Category Archives: Europe

Germany: Collateral Crucifixion – Pressuring for Julian Assange’s Release!

EDUCATION FOR PEACE .

An article by Sabine Bock from Pressenza

The artist duo Captain Borderline has created on the theme of “Collateral Crucifixion” a huge, artistic mural on a complete house facade directly in front of the SPD headquarters, the Willy Brandt House, in Stresemannstr. 15 in Berlin Kreuzberg. In conversation with the two artists, they explained to us the reason for creating the revolutionary, crucifix-like work of art.


(Click on image to enlarge)

For almost 10 years, Julian Assange has been in captivity for exposing horrific, inhumane war crimes in an oil war that violated international law and for making his knowledge available to a broad public. The UN Special Investigator on Torture, Nils Melzer, has been the only neutral body to conduct serious research regarding these incidents.

He concludes that Julian Assange has become the victim of a huge show trial whose sole purpose is to show the media worldwide the limits of investigative journalism. The real issue in this legal case against Assange, then, is freedom of the press. Journalists and whistleblowers are being made to believe, through this witch hunt, that they will suffer the same fate should they report on the illegal machinations of the American or Western establishment and governments. How else can it be that powerful men like George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld can invade a country like Iraq for no reason, bomb it, and be responsible for the deaths of almost a million people with impunity, while a man like Assange, who merely publicizes these illegal machinations of the warmongers as a journalist and publisher, ends up in a maximum security prison for it. The responsible politicians, Bush and consorts, on the other hand, can enjoy their stolen wealth in their castles unmolested. That is why we demand the immediate release of Julian Assange from the British prison and to respect the freedom of the press.

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Questions for this article:

Do the arts create a basis for a culture of peace?, What is, or should be, their role in our movement?

Julian Assange, Is he a hero for the culture of peace?

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


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To help bring to light the truth behind the construct of lies of which Julian Assange has been a victim for many years, the artist duo Captain Borderline created and completed this revolutionary crucifix-like artwork with Julian Assange as the crucified of the media world on the complete house wall directly in front of the Willy Brandt House in Berlin Kreuzberg during the Holy Week before Easter.

Note

With the purchase of an art screenprint you support the non-profit art and culture association “Colorrevolution” e.V. in financing a huge (20m*10m), media-created mural of “Captain Borderline” with this motif directly in front of the Willy-Brandt-Haus in Berlin. https://assange.colorrevolution.de/

[Editor’s note: The artists of Captain Borderline are A. Signl, B. Shanti and Dabtar, as shown here: augsburger-skandal-zeitung.blogspot.com/2013/08/wer-hat-sich-das-alles-ausgedacht.html

Breizh, France: Women of Peace

. . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . .

An article by Geneviève Roy for Chroniques du 8 mars 2021 de Breizh Femmes

Sarah is a young peace activist from Rennes. To conclude the evening programmed in video a few days ago by the Mouvement de la Paix , she described the citizen actions carried out by her generation as less collective than those of their elders. “We try to seek peace from day to day through dialogue, exchanges, travel. Our outlook is different because for most of us we have not known a war first hand.” Impressed by the words of the various women who testified from one end of the planet to the other, she deplored the lack of commitment of young people “caught up in everyday life” in a society “where everything goes fast”.


These women were not lacking in enthusiasm when recounting their commitments for peace. However, “women’s work for peace is neither visible nor valued,” regretted Croatian journalist Shura Dumanic, relating the loneliness of activists in her country who do not receive any support from the state and can only count on NGOs or European religious associations.

“If we don’t start with the children, we will never guarantee the existence of peace or equality”

From Nabila the Palestinian to Birgitta the German via Mina in Algeria or Fatema in Morocco, all their voices praised the strength of women in this difficult fight for peace.
“When civil society acts effectively to promote the goals of peace” – recalled Birgitta Meier from Erlangen – “women are always in the forefront”. And it is for this reason that Mouvement de la Paix had chosen this year again to highlight them on the occasion of the month of March devoted in Rennes to women’s rights.

For many of them, building peace requires education. In Gaza, Nabila Kilani, English teacher and founder of an educational and cultural center, says: “If we don’t start with children, we will never guarantee the existence of peace or equality.” And she seems to have started well. She initiated her project in 2009 with two children and now welcomes 120! “We are reopening the minds of children to give them hope for a better future for themselves and for all of Palestine”.

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(Click here for the original article in French.)

Questions related to this article:

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

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For her part, the Japanese Miho Shimma fights relentlessly against nuclear weapons, choosing among other things, to address children. “One day I saw French children playing atomic warfare,” she says; that’s how her book l’Enfant Bonheur was born, now published in French but also translated into English, Italian, German and even an Indian language.

“Women are the first victims of global warming in many countries”

Women who work for peace also do so for more equality. In Germany, Birgitta Meier testifies, the peace movements work in convergence with the feminist movements and also the environmental movements. “We cannot do peace education without showing the role that women play in advancing these ideas, but without also approaching environmental movements since women are the first victims of global warming in many areas countries”.

Feminism and the environment was also discussed by Mina Cheballah who is leading a project in Algeria with feminist activists working with women farmers. “The culmination of the project is the safeguarding of ancestral seeds by the creation of a community seed bank in order to allow farmers to no longer depend on the big firms which force them to buy seeds every year.”

International firms also indicted by Miho Shimma in the name of her commitments to the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki but also to the Bikini Atoll where she is from and which still bears the after-effects of the American nuclear tests of the 1970s. “When I disseminate information on atomic bombs, I am not only talking about the victims of nuclear weapons, I am also talking about the victims of nuclear tests.”

It’s the same concern for Tran to Nga. “I was under the bombardments, I buried comrades with my own hands.” 80 years old, she does not stop fighting against Agent Orange, responsible in Vietnam for many deaths and malformations still present on the site. fourth generation of population. “I started out on my own”, she says, referring to the too long trial that has occupied her for ten years – “but today I have thousands and thousands of friends around me all over the world, and my fight will continue because Agent Orange is the ancestor of pesticides and other toxic products which continue to poison our Earth.”

These determined women, despite the magnitude of the task, retain their enthusiasm in their struggle for peace. And which is perfectly illustrated by the conclusion of young Sarah: “for me, peace today is promoting social ties because it is the ignorance of other cultures which leads if not to war at least to fractures between human beings. . Unfortunately, I feel that this sense of combat is lost a bit with my generation when we could bring our skills to associations.” An observation which is perhaps already the beginning of a commitment.

Belarus: Women at the forefront of human rights struggle

. . HUMAN RIGHTS . .

An article from Amnesty International

Women who have played prominent roles in the protests sweeping Belarus are subject to reprisals and threats, Amnesty International said today. In a new publication, the organization highlights the important role women activists have played in the protests after widely contested presidential elections and reveals state reprisals against them.


Women activists told Amnesty International that they had been accused of being “bad mothers” and “bad wives”, and that the authorities had threatened to take their children away from them. They have also faced ill-treatment in detention, and prison sentences resulting from unfounded criminal prosecutions.

“Svyatlana Tshikhanouskaya, a presidential contender forced into exile, Maryia Kalesnikava, her chief of staff thrown into prison, Marfa Rabkova, a jailed human rights defender, and journalists Katsyaryna Bakhvalava and Darya Chultsova, both imprisoned for two years for livestreaming of a protest action – these are some of the many women whose names have become synonymous with the struggle for freedom and human rights in Belarus,” said Aisha Jung, Amnesty International’s Senior Campaigner on Belarus. 

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Click here for an article on this subject in French)

Questions related to this article:

How effective are mass protest marches?

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

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“In a deeply patriarchal society with endemic domestic violence, women in Belarus have risked everything to stand up for their beliefs. The Belarusian authorities have retaliated with measures intended to target women activists, and their organizations and families.”

Yuliya Mitskevich, a feminist activist who runs a gender-awareness organization called Aktyunym Byts Faina (It’s Great to be Active), and who is a member of a sub-group of the opposition Coordination Council, Femgruppa, was arrested on Friday 20 October 2020 outside the offices of her organization.

Yuliya was officially charged with “participation in an illegal gathering,” but she told Amnesty she believed she is being persecuted for her work on gender equality. The police officers who arrested Yuliya, and criminal investigators who interrogated her, asked her to sign a statement saying that she had taken part in illegal actions in her organizational role. 

“They offered me incentives and threatened me too. The first time they asked about Femgruppa, and about the women’s marches and finances, but the second time they were interested in my organization,” Yuliya told Amnesty International. 

“We call for solidarity with the brave women of Belarus in their fight for freedom and human rights. In their struggle, they are challenging patriarchal attitudes and a repressive government intent on suppressing human rights and stifling the change and progress that Belarusians are calling for,” said Aisha Jung. 

Background 

Amnesty International’s   global solidarity campaign was launched on 27 January 2021, with the publication of a  report  revealing how the Belarusian authorities have weaponized the justice system to punish survivors of torture rather than perpetrators. The organization produces regular publications that highlight how different sectors of Belarusian society are being targeted. Belarus is currently experiencing the most egregious clampdown on human rights in its post-independence history. Amnesty International activists around the world will participate in various actions to demonstrate their solidarity with peaceful protesters in Belarus. 

Spain: First-person testimonies: this is how we fight for gender equality by activism and participation

. . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . .

An article from Toledo Diario (translation by CPNN)

The fight for gender equality is global and transversal. Mutual support, collaboration networks and alliances are essential for the achievement of rights that in some countries have advanced more than in others. For all this, activism and social participation have become a powerful tool that Development NGOs now want to show as an example of these global actions.


Image by Antonio Cansino from Pixabay

The multimedia project “Weaving Alliances for Gender Equality” has as its objective to collect, both online and in a printed publication, about fifteen projects around the world. It has been prepared by the Coordinator of NGOs in Castilla-La Mancha in collaboration with groups from various countries and with the support of the Women’s Institute of this autonomous community. And the result is dozens of testimonies to learn, raise awareness and fight for this International Women’s Day, and every day of the year.

This project is part of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that constitute the roadmap to achieve sustainable development where “no one is left behind”, especially SDG 5, which seeks to achieve equality between gender and empower all women and girls by 2030.

The Coordinator highlights that in a context of global inequality, the alliances between local and regional governments, NGDOs, local counterparts, unions, universities and citizens, are needed to promote the principles of the 2030 Agenda and enhance its most transformative elements. “These alliances reinforce the capacities of governments, civil organizations and citizens that defend human rights; they sensitize and mobilize the commitment and involvement of citizens towards sustainable development and promote effective actions to combat inequalities ”.

(Click here for the original article in Spanish.)

Questions related to this article:

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

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

The proof is this multimedia project, where we can hear from its protagonists first-hand.

One of them is Elena Emperatriz Santiso, participant in the SOLMAN and ADICOMAR equality project for the empowerment of women, to improve their economic independence and know their rights. Various trainings adapted to the context were designed to empower women, to improve economic independence and to know their rights. These training in dressmaking, beauty or hairdressing, accompanied by training in rights, not only allowed for greater economic independence, but women began to recognize that they had rights and, if they were violated, there were legal mechanisms to report them. Click here for her testimony in Spanish

Another testimony is that of the Alianza de Mujeres en el Corredor del Cribe Project, in which SodePaz participates, and which develops within the framework of an agreement between non-governmental organizations of the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba to address issues related to the social and solidarity economy from an environmental perspective. It incorporates the cultural and gender dimension, and everything that implies sustainable development in that region. Olita Jean is a participant in this initiative in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world. Here is her testimony in Spanish.

Oxfam Intermón develops the “Together We Victory” initiative to support Colombian women who fight for the protection of civil rights and the environment. In this context, women defenders, rural women, involved in a reality of inequality, risk and abuse in the exploitation of natural resources of their land, are united in the Platform for Political Advocacy of Rural Women of Colombia. They can obtain support from Oxfam Intermón to raise their voice and increase the visibility of their actions and the dangers they face. Thanks to this campaign, a joint circular has been signed for the first time between the different control entities of the Government of Colombia to guarantee the rights of rural women. In it, public servants are urged to comply with the regulations that are already in place and whose non-compliance will generate disciplinary actions. Laura Victoria Gómez Correa, from the Right to Equality Program in Colombia, speaks. Here is her testimony in Spanish.

Nurses for the World is the protagonist of another of the initiatives of these alliances. It is about their work in the fight and prevention of human trafficking for sexual exploitation in Bolivia. In the last workshop “It’s about you”, held within the framework of the II International Forum “Toledo, Culture of Peace”, the proposal was very well received and the people who initially attended out of curiosity, ended the workshop being more aware the meaning, causes and consequences of human trafficking and smuggling. Miriam Montero Gómezes technician of Nurses for the World projects speaks here in Spanish.

Finally, the Assembly for Cooperation for Peace (ACPP) contributes to this project the experience of the women protagonists in 2011 of the so-called Arab Spring. They raised their voices to demand social and political improvements that would consolidate human rights. With them, this NGO works in the Maghreb, to support and strengthen civil movements and associations that promote women’s rights, so that they are the engine of change in their countries. Anna Rispa is a reference of the Assembly of Cooperation for Peace in the Maghreb. Here is her testimony in Spanish.

International Women’s Day : Images from Europe and Asia

. WOMEN’S EQUALITY .

An article from the Los Angeles Times

Women across Europe and Asia shouted their demands for equality, respect and empowerment Thursday to mark International Women’s Day, with protesters in Spain launching a 24-hour strike and crowds of demonstrators filling the streets of Manila, Seoul and New Delhi.


An artist paints a message on a wall in Sana, Yemen, to mark International Women’s Day. (Yahya Arhab / EPA/Shutterstock; A.M. Ahad / Associated Press)


During a Women’s Day rally in Dhaka, Bangladesh, men hold placards highlighting violence against women. (Yahya Arhab / EPA/Shutterstock; A.M. Ahad / Associated Press)

Spain

Spanish women were staging dozens of protests across the country against the wage gap and gender violence. In Barcelona, protesters disrupting traffic into the city center were pushed back by riot police.

In Madrid, hundreds of women gathered in its central square to demand change. Teresa Sonsur, a 38-year-old social services agency worker, said she wanted to end workplace discrimination.


The 731 crosses at Forti de Vinaros beach in Castellon, Spain, represent women who died in gender-related violence since 2007. (Domenich Castello / EPA/Shutterstock)


A young woman in Barcelona attends a protest during a one-day strike for women’s rights. Right, riot police surround women on a Barcelona street during the general strike for International Women’s Day. (Lluis Gene / AFP/Getty Images)

Turkey


Women gather as they shout slogans and flash the V-sign for victory during a demonstration to mark International Women’s Day in Diyarbakir, (Turkey. Ilyas Akengin / AFP/Getty Images)

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Questions for this article

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

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Asia

Across Asia, women came out to mark the day. In China, students at Tsinghua University used the day to make light of a proposed constitutional amendment to scrap term limits for the country’s president. One banner joked that a boyfriend’s term should also have no limits, while another said, “A country cannot exist without a constitution, as we cannot exist without you!”


Pakistani women rally in Karachi to mark International Women’s Day. (Shahzaib Akber / EPA/Shutterstock)


In Manila, Filipinas hold a march to mark the day and to protest President Rodrigo Duterte’s human rights abuses. (Jes Aznar/Getty Images


South Koreans supporting the #MeToo movement wear all black to rally in Seoul. (EPA/Shutterstock)

Russia

International Women’s Day is a public holiday in Russia, but opposition presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak was one of only a few demonstrators in Moscow.


A member of the Russian feminist movement attends a rally dedicated to the struggle for women’s rights and against the patriarchate in St. Petersburg, Russia. Anatoly Maltsev / EPA/Shutterstock

(Editor’s note: For other photos from India, Turkey, Indonesia, Nepal, Japan, Kazakhstan, Philippines, Pakistan, Germany, Kosovo, Italy, Romania and France, see the report in Al Jazeera.)

France: The Affair of the Century and the March of the Century: Historic Victory for the Climate!

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article from CDURABLE (translation by CPNN)

Two years after this incredible mobilization [March of the Century – See CPNN March 17, 2019], justice has just recognized that the state’s climate inaction is illegal and that it is a fault under its responsibility.

Four associations, Notre Affaire à Tous, the Foundation for Nature and Humanity, Greenpeace France and Oxfam France decided, in the name of the general interest, to take the French state to court so that it respects its commitments climate and protects our lives, our territories and our rights. This is the Affair of the Century.

<
Video, Historic Victory for the Climate

This is a historic victory for the climate! And this victory is thanks to you, thanks to the 2.3 million people who support the Affair of the Century.

The Paris administrative court issued its long-awaited judgment in the Affair of the Century on Wednesday, February 3, 2021. After two years of mobilization and twists and turns, the courts recognize the responsibility of the French state in the climate crisis!

It is a historic day, especially at this time when opportunities for rejoicing are so rare. The state is held responsible for ecological damage, and its failure to meet its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is now illegal!

With this judgment, as of now, direct victims of climate change in France will be able to claim compensation. The state can therefore expect to face unprecedented pressure to finally act against climate change.

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(Click here for the original article in French

Question for this article:

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

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However, the story of the Affair of the Century is not yet over. The court must now decide whether to order the state to take further steps to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and meet its climate commitments. A new hearing will take place in the spring.

Until then, we will file new arguments to demonstrate that the actions planned by the state are insufficient and that justice must force the state to fight effectively and concretely against climate change! The state can also appeal these decisions. And that does not prevent us from already celebrating this decisive step for climate justice!

With this extraordinary judgment, as of today, direct victims of climate change in France will be able to seek redress from France. The state will therefore face unprecedented pressure to finally act against climate change.

And now ?

The legal process is not over. The court must now decide whether to order the state to take further action to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and meet its climate commitments. A new hearing will take place in the spring. Until then, we will submit new arguments to demonstrate that the planned actions are insufficient and that justice must force the state to effectively and concretely fight against climate change! The state can also appeal against these decisions.

How can you act?

Share the video of this historic victory with your loved ones, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, send them this email … Together, today, we have achieved a crucial victory in the face of the climate emergency. But it is not over, the mobilization must continue to force the state to act.

Thank you for your commitment to climate justice,

Clotilde, Cécile, Jean-François Cécile.

Spain: The Nonviolence Collective disseminates ‘Amanda’s comic’, an educational project for peace aimed at children and young people

. EDUCATION FOR PEACE .

An article from El Faradío (translation by CPNN)

The Nonviolence Collective, an open and plural space in Cantabria where various initiatives for a culture of peace and nonviolence are developed, has launched a new promotion campaign for the »Amanda Comic», an educational project for peace for children and youth.

The campaign is designed especially to be launched on January 30 in educational centers, which is the School Day of Peace and Nonviolence, especially from 4th grade of Primary Education to 2nd grade of Compulsory Secondary Education.

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

Question related to this article:
 
What is the best way to teach peace to children?

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The comic was born in 2017 during the Noviolencia2018 campaign which lasted 3 years. Since then it has been downloaded countless times for free and has sold more than 15,500 copies for 1 euro, in full color paper format.

“Amanda’s trip” touches on some of the most exciting adventures that human beings have lived over the last century.

The Nonviolence collective is the natural continuation of the campaign and continues to take charge of this legacy.

Orders are available at info@colectivonoviolencia.org only in Spanish, but it is available for free download in English, French, Arabic, Polish, Valencian, Catalan, Basque and Galician, a work that has been developed by the same group. Similarly, there is the possibility of translating into a new language with orders of more than 1000 copies.

In the following link, both the comic for download and different pedagogical materials are freely available for work in the classroom, at home or in non-formal and informal education spaces: https://www.colectivonoviolencia.org/comic-el-viaje-de-amanda-2/ .

Spain: 259 educational centers in Almería take part in network “School as a Space for Peace”

. EDUCATION FOR PEACE .

An article from Diario de Almería (reprinted for non-commercial purposes)

52% of Andalusian schools supported with public funds are taking part in the Andalusian School Network: Espacio de Paz, an initiative launched by the Ministry of Education and Sports that aims to promote the improvement of the Plan for school coexistence. The network promotes self-training and the sharing of resources, experiences and initiatives for school coexistence and the promotion of a culture of peace.

In the province of Almería, 259 schools and institutes are developing measures and actions this year 2020-21 in one of the six proposed areas of action:

– improvement from the management and organization of the center;

– promotion of values, attitudes, skills and habits of positive coexistence;

– prevention of risk situations;

– educational intervention in the face of difficulties and conflicts;

– how to repair the damage and restore coexistence;

– or promote measures of involvement and participation of the entire educational community.

Question for this article:

Where is peace education taking place?

More than 53,000 teachers and around 650,000 male and female students from all over Andalusia participate in this initiative that involves all sectors of the educational community.

Initiatives of conflict mediation, assistant students, cyber-assistants, shared tutorials and conflict resolution and social skills workshops are some of the initiatives that are developed in the centers for the care and improvement of school coexistence.

There are two forms of participation in the network, the single-center modality that involves the participation of an educational center individually, and the inter-center modality that implies the coordinated participation of several centers, preferably from the same educational area, facilitating joint planning of actions and shared proposals. In Almería 22 centers are enrolled in inter-center projects.

In addition, 725 centers of the “Andalusian School Network: Space for Peace” have obtained recognition as centers promoting positive coexistence (Coexistence +), through a voluntary external assessment process that values ​​the effort made by the centers in the improvement of coexistence and the promotion of democratic values. 82 educational centers in Almería have been recognized as promoters of Coexistence +.

(Click here for the original Spanish version).

France: Gatherings in Front of the National Assembly and the Embassies of the Nuclearized Countries

DISARMAMENT & SECURITY .

An article from Mouvement de la Paix

Celebration of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, let’s go!

With the initiative of the National Collective “En Marche pour la Paix”, on January 21, 2021, demonstrators gathered near the French National Assembly and in front of the embassies of the 4 other nuclear-weapon States and permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (Russia, USA, Great Britain, China – a group of States often referred to as the “P5”). An official letter was delivered to each of the embassies requesting an appointment.


Photo from Roland Nivet

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

Question related to this article:
 
Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

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Messages of solidarity came from organizations all over the world: support from India, Mexico, the US, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Algeria, Tunisia, Croatia, Portugal, Belgium, Russia, Peru, Canada, Germany… Thank you to our friends, activists from all continents!

Message from ICAN International, Nobel Peace Prize 2017, message from Paul Quilès, President of Initiatives pour le Désarmement Nucléaire (IDN).

Among those present were Jean-Paul Lecoq, MP and author of the information report of the National Assembly on the Theme “Nuclear Weapons in the World” (Democratic and Republican Left Group), support of Europe Ecologie Les Verts (EELV). Also present was Gérard Levy, animator of the EELV’s “Peace and Development” commission.

Representatives and activists came from numerous organizations: Le Mouvement de la Paix, Initiatives pour le Désarmement Nucléaire (IDN), AFCDRP, Appel international des scientifiques pour le désarmement nucléaire, MRAP, Femmes solidaires, Appel des cent de Bagnolet , PCF dont 3 représentants du département Relations internationales, Enseignants pour la Paix, Artistes pour la paix, Cgt, Génération verte, Bureau international de la Paix (BIP), Juristes démocrates, réseau international « Jeunes Visages de Paix ».

The appeal of 21 organizations was published on January 20, 2021 in the newspaper La Croix.

All together, to rid the world of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction!

All together, united for PEACE!

Geneva has become an incubation hub for citizen initiatives

TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY .

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 swissinfo.ch 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?

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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 swissinfo.ch,  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.