Pope, in Easter message, slams weapons spending in time of pandemic


An article by By Philip Pullella in Reuters (reprinted by permission)

Pope Francis urged countries in his Easter message on Sunday to quicken distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, particularly to the world’s poor, and called armed conflict and military spending during a pandemic “scandalous”.

Coronavirus has meant this has been the second year in a row that Easter papal services have been attended by small gatherings at a secondary altar of St. Peter’s Basilica, instead of by crowds in the church or in the square outside.

After saying Mass, Francis read his “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message, in which he traditionally reviews world problems and appeals for peace.

“The pandemic is still spreading, while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor. Nonetheless – and this is scandalous – armed conflicts have not ended and military arsenals are being strengthened,” he said.

Francis, who would normally have given the address to up to 100,000 people in St. Peter’s Square, spoke to fewer than 200 in the church while the message was broadcast to tens of millions around the world.

The square was empty except for a few police officers enforcing a strict three-day national lockdown.

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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 pope asked God to comfort the sick, those who have lost a loved one, and the unemployed, urging authorities to give families in greatest need a “decent sustenance”.

He praised medical workers, sympathised with young people unable to attend school, and said everyone was called to combat the pandemic.

“I urge the entire international community, in a spirit of global responsibility, to commit to overcoming delays in the distribution of vaccines and to facilitate their distribution, especially in the poorest countries,” he said.

Francis, who has often called for disarmament and a total ban on the possession of nuclear weapons, said: “There are still too many wars and too much violence in the world! May the Lord, who is our peace, help us to overcome the mindset of war.”


Noting that it was International Awareness Day against anti-personnel landmines, he called such weapons “insidious and horrible devices … how much better our world would be without these instruments of death!”

In mentioning conflict areas, he singled out for praise “the young people of Myanmar committed to supporting democracy and making their voices heard peacefully”. More than 550 protesters have been killed since a Feb. 1 military coup in Myanmar, which the pope visited in 2017.

Francis called for peace in several conflict areas in Africa, including the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia and the Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique. He said the crisis in Yemen has been “met with a deafening and scandalous silence”.

He appealed to Israelis and Palestinians to “rediscover the power of dialogue” to reach a two-state solution where both can live side by side in peace and prosperity.

Francis said he realised many Christians were still persecuted and called for all restrictions on freedom of worship and religion worldwide to be lifted.

Danny Glover on Amazon Union Drive in USA, the Power of Organized Labor & Centuries of Resistance in Haiti


A transcript from Democracy Now

As workers in Bessemer, Alabama, continue to vote on whether to establish the first unionized Amazon warehouse in the United States, we speak with actor and activist Danny Glover, who recently joined organizers on the ground to push for a yes vote. “This election is a statement,” says Glover, one of the most high-profile supporters of the closely watched union drive. Nearly 6,000 workers, most of them Black, have until March 29 to return their ballots. If workers successfully unionize, it could be a watershed moment for the U.S. labor movement, setting off a wave of union drives at Amazon facilities across the country. “Once unions are there, once workers have representation on all levels, once they have a seat at the bargaining table, it’s another kind of expression and a new relationship,” says Glover. 

video of show

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman.
Senator Bernie Sanders is heading to Bessemer, Alabama, today to show support for Amazon workers who are in the final days of voting on whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and become the first unionized Amazon warehouse in the United States. It’s one of the most closely watched union elections in decades. Voting ends Monday, March 29th. Ballots have been sent to nearly 6,000 workers, most of whom are Black.
Amazon, which has 1.3 million employees, has fought unionization for years. Meanwhile, the company’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, has become one of the world’s two richest men. His personal wealth has increased by $65 billion during the pandemic alone.
Senator Sanders joins other lawmakers who have traveled to Bessemer to support the unionization drive. New York Congressmember Jamaal Bowman visited last month and called on Amazon executives to come out and talk to their critics.

REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN: And you came out here, as well. So, come out here, meet us, say hello, explain your situation, and we can take it from there. Treat your workers with dignity and respect. And if they want to organize and unionize, let them do that, because this is America. This is a democracy. It’s rooted in labor. Labor built this country. You would not have a company if labor was not working, doing the work for you. So, come out here and show yourself and be a real person, and let’s have a real, direct conversation.

AMY GOODMAN: One of the most high-profile supporters of the Amazon unionization drive is the world-renowned actor, director, activist, longtime labor supporter, Danny Glover. He’s heading back to Bessemer, Alabama, today.

Danny, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. Can you talk about why you’re taking this long journey, as you are shooting in Canada, but you’re going south?

DANNY GLOVER: Well, first of all, I was just thinking about Georgia. This is where we need Nina Simone. Her Mississippi song was galvanizing [inaudible], and words for Georgia would be galvanizing, as well. My family, my mother, my roots are in Georgia. My great-grandmother, Mae Hunley, was freed by the emancipation in the Civil War, so I have a long history with Georgia.

And I commend all those who struggle. I mean this new generation of activists, of political politicians, that are there right now and fighting, and also citizens, as well, because this is going to take the work of citizens and citizens to act at this particular moment.

We talk about labor. I’ve been a strong supporter of labor my entire life. I grew up in the system of organized labor and organizing citizens with the postal employees, which my parents were proud members of the union there, the national council — the national postal employee union. So, I know about that. That has been the circumference of my life.

And this election, we can talk about importance all we want, but this election is a statement right here. Remember, you know, this election at Amazon is a statement. We are in a crisis, you know? We’re dealing with a narrative that will not allow us to move beyond and go somewhere else and to be something else and to transform this country.

So, we’re living in this particular moment at this time, and certainly unions are going to play an extraordinary role. We know the role that unions have played throughout the 20th century, particularly the mid-20th century and through the end of World War II. But we understand that the role that labor has to play is essential.

We have a pandemic, the reality of the pandemic. The pandemic is going to change the whole nature in how — nature in which we deal with each other, we relate to each other. All the things that we take for granted as common in our behavior is changing. So the face of employment is going to change, as well. So, there are things that we — there are so many unknowns, but what’s steadfast is that once unions are there, once workers have representation on all levels, once they have a seat at the bargaining table, there’s another kind of expression and a new relationship. That relationship is going to be essential across the new ways in which we deal with commerce, the new ways in which we deal with business. That relationship is going to be essential.

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Question for this article

Is it possible for workers to gain solidarity through unionisation?

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So, here we are right now at this particular moment. And it’s going to be tough. We know that. It’s always been tough. But at the same time, I think the political will is there in ways that I think are necessary and still will translate into other struggles, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Danny, you’ve been to Bessemer before, and you went down, and you talked to the workers. What did they tell you about the conditions in the factory? And also, in light of what we just said at the beginning of this segment, that Jeff Bezos, one of the two wealthiest men in the world, made $65 billion during the pandemic alone — that’s like $7.4 million every hour for the past year. Put those two together.

DANNY GLOVER: Well, what’s clear — juxtapose that. The richest man — one of the richest men, one of the richest persons in the world, juxtapose that relationship in which the workers exist in. I mean, as an artist, I’m listening to the stories. We’re often moved by stories. Eduardo Galeano talked about stories and how we’re defined by our stories.

The stories of the workers there that I met in Bessemer at that plant were horrific, you know, from the surveillance, the constant surveillance, the inability to meet whatever the demands are, the different ways of management that are desocializing, the whole process of working and desocializing them as human beings, all those, at every level, from using the bathroom. It was unbelievable for me, you know.

And I hate to draw different other conclusions about comparisons, but if this is an example of the kind of way we deal with human beings here in the 21st century, given the extraordinary information that we have, during supposedly the extraordinary evolution that we’ve had as human beings, then we’re in trouble. And if we talk about this right here, with one of the largest employers in the world, who deals with unions in other places, would not deal with unions in here, then we’re talking about something different. We’re talking about something dangerous, you know.

And I think this is something that has to happen. It’s something — it’s the work that has to happen. It’s not only in Bessemer, but everywhere around the country. All of us should be in outrage at what is happening in the workplace, that we know now exists in the workplace, and the attempts, ugly attempts, to decredit unions itself, to union bust, to pay enormous amount of money to bring specific companies in, in order to dissuade people and intimidate people from voting yes on this for union.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about one other issue, before we turn to a third one, that is deeply close to your heart, that you’ve been very active on, this unprecedented reparations law that has been passed in Evanston, Illinois. But I know how close to your heart Haiti is. I traveled with you. We were in South Africa and went on the plane with President Aristide when he returned to Haiti.

Well, President Biden has now deported more Haitians over the past two months than President Trump did in the previous year, even though the Biden administration admits Haitians may face harm after being deported. And you know Haiti is in the midst of a political and economic crisis. At least 1,300 Haitians, including hundreds of children and infants, have been deported since February 1st, the last deportation just on Wednesday alone. Your thoughts on — what the media tends not to do is talk about the conditions, over the years, that have led people from the Northern Triangle, from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and Haiti to come to the United States.

DANNY GLOVER: Oh boy. I mean, Haiti. I mean, most people, at some point, thought I was of Haitian descent. And I express, as Frederick Douglass did, I’m a Haitian at heart. And it’s a difficult situation. I remember Jonathan Demme and I writing letters when President Bill Clinton was in office, and just expressing our condemnation of what was happening, people who were fleeing Haiti at the political — the political murder and acts and violence that was happening at that particular point in time. And what did we do? We put them on Guantánamo Bay.

But the whole question with Haiti — and let me — I don’t want to be long-winded about it, because the whole question would be — Haiti begins at the beginning. The beginning was 1804. So, if you see — look at Haitian history, Haitian history from that particular point, whose hand was always there to impede any kind of progress for the Haitian people, whether it was impose artificial embargo over 60 years for Haiti, after his victory in 1864 — 1804, until after the emancipation, when the embargo, that so-called embargo, was lifted? From every point, from the point of time of coups d’états, from the earthquake, from the coup d’état of a freely elected president in 1989, Bertrand Aristide, from that on, for the continuous messing in Haitian politics, it is exactly that, from the denial of any kind of political expression within people.

And the Haitians are Haitians because they are, because they resist. They continue to resist. They continue to resist. This resistance comes in so many different forms. So, we applaud them for their resistance, but we don’t talk about the extraordinary pressure that is placed and undermining of Haitian democracy that has been enforced for over 200 years.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Danny, we’re going to have to leave it there for now. And, of course, from 1804, the founding of this republic in an uprising of enslaved people, the U.S. Congress wouldn’t recognize the republic for decades, because they were afraid it would inspire enslaved people in the United States to rise up. But we’re going to leave it there, because we want to keep you on, go to break and then talk about this historic moment in Evanston, Illinois. We’re talking to the actor and activist Danny Glover, who’s on his way to Bessemer, Alabama. Stay with us.

G5 Sahel: Heads of State announce Prize for the promotion of the culture of peace


An article from Al Wihda Info (translation by CPNN)

The heads of state of the G5 Sahel [Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger] decided on Tuesday to establish a prize called “Sahel Prize for the promotion of the culture of peace”.

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(Click here for the original article in French.)

Question related to this article:

Solidarity across national borders, What are some good examples?

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The prize will be awarded to individuals, institutions or public, private or civil society organizations that have done the best work for the prevention and resolution of conflicts, for the culture of peace and tolerance between communities in the Sahel region.

This is an initiative of the President of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. The Council of Ministers and the executive secretariat of the G5 Sahel will work on setting up the mechanisms for this award.

The 7th ordinary session of the Conference of Heads of State of the G5 Sahel was held on February 15, 2021 in N’Djamena.

Mazin Qumsiyeh: Suggested electoral platform/program for Palestine


Excerpts from blog of Mazin Qumsiyeh

The Palestinian factions are meeting in Cairo to try to iron out the details o the arrangements in terms of election. I disagreed with the Oslo process of capitulation (the second Nakba for us – see Edward Said and my 1990s writings on this) including its delusion of a state under occupation/elections under occupation etc. Many independent voices are not happy with this. They may reluctantly vote. But if people are to run in elections, they should have a clear program which 98% of the Palestinian people would support. Below highlights key points agreed to by many people (various discussions over the past few weeks with key figures) that should/must be included in such electoral programs to produce the needed societal change. But anyway, working on the ground on these things is a must for all of us.

Suggested electoral platform/program for Palestine

1) Principles in politics: Support for te Universal Declaration of Human rights (UDHR) including rights of refugees, rejection of discrimination based on religion (e.g. we do not support a Jewish, an Islamic, or a Christian state but states of their people). Palestinian UN recognized human rights are not negotiable. These rights include a) the right of return for refugees to their homes and lands and to be compensated for their suffering, b) the full equality to women (in all aspects of social, educational and economic rights, c) the right to education to all, d) the right to due process of law, e) the right to clean and healthy environment, d) right to food/sustenance and shelter among others per UDHR.

2) There shall be complete freedom of expression through all communication strategy. A legislative law that nullifies the so called “electronic crimes decree” and replaces it with a clear law that guarantees all people rights including freedom of speech and freedom of the press must be produced

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Question for this article

Presenting the Palestinian side of the Middle East, Is it important for a culture of peace?

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

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3) There must be mechanisms created to weed out corruption, nepotism and other unethical behaviors in all levels of society. Laws and systems must be instituted that allows return of any public money and REFORM (perhaps a truth and reconciliation committee) and this must go hand in hand with reform of the judiciary and making it completely independent of executive and legislative branches. (We must weed out political appointments of judges). This way the legal system is used effectively in case of reconciliation and truth committees fail to address the needs of change.

4) Government service is service for the people. a) The president, legislative council members, and national council members should serve no more than five years renewable with election for a maximum of 10 years in each position. b) Legislators shall not get salary from the government nor any special benefit. c) They are serving their country on a volunteer basis. No one should serve in the government who has engaged in any corrupt practices (carrying favor, bribes etc).

5) Society must take care of its vulnerable communities. This includes taking care of the haircap (special need) and elderly population.

6) Our environment must be protected. The legislative council shall issue laws giving incentives for a green economy and disincentives for pollution, use of disposable items (e.g. plastic).

7) We recognize that Oslo accords were a disaster for the Palestinian people and in any case has expired in 1999 (they were interim accords). We enter these elections not because we agree to the corrupt system that allows them but because it provides a platform to present and decent principled positions articulate above. We thus commit not to engage in any process that strengthens the status quo under occupation. We commit to weaken this authority and re-strengthen an independent PLO working outside of the limited power of the Oslo legislative council.

Stay Human and keep Palestine alive

Mazin Qumsiyeh
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor, Founder, and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History

‘We’re taking responsibility’: Sixty teens announce refusal to serve in Israeli army


An article from Monthly Review Online (Reprinted according to Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License)

Sixty Israeli teenagers published an open letter addressed to top Israeli officials on Tuesday morning, in which they declared their refusal to serve in the army in protest of its policies of occupation and apartheid.

The so-called “Shministim Letter” (an initiative with the Hebrew nickname given to high school seniors) decries Israel’s military control of Palestinians in the occupied territories, referring to the regime in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem as an “apartheid” system entailing “two different systems of law; one for for Palestinians and another for Jews.”

“It is our duty to oppose this destructive reality by uniting our struggles and refusing to serve these violent systems–chief among them the military,” reads the letter, which was addressed to Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Education Minister Yoav Galant, and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi.

Our refusal to enlist to the military is not an act of turning our backs on Israeli society,” the letter continues.

On the contrary, our refusal is an act of taking responsibility over our actions and their repercussions. Enlistment, no less than refusal, is a political act. How does it make sense that in order to protest against systemic violence and racism, we have to first be part of the very system of oppression we are criticizing?

The public refusenik letter is the first of its kind to go beyond the occupation and refer to the expulsion of Palestinians during the 1948 war:

We are ordered to put on the bloodstained military uniform and preserve the legacy of the Nakba and of occupation. Israeli society has been built upon these rotten roots, and it is apparent in all facets of life: in the racism, the hateful political discourse, the police brutality, and more.

The letter further emphasizes the connection between Israel’s neoliberal and military policies:

While the citizens of the Occupied Palestinian Territories are impoverished, wealthy elites become richer at their expense. Palestinian workers are systematically exploited, and the weapons industry uses the Occupied Palestinian Territories as a testing ground and as a showcase to bolster its sales. When the government chooses to uphold the occupation, it is acting against our interest as citizens– large portions of taxpayer money is funding the “security” industry and the development of settlements instead of welfare, education, and health.

Some of the signatories are expected to appear before the IDF conscientious objectors’ committee and be sent to military prison, while others have found ways to avoid army service. Among the signatories is Hallel Rabin, who was released from prison in November 2020 after serving 56 days behind bars. A number of the signatories also signed an open letter last June demanding that Israel stop the annexation of the West Bank.

‘Who are we actually protecting?’

Israelis have published a number of refusal letters ever since Israel took control of the occupied territories in 1967. While for decades the letters predominantly referred to opposing service in the occupied territories specifically, the last two Shministim Letters, published in 2001 and 2005, respectively, included signatories who refused to serve in the army altogether.

“The reality is that the army commits war crimes on a daily basis–this is a reality I cannot stand behind, and I feel I must shout as loud as I can that the occupation is never justified,” says Neve Shabtai Levin, 16, from Hod Hasharon. Levin, now in 11th grade, plans to refuse army service after graduation, even if it means going to prison.

“The desire not to enlist in the IDF is something I have been thinking about since I was eight,” Levin continues.

I did not know there was an option to refuse until around last year, when I spoke to people about not wanting to enlist, and they asked me if I was planning to refuse. I began to do some research, and that’s how I got to the letter.

Levin adds that he signed the letter “because I believe it can do good and hopefully reach out to teenagers who, like me, do not want to enlist but do not know about the option, or will raise questions for them.”

Shahar Peretz, 18, from Kfar Yona, is planning on refusing this summer. “For me, the letter is addressed to teenagers, to those who are going to enlist in another year or those who have already enlisted,” she says.

The point is to reach out to those who are now wearing uniforms and are actually on the ground occupying a civilian population, and to provide them with a mirror that will make them ask questions such as ‘who am I serving? What is the result of the decision to enlist? What interests am I serving? Who are we actually protecting when we wear uniforms, hold weapons, and detain Palestinians at checkpoints, invade houses, or arrest children?’

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Question related to this article:

Is there a renewed movement of solidarity by the new generation?

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

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Peretz recalls her own experiences that changed her thinking around enlistment:

[My] encounter with Palestinians in summer camps was the first time I was personally and humanly exposed to the occupation. After meeting them, I realized that the army is a big part of this equation, in its influence over the lives of Palestinians under Israeli rule. This led me to understand that I am not prepared to take a direct or indirect part in the occupation of millions of people.

Yael Amber, 19, from Hod Hasharon, is mindful of the difficulties her peers may encounter with such a decision.

The letter is not a personal criticism of 18-year-old boys and girls who enlist. Refusing to enlist is very complicated, and in many ways it is a privilege. The letter is a call to action for young people prior to enlistment, but it is mainly a demand for [young people] to take a critical look at a system that requires us to take part in immoral acts toward another people.

Amber, who was discharged from the army on medical grounds, now lives in Jerusalem and volunteers in the civil service.

I have quite a few friends who oppose the occupation, define themselves as left-wing, and still serve in the army. This is not a criticism of people, but of a system that puts 18-year-olds in such a position, which does not leave [them] too many choices.

While conscientious objection has historically been understood as a decision to go to prison, the signatories emphasize that there are various methods that one can refuse, and that finding ways to eschew military service can itself be considered a form of refusal. “We understand that going to jail is a price that not everyone has the privilege of paying, both on a material level, time, and criticism from one’s surroundings,” Amber says.

‘Part of the legacy of the Nakba’

The signatories note that they hope the political atmosphere created in recent months by the nationwide anti-Netanyahu protests–known as the “Balfour protests” for the street address of the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem–will allow them to talk about the occupation.

“It’s the best momentum,” says Amber. “We have the infrastructure of Balfour, the beginning of change, and this generation is proving its political potential. We thought about it a lot in the letter–there is a group that is very interested in politics, but how do you get them to think about the occupation?”

Levin also believes that it is possible to appeal to young Israelis, particularly those who go to the anti-Bibi protests.

With all the talk about corruption and the social structure of the country, we must not forget that the foundations here are rotten. Many say the military is an important process [Israelis] go through, that it will make you feel like you are part of and contributing to the country. But it is not really any of these things. The army forces 18-year-olds to commit war crimes. The army makes people see Palestinians as enemies, as a target that should be harmed.

As the students emphasize in the letter, the act of refusal is intended to assert their responsibility to their fellow Israelis rather than disengage from them. “It is much more convenient not to think about the occupation and the Palestinians,” says Amber.
[But] Writing the letter and making this kind of discourse accessible is a service to my society. If I wanted to be different or did not care, I would not choose to put myself in a public position that receives a lot of criticism. We all pay a certain price because we care.

“This is activism that comes from a place of solidarity,” echoes Daniel Paldi, 18, who plans to appear before the conscientious objectors’ committee. “Although the letter is first and foremost an act of protest against occupation, racism, and militarism, it is accessible. We want to make the refusal less taboo.” Paldi notes that if the committee rejects his request, he is willing to sit in jail.

“We tried not to demonize either side, including the soldiers, who, in all of its absurdity, are our friends or people our age,” he notes.

We believe that the first step in any process is the recognition of the issues that are not discussed in Israeli society.

The signatories of the latest Shministim Letter differed from previous versions in that they touched on one of the most sensitive subjects in Israeli history: the expulsion and flight of Palestinians during the Nakba in 1948. “The message of the letter is to take responsibility for the injustices we have committed, and to talk about the Nakba and the end of the occupation,” says Shabtai Levy.

It’s a discourse that has disappeared from the public sphere and must come back.

“It’s impossible to talk about a peace agreement without understanding that all this is a direct result of 1948,” Levy continued.

The occupation of 1967 is part of the legacy of the Nakba. It’s all part of the same manifestations of occupation, these are not different things.

Adding to this point, Paldi concludes: As long as we are the occupying side, we must not determine the narrative of what does or doesn’t constitute occupation or whether it began in 1967. In Israel, language is political. The prohibition against saying ‘Nakba’ does not refer to the word itself, but rather the erasure of history, mourning, and pain.

(Thank you to Azril Bacal for sending this article to CPNN.)

Geneva has become an incubation hub for citizen initiatives


An article from Swiss Info

Innovative individual initiatives are sprouting up in Geneva to tackle the new challenges the city – and the world – are facing. SWI looks at three of these and the people behind them.  

B8 of Hope Presentation 2017 
from B8 of Hope  on Vimeo.

Rocio Restrepo fled Colombia and arrived in Switzerland in 1999 with two university degrees and years of professional experience in her pocket. She was told her  qualifications were not  valid  and was unable to integrate into the labour market in Geneva. 

Rather than blame society, she decided to raise awareness among government agencies and companies on immigrant women who have a vast professional expertise and how they can be integrated professionally.

“I decided to go out to meet women with similar experiences (80 women in the beginning) to learn from them and then created the association Découvrir  (meaning discovery) to fight the waste of professional expertise,” Restrepo said in an interview.

The first years of the association were difficult. Découvrir did not receive any recognition from the authorities and Restrepo had to prove its relevance. The number of its members did not exceed forty in the first year.

Efforts have paid off. Today the association provides support to more than 700 women per year in several Swiss cantons.  Restrepo  says that some companies are reconsidering the conditions they set for employment, such as having the right to permanent residency (C residence permit) or Swiss nationality, which are difficult to obtain for immigrants.

The world of tomorrow, according to Restrepo, “must give all the opportunity to invest their expertise and experiences in a fair way, free from any discrimination on the grounds of gender, language, or geographical affiliation.” 

Restrepo is just one people highlighted in the latest book by Swiss writer and blogger Zahi Haddad called  ”126 Hearts Beating for International Geneva”. 

In an interview,  Haddad praised the vitality and effectiveness of civil institutions  like  Découvrir  because of their flexibility and ability to intervene quickly and leave a direct impact  on different fields.  

These initiatives not only aim to change the situations on the ground, but also seek to change mindsets and give humanity a new vision that enables it to live in harmony in the world, he said. “The importance of these approaches is increasing, especially during this exceptional moment that we are going through due to the current health crisis as a result of the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic.”

“This world that we dream of will not be achieved by changing a law here or there, but, rather  through  a fundamental change in our  perception  of things,” he added.

The  initiatives mentioned in the book  are  aimed at promoting more equitable and humane societies.

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Question for this article

Is there a renewed movement of solidarity by the new generation?

(Article continued from left column)

A ‘House  of hope’ for peace 

Married couple Mehra and David Rimer founded the B8 of Hope association after a trip to Israel and Palestine in 2015. During their trip to the conflict zone, this Jewish/Muslim couple met with activists engaged in a dialogue of peace.

“We quickly discovered the presence of dozens of groups in Israel and Palestine that are struggling to spread a culture of peace, and today we support 16 NGOs on both sides,” Mehra recalled.

Some of these organisations either represent families of victims who lost their children in the conflict,or Palestinian fighters and Israeli soldiers who have laid down their arms and adopted the slogan of “joint resistance to live in peace.” 

B8 of Hope aims to “mobilise support for peace advocates from the Israelis and Palestinians who have the courage to express their convictions”, Mehra said.

“These preachers of peace believe that what has happened has happened, and if we cannot change the past, then we must live in the present with a common optimistic outlook towards the future,” she added.

From a refugee to an investor in the environment

The third project highlighted is that of  Nhat  Vuong, who came to Geneva as a refugee with his family in 1980 while he was still a baby. His family fled the war between South and North Vietnam.  Vuong  grew up in Geneva. He graduated as engineer from  the  Faculty of Business and Economics of the University of Lausanne. 

Speaking to SWI,  Vuong recalled an important moment in his life that changed his view of reality in a radical way: “After obtaining the Swiss passport in 1995, I went with my family to visit our country of origin, and for the first time I found myself faced with the tragedies of poverty, deprivation and violation of children’s rights to education and decent living. This made me realise  that we, in Switzerland, live in a bubble, and we forget during our daily life the hardships faced by other peoples.”

“This hurt me and prompted me to think about doing something to help others.” 

By chance, he came across an advertisement related to a new technology invented by a Spanish engineer that purified humid air and transformed it into drinking water.

Vuong said: “I immediately thought about helping refugees, especially as this coincided with the escalation of the conflict in Syria, and the displacement of many  Syrians to Lebanon. I was sure this machine should not remain parked in  a  garage.”

In anticipation of future water shortages worldwide, Vuong i nitiated the establishment of “Water Inception” in the form of a non-governmental organisation, and began collecting donations through participatory financing mechanisms, which enabled him to raise about CHF30,000 ($34,000). He bought the first device and installed it in a Syrian refugee camp in Tripoli, northern Lebanon. Some 500 litres of drinking water will soon be produced every day from  fresh  air. The whole process took him two years. 

Vuong is also the founder of a startup  launched in 2019 to finance his charitable projects. With a Vietnamese partner he manufactures environmentally-friendly products in Vietnam and exports them to the rest of the world.

His first product was drinking straws made from potatoes and magnesium, which could be consumed or recycled after use. Vuong also launched reusable anti-bacterial sanitary masks approved in Switzerland and now on sale in post offices. 

He believes new European Union regulations from January next year, that will prohibit the sale of all materials made of plastic and are designed for single use, will increase demand for his products.

Pan-African Youth Network for the Culture of Peace


Submitted to CPNN by Jerry Bibang (translation by CPNN)

The national coordination of the Pan-African Youth Network for the Culture of Peace (PAYNCoP Gabon) organized yesterday, Wednesday, January 13, the elective general assembly of the Permanent Secretary of PAYNCoP at the pan-African level. It was Jerry Bibang, currently National Coordinator, who was elected by his peers to coordinate the activities of the Pan-African organization, which specializes in peace and security issues relating to young people.

The election took place at the Gabonese Cultural Center, located in Sotéga, in the 2nd arrondissement of the municipality of Libreville. The meeting brought together several youth organization officials as well as a representative of the UNESCO who served as election observer.

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

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

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Following an electoral process started last week by the call for candidatures, then the selection of files, the election recorded four (4) candidates, in particular that of the association “Face à demain”, of the Network of United Nations Youth Leaders Organization (Rojalnu), the Christian Union of Youth of the Evangelical Church of Gabon (UCJEEG) and the Citizen Movement for Good Governance in Gabon (MCB2G).

At the end of the process, Jerry Bibang, the MCB2G candidate, was chosen to coordinate the action of PAYNCOP at the pan-African level. “This election is seen as a sign of confidence, a strong message that our peers convey to us: that of continuing, if not, doing better than the work started at the national level,” he explained.

This message is also in line with our ambition, which is to breathe new life into our Pan-African organization, which really needs it. The site is vast, the challenges are many and varied but we are motivated and optimistic for this new challenge which consists essentially in coordinating the action of more than thirty national coordinators, including French-speaking, English-speaking, Spanish-speaking and even Portuguese-speaking, he added.

For Franck Mays Assoume, UNESCO representative and election observer, the conduct of the electoral process was satisfactory; it was democracy and consensus that triumphed in this election. We therefore invite other organizations to follow the example of PAYNCOP Gabon.

Culture of Peace against violence in Mexico


Special to CPNN from Roberto Mercadillo

The principles of the culture of peace are being used to care for the victims and to prevent further occurences of the daily violence in Mexico caused by drug addiction, homelessness and attacks on journalists, human rights defenders and their families. .

Video of “Ciclo de Diálogos en Línea: Salud y Paz 2020”

(Click here for Spanish original of this article)

Question for this article

Is there a renewed movement of solidarity by the new generation?

Is there progress towards a culture of peace in Mexico?

Students and researchers from the National School of Anthropology and History and the Metropolitan Autonomous University formed “Psicocalle Colectivo”, an initiative that follows the premises of Manifesto 2000 for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence to approach communities of people who live in the streets and who use psychoactive substances, to create social and government interventions based on inclusion and respect for autonomy and mutual understanding.

The Seminar Interdisciplinary Looks of Violence of the National Institute of Anthropology and History opened a new area in Culture of Peace to train Postgraduate students in Physical Anthropology.

In Mexico City, the Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists together with the Neuroscience Dream Center investigated the mental health of journalists, human rights defenders and / or their families who have been victims of violence in Mexico and they proposed forms of intervention based on a culture of peace and dialogue to address their mental health.

The National Strategy for the Prevention of Addictions, the National Commission against Addictions and the Chair for Peace of the Guerrero Autonomous University, have carried out the “Cycle of Online Dialogues: Health and Peace 2020” with more than ten workshops and free conferences on-line.

United Nations Alliance of Civilizations : Applications now open for the Youth Solidarity Fund


An announcement from the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations

The Youth Solidarity Fund (YSF) supports youth-led organizations that foster peaceful and inclusive societies. Seed funding is given to projects, for and by young people, that demonstrate innovative and effective approaches to intercultural or interfaith dialogue. UNAOC additionally offers capacity-building support to help youth-led organizations strengthen the implementation of their projects.

Established in 2008, YSF responded to calls for action made by young civil society leaders worldwide on the importance of establishing funding mechanisms for youth-led organizations. Today, YSF is more relevant than ever. As the global agenda increasingly speaks of youth’s participation and contribution to peace, development and security, it is critical to listen and respond with funding and partnership opportunities. Click here to start application process

Photo from video about previous YSF winners

The funded projects are youth-led and youth-focused. The age definition used by UNAOC to characterize youth is an individual between the ages of 18 and 35. While the projects target mainly young people, they have an impact on entire communities, often involving religious or political leaders, policy-makers, educational institutions and media organizations.

Youth Solidarity Fund – 9th Edition

The world today is home to the largest youth generation in history, a population that suffers disproportionately from the effects of violence, conflict, poverty, and now COVID-19. The repercussions of COVID-19 extend way beyond health and are exacerbating existing vulnerabilities and inequalities. The UN Comprehensive Response to COVID-19 states that the world is experiencing a “surge of stigma, a tsunami of hate, and ramped-up efforts to exploit young people.” To counter this alarming trend, it calls for more action to address the root causes of intolerance and discrimination by promoting inclusion and respect for diversity.

Despite COVID-19 and many other obstacles and challenges, young people continue to find ways to engage, support one another, as well as demand, and drive change. Young people implement innovative solutions to peace and security challenges and are the most able to mobilize their peers. They have the power to transform entire regions to make them more secure, peaceful, and socially inclusive. This has been recognized by the United Nations’ Youth, Peace and Security agenda, which has increasingly focused on youth as agents of change and key actors in powerful social movements. The latest Security Council Resolution on YPS 2535 (July 2020) reiterates youth-led organizations’ critical role in planning and stabilization efforts in peacebuilding and sustaining peace. Indeed, these organizations have a deep understanding of local conditions and meaningful community relationships, allowing them to work with populations that may be difficult for others to access.

Our world has recently witnessed a tragic surge in religious hatred, with increased attacks and violence targeting members of faiths and traditions. In the face of these unspeakable tragedies, the world has also witnessed extraordinary displays of support, love, and solidarity from religious communities across the globe for the victims of such attacks. That led to the creation of the United Nations Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites, developed by UNAOC and launched in September 2019, highlighting the need to create counter-narratives to hatred and violent extremism and promote sustained collaboration among different religions through interreligious dialogue, education, and media. Youth empowerment, including their meaningful participation in decision-making, can play an essential role in whole-of-society preventative approaches.

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

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YSF continues to support youth-led civil society organizations, with a particular focus on the role of young people in promoting peace and preventing violent extremism. YSF does so by providing the partnership, mentorship, and financial means to help young people implement activities that prevent violent conflict, promote peace and social inclusion. YSF functions as a small grant-making mechanism for youth to develop their own ideas on strengthening community resilience against violent extremism conducive to terrorism. UNAOC believes that young people are uniquely placed to counter and prevent violent extremism within their communities based on their valuable insights, influence, and credibility.

Additionally, YSF contributes to the implementation of the UN Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism and the call to support young people as they take up the causes of cultural and religious pluralism, peace, and mutual respect. The 9th edition of YSF encourages proposals addressing the increased stigma and discrimination of young people and their communities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Proposals focusing on promoting tolerance and respect for other religions and cultures, the right of human beings to practice their faith in safety and peace, and dialogue and respect to combat extremist ideologies and narratives, are also welcome. By addressing the issue of hate speech and its impact on young people, the new edition of YSF will also follow recommendations of the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech.

A critical part of YSF is a comprehensive capacity building and mentorship support provided to the grant recipients. Organizations that will be awarded with the seed funding for their projects will also take part in structured capacity development program, consisting of workshops and regular mentoring sessions. Through tailor-made mentorship, the workshops will offer know-how on diverse topics, including organizational development, sustainability and personal safety in the field. Additionally, the program also provides grant recipients an opportunity to network with their peers and build connections with the international community. This capacity development program is based on the Youth 360 approach developed by Search for Common Ground with UNAOC and other partners.


Since 2008, UNAOC has launched eight YSF editions and provided funding to youth-led organizations based in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe. To date, a total of 68 projects have been funded, reaching around 95,000 direct beneficiaries in 40 countries. In total, more than 1.7 million direct and indirect beneficiaries have been impacted over the past twelve years.

The projects funded by YSF target young people from various backgrounds: students, marginalized youth, minorities, youth in rural or urban areas, youth in conflict or post-conflict situations, artists and activists. The youth-led organizations employ creative methodologies to break stereotypes, improve intercultural relations and promote a culture of peace, including:

– Educational activities, ranging from one-day awareness raising sessions to week-long trainings, peer-education activities, summer camps, as well as development of educational materials and tools and creation of networks of student leaders and youth clubs;

– Arts and sports as tools to address conflict in a non-violent way, to promote inter-community understanding and to raise-awareness about the dangers of sectarianism, extremism and radicalization;

– Media and social-media campaigns, video production for advocacy purposes and radio series to promote messages of tolerance and peace;

– Creative settings that facilitate intercultural dialogue, interfaith understanding, sharing of experiences and learning from each other in order to bring meaningful change to their society.

Click here to start application process

(Editor’s note : The February 2021 newsletter of the UNAOC announces that “The call for applications for the ninth edition of UNAOC’s Youth Solidarity Fund recorded its highest submission rate with 1,508 applications from youth-led organizations representing 76 countries! UNAOC is now in the process of selecting a group of organizations that will have a chance to participate in capacity-building workshops provided by its project partner, Search for Common Ground. This new interactive component is introduced to strengthen the project proposals and widen the support provided to the youth organizations that invested their time and efforts in the application process.”)

Abolition 2000 Youth Network : Youth Fusion


Information and photo from Youth Fusion

Youth Fusion is a world-wide networking platform for young individuals, youth organizations & youth initiatives in the field of nuclear disarmament, risk-reduction and non-proliferation. Our focus spans the globe, engaging youth at national, regional and international levels through our programs, events and actions.

Youth Fusion highlights the links between disarmament, peace, climate action, public health and sustainable development, and builds connections and cooperation amongst people and organisations working on these inter-related issues.

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

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Youth Fusion organises forums and events for inter-generational dialogue, so that youth and those more experienced can listen and learn from each other and build cooperation for more effective policy action.

Our goals are clear: to inform, educate, connect  and  engage  our fellow students, young professionals, activists and enthusiasts. Through these activities, and as part of Abolition 2000 Network, we are contributing to the total abolition of nuclear weapons. 

Are you 35 or younger? Join the Youth Fusion network to receive our email newsletter plus aditional information on how to participate in youth events, projects and actions. Membership is free and there are no commitments! Join our network

Are you older than 35? Sign up for our email newsletter, support youth actions and engage in inter-generational dialogue. Subscribe to news

Are you an organisation? We’re looking to partner up with schools, universities, youth groups and NGOs, to collaborate on projects and help us reach more young people worldwide. Join as organisation