Tag Archives: South Asia

Kazakh capital to host 2019 UNWTO Urban Tourism Global Summit on SDGs

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article from The Astana Times

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the Nur-Sultan Akimat (city administration) will organise the eighth UNWTO Global Summit on Urban Tourism under the Smart Cities, Smart Destinations theme in the Kazakh capital Oct. 9-12. The summit will contribute to the UN New Urban Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The summit will bring together representatives from national tourism administrations, city authorities and related stakeholders to exchange expertise and set a shared vision to advance urban tourism. Participants will discuss sustainability, accessibility, innovations and inclusion of tourism in the urban agenda contributing to the progress of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. The gathering will focus specifically on Goal 11, which is to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

“According to the UN, in 2015, 54 percent of the world’s population lived in urban areas and, by 2030, this share is expected to reach 60 percent. Along with other key pillars, tourism constitutes a central component in the economy, social life and the geography of many cities in the world and is, thus, a key element in urban development policies… Tourism is intrinsically linked to how a city develops itself and provides more and better living conditions to its residents and visitors,” reported the summit’s website emphasising the importance of the chosen topic.

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Question related to this article:

How can tourism promote a culture of peace?

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The summit will focus on how developing smart cities can address urban challenges. The participants will discuss sustainability, accessibility, urban management, innovation and technology, stressing the importance of including tourism in the wider city agenda as a contributor to inclusive, resilient and sustainable urban development.

During the summit’s first day, the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) will give a masterclass on trends in the convention industry, focusing on topics such as how to be a successful destination for meetings and organise sustainable meetings.

The second day will start with an opening ceremony including Nur-Sultan Akim (Mayor) Altai Kulginov, Kazakh Prime Minister Askar Mamin, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili and other higher officials. The participants will adopt the Smart Cities, Smart Destinations Declaration. This will be followed by the mayors’ meeting, where “mayors from around the world will share insights on how to translate a smart city into a smart destination,” and other panel sessions and on the topic.

The summit’s last day will be dedicated to innovative and technological solutions in tourism, the role of public and private partnerships in technologies to develop the sphere and urban destinations’ accessibility through “increased awareness of the opportunities it brings and the emergence of new innovative solutions.”

The decision to have the event in Nur-Sultan was made at the seventh UNWTO Global Summit in Seoul last year. UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili and the then Nur-Sultan Akim (Mayor) Bakhyt Sultanov signed April 5 an agreement at the UNWTO Mayors Forum for Sustainable Urban Tourism in Lisbon, where the akim presented information about Nur-Sultan’s infrastructure.

The UNWTO is responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism around the world. It promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability and offers leadership and support to advance knowledge and tourism policies worldwide. The organisation has 158 member countries, six associate members and more than 500 affiliate members.

The UNWTO Global Summit is designed to encourage new approaches to tourism and its impact on urban destinations. Previously, the event took place in Seoul (2018), Kuala Lumpur (2017), Luxor (2016), Marrakesh (2015), Barcelona (2014), Moscow (2013) and Istanbul (2012).

Voices of Afghan women ‘must be heard at the table in the peace process and beyond’ UN deputy chief tells Security Council

. . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . .

An article from the United Nations

Afghan women have “paid a high price” during their country’s nearly four decades of conflict, the United Nations deputy chief said on Friday, addressing the Security Council a day after Kabul had been hit with a fresh round of “horrific” bomb attacks.

As she opened her briefing, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed offered her “deepest condolences to the Government and people of Afghanistan”, saying that “indiscriminate attacks that kill women and children are an affront to our humanity and a crime under international humanitarian law”.

Before updating Council members on her recent visit to the country, she affirmed that the UN “stands with Afghans as they work for lasting peace and security”.


Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed briefs the Security Council on the situation in Afghanistan and her recent visit to the country. (26 July 2019), by UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Afghan women on the rise  

Under the Taliban government, “women and girls were denied access to education, health services and protection from extreme violence, and could not participate in political or public life”, said Ms. Mohammed.

Her briefing comes just days after returning from her third visit to the country to explore UN support for the ‘ women, peace and security’ agenda. She was joined by UN Political and Peacebuilding Affairs chief, Rosemary DiCarlo, the Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Natalia Kanem, and the head of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

While there, Ms. Mohammed held talks with President Ashraf Ghani, the Chief Executive, the First Lady, as well as senior leaders and religious scholars; and made a field visit to Bamiyan Province and spoke to women leaders, decision-makers and health care workers.

“In the past 18 years, there has been significant progress”, the UN deputy chief reported, pointing out that women encumber senior roles in the Defence, Foreign Affairs and Interior Ministries; 27 per cent of the civil service is female; and women are serving as mayors and provincial governors.

Moreover, elections are scheduled for 28 September and both the Independent Electoral Commission and Electoral Complaints Commission heads are women.

Since the fall of the Taliban, nine out of 11 million Afghan children are now enrolled in school; investments in reducing maternal mortality are saving thousands of lives; and improved infrastructure and power supplies are connecting remote areas to national economic opportunities.

Afghanistan has “done more to invest in women’s leadership” than many countries with greater means and women are “rising to reclaim their rightful place in all areas of society”, Ms. Mohammed spotlighted.

“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development  holds great promise for the lives of Afghans across the country,” she said highlighting that 24 UN agencies are partnering with the government on issues ranging from food security to clean water and the rule of law, “often risking their lives”.

Global Goals

On the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), she conveyed that SDG 5, on gender equality, is “essential to ensure that women have access to education, health care and decent work, and that women are represented in all areas of society and in all political and economic decision-making processes, including in government and in peace negotiations”.

“SDG16 on peace, justice and strong institutions will also be essential to hold free, fair and credible elections, to build trust in state institutions, and to facilitate reconciliation and the reintegration of former combatants after the signing of any peace agreement”, added the UN deputy chief.

She brought to light that in the short-term, 6.3 million Afghans need humanitarian aid across the country, adding that “the Humanitarian Response Plan is just 27 per cent funded”.

“We must increase that level urgently, to provide immediate support and protection to displaced people and those in greatest need”, explained Ms. Mohammed. 

Peace needed ‘urgently’

“As we witnessed again yesterday, conflict continues in Afghanistan”, Ms. Mohammed said, noting that in the first five months of this year, conflict displaced more than 100,000 people, which “increases the risk of gender-based violence”.

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Question related to this article:

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?

Is peace possible in Afghanistan?

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And in areas where the Taliban has reclaimed control, “there are reports of honor killings, stoning and other attacks on women’s rights”, she lamented, adding that “peace, security and economic stability are urgently needed”.

All the women she spoke to “wanted an inclusive peace centred on women, as well as victims and survivors”, she told the Council.

“Afghan women, like women everywhere, must play a part in decisions that will affect their future”, she spelled out. “Inclusivity is not only the right thing to do for women and girls, it is the only way to make durable peace”.

Sustainable peace will take time and must address violations and divisions of the past for the country to achieve closure.

“Inclusion and consensus are also essential to creating the greatest possible peace dividend, benefitting all parts of the economy and all sections of society…to address stigma and discrimination based on gender, ethnicity or regional differences”, she elaborated.

With women playing “a central role” in creating peaceful, inclusive communities with opportunities for all, she said, “Afghanistan is at an important crossroads” and needs the support of the entire UN system and international community “to invest in building on the gains, while sustaining peace”.

“I urge this Council to do all in its power to support all Afghans in realizing their hopes and aspirations for lasting peace, stability and prosperity”, concluded the Deputy Secretary-General.

Gearing up to vote

Taking the podium after Ms. Mohammed, UN political chief Rosemary DiCarlo recalled that Afghanistan is marking the centennial of its independence, saying that it is at “a pivotal juncture with an unprecedented opportunity for peace”.

She underscored the need that the upcoming presidential elections are “credible and held on time”, adding that the UN is providing technical assistance and that the Independent Electoral Commission has “made steady progress” in its preparations – with two non-voting UN members embedded in each Commission.

A $149 million election budget has been finalized, with the Government covering $90 million and the international community the rest.

“Over half a million more Afghans have registered, of which some 36 per cent are women”, she updated the Council. “This is the first time that citizens were given an opportunity to review and make corrections to the 2018 voters list”.

Despite this progress, challenges remain, including the recruitment and training of thousands of polling staff.

“With only nine weeks remaining to the polling and the Commissions working against the clock”, she underscored that there is no room for technical or political delays, adding also that “a level playing field amongst all candidates is key for credible elections”.

Credible elections are “vital” to give the newly-elected president “the authority needed to bring the country together in the peace process”, she maintained.

Finding a political solution

Meanwhile, direct talks between the United States and the Taliban continue.

And while this is “an important step forward” towards formal negotiations between the Government and the Taliban to reach a sustainable peace agreement, Ms. DiCarlo affirmed that additional intra-Afghan conferences are planned.

“A political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan remains more relevant than ever, as civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict” she stressed, calling on all conflict parties “to respect international humanitarian law, to ensure access for humanitarian agencies to provide life-saving assistance and to distinguish between combatants and civilian targets to protect civilians from hostilities”.

In closing, Ms. DiCarlo underscored that “Afghans deserve peace and the right to choose their representatives”.

We urge this Council to do the same”, she concluded.

A view from the ground

Addressing the Council via videoconference from Kabul, Jamila Afghani of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom-Afghanistan, underscored the impact of the conflict on ordinary Afghans, who live in constant insecurity yet find themselves on the side lines of peace talks. 

Since September 2018, the US and other countries had facilitated efforts towards a negotiated peace, but she stressed that there has been a clear absence of meaningful participation by women and other actors, notably the direct victims of war. 

“Afghan women must be able to meaningfully participate in decisions that affect them,” she said, and urged the Council to ensure clear procedures for engaging Afghan women from diverse backgrounds in peace negotiations and conflict resolution efforts, especially as negotiators and religious leaders who can bridge political gaps on the path to peace. 

She added that the Council should ensure that this year’s elections include enhanced security for women voters and candidates, and for networks involving the Government, civil society and other stakeholders to promote women’s participation. 

Women Are Critical to Building a Lasting Peace in Afghanistan

. . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . .

An article by Ian J. Lynch in The Diplomat

Women are critical to the everyday peacebuilding activities necessary to put any peace agreement into effective practice.


Independent Afghan artists draw a graffiti on a barrier wall of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to mark International Women’s Day in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, March 8, 2019.
Image Credit: AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation, is back in Qatar  for what could be the final round of U.S.-Taliban negotiations. He tweeted  on July 31, “if the Taliban do their part, we will do ours, and conclude the agreement we have been working on.” While he also  that talks “between the Taliban and an inclusive and effective national negotiating team,” would follow, the Taliban maintain that they will not negotiate directly  with the Afghan government. Even if “inclusive” intra-Afghan talks do materialize it remains likely the role of women will be marginal. 

Afghan women and their advocates  are concerned that their exclusion at the negotiating table will severely undermine the gains they have made over the past 17 years. Moreover, women are critical to the everyday peacebuilding activities that will be necessary to put any peace agreement into effective practice.

At the heart of the exclusion of women from the peace process in Afghanistan are two pervasive, often unstated, but widely held, notions: 1) Afghan women are not well suited to negotiating an effective peace agreement with the Taliban and 2) women do not need to be present at negotiations so long as negotiators commit to protecting women’s rights. These ideas actually weaken the prospects for a long-term, inclusive peace.

A peace agreement that ends outright hostility and provides a means for reconciliation is essential, but the peace process will not end with an agreement. The everyday actions necessary for peacebuilding will require the participation of civil society, municipal leaders, traditional institutions, and, crucially, women. The participation of women and civil society groups in negotiations greatly increases the likelihood that peace agreements last.

The development of a new culture of peace will be an arduous process, but vital if Afghanistan is to avoid a relapse of civil conflict. The 15,000 women who participated in recent grassroots Afghan Women for Peace  forums in all 34 provinces demonstrate both the capacity and the desire to be effective peacebuilders.

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Question related to this article:

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?

Is peace possible in Afghanistan?

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Women across the countryside already perform the kind of everyday negotiations with Taliban leaders  necessary for a  new culture of peace to take root beyond an agreement on paper. In the hotly contested Kunduz province, 510 women stated  in March they “have a continuous and active role to play in the maintenance of social peace, and the peace process.” They “have been able to stop youth, and people who are easily influenced by the insurgent groups, from fighting against their own villages and homes.” The same month in Nimroz, 500 women said  they speak to their neighbors “about the importance of peace, especially with families who are suspected to be members of the insurgent groups.”

In April, Khalilzad met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, former President Hamid Karzai and others to discuss the progress of the talks and “the necessity of an inclusive #Afghan  negotiating team.” Women were not present in this meeting about the “necessity” of an inclusive process and yet Gulbuddin Hekmatyar – who until recently led armed opposition to the government – and other former warlords were at the table.

Prior to the U.S.-Taliban talks in June, Khalilzad met with  female Afghan politicians and tweeted, “US policy is that women should be at the table in intra-Afghan dialogue & negotiations.” Members of the Afghan Women’s Network were also present  when Khalilzad briefed President Ghani during the same trip to Kabul. This was an improvement compared with earlier diplomacy by the U.S. envoy, but women need to be given more than a consultative role.

For their part, the Taliban know they need to improve  their image on women’s rights to secure a peace agreement. Insurgents and warlords involved in the peace process may even agree to long-term institutional compromises to reach a final peace agreement that ends the war, offers some impunity for their actions, and affords them participation in governance similar to the rehabilitation of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami party. 

However, a willingness to agree to laws and institutions on paper should not be interpreted as a willingness to respect and uphold a functioning legal system. Insurgents, warlords, and other entrepreneurs of violence rarely expect future legal structures to affect them, because the law has never applied to them before. In practice, Taliban commanders continue to deliver brutal public punishments  to women who stray from their strict interpretation of Sharia law. 

Power sharing earned via violence produces a fragile peace. As Mary Kaldor argues in Global Security Cultures, such a peace may be better than continued warfare, but the entrenchment and legitimization of violent actors’ power perpetuates crime, human rights abuses, and fails to resolve grievances that can reignite conflict later. 

To avoid a compromised peace, the Afghan process must subordinate violent actors and uplift the moderate, majoritarian sources of political legitimacy that are too often left out of peace talks. Afghan women have consistently practiced the local-level peacebuilding that will be needed to reinforce a national-level political settlement and build a culture of peace over time. The Taliban will resist including women and it will make the process more difficult, but involving a broad set of Afghan actors committed to the everyday reproduction of peace is the only way to build an enduring peace. 

Ian J. Lynch recently graduated with a Masters in Middle East, Caucasus, and Central Asian Security Studies from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. He is the former Director of Curriculum and Instruction at the School of Leadership Afghanistan, the country’s first and only boarding school for girls. He tweets at @Ian_J_Lynch.

Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace Marks 50th Anniversary in Mongolia

. . TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY . .

An article from Buddhist Door

The 11th General Assembly of the Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace (ABCP) was held in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar on 21–23 June, with delegates from Mongolia, as well as Cambodia, India, Nepal, Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam, with a Tibetan delegation led by Venerable Thupten Ngodup, the Nechung Kuten, with representatives from all of the major Buddhist traditions.


Group photo during the 11th General Assembly of the ABCP. From tibet.net

The conference, titled “Buddhist Heritage and Values in the 21st Century,” marked the 50th anniversary of the ABCP, first convened under the aspiration of Asian countries to preserve their cultural heritage through spreading the teachings of the Buddha and valuing wisdom and compassion in ensuring peace. 

The event was hosted by Mongolia’s foremost monastery, Gandan Tegchenling, founded in 1809 by the Gelug school of Vajrayana Buddhism, and the institutional and cultural center of Mongolian Buddhism. The monastery’s abbot, His Eminence the Khamba Lama Gabju Choijamts Demberel, is the highest-ranking Buddhist leader in the country. He is also president of the Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace and head of the Centre of Mongolian Buddhists. 

Among the leaders who participated in the conference was the most senior Buddhist in the Russian Federation and in the Republic of Buryatia, the 24th Pandito Khambo Lama Damba Badmayevich Ayusheev; the head lama of the Kalmyk people, Telo Tulku Rinpoche, who is also the honorary representative of the Dalai Lama for Russia, Mongolia, and the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States; and the head lama of the Tuvan people, Lopsan Chamzy.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama delivered a video message for the assembly, which was presented during the opening ceremony by Telo Tulku Rinpoche. His Holiness remarked that the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism first became known in Mongolia in the time of Drogon Chogyal Phagpa (the fifth leader of the Sakya school). Then, following the Omniscient Sonam Gyatso (the third dalai lama), the tradition of Je Tsongkhapa spread throughout the country. 

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Question for this article

Religion: a barrier or a way to peace?, What makes it one or the other?

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The Dalai Lama stressed that over subsequent centuries a great number of Mongolian scholars and accomplished masters had emerged, noting that during his own life many top Mongolians scholars and geshes in the three monastic universities (Drepung, Gaden, and Sera) have made remarkable contributions to the Buddhadharma. His Holiness expressed appreciation that the ABCP assembly was being held in Mongolia, and urged Mongolians to study Buddhist philosophy as even modern Western scientists are paying attention to Buddhist philosophy.

Among the distinguished guests was the president of Mongolia, Khaltmaagiin Battulga. During the opening ceremony he remarked: “Mongolia has always supported the Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace, and it has been seen as valuable contribution of Mongolians not only to ensuring peace throughout the world but to maintaining its values, which are still valid to this day. Guided by the teachings of the compassionate Buddha, during the difficult times of Cold War, the Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace made its voice heard not only in Asia but throughout the whole world. Moreover, it has presented new opportunities in cultural, educational, and economic long-term cooperation where human rights, freedom, and unity are upheld. Therefore, the conference was registered as an observer to the UN’s Economic and Social Council in 1988 in recognition of its contribution to the well-being of humanity through its actions for peace.” (Office of the President of Mongolia) 

The closing ceremony included a dinner reception and cultural performances in the Battsagan Hall of Gandan Teckchenling.

The Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace is a voluntary mass movement of Asian Buddhists reflecting their sincere aspirations to realize the ideals of peace, justice, and human dignity. Its aim is to bring together efforts of Buddhists in support of consolidating universal peace, harmony and cooperation among people of Asia.

The history of the organization dates to 1968, when three eminent Buddhist monks—Ven. Khamba Lama Samagiin Gombojav (Mongolia), Ven. Khamba Lama Jambaldorj Gomboev (USSR) and Ven. Kushok Bakula Rinpoche (India)—met in Buryatia to discuss the state of Buddhism in the region and to explore the possibility of setting up a Buddhist organization. In July 1969, Ven. Sumanatissa and Ven. Wipulasara (Sri Lanka), Ven. Jinaratana (India) and Ven. Amritananda (Nepal) visited Ulaanbaatar at the invitation of Khamba Lama Gombojav. Over the course of their meeting they agreed to establish an international Buddhist organization in the Mongolian capital.

On 13 June 1970, another meeting was held in Ulaanbaatar, setting a resolution to establish an international organization called the Asian Buddhist Committee for Promoting Peace. The first general assembly was held in the city and Ven. Gombojav was elected president. During the third general assembly in New Delhi in 1974, the organization’s current name was adopted, and in the same year His Holiness the Dalai Lama participated in the forum and became an ABCP member.

The ABCP, one of the few religious organizations registered in the United Nations, has since convened 11 general assemblies in Mongolia, Sri Lanka, India, Japan, and Laos.

Kazakhstan: Protests of presidential vote bring 500 arrests

…. HUMAN RIGHTS ….

An article from The Public’s Radio-Kazakhstan

Police detained hundreds of people in Kazakhstan amid unauthorized protests of a presidential election Sunday that opponents alleged was a fake exercise in democracy.


Kazakh police block demonstrators during an anti-government protest during the presidential elections in Nur-Sultan, the capital city of Kazakhstan, Sunday, June 9, 2019 
(click on image to enlarge)

Officers, some in riot gear with shields and helmets, broke up the demonstrations in the capital, Nur-Sultan, and in Almaty, the Central Asian country’s main commercial city. Some 500 protesters were taken to police stations, a government official said.

Three police officers were injured in the clashes, Deputy Interior Minister Marat Kozhayev said. There were no immediate reports of charges following the arrests.

The snap election was called after the unexpected March resignation of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, 78, who had led the country since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Many people assumed Nazarbayev would run for re-election during a regularly scheduled presidential vote next year.

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Questions related to this article:

How effective are mass protest marches?

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The protesters alleged the election to choose his successor would not be free or fair, and had called for a voter boycott.

Nazarbayev loyalist Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the upper house speaker who became acting president when Nazarbayev stepped down, was expected to win easily.

Seven candidates were on the ballot, including a genuine opposition figure for the first time since 2005.

The opposition candidate, Amirzhan Kossanov, said he had no complaints about possible campaign violations before Sunday’s contest.

“But the most important result, the peak of the election political process, is counting of the votes,” Kossanov said.

The national elections commission reported that about 77% of the electorate turned out to vote. Previous presidential elections had reported turnouts of more than 90%.

Kazakhstan recently has experienced rising opposition sentiment. Previous anti-government rallies took place in the spring to protest the early election, which opponents saw as an orchestrated handover of power.

One of the most prosperous former Soviet republics, large Kazakhstan stands at a crossroads between neighbors China and Russia.

[Note: According to Garda News, Canadian diplomatic authorities indicate large-scale demonstrations are expected in Nur-Sultan and Almaty on Sunday, June 30.

Culture of Peace and Education

… EDUCATION FOR PEACE …

An essay by G.K. Ghosh in The Statesman

Since the war begins in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defence of peace must be constructed. ~ The Unesco Charter

The United Nations entity had identified the first decade of this century (2001-10) as the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World. A culture of peace was envisaged to be achieved when citizens of the world would be able to understand global problems, have the skill to resolve conflicts and struggle for justice, non-violence and live in accord with international standards of human rights and equity.

In 1989, the International Congress on Peace in the Minds of Men held in Africa urged Unesco to “.help construct a new vision of peace by developing a peace culture based on the universal value of respect for life, liberty, justice, solidarity, tolerance, human rights and equality between men and women.” The report of the Unesco’s International Commission on Education for the 21st Century titled Learning: The Treasure Within suggested that educational process needs to be restructured to draw out the hidden talents in students. The UN declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace adopted in 1999 emphasised the role of education in promoting a culture of peace.

Thus, education may serve as the principal means to create a culture of peace, and by reflecting its basic principles, the curricula can prepare people for the task of developing a culture of peace. Manifesto – 2000 for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence was launched by Unesco in 1999. It laid down the code of conduct for individuals saying that they must respect the life and dignity of every human being . There should be no violence ~ physical, psychological, sexual or social. The Unesco project on “Teacher Education for Peace” is also based on the assumption that effective teaching for peace and international understanding must target teachers themselves because they are the torch-bearers of building a peaceful culture in schools. They should be equipped with the content and pedagogical skills to translate the value of peace, tolerance, nonviolence, human rights and international understanding within the confines of the classroom.

In building a culture of peace, education has to play a crucial role. Peace education could infuse the entire curriculum and not just a separate aspect taught in isolation. Children may be acquainted with factors that contribute to practise solidarity, cooperation and respect for citizenship rights among different groups in society, and with factors that improve the realisation of such objectives.

Children may be enabled to generalise concepts and procedures relating to peace, cooperation and human rights at the local and national levels so as to develop a concept of world citizenship. They may also be acquainted with different organisations that cooperate at the local, national and international levels to promote peace and human rights and also to understand the role of the international bodies. Children may be acquainted with instances of violation of peace and human rights and the exploitation of international cooperation along with their adverse effects on the quality of life. They may be informed about the struggles and movements for peace and cooperation.

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Question for this article:

What is the relation between peace and education?

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Peace education is not a novel concept in schools. In many countries such as Australia, Netherlands, Canada, the UK and the USA, activities in the area of peace education have been in vogue for quite a long time. India has been the home of people with various origins. Ours is a tolerant eclectic society, a democracy in which universally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms are guaranteed to all without any discrimination on grounds of community or creed.

Mahatma Gandhi introduced the lessons of non-violence in education for better manifestation of human sensibilities. Nai Talim or basic education guaranteed the essentials of education nursed in the spirit of non-violence.

The National Policy on Education (1986) states that “India has always worked for peace and understanding between nations, treating the whole world as a family.” It adds that “in our culturally plural society, education should foster universal and eternal values, oriented towards the unity and integration of our people.”

While preparing the Country Report on the Delor’s Commission Report, the Indian National Commission for Cooperation with Unesco in 1998, states,”India’s educational ethos needs major reforms in the context of the changes that are sweeping our country. The transformation that the society is going through warrants rejuvenation in the way we teach and what we teach.The way we structure our educational institutions and determine the contents of our curricula can by themselves help us move towards a culture of peace.”

Several non-governmental organisations like the World Peace Centre have been involved in spreading the message of Manifesto-2000. The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) came out with its National School Framework for School Education-2000 which lays stress on peace education. The Curriculum-2000 inter alia emphasises education for peace and international understanding.

It has stressed the need to infuse a profound sense of nationalism tempered with the spirit of vasudhaiva kutumbakam. The NCERT in its Curriculum Framework for Quality Education stresses the student teachers’ contribution for social reconstruction to resolve conflicts peacefully. The Indian teachers’ education curriculum at the elementary and the secondary levels includes peace education.

So vast is the responsibility of teachers and yet, unfortunately, so little is the attention paid to implement them. Obviously, the teachers must accept their share of responsibility of inculcating good conduct, tolerance and a sense of respect for law and order among the pupils. The children can be taught in the classroom about the nature of conflicts and the way they can be resolved. They can be taught as to how to deal with conflicting situations, forgive others and inculcate in themselves the seeds of tolerance which is the need of the day. They should be told that a multi-religious society like ours is particularly vulnerable to the poison of intolerance. Holistic education lends itself to endless possibilities for innovation.

If the goal of education is freedom from ignorance, freedom from dependence and freedom from prejudice, then it is time to ask ourselves whether our education has enabled us to acquire the necessary competence to understand the world in which we live, to develop the skills to live independently and also to live collectively. Harmonious coexistence of multiple identities is the core of human civilization. Sharing is the basis of civilised collective living in a civil society.

(The writer is former Associate Professor, Department of English, Gurudas College, Kolkata)

Bonita, a young change-maker inspires girls and women in Nepal through education

. . . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . . .

An article from UNESCO

Bonita Sharma is a young change-maker in Nepal. She participated in an intensive learning platform for young women supported by the UNESCO Malala Fund for Girls’ Right to Education, the Female Champions Fellowship. As a Female Champion, she has empowered girls and women in Nepal through her project on nutrition education. Girls’ education is a must for Bonita and she is working with her community to ensure all girls in her country receive a proper chance at learning.


Video of Bonita in Nepal

In Nepal, not all girls have the chance to go to school. How do you think education transform lives? How has it transformed your life?

I believe that education influences the entire life cycle of a girl.

A girl child who has access to a quality education will grow up to become a confident adolescent, aware of herself and her surroundings. When she becomes an adult, she will make informed and independent decisions regarding her health, her career and her family life (e.g. marriage and reproduction). As an educated mother, she will pave the way for the next generation of girls to live a brighter future.

I feel fortunate that I had the chance to receive a proper education without any discrimination. It enabled me to transform into a young change-maker in my community. Education has empowered me to empower others.

Through the UNESCO Malala Fund for Girls’ Right to Education, you are empowering girls and women in Nepal with an education focused on nutrition and health. What has been the impact of your project on young people and their communities?

My team and I have already reached hundreds of girls and boys, women and men, in Nepal through my Action for Nutrition project. Our programs have not just improved their knowledge on health and nutrition, but we were also able to unlock their creativity, confidence and leadership skills.

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(Click here for a Spanish version of this article or here for a French version)

Question for this article

Does the UN advance equality for women?

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Manamaya Gurung, a student from Shree Indreshwori School in the Sindhupalchok district did not feel comfortable talking about menstruation. After participating in our educational program, she was able to explain menstrual hygiene to visitors with confidence during our Swasthya Mela (Health Exhibition) event.

It is really gratifying to see young girls like Manamaya become emissaries in their own community; monitoring the health, nutrition and hygiene practices of their family, peer groups and community members. Teachers, mothers, fathers and female community health volunteers have also become more responsible towards addressing the problem of malnutrition, junk food consumption and poor hygiene after participating in our programmes.

We often speak of the importance of female role models for girls and their education. As a Female Champion, who inspired you to become who you are?

My mother had just completed her high school education when she married my father. Society, at the time, expected women to give up their studies to care for their family. My mother did not give up on her dream of getting an advanced degree. She accomplished her goal despite all the criticism, barriers and hardships.

I witnessed the persistence of my mother and the supportive role of my father from a very young age. Growing up in this environment shaped me to become the Female Champion I am today. I learned determination and the value of education from my mother. I strongly believe we need such role models in our homes, schools and communities to inspire us from a young age.

What are your future plans as a Female Champion?

In 2017, I founded Social Changemakers and Innovators (SOCHAI) with a vision to empower women and girls through youth-led innovation, education and social entrepreneurship. We have developed two innovative bracelets, Nutribeads and Redcycle, which are essential tools for nutrition and menstruation education.

Through SOCHAI, I am taking small steps to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals, and ensure a quality education for all because there is still much to be done.

In the coming days, I plan to expand our educational programmes all over Nepal through multi-sectoral support and collaboration ranging from policy to grass-root level. By integrating health, nutrition, gender, entrepreneurship, innovation, technology and infrastructure in education, I aspire to empower millions of girls and women in the future.

What advice would you give to girls and women worldwide?

Education is the key to overcome the barriers and reach our full potential in life. It is the key to positive change all of us wish to see in the world. As Malala said, “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world”. So, let us pick up our books and our pens.

Pakistan: Interfaith Christmas Celebration

. TOLERANCE & SOLIDARITY .

Submitted to CPNN by Kiran Iqbal,

ROLE (Rights of Living for Everyone) Organization, the Society for the Promotion of Education and Awareness (SEAP Pakistan), and the AMAAN Development Organization with the collaboration of Action Against Poverty (AAP) and Hafeez Ghee & General Mills Private Limited organized Interfaith Christmas Celebration and Interfaith Prayer and Thanks Giving Award Distribution Ceremony to thank God Almighty and pay tribute to the volunteer services of committed and dedicated CSO Leaders, Journalists and faith based leaders.


(click on photo to enlarge)

The event featured participation from a wide variety of Muslim & Christian denominations and representatives of Hindu and inclusive religious communities. We came together to give thanks for the blessings we have received throughout the year of 2018 and pray for the 2019. Prayers, sacred writings, reflections and meditation were woven together with a common theme of gratitude from many traditions. The event took place at Pastoral Institute, Naqashband, Multan on 31st December, 2018.

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

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The program started with a recitation from Holy Quran and the Holy Bible along with Bhajan, Naat and Christian hymns.

In the beginning, Marcus Younas gave an introduction of the program, giving thanks to the blessings of God Almighty. Then, the speakers gave their view point on the topic “How Celebrating Religious Festivals Together can promote Interfaith Harmony and National Solidarity”.

Professor Abdul Majid Wattoo, Yasmin Khakwani, Karamat Jameel, Sarfraz Clement, Abdul Hanan Haidri, Ghazal Ghazi, Naeem Iqbal Naeem, Makhdoom Tariq Abbas Shamsi, Allama Syed Mujahid Abbas Gardezi, Muhammad Amir Mehmood Naqashbandi and Rev. Fr. Dr. Jamshed Albert Gill O.P. (Director, Pastoral Institute, Multan) talked on this occasion highlighting the common values and traditions of various faiths with logics of how celebrating religious festivals together can promoted interfaith harmony and national solidarity. They appreciated the initiative of host organizations also for awards to be given for the services rendered by religious and civil society leaders for the promotion of interfaith harmony, peacebuilding and tolerance among the people of various faiths of Pakistan.

Lastly, Ms. Kiran Iqbal (CEO, ROLE Organization, Multan) thanked all for their participation and shared that our joint work can be strengthened only if we support each other by bridging the gaps and joining hands together for peace, harmony and solidarity.

Fifty Awards were given to pay tribute to the volunteer services of committed and dedicated CSO Leaders, Journalists and faith based leaders. The event ended with Cake cutting for Christmas and New Year 2019 along with dinner for all.  

Iran: 3000 signature campaign for child abuse prevention

. . . . . HUMAN RIGHTS . . . . .

Sent to CPNN by Javaher Sinaei

As the Iran Chapter of My Body Is My Body Program, Shahin Gavanji and Jahangir Gavanji organised a signature campaign to support Child Abuse Prevention in Iran: the 3000 signature campaign for child protection and child abuse prevention. 


The purpose of the campaign was to announce the support of the Iranian people for preventing child abuse by signing on the fabric.  In this plan, a fabric of 15 square meters was fabricated and put in all the main parks of each province.   

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Question related to this article:

How to stop violence against children?

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More than 3,000 signatures were collected from all cities in Iran 
(31 cities Alborz, Ardabil, Bushehr, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, EastAzerbaijan,Isfahan,Fars,Gilan, Golestan, Hamadan, Hormozgan,Ilam, Kerman,Kermanshah,Khuzestan, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad,Kurdistan,Lorestan, Markazi,Mazandaran,North Khorasan,Qazvin, Qom,RazaviKhorasan,Semnan,Sistan and Baluchestan,South Khorasan,Tehran,West Azerbaijan, Yazd, Zanjan).


The goals of this campaign:


1- The collective participation of citizens to learn about this positive social program leading to child abuse prevention.


2- Meetings and face to face conversations with different groups of people on a large scale to get familiar with My Body Is My Body Program


3- Belief in development of awareness, making conversation between Iranian people and learning teammate activities to protect children.

India Forms World’s Largest Women’s Wall for Gender Equality

. . . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . . .

An article from Telesur

Thousands of women in India’s coastal state of Kerala joined together, forming a 386-mile wall, to send a message in support of gender equality.

Official sources told the BBC that approximately five million women from different parts of Kerala took to highways to form a human chain in protest of gender disparity.

The “women’s wall” stretched from the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram to the northern district of Kasaragod.


Video from @Cyt.Vishwa

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(Click here for a Spanish version of this article or here for an article on this subject 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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The demonstration is part of a series of protests against a ban  which prevents women of “menstruating age” (ages 10 to 50) to enter the temple. India’s Supreme Court had overturned the ban back in September, however, attacks on female visitors by conservative groups persist, citing a violation of the holy site.

Last month, two women tried to enter the temple but were prevented from doing so by protesters defending the ban. Right-wing Hindu protesters base their actions on an interpretation of a temple deity, Lord Ayyappa whom they allege is “celibate.”

The “women’s wall” was initially proposed by Kerala’s Left Front Government and was originally scheduled to take place in December 2018.
In November 2018, dozens of protesters at the Sabarimala Temple were arrested for demanding the removal of a ban on overnight stays, which was implemented by the government as a response to right-wing demonstrations against women devotees.

However, since the court order gained prominence, a major battleground has manifested between devotees and gender activists, sparking protests across the southern state. More than 2,000 people were arrested following clashes near the temple in October.

The Supreme Court will hear challenges  to the decision to overturn the ban, starting January 22.

(Editor’s note: Telesur is the only news source we could find for this story in English that allows for reproduction, requiring only that the source be given. There are many other articles in news sites that forbid reproduction. Interestingly this article was not listed in a Google search.)