In memoriam: Walid Slaïby, co-founder Academic University College for Non-Violence & Human Rights (Lebanon)


An article from the Global Campaign for Peace Education (translated by The Global Campaign for Peace Education from the original French version by Anne-Marie El-HAGE in L’Orient Le Jour , May 8, 2023)

He was one of those followers of non-violence who made Lebanese society and the Arab world better. A thought that he developed during the civil war, in the same way as secularism, in reaction to the destructive consequences of the Lebanese intercommunity conflict on the social fabric. Walid Slaïby is no more. He died on Wednesday, May 3 at the age of 68, overcome by a cancer that had been eating away at him for more than 20 years. His name, inseparable from that of his companion in life and struggle, the sociologist Ogarit Younan, will forever be linked to activism for the right to life within the framework of the fight for the abolition of the death penalty. Civil rights will also be at the heart of his fight for a Lebanese personal status law. Along with workers’ rights and social justice, from the early 1980s.

Walid Slaïby, follower of non-violence and death penalty abolitionist, died on May 3 at the age of 68. (Photo courtesy of Aunohr Media Services)
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An immense legacy

From his commitment to the service of Lebanon, he will leave an immense legacy. A multitude of books, publications, translations, bills, associations, tangible progress on the ground, always with Ogarit Younan. With the crowning achievement in 2015 of the Academic University College for Non-Violence & Human Rights (Aunohr), an educational institution dedicated to non-violence that continues to train generations of students, activists, trade unionists ready to take over. This course will see the duo rewarded several times, in particular by the Human Rights Prize of the French Republic in 2005, the Fondation Chirac Prize in 2019 and the Gandhi Prize for Peace awarded in 2022 by the Indian foundation Jamnalal Bajaj, named after the disciple of Mahatma Gandhi.

It is in his fight against the death penalty that Walid Slaïby initiated the most tangible progress. “He was a silent soldier against capital punishment. But his work was very important,” says Wadih Asmar, president of the Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH). After federating several associations around the National Campaign for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, the activist rallied part of the political and judicial class to the cause, during shock events that were highly publicized. In 1998, when two burglars, one of whom had committed a double murder, were hanged in Tabarja in the public square, he openly proclaimed during a nocturnal sit-in “mourning for the victims of the crime and for those of capital punishment “. As a result, the last executions date back to 2004 in Lebanon, even if justice continues to pronounce the death sentence. “Lebanon is now classified as a de facto abolitionist country. In 2020, for the first time in its history, it spoke out for a moratorium at the UN General Assembly, alongside 122 other states. A position recently reiterated”, welcomes former minister Ibrahim Najjar, a committed abolitionist. The lawyer did not personally know the deceased, but he said he was “respectful and admiring of the courage of Walid Slaïby and his companion Ogarit Younan, who behaved as convinced abolitionists”. “Because the fight is not easy. It is so easy to confuse revenge with capital punishment,” he points out. for the first time in its history, it came out in favor of a moratorium at the UN General Assembly, alongside 122 other states. 

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Questions related to this article:

Where in the world can we find good leadership today?

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A position recently reiterated”, welcomes former minister Ibrahim Najjar, a committed abolitionist. The lawyer did not personally know the deceased, but he said he was “respectful and admiring of the courage of Walid Slaïby and his companion Ogarit Younan, who behaved as convinced abolitionists”. “Because the fight is not easy. It is so easy to confuse revenge with capital punishment,” he points out. for the first time in its history, it came out in favor of a moratorium at the UN General Assembly, alongside 122 other states. A position recently reiterated”, welcomes former minister Ibrahim Najjar, a committed abolitionist. The lawyer did not personally know the deceased, but he said he was “respectful and admiring of the courage of Walid Slaïby and his companion Ogarit Younan, who behaved as convinced abolitionists”. “Because the fight is not easy. It is so easy to confuse revenge with capital punishment,” he points out. but he says he is “respectful and admiring of the courage of Walid Slaïby and his companion Ogarit Younan, who behaved as convinced abolitionists”. “Because the fight is not easy. It is so easy to confuse revenge with capital punishment,” he points out. but he says he is “respectful and admiring of the courage of Walid Slaïby and his companion Ogarit Younan, who behaved as convinced abolitionists”. “Because the fight is not easy. It is so easy to confuse revenge with capital punishment,” he points out.

For a Lebanese Personal Status Law

The personality of Walid Slaïby is no stranger to his great popularity. “Walid was a man of dialogue, attentive to his friends. It is through debate and acceptance of the other that he succeeded in laying the foundations of the culture of human rights in Lebanon, and in particular of non-violence”, affirms Ziad Abdel Samad, friend of the couple, engineer and teacher in political science. “Despite the divisions of Lebanese society, he managed to go beyond the militias and the borders to lead an avant-garde struggle and achieve remarkable progress”, he observes, referring to the efforts of the deceased to raise awareness among young people and bring closer Lebanese of different faiths and backgrounds. It is also in the institutionalization of the fight that Walid Slaïby drew his strength. “When I met him in the early nineties, he organized human rights training against religious discrimination, remembers activist Rima Ibrahim. Despite his illness, he never stopped dreaming of changing Lebanese society, to the point of institutionalizing the fight.

Several associations were then created, linked to the Lebanese Association for Civil Rights (LACR), notably Chamel and Bilad. In 2011, the militant couple launched their campaign to demand a Lebanese law on personal status which advocates, among other things, civil marriage. In Lebanon, family laws are governed by religious communities. They discourage inter-religious unions and discriminate against women. “For the occasion, we organized a sit-in and set up a tent for 10 months, place Riad el-Solh, in downtown Beirut. We have also prepared a bill,” recalls Rafic Zakharia, lawyer, teacher and member of the association. Signed by MP Marwan Farès, the text is presented to Parliament and transferred to the joint commissions. “The law has not been adopted. But our mobilization has never weakened”, assures the activist, whose “life has changed” since he met Walid Slaïby. “Non-violent thinking has become a way of life for me, not just a fight,” observes this death penalty specialist.

The happiness of having given hope to the Lebanese

The militant, the thinker, the humanist endowed with superior intelligence and a good dose of humor left with modesty and elegance, as he has always lived. “Walid Slaïby was both a great humanist and a man of science. Very solid in his convictions, he was flexible when it came to discussing. Never giving lessons, he was not a man to show off, but on the contrary was very discreet, ”describes the lawyer and former minister Ziyad Baroud, member of the board of directors of Aunhor, who knows him. for over 25 years. Multi-graduate, the disappeared was indeed a civil engineer (ESIB), a graduate in physics (UL) and in economics (AUB). Studies he completed with a DEA in social sciences (UL),

He will be missed by human rights defenders, starting with abolitionists around the world who pay tribute to him and his companion. “It was a star of light and reason in a world of shadow and madness”, sums up Raphaël Chenuil-Hazan, director general of the international association ECPM (Together against the death penalty). “With Ogarit, they formed this incredible duo who have devoted their lives for more than 40 years for a modern Lebanon”, he continues, congratulating himself on having had “the chance to send him love before his death of the abolitionist community around the world. Walid Slaïby will especially be missed by his alter ego, his soul mate, Ogarit Younan, with whom he was to celebrate 40 years of love and activism. “We were expecting the weather to improve a bit. We wanted a nice party. We didn’t think he was so close to death. He loved life so much. He had so much humor,” she regrets sadly. And if the disease occupied a good half of their life together, he will at least have had “the happiness of serving his country and giving hope to the Lebanese”. “Lebanon must be happy, we have served it, consoles Ogarit Younan. But if Walid had not fallen ill, without a doubt, Lebanon would have been different…”

Colombian Civic Leader Offers a Grassroots Strategy for Peace


An article from the United States Institute of Peace

Nine months into new efforts by Colombia’s administration to achieve “total peace” with remaining armed groups following decades of civil war, that process should make room for the nation’s thousands of grassroots and community organizations to strengthen peace locally when the fighting stops, says a prominent civic leader from one of the country’s most violent regions. Stabilizing Colombia, where migration toward the United States and other countries soared last year, will require steady support from U.S. and international partners, said Maria Eugenia Mosquera Riascos, who helps lead a Colombian network of 140 civic and community organizations working to end violence.

President Gustavo Petro vows to expand Colombia’s implementation of a six-year-old peace accord with what was the country’s largest rebel group, and his administration has begun pursuing accords with other armed groups. Yet “the government cannot make peace alone,” thus a major initiative is needed from civil society, Mosquera Riascos said in an interview. Mosquera Riascos traveled from her home in Colombia’s economically impoverished and violent Pacific coastal region to Washington this month; she met U.S. officials and peacebuilding practitioners focused on Latin America after having last year received USIP’s Women Building Peace Award.

Mosquera Riascos’ struggle for peace carries resonance well beyond Colombia’s borders. Helping Colombia achieve lasting peace is integral to reducing the mass migrations across Latin America that are fueled notably by violent conflicts, poverty, and environmental damage, and to shrinking drug trafficking that exploits Colombia’s instability. U.S. officials counted more than 125,000 Colombians among those stopped at the U.S. southern border in 2022, up from about 6,000 the prior year.

In 2016, “after the peace accord was signed” with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), “the world got the impression that Colombia was now at peace,” Mosquera Riascos said through an interpreter. “But we can’t speak about a ‘post-conflict’ Colombia because the conflicts continue.”

Implementation of the accord has lagged for years, she noted. Modest improvements in rural governance, plus development programs and land distribution to rural populations, were meant to stabilize impoverished rural communities by helping people, including former guerrillas, pursue nonviolent ways to earn adequate incomes. But those changes came slowly and were never fully resourced.

“After the [2016] accord, we expected that state institutions would come and fill the voids” of governance across the rural regions where FARC had ruled, Mosquera Riascos said. Instead, “many different armed groups have filled those voids,” fighting for territory and control over illicit commerce that FARC once ran. Land distribution has operated in reverse in areas where those with arms or money have seized holdings from small farmers. The battles for rural control have included a surge in deforestation, violence and impoverishment in Colombia’s Amazon and Pacific coastal regions.

Colombia’s Violence: A Grassroots View

Mosquera Riascos helps lead a network called Communities Building Peace in Colombia (or CONPAZCOL) from her home region on the Pacific coast. In rural areas, Colombia’s main armed groups — the National Liberation Army rebel group (or ELN), the paramilitary Gulf Clan (also known as Gaitanistas) and dissident factions of the former FARC — are fighting to control lucrative smuggling routes for cocaine or illicitly extracted minerals or other natural resources, Mosquera Riascos said.

In the region around her home city of Buenaventura, these armed groups “have locked down entire communities along the rivers — many of them Indigenous people — preventing them from going out to fish or farm.” The combatants have forced some communities to leave the region altogether, she said. Violence in Buenaventura includes urban gangs that seek to profit from cocaine or other contraband that can be smuggled through its seaport, one of Colombia’s busiest.

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Questions related to this article:

What is happening in Colombia, Is peace possible?

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The Pacific region is a center of Colombia’s Black population, descendants of the country’s former African slaves, and of the poverty that makes Colombia “one of the most unequal countries in the world,” according to the World Bank. Armed groups threaten or kill civilians, many of them Afro-Colombians, whose land or compliance they want, Mosquera Riascos said. Gunmen seize people “who simply disappear,” she said.

The new government of President Petro “offers a lot of hope that we can now make better progress” on peace, Mosquera Riascos said. A signal of that hope, she said, is that Vice President Francia Marquez is an environmental and human rights activist — and the first Afro-Colombian to hold such a senior office. Afro-Colombians heavily supported this government’s election last year, Mosquera Riascos noted. Along with the Pacific region they are receiving heightened attention that she hopes will extend to support for the efforts of grassroots peacebuilders.

Seeking Better Strategies for Peace

To advance peace, the government will need broad support from both Colombia’s grass roots and its international partners, Mosquera Riascos emphasized. A top priority in coming months needs to be a national process of dialogues among Colombia’s thousands of community-level civil society organizations, she said. Groups working to build peace, justice, rule of law, economic development and the rights of marginalized ethnic groups, women, LGBTQ communities and victims of the war’s violence all need “to unify and synergize our proposals for working with this government,” she said. “We need to be able to say to the administration, ‘we are the civil society, and this is our proposal to support your program and build a real peace.’ That can help make progress toward peace sustainable.”

Petro has promised to pursue a “total peace” by seeking negotiated agreements with armed groups nationwide. A recent government estimate counted four major organizations and 23 urban gangs with more than 17,600 members, including more than 7,000 active combatants. The Petro administration quickly opened peace talks with the largest remaining rebel group, the National Liberation Army, and offered a new year’s truce with the paramilitary Gulf Clan, which pursues drug trafficking and operates as the de facto government in swaths of Colombia. The government halted that truce after 11 weeks because of what it said were the group’s continued attacks on police.

Mosquera Riascos voices support for the government’s overarching goal but stresses that too broad or unfocused an effort risks failure. She seeks a calibrated strategy across Colombia’s widely varied landscape of conflicts, many of them localized. In Washington, she met nongovernment organizations and U.S. officials focused on Colombia, urging a strategy that focuses first on localities where the conditions are most ripe for progress, with state capacities reinforcing civil society and local peacebuilders — an approach she calls “comprehensive peace.”

Why put local peacebuilders at the fore in this process? Mosquera Riascos gave examples of how such activists can use their local roots to build the customized initiatives required to advance peace in their localities — and can do so at lower cost than outsiders. One such effort, the Casas de Madre, has built six community-based dialogue centers across the country that host representatives of disparate groups that are key to local peacemaking, and who otherwise have no safe and organized place to meet. Local dialogue projects are vital not simply to lay foundations for peace but also to offer hope of better options to youth who are readily recruited by combatant groups, Mosquera Riascos said.

USIP has similarly found over decades that community-level dialogues are cost-effective tools for building peace. A series of dialogues in areas of Colombia previously ruled by the FARC rebels helped strengthen governance in areas that faced rising insecurity and other challenges amid a relative power vacuum following the 2016 peace accord. Courageous, creative local civic and government leaders are pursuing such projects, which can reinforce the conditions for peace and strengthen the country’s social fabric and trust in government.

While Colombia requires leadership from its grass roots to stabilize from the longest civil war in the western hemisphere, that process will require broad, sustained support from the United States and other international partners, Mosquera Riascos said. For one thing, Colombia’s government already “cannot afford the [financial] costs of the commitments in the 2016 peace accord,” she noted.

President Petro’s reception in Washington last month, when he met President Joe Biden, “was extremely important to us,” Mosquera Riascos said, “and we need the strong diplomatic support for the peace program to continue.” The presidents “discussed the ways to build peace and also to protect the environment” — twin efforts that need to advance in tandem, she said.

International organizations should bolster their focus on human rights in Colombia, particularly on continued threats and assassinations targeting civic leaders like herself who stand up to armed groups and powerful interests. International recognition of frontline peacebuilders, such as the USIP award she received last year, provides an “umbrella” of protection for those at risk, Mosquera Riascos said, and facilitates financial and moral support for their work. Especially, she added, Colombia’s partners should sustain their support for the country’s energetic peacebuilding efforts by women. Women struggled for years to achieve an unprecedented level of recognition and influence in Colombia’s peacemaking that has made the process a model for other countries in conflict.

Brazil President Lula’s speech to the G7


A publication by the Government of Brazil

(Editor’s note; News media in the US and Europe headlined the decisions of the G7 countries (US, UK, Canada, France, Italy, Germany and Japan) in their recent meeting in Hiroshima that supported Ukraine president Zelensky and that attacked the “economic coercion.” of China and Russia. They fail to mention the following alternative vision presented at the meeting by Brazilian President Lula.)

In the official photo, the President of Brazil was placed between the Presidents of the Comores and Vietnam, while the President of the United States was placed between the Presidents of Canada and France

Hiroshima is a propitious setting for a reflection on the catastrophic consequences of all types of conflict. This reflection is urgent and necessary. Today, the risk of nuclear war is at its highest level since the height of the Cold War.

In 1945, the UN was founded to prevent a new World War. However, the multilateral mechanisms for conflict prevention and resolution no longer work.

The world is no longer the same. Traditional wars continue to break out, and we see worrying setbacks in the nuclear non-proliferation regime, which necessarily will have to include the dimension of disarmament.

Nuclear weapons are not a source of security, but an instrument of mass destruction that denies our own humanity and threatens the continuity of life on Earth.

As long as nuclear weapons exist, there will always be the possibility of their use.

For this reason, Brazil was actively engaged in the negotiations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which we hope to be able to ratify soon.

In line with the United Nations Charter, we strongly condemn the use of force as a means of dispute settlement. We condemn the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

At the same time, as fighting continues, the human suffering, loss of life and destruction of homes increase.

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Questions related to this article:

Where in the world can we find good leadership today?

Latin America, has it taken the lead in the struggle for a culture of peace?

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I have repeated to exhaustion that it is necessary to talk about peace. No solution will last unless it is based on dialogue. We need to work to open room for negotiations.

At the same time, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the challenges to peace and security currently plaguing the world go far beyond Europe.

Israelis and Palestinians, Armenians and Azerbaijanis, Kosovars and Serbs need peace. Yemenis, Syrians, Libyans and Sudanese all deserve to live in peace. These conflicts should receive the same degree of international attention.

In Haiti, we need to act quickly to alleviate the suffering of a population torn apart by tragedy. The scourge to which the Haitian people is subject is the result of decades of indifference to the country’s real needs. For years, Brazil has been saying that Haiti’s problem is not just one of security, but, above all, one of development.

The gap between these challenges and the global governance we have continues to grow. The lack of a reform of the Security Council is the unavoidable component of the problem.

The Council is more paralyzed than ever. Permanent members continue the long tradition of waging unauthorized wars, whether in pursuit of territorial expansion or in pursuit of regime change.

Even without being able to prevent or resolve conflicts through the Council, some countries insist on expanding its agenda more and more, bringing in new themes that should be dealt with in other bodies of the UN system.

The result is that today we have a Council that does not deal with the old problems, nor the current ones, much less the future ones.

Brazil has lived in peace with its neighbors for over 150 years. We made Latin America a region without nuclear weapons. We are also proud of having built, together with African neighbors, a zone of peace and nuclear non-proliferation in the South Atlantic.

We are witnessing the emergence of a multipolar order that, if well received and nurtured, can benefit all.

The multipolarity that Brazil seeks is based on the primacy of International Law and the promotion of multilateralism.

Re-enacting the Cold War would be foolish.

Dividing the world into East and West or North and South would be as anachronistic as it is innocuous.

It is necessary to break with the logic of exclusive alliances and false clashes of civilizations.

It is urgent to reinforce the idea that cooperation, respecting differences, is the right path to follow.

Thank you very much.

Mexico: Guanajuato as the epicenter of the culture of peace


An article from Gobierno del Estado de Guanajuato ( translation by CPNN)

For the State Government it is a pride to announce that the city of León will host the First Ibero-American Meeting of Voices for Peace and the First Ibero-American Meeting of Journalism for Peace, to take place from June 1 to 3 at the Cultural Forum.

This was stated at a press conference by the State Government Secretary, Jesús Oviedo Herrera; “Promoting the Culture of Peace will always be a priority; it is a task of great importance where society and government must work together,” he added.

The General Coordinator of State Social Communication, Alan Sahir Márquez Becerra, stressed that Guanajuato will become the epicenter of the culture of peace in Mexico and Latin America.

In organizing these events, the Government of the State of Guanajuato joins efforts with the Civil Association Somos Iberoamérica Periodismo por la Paz -SOIPAZ-, with the purpose of bringing together global leaders and journalists from around the world to deliver their messages for peace, he added. .

The President of Somos Iberoamérica Periodismo por la Paz, Jorge Robledo Vega, thanked the State Government for its hosting and for its commitment to promoting the culture of peace.

Achieving world peace is a prevailing necessity in the face of the intolerance and violence that are multiplying in all corners of the planet, he pointed out.

He explained that the program of activities expects the participation of voices such as: Shirin Ebadi, Activist for human rights and democracy and the first Muslim woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and from Colombia Andrés Pastrana, former president of Colombia with a doctorate from the Center for International Affairs of Harvard University.

In addition, Alberto Pelaez, journalist, novelist, columnist, speaker, correspondent for 20 wars, as well as the Mexican journalist Pablo Latapí, will participate.

The General Director of Tv4, Juan Aguilera Cid, highlighted the importance of the issue of peace as one of the guiding principles of the State Government with the presence of leaders and journalists for peace.

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(Click here for the original Spanish version of the article)

Questions related to this article:

Journalism in Latin America: Is it turning towards a culture of peace?

Is there progress towards a culture of peace in Mexico?

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For TV 4 it is a pleasure to receive and support this initiative that combines the passion of communication with journalism and emphasizes our social responsibility, he added.

In these events, analysis tables and workshops will be including Journalism for peace, investigative journalism, documentary journalism and digital journalism.

From Spain: Ana Barrero, Journalist and Director of the Culture of Peace Foundation in Madrid and President of the Spanish Association for Peace Research (AIPAZ) will participate in the workshops and analysis tables. From Chile will be Gonzalo E. Cáceres, Co-Founder of Deutsche Welle TV in Germany.

From Mexico: Luis Miguel González, Editorial Director of the newspaper El Economista, Daniel Moreno, Director and founder of the digital portal Animal Político, Francisco García Davish, Director and founder of the information agency QUADRATÍN. Also directors of Código Magenta as well as journalists from local, national and international media will be present.

Eréndira Saldaña Quintero, President of the Voces por la Paz Organizing Committee, commented that the program also includes a cycle of conferences in a TED-type format with topics related to peace, journalism, inclusion and human development.

Likewise the First Ibero-American Meeting of Journalism for Peace will be the setting for the delivery of the Grandeza de Mexico award, to journalists from Guanajuato, whose careers have transcended borders.

Today we extend the invitation to all representatives of the media, committed communicators, opinion leaders and journalists to join us in these two days of work, aware that in our words we have the power of peace, the power of the culture of peace, he said.

To promote the culture of peace, we must work with the new generations, therefore, it is essential to include the youth of Ibero-America. For this the meeting will include the space “A thousand young people for peace/” It will be addressed by Roberto Martínez, author of three bestselling books, content creator and host of the Creativo podcast with over 11 million followers on social media.

The meeting will mark the entity of Guanajuato as a pioneer in the meeting of Ibero-American personalities in favor of peace Through this meeting, global leaders and journalists of the world will showcase unity for Peace.

The complete program of activities can be consulted through the web portal and the soipazoficial social networks, all events will be free.

Antonio de Jesús Navarro Padilla, General Director of the Institute for the Development and Care of Youth of the State of Guanajuato, stressed that young people of Guanajuato and other entities that attend this Ibero-American Meeting will be a fundamental part of the meeting and each one will be able to become an ambassador of peace, bearing positive messages.

“From Guanajuato, for Mexico and Ibero-America, we will seek to plant in the collective consciousness the importance of promoting a culture of peace, with examples of great young talents honoring our State and our country,” he added.

Finally, the Secretary of Government on behalf of the Governor of the State, Diego Sinhue Rodríguez Vallejo, reiterated that it is an honor for Guanajuato to host these events that will become an ideal setting for the exchange of experiences, information and actions promoting peace.

16 May: International Day of Living Together in Peace


An article from the United Nations

United in differences and diversity

Living together in peace is all about accepting differences and having the ability to listen to, recognize, respect and appreciate others, as well as living in a peaceful and united way.

The UN General-Assembly, in its resolution 72/130, declared 16 May the International Day of Living Together in Peace, as a means of regularly mobilizing the efforts of the international community to promote peace, tolerance, inclusion, understanding and solidarity. The Day aims to uphold the desire to live and act together, united in differences and diversity, in order to build a sustainable world of peace, solidarity and harmony.

Doves are released during the “Flame of Peace” ceremony in which arms were destroyed to mark the beginning of the country’s disarmament and reconciliation process in Bouake, Côte d’Ivoire. PHOTO: ©UN /Basile Zoma

The Day invites countries to further promote reconciliation to help to ensure peace and sustainable development, including by working with communities, faith leaders and other relevant actors, through reconciliatory measures and acts of service and by encouraging forgiveness and compassion among individuals.

Question for this article:

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


Following the devastation of the Second World War, the United Nations was established to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. One of its purposes is to achieve international cooperation in solving international problems, including by promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.

In 1997, the General-Assembly proclaimed – by its resolution 52/15  — the year 2000 as the “International Year for a Culture of Peace”. In 1998, it proclaimed the period 2001-2010 as the “International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for Children of the World.”

In 1999, The General-Assembly adopted, by resolution 53/243, the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, which serves as the universal mandate for the international community, particularly the United Nations system, to promote a culture of peace and non-violence that benefits all of humanity, including future generations.

The declaration came about as a result of the long-held and cherished concept — contained within the Constitution of UNESCO — that “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.” The Declaration embraces the principle that peace is not merely the absence of conflict, but also requires a positive, dynamic participatory process, in which dialogue is encouraged and conflicts are resolved in a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation.

The Declaration also recognizes that to fulfill such an aspiration, there is a need to eliminate all forms of discrimination and intolerance, including those based on race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.

Cuba urges to make culture a Development Goal


An article by Alina Ramos Martin from Prensa Latina

Unesco’s proposal to turn culture into an objective of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was one of the most heard demands at the Havana Convention Palace.

Culture ministers and high-ranking officials from the member countries of the Group of 77 plus Cuba, who attended the meeting, reiterated the initiative launched last year at the World Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, held last September in Mexico.

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Questions related to this article:

Where in the world can we find good leadership today?

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The Havana event coincided in the transcendental value demonstrated by culture in the face of the challenges of Covid-19 and how it helped as a source of resilience and solidarity to face the isolation during the pandemic.

In this regard, the Venezuelan Minister of Culture, Ernesto Villegas, endorsed the statements made at the meeting and called for the promotion of respect for diversity and national cultures.

On the need to promote culture as an essential global public good, China’s Vice Minister of Culture Li Qun highlighted his government’s global civilization initiative in defense of the traditions, heritage and history of all peoples.

Colombia’s Vice Minister of Development and Heritage, Adriana Molano, urged the promotion of more inclusive alliances based on culture, through diverse solutions that make it possible to face current challenges.

She highlighted her country’s experience in resolving the armed conflict through a culture of peace, which is making it possible to transform imaginaries and society and fight against all forms of inequity.

Hilmar Farid, Minister of Education and Culture of Indonesia, said that the excessive commercialization of culture has had serious negative consequences on respect for the various artistic expressions, their creators and national traditions.

Meanwhile, Anarella Vélez of Honduras explained what her government is doing to confront the hegemonic attempts of big capital and the right wing and to develop culture so that it can be consolidated as a cornerstone of its policy of good living.

Leaks Reveal Reality behind U.S. Propaganda in Ukraine


An article by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies in TRANSCEND Media Service

The U.S. corporate media’s first response to the leaking of secret documents about the war in Ukraine was to throw some mud in the water, declare “nothing to see here,” and cover it as a depoliticized crime story about a 21-year-old Air National Guardsman who published secret documents to impress his friends. President Biden dismissed the leaks as revealing nothing of “great consequence.”

Leaked document predicts a “protracted war beyond 2023.” Image credit: Newsweek

What these documents reveal, however, is that the war is going worse for Ukraine than our political leaders have admitted to us, while going badly for Russia too, so that neither side is likely to break the stalemate this year, and this will lead to “a protracted war beyond 2023,” as one of the documents says.

The publication of these assessments should lead to renewed calls for our government to level with the public about what it realistically hopes to achieve by prolonging the bloodshed, and why it continues to reject the resumption of the promising peace negotiations it blocked in April 2022.

We believe that blocking those talks was a dreadful mistake, in which the Biden administration capitulated to the warmongering, since-disgraced U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and that current U.S. policy is compounding that mistake at the cost of tens of thousands more Ukrainian lives and the destruction of even more of their country.

In most wars, while the warring parties strenuously suppress the reporting of civilian casualties for which they are responsible, professional militaries generally treat accurate reporting of their own military casualties as a basic responsibility. But in the virulent propaganda surrounding the war in Ukraine, all sides have treated military casualty figures as fair game, systematically exaggerating enemy casualties and understating their own.

Publicly available U.S. estimates have supported the idea that many more Russians are being killed than Ukrainians, deliberately skewing public perceptions to support the notion that Ukraine can somehow win the war, as long as we just keep sending more weapons.

The leaked documents provide internal U.S. military intelligence assessments of casualties on both sides. But different documents, and different copies of the documents circulating online, show conflicting numbers, so the propaganda war rages on despite the leak.

The most detailed assessment of attrition rates of troops says explicitly that U.S. military intelligence has “low confidence” in the attrition rates it cites. It attributes that partly to “potential bias” in Ukraine’s information sharing, and notes that casualty assessments “fluctuate according to the source.”

So, despite denials by the Pentagon, a document that shows a higher death toll on the Ukrainian side may be correct, since it has been widely reported that Russia has been firing several times the number of artillery shells as Ukraine, in a bloody war of attrition in which artillery appears to be the main instrument of death. Altogether, some of the documents estimate a total death toll on both sides approaching 100,000 and total casualties, killed and wounded, of up to 350,000.

Another document reveals that, after using up the stocks sent by NATO countries, Ukraine is running out of missiles for the S-300 and BUK systems that make up 89% of its air defenses. By May or June, Ukraine will therefore be vulnerable, for the first time, to the full strength of the Russian air force, which has until now been limited mainly to long-range missile strikes and drone attacks.

Recent Western arms shipments have been justified to the public by predictions that Ukraine will soon be able to launch new counter-offensives to take back territory from Russia. Twelve brigades, or up to 60,000 troops, were assembled to train on newly delivered Western tanks for this “spring offensive,” with three brigades in Ukraine and nine more in Poland, Romania and Slovenia.

But a leaked document from the end of February reveals that the nine brigades being equipped and trained abroad had less than half their equipment and, on average, were only 15% trained. Meanwhile, Ukraine faced a stark choice to either send reinforcements to Bakhmut or withdraw from the town entirely, and it chose to sacrifice some of its “spring offensive” forces to prevent the imminent fall of Bakhmut.

Ever since the U.S. and NATO started training Ukrainian forces to fight in Donbas in 2015, and while it has been training them in other countries since the Russian invasion, NATO has provided six-month training courses to bring Ukraine’s forces up to basic NATO standards. On this basis, it appears that many of the forces being assembled for the “spring offensive” would not be fully trained and equipped before July or August.

(Article continued in the column on the right)

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

(Article continued from the column on the left)

But another document says the offensive will begin around April 30th, meaning that many troops may be thrown into combat less than fully trained, by NATO standards, even as they have to contend with more severe shortages of ammunition and a whole new scale of Russian airstrikes. The incredibly bloody fighting that has already decimated Ukrainian forces will surely be even more brutal than before.

The leaked documents conclude that “enduring Ukrainian deficiencies in training and munitions supplies probably will strain progress and exacerbate casualties during the offensive,” and that the most likely outcome remains only modest territorial gains.

The documents also reveal serious deficiencies on the Russian side, deficiencies revealed by the failure of their winter offensive to take much ground. The fighting in Bakhmut has raged on for months, leaving thousands of fallen soldiers on both sides and a burned out city still not 100% controlled by Russia.

The inability of either side to decisively defeat the other in the ruins of Bakhmut and other front-line towns in Donbas is why one of the most important documents predicted that the war was locked in a “grinding campaign of attrition” and was “likely heading toward a stalemate.”

Adding to the concerns about where this conflict is headed is the revelation in the leaked documents about the presence of 97 special forces from NATO countries, including from the U.K. and the U.S. This is in addition to previous reports about the presence of CIA personnel, trainers and Pentagon contractors, and the unexplained deployment of 20,000 troops from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Brigades near the border between Poland and Ukraine.

Worried about the ever-increasing direct U.S. military involvement, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz has introduced a Privileged Resolution of Inquiry to force President Biden to notify the House of the exact number of U.S. military personnel inside Ukraine and precise U.S. plans to assist Ukraine militarily.

We can’t help wondering what President Biden’s plan could be, or if he even has one. But it turns out that we’re not alone. In what amounts to a second leak that the corporate media have studiously ignored, U.S. intelligence sources have told veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh that they are asking the same questions, and they describe a “total breakdown” between the White House and the U.S. intelligence community.

Hersh’s sources describe a pattern that echoes the use of fabricated and unvetted intelligence to justify U.S. aggression against Iraq in 2003, in which Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Sullivan are by-passing regular intelligence analysis and procedures and running the Ukraine War as their own private fiefdom. They reportedly smear all criticism of President Zelenskyy as “pro-Putin,” and leave U.S. intelligence agencies out in the cold trying to understand a policy that makes no sense to them.

What U.S. intelligence officials know, but the White House is doggedly ignoring, is that, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, top Ukrainian officials running this endemically corrupt country are making fortunes skimming money from the over $100 billion in aid and weapons that America has sent them.

According to went to Kyiv to meet with him. Burns allegedly told Zelenskyy he was taking too much of the “skim money,” and handed him a list of 35 generals and senior officials the CIA knew were involved in this corrupt scheme.

Zelenskyy fired about ten of those officials, but failed to alter his own behavior. Hersh’s sources tell him that the White House’s lack of interest in doing anything about these goings-on is a major factor in the breakdown of trust between the White House and the intelligence community.

First-hand reporting from inside Ukraine by New Cold War has described the same systematic pyramid of corruption as Hersh. A member of parliament, formerly in Zelenskyy’s party, told New Cold War that Zelenskyy and other officials skimmed 170 million euros from money that was supposed to pay for Bulgarian artillery shells.

The corruption reportedly extends to bribes to avoid conscription. The Open Ukraine Telegram channel was told by a military recruitment office that it could get the son of one of its writers released from the front line in Bakhmut and sent out of the country for $32,000.

As has happened in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and all the wars the United States has been involved in for many decades, the longer the war goes on, the more the web of corruption, lies and distortions unravels.

The torpedoing of peace talks, the Nord Stream sabotage, the hiding of corruption, the politicization of casualty figures, and the suppressed history of broken promises and prescient warnings about the danger of NATO expansion are all examples of how our leaders have distorted the truth to shore up U.S. public support for perpetuating an unwinnable war that is killing a generation of young Ukrainians.

These leaks and investigative reports are not the first, nor will they be the last, to shine a light through the veil of propaganda that permits these wars to destroy young people’s lives in faraway places, so that oligarchs in Russia, Ukraine and the United States can amass wealth and power.

The only way this will stop is if more and more people get active in opposing those companies and individuals that profit from war–who Pope Francis calls the Merchants of Death–and boot out the politicians who do their bidding, before they make an even more fatal misstep and start a nuclear war.

FARC dissident group says to start peace talks with Colombian government in May


An article by Julia Symmes Cobb published by Reuters

Dissident FARC rebels who rejected a landmark peace agreement in 2016 said on Sunday (April 16) they are ready to set up a dialogue with the government on May 16 to begin peace talks to bring their group, the Estado Mayor Central (EMC), out of the armed conflict.

Nestor Gregorio Vera Fernandez, alias Ivan Mordisco, head of the Central General Staff of the FARC dissidents, attends a meeting with peasant communities in Yari, Colombia April 16, 2023. REUTERS/Mario Quintero

Leftist President Gustavo Petro – a former member of the urban guerrilla group M-19 – pledged to end six decades of an armed conflict that has left more than 450,000 dead by signing peace or surrender agreements with rebels and criminal gangs, in addition to fully implementing the pact with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The EMC is one of two breakaway factions of the FARC and is made up of former leaders and fighters who did not accept the peace deal, which allowed in 2016 the reincorporation into civilian life of 13,000 people who formed a political party and received 10 seats in Congress.

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Questions related to this article:

What is happening in Colombia, Is peace possible?

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“We announce before the whole world that our delegates to the dialogue table with the Colombian state, headed by the national government, are already ready for May 16 of this year,” Ángela Izquierdo, spokeswoman for the armed group, told journalists.

There were no immediate comments from government officials.

Attorney General Francisco Barbosa suspended arrest warrants against more than 20 EMC members in early March, which facilitated the start of peace talks to be held in the Llano del Yari, on the border between the departments of Meta and Caqueta, in the south of the country.

The group, made up of 3,530 people – 2,180 combatants and 1,350 auxiliaries – has maintained a bilateral ceasefire with the Colombian government since the beginning of the year.

The other dissident FARC faction is the Segunda Marquetalia, which in August 2019 returned to the armed struggle, claiming that the state failed to comply with the peace agreement.

Petro’s government reestablished peace talks with the rebels of the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the two parties seek to advance towards a bilateral ceasefire agreement in a third round of talks to begin soon in Cuba.

United Nations International Year of Dialogue as a Guarantee of Peace, 2023 


An article from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

On 27 January 2023, the official launch ceremony of 2023 as the International Year of Dialogue as a Guarantee of Peace took place at the Institute of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan in Ashgabat. This official ceremony brought together over 200 representatives from the UN Member States, UN sister agencies including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Regional Office for Central Asia, relevant international and regional organizations, and civil society in person and online.

The year 2023 was declared as the International Year of Dialogue as a Guarantee of Peace, according to the resolution 77/32 of the United Nations General Assembly at the initiative of Turkmenistan.

This resolution was adopted by consensus and was co-sponsored by 68 member countries of the Organization, including all countries of Central Asia.

Turkmenistan underlines that the initiative directly correlates with the António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General’s “New Agenda for Peace”, which includes reducing global strategic risks, investing in conflict prevention and peacemaking, and supporting regional preventive measures.

Question for this article:

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

Vepa Hajiyev, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan in his opening remarks noted: “Today we are starting a joint results-oriented work to create conditions for improving and developing international relations, restore trust in the world politics, and establish a respectful dialogue. Currently, these principles and goals are particularly relevant against the background of the existing systemic problems of international relations. In this context, we see a common task in turning the International Year of Dialogue as a Guarantee of Peace into a powerful constructive process designed to provide an incentive for dialogue, cooperation, and mutual understanding”.

Ashita Mittal, UNODC Regional Representative for Central Asia in her speech emphasized: “While the World, and the region, in particular face the triple crisis of conflicts, climate change and COVID, magnifying the impact of the world drug problem, organized crime and terrorism, and deepening vulnerabilities and desperation, we in Central Asia need to join our efforts to strengthen peace, stability, and security in the region, especially through negotiations and dialogue.”

During the event, UN sister agencies, national and international participants presented their initiatives and proposals to observe the International Year of Dialogue as a Guarantee of Peace, shared information on activities aimed at implementation of the International Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace.

“The promotion of the international partnership, which is the basis of the UN Charter and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, is fundamental in preserving peace and security, supporting, developing and ensuring human rights. That’s why the adopted Resolution of the UN General Assembly, which calls for the development of dialogue as a valuable tool for resolving and preventing conflicts, alleviating tensions and settling disputes, is of particular value to us,”- highlighted Dmitry Shlapacheko, UN Resident Coordinator in Turkmenistan in his speech.

Following the official launch ceremony, the high-level participants adopted a Roadmap for the International Year of Dialogue as a Guarantee of Peace.

Chinese proposal of principles for a peace settlement of the Ukraine War and reactions around the world


A press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Peoples Republic of China

(Editor’s note: Here is the proposal of principles for a peace settlement of the Ukraine War as published by the Chinese government, presented by the Chinese President Xi to Russian President Putin during his recent visit, and scheduled to be presented virtually by him to Ukraine President Zelensky. While it lists the principles needed, it does not consider whether Russia must give back some of the territories it has seized during the war.)

China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis
2023-02-24 09:00

1. Respecting the sovereignty of all countries. Universally recognized international law, including the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, must be strictly observed. The sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries must be effectively upheld. All countries, big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, are equal members of the international community. All parties should jointly uphold the basic norms governing international relations and defend international fairness and justice. Equal and uniform application of international law should be promoted, while double standards must be rejected. 

2. Abandoning the Cold War mentality. The security of a country should not be pursued at the expense of others. The security of a region should not be achieved by strengthening or expanding military blocs. The legitimate security interests and concerns of all countries must be taken seriously and addressed properly. There is no simple solution to a complex issue. All parties should, following the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security and bearing in mind the long-term peace and stability of the world, help forge a balanced, effective and sustainable European security architecture. All parties should oppose the pursuit of one’s own security at the cost of others’ security, prevent bloc confrontation, and work together for peace and stability on the Eurasian Continent.

3. Ceasing hostilities. Conflict and war benefit no one. All parties must stay rational and exercise restraint, avoid fanning the flames and aggravating tensions, and prevent the crisis from deteriorating further or even spiraling out of control. All parties should support Russia and Ukraine in working in the same direction and resuming direct dialogue as quickly as possible, so as to gradually deescalate the situation and ultimately reach a comprehensive ceasefire. 

4. Resuming peace talks. Dialogue and negotiation are the only viable solution to the Ukraine crisis. All efforts conducive to the peaceful settlement of the crisis must be encouraged and supported. The international community should stay committed to the right approach of promoting talks for peace, help parties to the conflict open the door to a political settlement as soon as possible, and create conditions and platforms for the resumption of negotiation. China will continue to play a constructive role in this regard. 

5. Resolving the humanitarian crisis. All measures conducive to easing the humanitarian crisis must be encouraged and supported. Humanitarian operations should follow the principles of neutrality and impartiality, and humanitarian issues should not be politicized. The safety of civilians must be effectively protected, and humanitarian corridors should be set up for the evacuation of civilians from conflict zones. Efforts are needed to increase humanitarian assistance to relevant areas, improve humanitarian conditions, and provide rapid, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access, with a view to preventing a humanitarian crisis on a larger scale. The UN should be supported in playing a coordinating role in channeling humanitarian aid to conflict zones.

6. Protecting civilians and prisoners of war (POWs). Parties to the conflict should strictly abide by international humanitarian law, avoid attacking civilians or civilian facilities, protect women, children and other victims of the conflict, and respect the basic rights of POWs. China supports the exchange of POWs between Russia and Ukraine, and calls on all parties to create more favorable conditions for this purpose.

7. Keeping nuclear power plants safe. China opposes armed attacks against nuclear power plants or other peaceful nuclear facilities, and calls on all parties to comply with international law including the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS) and resolutely avoid man-made nuclear accidents. China supports the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in playing a constructive role in promoting the safety and security of peaceful nuclear facilities.

8. Reducing strategic risks. Nuclear weapons must not be used and nuclear wars must not be fought. The threat or use of nuclear weapons should be opposed. Nuclear proliferation must be prevented and nuclear crisis avoided. China opposes the research, development and use of chemical and biological weapons by any country under any circumstances.

9. Facilitating grain exports. All parties need to implement the Black Sea Grain Initiative signed by Russia, Türkiye, Ukraine and the UN fully and effectively in a balanced manner, and support the UN in playing an important role in this regard. The cooperation initiative on global food security proposed by China provides a feasible solution to the global food crisis.

10. Stopping unilateral sanctions. Unilateral sanctions and maximum pressure cannot solve the issue; they only create new problems. China opposes unilateral sanctions unauthorized by the UN Security Council. Relevant countries should stop abusing unilateral sanctions and “long-arm jurisdiction” against other countries, so as to do their share in deescalating the Ukraine crisis and create conditions for developing countries to grow their economies and better the lives of their people.

11. Keeping industrial and supply chains stable. All parties should earnestly maintain the existing world economic system and oppose using the world economy as a tool or weapon for political purposes. Joint efforts are needed to mitigate the spillovers of the crisis and prevent it from disrupting international cooperation in energy, finance, food trade and transportation and undermining the global economic recovery.

12. Promoting post-conflict reconstruction. The international community needs to take measures to support post-conflict reconstruction in conflict zones. China stands ready to provide assistance and play a constructive role in this endeavor.

Questions related to this article:

Reactions around the world

As expected and widely reported, the Chinese proposal was welcomed by Russia and Belarus and rejected by the United States and its NATO allies.

But what about the rest of the world.

The proposal was officially welcomed and supported by President Orban of Hungary and by the Minister of International Relations of South Africa. The support by Hungary was reported as headline news in Cuba and Niger. The South African support was echoed in columns published by the South African news sites Business Live and SABC news.

Writing from Brazzaville, Congo, the journal Adiac reported the remarks of the Chinese ambassador to that country by headlining “China offers ways out of the crisis in Ukraine.”

Many media around the world criticised the fact that the Chinese proposal failed to demand the return of regions seized by Russia, including Arab News published in Saudi Arabia, Jornada of Mexico and Utusan Malaya .

On the other hand, the Mexican commentator Javier Jiménez Olmos welcomed the proposal, saying that the return of regions seized by Russia is implied by the proposal’s recognition of Ukrainian sovereignty and its territorial integrity.

Other media simply said that the plan has no chance of success unless the Americans and NATO change their opposition, for example the Emirates Center for Policies and commentator Jamil Matar from Egypt.

In this regard, the editorial of the Business Standard of Bangladesh said that the American refusal shows that “America is losing influence and prestige globally” and Ahmed Al-Hiyari, writing from Jordan, said, All the items that China put forward in its paper have already been adopted by the Americans and Europeans through their positions towards the war in Ukraine, whether it is respect for the sovereignty of all countries and that all countries are equal, regardless of their size, strength or wealth, or abandoning the imposition of unilateral sanctions and renouncing the Cold War mentality, and stopping Fighting and conflict. . . . Nevertheless, the Americans and Europeans hastened to say that it did not amount to a plan, and at another time by questioning it. . . .The red line is that China is forbidden to succeed in Ukraine.

The Libyan media Tawasul headlined the remarks by the deputy spokesman for the United Nations Secretary-General, Farhan Haq, who said: “It is too early for the international organization to evaluate the Chinese peace proposal to end the war in Ukraine. We will need more details on the proposal in the first place.”

Some voices were more critical of the Chinese proposal.

Writing from India, Ranjit Kumar of the Navbgarat Times said that “The 12-point proposal put forward by China is heavily tilted in favor of Russia. . . Ukraine cannot accept China’s peace offer because the Russian army’s advance will turn into the Russia-Ukraine border if the ceasefire comes into force.

And writing from Indonesia, the news agency Inilah quotes the India-based EurAsian Times that the Chinese plan contradicts their own policy towards Taiwan, since the Chinese do not respect their sovereignty and have imposed sanctions against them.