torture and shoot nonviolent activists and the other citizens of [your country].

11. To cause the police . . . wherever stationed around the world, to refuse to obey orders from the global elite and its agents to arrest, assault, torture and shoot nonviolent activists and the other citizens of [your country].

. . . Conclusion

Humanity is at a crossroads it has never before faced. . ..

the vast bulk of government handouts are going to wealthy corporations. See ‘The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, CARES Act Is Business Giveaway, “Handout” to Monied Interests’.

If you lack the inclination or courage to do the research to understand the nature and depth of this crisis and/or to join the struggle to resist the elite takeover of our world, you are encouraged to support those who do have the inclination and courage. If you simply believe that the ‘COVID-19 crisis’ will pass and everything will revert to how it was, it might be worth reading some political history (focusing on life in those countries that suffered or still suffer under dictatorship or occupation) or simply checking out what Israel is doing now. See ‘Americans Beware: Trump Could Emulate Netanyahu’s Coronavirus Coup’. We are already so far beyond the possibility of ‘a return to how it was’ that the only realistic question worth asking now is ‘How bad will it be?’

In short, this struggle to restore our rights, economic well-being and freedoms will not be won easily. And it will come at significant cost. But it is only if enough people are willing to risk paying that cost, and apply their energy strategically, that this struggle for our humanity can actually be won.

I intend to do everything I can to ensure that we succeed. I hope that you will too.

About the Author: Robert J. Burrowes resides in Australia and has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981.

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


A press release from the International Peace Bureau

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthcare Stress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can already draw lessons for the future:

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

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

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

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

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

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Time for a Global Social Contract

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

This week the ILO reported on the labour market consequences:

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

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

Income losses for workers could reach 3.4 trillion dollars.

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

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

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

G20: Priority to Disarmament

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UN Secretary-General calls for global ceasefire


Transcript of virtual press conference March 23 by the Secretary-General of the United Nations

Our world faces a common enemy: COVID-19.
The virus does not care about nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith.  It attacks all, relentlessly.
Meanwhile, armed conflict rages on around the world. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

The most vulnerable — women and children, people with disabilities, the marginalized and the displaced — pay the highest price.
They are also at the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from COVID-19.
Let’s not forget that in war-ravaged countries, health systems have collapsed.
Health professionals, already few in number, have often been targeted.
Refugees and others displaced by violent conflict are doubly vulnerable.
The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.

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Question(s) related to this article:

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

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

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That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world.
It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.
To warring parties, I say:
Pull back from hostilities. 
Put aside mistrust and animosity.
Silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes.
This is crucial…
To help create corridors for life-saving aid.
To open precious windows for diplomacy.
To bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.
Let us take inspiration from coalitions and dialogue slowly taking shape among rival parties in some parts to enable joint approaches to COVID-19.  But we need much more.
End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world.
It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now.
That is what our human family needs, now more than ever.

(Note: The call by Guterres for a ceasefire has been applauded by the belligerents in the Yemen war which gives hope for a ceasefire there.)

China to Expel New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal Reporters From Country


An article by Ken Meyer in Mediaite reprinted according to Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License for non-commercial reproduction with credit to the source site.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that they will expel American journalists from three news outlets — the New York Times, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal — who are stationed to work in the country.

The press release, entitled “China Takes Countermeasures Against US Suppression of Chinese Media Organizations in the United States,” claims that “the US government has placed unwarranted restrictions on Chinese media agencies and personnel in the US, purposely made things difficult for their normal reporting assignments, and subjected them to growing discrimination and politically-motivated oppression.” The announcement goes on to say that the Chinese government will direct a number of retaliatory measures against The New York Times, Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Voice of America and Time Magazine.

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Question related to this article:
Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

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The first demand was for all five outlets to provide the government “written form information about their staff, finance, operation and real estate in China.” Most notably, the statement goes on by saying American journalists for The New York Times, Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal are all ordered to leave China, along with Hong Kong and Macao, in the next 10 days.

“In response to the US slashing the staff size of Chinese media outlets in the US, which is expulsion in all but name, China demands that journalists of US citizenship working with the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post whose press credentials are due to expire before the end of 2020 notify the Department of Information of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs within four calendar days starting from today and hand back their press cards within ten calendar days. They will not be allowed to continue working as journalists in the People’s Republic of China, including its Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions.”

The statement continues by hinting at further “reciprocal measures against American journalists” in response to “discriminatory restrictions” on Chinese journalists.

Last month, China expelled three WSJ journalists over an opinion that called the country “the real sick man of Asia.” The piece focused on China’s failed attempts to stop the coronavirus before it became a global pandemic, and it was decried as “malicious slander” by a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Federico Mayor pays tribute to Javier Pérez de Cuéllar


A blog by Federico Mayor (translation by CPNN)

Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, former Secretary General of the United Nations (1982-1991), architect, among many other important achievements, of the peace processes in Mozambique, with the Community of Sant’Egidio, that of El Salvador and restart Guatemala. In the last two, I participated actively, following his guidelines as Director-General of UNESCO (1987-1999). His serenity and measure were always accompanied by great firmness and decisive action, with great logistical capacity. He was very demanding in the exercise of democratic multilateralism. He believed in the value and strength of the word, of the encounter, of the outstretched hand.

Javier Pérez de Cuéllar

Working with him was a very sobering experience. His clear vision, his conviction that the solution lies in the encounter, in the dialogue, in the mediation and conciliation constitute a luminous legacy that could clarify many challenges, some potentially irreversible, that confront humanity today.

We are in “… times of doubts and resignations in which noise drowns out words”, as Miquel Martí i Pol so beautifully wrote in 1981 (in “L’ámbit de tots el ámbits)”). As Secretary-General, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar was committed equally to freedom of expression and non-violence, but now the voices of the United Nations and its Institutions have been silenced. Now, more than ever – as between Calvino and Castellio – the principle of the word must be defended against the sword. Silencing “the voice of the world” goes against humanity’s interests, encouraging frustration, exclusion, radicalization.

Tireless on the path of reconciliation and concord, his life followed the common thread of his principles. From his time as Secretary-General, it is important to highlight how he made the orgaization effective, which is not easy given its complexity and the historical moment in which he carried out his responsibility with special dedication and a vision for the future. Despite the achievements made, “the majority of humanity still lives in conditions of poverty … and human excesses threaten the environment on which we all depend … There will be conflicts in the world until human aspirations can be more fully satisfied …”, he writes in the introduction to his book “Pilgrimage for Peace”, published in New York in 1997.

His reflections on the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Security Council, relations with the United States and the role of NGOs and civil society could help today to redirect global governance, which is now irresponsibly placed in the hands of plutocratic groups. In the face of deadly invasions based on lies occur, the United Nations System is marginalized and outbreaks of xenophobia, supremacy and racism proliferate, refugee reception is neglected and development cooperation is reduced to shameful minimums.

At the ECOSOC meeting of 7 July 1988 in Geneva on international economic and social policy, I had an opportunity to directly appreciate his unusual ability as the Secretary-General. I participated in the debate with the participation of the United States, the Administrator of UNDP, Greece representing the European Economic Community, the United Kingdom, Germany, Tunisia (on behalf of the Group of 77), Canada, the Executive Director of UNICEF , China, Soviet Union …

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(Click here for the original Spanish.)

Questions related to this article:

Where in the world can we find good leadership today?

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Before assuming the United Nations General Secretariat, he had already achieved great successes, such as the one he achieved in 1974 when, as the UN Commissioner, he was able to broker an agreement in Cyprus between the Greek and Turkish leaders.

Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, has left us but he remains, as in the verse by Miguel Hernández, who also became invisible on a fateful day, but is always with us: “I’m leaving, I’m leaving, I’m leaving, but I’m staying… ”

In October 1987, he received the Prince of Asturias Award “for promoting Ibero-American cooperation.” In February 1989, the Nehru Prize “for international understanding”.

On January 19, 2000, I participated in Lima, with the “Discourse on Order”, in the tribute paid to the universities of Lima and Salamanca on their eightieth birthday. In these last twenty years, we have been in constant contact and have supported multiple initiatives in favor of multilateralism.

I end with a verse I dedicated to him in 1989:

“We must all build
in a place that is
in the middle of nowhere,
on the brink of the abyss.
Outside the borders
of the prosperous lands,
in the unknown swamps.
(No, you are not unknown,
the ignored swamps
where our past
each day
before eyes that are
and distant,
of the helpless
who cannot,
who don’t know,
of the well-to-do
who don’t hear,
who do not want to …).

To preserve memory,
the footprints of men,
their paths past,
to clarify
their steps tomorrow
we must, my children,
my friends,
you whom I do not know,
we must build everything
next to the abyss,
in the place,
rough and unique,
of our future,
and create only wealth
that can be shared”.

People with such a long journey and unusual attitude leave an imperishable mark. One day, they are absent and they become invisible, but what matters most remains: citizens of the world, continue to illuminate the paths of tomorrow and set new directions for future generations.

The Most Successful Air Pollution Treaty You’ve Never Heard Of


An article by Elizabeth Moses, Beatriz Cardenas, and Jessica Seddon in the blog of the World Resources Institute

International consensus on cross-border environmental issues has been difficult to achieve, but the 40-year-old Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air-Pollution (or LRTAP as it is known to development professionals) has enjoyed great, if largely unsung, success in the fight against air pollution and climate change. The Convention also led to cleaner air and healthier forests, soils, and lakes in North America, and prevented 600,000 premature deaths annually in Europe.

Scooter-riders with face masks in Hanoi, Vietnam

Signed in 1979 by 32 European countries, the United States, and Canada, the agreement initially aimed to tackle acid rain. Over time, it became a model for effective international environmental cooperation, bringing together scientists and policymakers to solve complex transboundary problems. To date, over 51 countries have joined the Convention and a total of 8 protocols or international agreements have been added to address a range of environmental and health problems caused by industrialization, agricultural modernization, and fossil fuel consumption, including ground-level ozone, black carbon, persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals, and particulate matter. These agreements are based on scientific assessment that identifies actions required to improve human health and ecosystems.

The Convention has delivered concrete results. Emissions of particulate matter and sulphur dropped by 30–80% since 1990 in Europe and 30–40% in North America. In Europe, these measures have extended life expectancy by a year. Nitrogen oxide releases have also been halved and lead pollution levels in UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) countries have been reduced by almost 80% between 1990–2012.

What Cities Can Learn from the Convention

This success is especially relevant for cities. With industrialization and population growth, air pollution is worsening in many developing cities, where pollution levels can be 4–14 times higher than World Health Organization air pollutant health guidelines. Because non-urban sources could also be major contributors to urban air pollution, many cities will be unable to reduce air pollution through local action alone. The Convention provides scientific tools, models, data, monitoring methods, guidance documents, and best practices so that cities can holistically address air pollution at the local level.

Policies Supported by Science

Unlike other environmental or climate change conventions, the Convention puts scientists in the same room as policymakers. This structure ensures that collaborative working groups, which include technical and scientific expertise across different fields, are linked to the political negotiation and decision-making process. This two-way engagement allows scientific information based on model outputs to define outcomes. Outcomes may involve reaching an agreement on pollution reduction levels, while also ensuring political negotiations and international political processes provide input on priorities for scientific research.

Ongoing interaction between policy makers and scientists has spurred informal communication, which has built trust and resulted in a common base of scientific research and knowledge. The Convention has been successful at fostering neutral, uncontroversial scientific results that can be used to foster good decision-making. Other conventions should take note and follow its lead.

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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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A Multi-Pollutant Approach

The introduction of the critical loads concept, implemented through the use of the RAINS (Regional Acidification Information Simulation) model, helped revolutionize the scientific assessments used to make decisions under the Convention. It was a key reason the Convention was able to move from a substance-to-substance to multi-pollutant strategy used in the Gothenburg Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-Level Ozone.

This concept integrates environmental effects of one or more pollutants with emission source data, atmospheric transportation estimates and abatement cost information. As a result, the Convention has created multiple reduction strategy options that are focused on effects instead of specific emission limits. These strategies enable states to focus on different pollutants at different times, and how they affect multiple environmental problems.

This scientific innovation increased state capacity to develop pollution reductions at lower costs and with more flexibility. It also provided states with optimized plans to use in their negotiations and facilitated the ability to secure political and private sector support for emission reduction strategies.

Flexible Enforcement & Transparent Data

The convention’s executive body approaches noncompliance through facilitation and cooperation. The body offers practical suggestions to accelerate emissions reductions. It also makes emission data reported by each party to the Convention publicly available, including historical trends, benchmarks and the strategies and policies they use.

Parties are required to report emissions and projections annually. Countries that haven’t complied with the convention’s emission targets must explain the reasons and problems they faced with implementation. This transparency and access to data has driven progress, strengthened compliance and reinforced incentives to respond to political demands.

Successful International Environmental Cooperation

Many view the Convention as one of the most successful ways of facilitating international environmental cooperation. The convention involves scientific coordination led by the European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP). EMEP collects emission data, measures air and precipitation quality and models atmospheric transport and deposition of air pollutants. These data are used to evaluate the quantity and significance of transboundary fluxes (changes to air pollutant composition and concentrations) and any areas that exceed critical loads and threshold levels.

The Convention’s intergovernmental policy collaboration and coordination has simulated broader action on air pollution, including technical and policy ratification support to Eastern European countries. Convention representatives have also engaged with other international and regional agreements and organizations, such as the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, regional seas conventions such as HELCOM and OSPAR and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition around the intersectionality of air pollution and other environmental challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss.

What’s Next?

Considering the success of this agreement, deeper engagement with the Convention Executive Body at the UNECE could help other regions and non-member countries apply these lessons and drive momentum for multi-jurisdictional action. After the Convention’s 40th anniversary, the executive body established a forum for collaboration on reducing air pollution. The goal is that this will promote integrated approaches to address air pollution, aimed at achieving multiple benefits to human health, the economy, ecosystems, and efforts across sectors that improve air quality. 

(Thank you to the Good News Agency for calling this article to our attention>)

Protests and celebrations mark Women’s Day, despite threats


An article by Adam Geller in PBS

From the streets of Manila to a school in East London, people around the world marked International Women’s Day on Sunday with calls to end exploitation and increase equality.

Women chant slogans as they protest during the International Women’s Day in Baghdad, Iraq, March 8, 2020. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani – RC2PFF9MY13Z

But tensions marred some celebrations, with police arresting demonstrators at a rally in Kyrgyzstan and separatists detonating a bomb during a ceremony in Cameroon. No one was hurt in the attack.

“In many different ways or forms, women are being exploited and taken advantage of,” Arlene Brosas, the representative of a Filipino advocacy group said during a rally that drew hundreds to the area near the presidential palace. Protesters called for higher pay and job security, and demanded that President Rodrigo Duterte respect women’s rights.

In Pakistan, women rallied in cities across the country, despite petitions filed in court seeking to stop them. The opposition was stirred in part by controversy over a slogan used in last year’s march: “My Body, My Choice.”

Women of General Confederation of Labour (CGT) attend a protest demanding equality on International Women’s Day in Paris, France, March 8, 2020. Photo by Pascal Rossignol/Reuters.

Some conservative groups had threatened to stop this year’s marches by force. But Pakistani officials pledged to protest the marchers. The rallies are notable in a conservative country where women often do not feel safe in public places because of open harassment. The main Islamic political party, Jamaat-e-Islami, organized its own rallies to counter the march.

One of the largest demonstrations occurred in Chile, where crowds thousands flooded the streets of the capital with dancing, music and angry demands for gender equality and an end to violence against women.

“They kill us, they rape us and nobody does anything,” some chanted.

National police estimated 125,000 took part in the capital and nearly 35,000 in other cities, but organizers said the crowds were far larger.

Many demanded that a proposed new constitution strengthen rights for women and thousands wore green scarves in a show of support for activists in neighboring Argentina, which is considering a proposal to legalize elective abortion.

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Question for this article

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

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Women demonstrators chant slogans and gesture during a march on International Women’s Day in Algiers, Algeria March 8, 2020. Photo by Ramzi Boudina/Reuters.

Thousands of women also marched in Madrid and other Spanish cities, despite concern over the spread of the new coronavirus.

A massive banner reading, “With rights, without barriers. Feminists without frontiers” in Spanish was carried at the front of the march in the capital.

Spanish health authorities said did not put any restrictions on the march, but recommended that anyone with symptoms similar to those of the coronavirus stay home.

At a school in East London, meanwhile, the duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, joined students in listening to speeches about women labor activists, and urged both girls and boys to respect the contributions of women every day of the year.

“For young men … you have your mothers, sisters, girlfriends, friends in your life — protect them. Make sure they are feeling valued and safe,” she told the students.

But safety was in short supply at some events to mark the day.

The detonation of explosives triggered panic at a ceremony in Bamenda, an English-speaking town in the northwest of Cameroon. Suspicions focused on separatists who had vowed to disrupt the events. No one was killed or wounded.

Police in Bishek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, detained about 60 people after a group of unidentified men broke up what authorities called an unauthorized rally.

Demonstrators had gathered in the city’s main square to express support for women’s and children’s rights. But unidentified men barged into the gathering. Police said people from both sides were detained, but news reports said they were primarily women. They were released several hours later, after about 10 had been charged with resisting police, the Akipress news agency reported, citing an attorney.

(Editor’s note): Photos are available on the Internet from countries around the world, including:

Indonesia, Pakistan, Iraq, Australia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, Spain, Philippines, Switzerland, Thailand, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Bangladesh, in Al Jazeera;

Brazil, Spain, Chile, Syria, Belarus, United Kingdom, Russia, France, Pakistan, Iraq, Indonesia, Turkey, Bangladesh, Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Mexico, Peru, Switzerland and Australia in The Guardian;

Italy, France, Chile, Serbia, Spain, Belgium, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Philippines, United Kingdom and Malaysia in the Irish Times

The Peace Brigades International, Guernica Peace Prize


An article by Iratxe Astui in El Correo

The Peace Brigades International (PBI) will receive this year the Guernica Prize for Peace and Reconciliation, which is awarded as part of the commemorative program of the acts of the bombing of the town by the German Condor Legion. The decision to recognize the work done by this non-governmental organization was made with the majority of the votes of the members of the jury table..

Members of the PBI during one of their observations. / E. C.

The jury is composed of representatives of the parties that make up the City Council -Eusko Abertzaleak, PNV and EH Bildu-, as well as the mayor of Pforzheim, a German city twinned with the town hall, the Gernika Gogoratuz Foundation, the House of Culture and the Museum of La Paz of the locality. They announced that the distinction responds “to the outstanding work carried out by the volunteers of the organization and their commitment to the defense of Human Rights.”

(Click here for the original article in Spanish.)

(Article continued in the right column)

Question for this article:

Can peace be guaranteed through nonviolent means?

Where in the world can we find good leadership today?

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The Peace Brigades International is a non-denominational and independent group, that sends international observers to be eyewitnesses in regions that are experiencing crisis and conflict situations. “These groups protect with their presence people threatened with death or kidnapping through political violence,” they explained. The peacekeeping forces of PBI have acted in Guatemala (1983-1999), El Salvador (1987-1992) and Sri Lanka (1989-1998), as well as in North America (1991-1999), East Tomor (1999-2002) and Haiti (1995-2000).

Likewise, they also developed their work in Northern Nicaragua, Central Africa (2004-2005) and at the World Uranium Hearing in 1992 in Salzburg. The organization is composed of volunteers who “work as a team.” “They live, conceive strategies, write reports and travel together.”

The jury of the Prizes for Peace and Reconciliation that will be awarded on April 26, also highlighted this year, within the section that distinguishes the anonymous work of the workers for basic peace, the work of the international project ‘Kids Guernica “This artistic initiative was created by three Japanese -Toshifumi Abe, Tdashi Yasuda and Kaoru Mizuguchi- and the American, Tom Anderson, in 1995 on the occasion of making a canvas commemorating the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.

The mural project, in reference to the Guernica of Picasso, “has toured different countries on five continents with the aim of promoting a culture of peace among children around the world,” they explained. The regional town has a good number of works done in different parts of the planet.