Category Archives: global

Book Review: Frontlines of Peace


A book review by Dr Anurug Chakma from the Australian Institute of International Affairs (published under a Creative Commons License)

In her book, Séverine Autesserre investigates the persistence of an “unlikely peace” in certain conflict-ridden areas like Idjwi in Congo and Somaliland in Somalia. She argues that locally-led grassroots peacebuilding efforts uphold a unique peace in these regions.

Conflict arises from a multitude of factors, ranging from the absence of state presence throughout the territory, governance crises, democratic deficits, and pervasive violence to corruption, extreme poverty, unemployment, geographical location, and regional tensions. Despite these challenges, why does an “unlikely peace” prevail in certain parts of conflict-affected countries like Idjwi and Somaliland but not in other areas? Séverine Autesserre addresses this important question in her fascinating and insightful book.

Drawing from her extensive fieldwork spanning two decades across 12 conflict zones, including Congo, Somaliland, and Colombia, Autesserre argues that template-driven, outsider-led, and top-down international peacebuilding often emphasises governmental institutions, political leadership, and international interventions while neglecting the significance of locally-led grassroots peacebuilding efforts in sustaining peace in various conflict-affected countries.

Throughout her scholarly work, Autesserre has insisted on a “culture of peace” in communities like Idjwi, where strong taboos against violence are instilled from childhood. To prevent the escalation of local-level tensions, local people reach out to grassroots actors such as religious networks, traditional institutions such as mwamis (the traditional chiefs), and village chiefs and community groups instead of resorting to violence or asking for help from the police or the army.

In Somaliland, traditional governance and grassroots initiatives have led to peace, with local elders organising 39 peace conferences, with communities supporting them through hosting, financing, and providing security.

In Colombia, the residents of peace zones protect themselves by refusing cooperation with warring parties, remaining neutral and unarmed, and employing collective strategies to deter threats.

Similar peace zones are found worldwide, from Afghanistan, Bosnia, Fiji, and Indonesia to Mozambique, Northern Ireland, and the Philippines. The bottom line is that the involvement of government elites or institutions is not always required to control violence at the local level.

Superstitions also play a vital role in preventing local-level violence between different groups, a concept Autesserre defines as “alternative peacebuilding.” They act as a deterrent to violence from both insiders and outsiders, similar to spiritual and religious systems in other regions that discourage conflict. One notable example is the blood pact, a traditional ceremony where individuals in Idjwi pledge allegiance by exchanging blood, symbolising a commitment to never harm one another. Although this practice has diminished in recent years due to concerns about hygiene and modernisation, it retains deep respect within the community. The case of Idjwi, approximately equivalent in size to Malta and inhabited by 300,000 individuals, is noteworthy for its capacity to uphold peace amid the catastrophic conflict of Congo that has resulted in the loss of millions of lives. This highlights the considerable influence of these beliefs in preserving peace on Idjwi Island.

To highlight the crucial role of local participation in peacebuilding, the author references the peacebuilding strategy of the Life & Peace Institute (LPI) as an illustrative example. Initially, LPI adhered to the notion that external actors could lead peacebuilding efforts, but this approach proved counterproductive. LPI then shifted its approach to embrace the Participatory Action Research Method. In this revised approach, outside researchers, project implementers, and intended beneficiaries collaborated as co-investigators to collectively identify and address problems. They then engaged in multiple cycles of research, action, and reflection, empowering ordinary citizens to analyse community conflicts, agree on solutions, and implement them. LPI continuously monitored its actions, partners, and impacts, incorporating local advice and learning and adjusted strategies accordingly. Despite being messy, time-consuming, and unconventional, this process proved effective.

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Questions for this article:

How important is community development for a culture of peace?

What are the most important books about the culture of peace?

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Autesserre  discusses the many  drawbacks of international peacebuilding, often labelled as “top-down tyranny.” She remarks that time constraints, recruitment processes, and security protocols influence the effectiveness of template-oriented international peacebuilding. Most international peacebuilders don’t have time to understand the conflict, andtime constraints remain strong due to  the high turnover among staff within peacebuilding organisations, where diplomats, NGO personnel, peacekeeping contingents, and UN civilian employees frequently rotate every few months to a few years, preventing the development of a deep understanding of local dynamics. International interveners often travel from one conflict zone to another without adequately grasping the nuances of the situations they aim to address. In addition to this, peacebuilding organisations frequently recruit and deploy staff outside their area of expertise, undermining the relevance and impact of their interventions. Finally, strict security protocols enforced by headquarters contribute to the disconnect between foreign peacebuilders and local populations, hindering information collection essential for designing robust interventions.

Autesserre also notes that international interveners often neglect grassroots tensions, favouring top-down approaches guided by “liberal peacebuilding” principles. They impose the Western-led and donor-driven agenda that disregards the intricacies of local contexts and fosters a dependency on international aid, further exacerbating conflict dynamics. Driven by the stereotypes that external “experts” possess the solutions to conflicts, international interveners tend to overlook the expertise and perspectives of local populations. This approach, rooted in the Peace Inc. paradigm, underestimates the capabilities of local individuals, which often prove counterproductive.

The failure to understand local contexts for needs assessment leads to ineffective and sometimes absurd initiatives. For instance, in 2010 United Nations peacekeepers tried to protect civilians in Congo by distributing cell phones to point persons in some villages. In theory, the villagers would call the nearest peacekeepers if attacked, though in reality, there was no mobile internet access and no electricity to charge the devices.

International peacebuilding is affected by two further crucial factors: how the impacts of interventions are assessed and how the funds are released and distributed among intended beneficiaries. For evaluating their program impact, foreign peacebuilders and their donors prioritise quantifying the qualitative impact of their actions, neglecting local populations’ involvement in assessing success.

Another claim is that the flow of international aid incentivises participation in grassroots conflict resolution for financial gain rather than genuine peacebuilding, leading to numerous cases of “briefcase NGO” corruption. These examples add to the erosion of local peace infrastructures and, eventually, a legitimacy crisis in the eyes of local communities.

The lessons learned from Afghanistan, Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, and Timor-Leste illustrate that depending exclusively on top-down strategies leads to disastrous consequences. Similarly, relying solely on bottom-up approaches can only result in a fragile and temporary decrease in violence, as national leaders manipulate or interfere from neighbouring armed factions, thus undermining any local peace effort. Additionally, civilians do not possess the capability to overcome armed groups independently, nor do they have the necessary networks to establish peace across an entire nation.

Hence, peacebuilding success hinges on leveraging insiders’ and outsiders’ knowledge, perspectives, networks, and resources. For this reason, model and experienced peacebuilders, akin to Vijaya Priyadarshini Thakur, Déo Buuma, Urbain Bisimwa, and Banu Altunbas, understand the importance of bolstering and reinforcing local peace efforts rather than imposing a donor-driven peacebuilding agenda.

Hence, Autesserre suggests that foreign peacebuilders must challenge existing stereotypes such as the belief that outsiders always know best, the perception that local individuals are untrustworthy and incompetent, the notion that using standardised templates are beneficial, the belief that only top-down initiatives are necessary, the misconception that grassroots peacebuilding cannot occur during ongoing violence, and the idea that peacebuilding is always expensive and time-consuming. Their program needs to incorporate not only national elites but also local leaders, beneficiaries, and citizens. More importantly, long-term engagement is also crucial to deeply understanding the local context and building trust and credibility with local stakeholders, which is essential to make peacebuilding successful and sustainable.

This is a review Séverine Autesserre’s Frontlines of Peace (Oxford University Press 2021). ISBN: 9780197530351

Dr Anurug Chakma is a Research Fellow within the Migration Hub at the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) at the Australian National University (ANU), Canberra, Australia. For inquiries or further communication, Dr Chakma can be reached at 

The Rez of the Story: What is a culture of peace?


An article by Vince Two Eagles in the Lakota Times (located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, USA)

Yesterday, February 4th, was recognized as the “International Day of Human Fraternity by the United Nations.” The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres calls for we humans to “…reaffirm our commitment to bridging divides, fostering religious understanding and cooperation among people of all cultures and beliefs. Together, let us forge a path towards a more peaceful, just and harmonious work for all.”

The headline reads, “Human fraternity for peace and cooperation” on the UN website. The very valid question, “What is the culture of peace?” is asked and answered as follows:

“The culture of peace is a set of values, attitudes, traditions and models of behavior and ways of life based on:

1. Respect for life, ending of violence and promotion and practice of non-violence through education, dialogue and cooperation;

2. Full respect for the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of States and non-intervention in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law;

3. Full respect for and promotion of all human rights and fundamental freedoms;

4. Commitment to peaceful settlement of conflicts;

5. Efforts to meet the developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations;

6. Respect for and promotion of the right to development; Respect for and promotion of equal rights and opportunities for women and men;

7. Respect for and promotion of the right of everyone to freedom of expression, opinion and information;

8. Adherence to the principles of freedom, justice, democracy, tolerance, solidarity, cooperation, pluralism, culture diversity, dialogue and understanding at all levels of society and among nations; and fostered by an enabling national and international environment conducive to peace; (Source: A/ RES/53/243).”

The UN site goes on to state:”We need — perhaps more than ever before — to recognize the valuable contribution of people of all religions, or beliefs, to humanity and the contribution that dialogue among all religious groups can make towards an improved awareness and understanding of the common values shared by all humankind.”

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Question for this article:

Can the vision of a culture of peace help inspire action?

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“We also need to underline the importance of raising awareness about different cultures and religions, or beliefs, and the promotion of tolerance, which involves societal acceptance and respect for religious and cultural diversity, including with regard to religious expression. Education, in particular at school, should contribute in a meaningful way to promoting tolerance and the elimination of discrimination based on religion or belief.”

“Furthermore, we must acknowledge that tolerance, pluralistic tradition, mutual respect and the diversity of religions and beliefs promote human fraternity. Thus, it is imperative that we encourage activities aimed at promoting inter-religious and intercultural dialogue in order to enhance peace and social stability, respect for diversity and mutual respect and to create, at the global level, and also at the regional, national and local levels, an environment conducive to peace and mutual understanding.”

“Within that frame, the General-Assembly took note of all international, regional, national and local initiatives, as appropriate, as well as efforts by religious leaders, to promote inter-religious and intercultural dialogue, and in this regard took note also of the meeting between Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad al-Tayyib, on 4 February 2019 in Abu Dhabi, which resulted in the signing of the document entitled ‘Human fraternity for world peace and living together’.”

“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 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.”

“On 20 October 2010, the General-Assembly in resolutionA/RES/65/5 pointed out that mutual understanding and inter-religious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace and established World Interfaith Harmony Week as a way to promote harmony between all people regardless of their faith. It further recognized the imperative need for dialogue among different faiths and religions to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people.”

“At the core of all the faith systems and traditions is the recognition that we are all in this together and that we need to love and support one another to live in harmony and peace in an environmentally sustainable world. Our world continues to be beset by conflict and intolerance with rising numbers refugees and the internationally displaced in a hostile and unwelcoming world around them. We are also, unfortunately, witnessing messages of hate spreading discord among people. The need for spiritual guidance has never been greater. It is imperative that we double our efforts to spread the message of good neighborliness based on our common humanity, a message shared by all faith [and non-faith] traditions.”

“The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 4 February as the International Day of Human Fraternity, with resolution 75/200.”

And now you know the Rez of the story.

Doksha . . . (“see you later” in the Sioux language)

Fredrik S. Heffermehl (1938-2023)


An article by  Peter van den Dungen in World Beyond War

Norwegian peace activist and lawyer who waged a long campaign against the Norwegian Nobel Committee for not respecting the will of Alfred Nobel.
A growing unease that the persons Alfred Nobel had in mind as deserving winners of his peace prize were losing out and that the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s decisions were often failing to respect Nobel’s intentions (as expressed in his will), led Norwegian lawyer and peace activist Fredrik S. Heffermehl to start a campaign to oblige the Committee to bring its awards more in line with the requirements of the will. With considerable justification he argued that successive Committees had never undertaken a legal analysis of it (as regards the prize for peace) or considered the circumstances which had given rise to the prize.

Heffermehl, who has died at his home near Oslo on 21 December (only weeks after celebrating his 85th birthday on 11th November), was a leading member of the Norwegian peace movement, of the International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms (IALANA), and one-time vice-president of the International Peace Bureau (1910 Nobel laureate). As an active supporter of many public campaigns concerning the abolition of war, disarmament, peaceful conflict resolution, strengthening of the United Nations and international law, and global cooperation, he was well aware that the lack of funding inevitably limited the extent and success of such efforts in which mobilisation of large numbers of people is dependent on raising awareness, inspiring hope, and encouraging engagement. The contrast with the military establishment and the vast resources at its disposal could not be greater. This now consists of an increasingly out of control Juggernaut, the military-industrial complex that U. S. President Dwight Eisenhower (a World War II four-star general) had warned against in his 1961 farewell address to the American people. At the end of the 19th century Alfred Nobel had predicted a return to barbarity within a few decades if the powers that be failed to reform the international system so that recourse to war was no longer an option. Both world wars, and the countless wars since then and continuing today, have confirmed his premonition. For the second year in succession, the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists stands ominously at ninety seconds to midnight – a time of unprecedented danger.

The questions of what is peace, and who deserves what is widely regarded as the world’s most prestigious prize, are raised every October when the Norwegian Nobel Committee announces the name(s) of the new laureate(s). Another opportunity for further debate presents itself two months later when the award ceremony takes place in Oslo on 10th December, the day when Alfred Nobel died in 1896. The prize for what he called ‘champions of peace’ is one of five annual prizes that the Swedish inventor and successful entrepreneur included in his last will and testament drawn up the previous year. The will specified that most of his enormous wealth should be invested in a fund, the interest on which should be used to annually award prizes to those who have conferred ‘the greatest benefit on mankind’. Unlike the prizes for physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, and literature, the prize for peace was (and remains) controversial. Heffermehl was its most severe, persistent and passionate critic while also being the most eloquent interpreter of what the prize should have been and still could be.

There was already dismay among those in the know in 1901 (when the first prize was awarded) that Frédéric Passy, the grand old man of the French and international peace movement, had to share the prize with Henry Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross. The will specified that the peace prize should go to ‘the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses’. Although the work of the Red Cross is highly meritorious, whether it meets the criteria specified by Nobel is highly debatable. The prize was not meant for helping victims of war, but for efforts leading to its abolition. The same is true for awards that have honoured work promoting, e.g., human rights, freedom of the press, labour relations, food security, care for the environment.

It cannot be doubted that Nobel was greatly influenced by his friendship with the Austrian baroness Bertha von Suttner, author of the bestselling anti-war novel, Lay down your arms (1889) that was translated into most European languages. She wrote the novel after having learnt of the existence of a peace society (the International Arbitration and Peace Association, created in London in 1880 by Hodgson Pratt), in order to bring more people into the peace movement. Soon, she herself became a famous and highly respected leader of it. Money is the sinews of war, and she pleaded with Nobel that it was also the sinews of peace. She founded the Austrian Peace Society, co-founded the German Peace Society and was much involved in the annual conferences of the international peace movement that were held in the quarter century before World War I. Nobel frequently replied positively to her request for funding without which she would have been unable to pursue her work. In her penultimate letter, after Nobel had mentioned his poor health, she urged him to continue his support ‘even from beyond the grave’. It was widely known at the time that Nobel’s posthumous support for the peace movement (through the creation of a peace prize) was due to Bertha von Suttner who was widely expected to be the first recipient. She had to wait until 1905.

In a remarkable campaign stretching back nearly two decades and documented in many articles and several books (English editions in 2010 and 2023), Heffermehl argued that Nobel’s prize was meant to support the peace movement and also to allow young and talented idealists who were working towards a world without war not to have to worry about earning a living as well. In his most recent and highly original book, The Real Nobel Peace Prize: A Squandered Opportunity to Abolish War (see, he examined every award, and all nominations received by the Committee, through this lens, making extensive use of its archives.

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Questions related to this article:

Where in the world can we find good leadership today?

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His meticulous research resulted in a list in which more than half of all laureates (including presidents and foreign ministers) have been replaced by leading promoters of peace and international law. He demonstrated how, again and again, promising ideas and initiatives promoting disarmament, demilitarisation and the abolition of war have been overlooked in favour of work promoting, e.g., Norwegian foreign policy, or concerning areas which have only a tenuous link to the pursuit of world peace and a new global order of cooperation, not confrontation. Heffermehl also showed decisively that the Committee could not have been more wrong when, on fifteen occasions (excluding the years of World War II when Norway was occupied), it decided to make no award on the spurious ground that no candidate was considered qualified. There are no instances of this disreputable practice after 1972.

Heffermehl’s middle name was Stang; he was related to Fredrik Stang, a law professor who was also a leading politician as well as a chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee for almost two decades (1921-1940). Heffermehl attended the annual Nobel peace prize ceremony in Oslo for the first time in 1964 when Martin Luther King delivered his Nobel lecture. He was routinely invited to all ceremonies in future years but this came to an abrupt end when he started his campaign after having carefully examined Nobel’s testament. As recounted in great detail in his most recent book, he found the best peace ideas and people in the archives of the Norwegian Nobel Committee (because of the fifty-year secrecy rule, Heffermehl could only consult them for the period from 1901 until the early 1970s). However, they were often overlooked or deliberately sidelined when it came to choosing laureates. Although the United Nations was established ‘to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’ – which was also the objective of Bertha von Suttner and Alfred Nobel – that promise remains unfulfilled. The belief in security by military power continues to reign supreme, even in the nuclear age. A former Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman, Heffermehl observed that what he often found missing in the military sector was consumer protection. While arms and weapons are the most profitable of all markets, he found little truth in its promises of security. Indeed, he argued that the arms industry is selling solutions to problems that it actively creates. Nations respond to fear of other nations by making themselves more frightening, guaranteeing an endless upward spiral in both cost and danger.

Arguably Heffermehl had an over-optimistic view of the potential of the peace prize to materially contribute to the abolition of war (as long as it was awarded in accordance with the founder’s intentions). As he put it succinctly and memorably, ‘the prize that should have been and the world that could have been’.

More than ever, survival in the atomic era necessitates ‘the reduction and abolition of standing armies’ that Nobel stipulated and putting recourse to war (now with weapons of mass destruction) beyond the law. It is thanks to Heffermehl’s campaign that during the past fifteen years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee developed the habit of justifying its choice of laureate by indicating how it fulfils Alfred Nobel’s mandate – even though this frequently amounts to paying lip-service only. As part of his campaign, Heffermehl compiled every year a list of individuals and organisations known to have been nominated and entitled, in his estimation, to receive the prize. He criticised the secrecy surrounding the nomination process and encouraged greater transparency and wider participation. He also took issue with the selection process of the five members of the Committee: whereas knowledge of, interest in, and support for the peace movement should have been a condition to qualify for membership, these attributes have rarely been in evidence. Members are appointed by a committee of the Norwegian parliament in a way that reflects its political composition; membership of the Committee is regarded as a badge of honour but does not necessarily imply expertise. For a long time, members of the Committee were not only members of parliament but at times also prime minister, or foreign minister leading Heffermehl to quip, ‘The managers of the Norwegian military also managed the prize to abolish the military’.

Although the Committee dismissed his campaign as one man’s misguided obsession based on a misreading of Nobel’s will, he enjoyed the support of many legal scholars from Norway and beyond, and even from former justices of the Norwegian Supreme Court, including a former Chief Justice. It goes without saying that his campaign was also supported by leading representatives of the global peace and disarmament movement who, like Bertha von Suttner, are dependent on financial support without which progress is hard to achieve. Against the Committee, Heffermehl also drew on the fascinating private diaries of Gunnar Jahn, a jurist and leading politician, who was a member of the Committee for almost thirty years and who served as its chairperson for a quarter of a century (1941-1966). In his earlier book, The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted (2010), Heffermehl included long extracts, translated for the first time from the Norwegian, showing that on several occasions Jahn threatened to resign because he could not countenance the choice of candidate by fellow members. On such occasions, Jahn justified his unease, and preference for another laureate, by explicitly referring to the terms of Nobel’s will and finding that his colleagues were instead putting forward a candidate whose otherwise praiseworthy work had little to do with peace in the understanding of Alfred Nobel. In his diary Jahn complained that the other committee members were not the least interested when he mentioned Nobel.

In his forensic examination of Nobel’s will, Heffermehl was also able to draw on the insight of Ragnvald Moe, a long-serving secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. In a book that was unusual in tracing the history of the Nobel peace prize and of the peace movement from 1896 to 1930 (published in 1932 in French), Moe noted the changes Nobel had made pertaining to the prize for peace in his final testament compared with the previous version and concluded that they ‘more adequately cover the various aspects of the peace movement in the 1890s’.

Very recently Heffermehl’s campaign achieved an astounding climax when a former chairman of the Committee (2009-2015) declared that Nobel’s understanding of peace (and ‘champions of peace’) should be the guiding principle of the Committee and poses restrictions on the nature of the work that can be considered for the award. He is the prominent politician, Thorbjørn Jagland, a former Norwegian prime minister and foreign minister. In 2009 he combined the posts as Nobel committee chair and president of parliament, and afterwards combined being a committee member and secretary general of the Council of Europe. In his memoirs (2021), he wrote that ‘there can be no doubt that Alfred Nobel wanted the world to overcome nationalism and militarism. A new world order had to develop – he wanted to do something with the world. It is clear that the criteria in the will are restrictions on who the prize can be awarded to. It cannot be given to all people of good will who wish the best for humanity. The winners of the award must have a clear agenda which can be said to lead towards the goal of the abolition of militarism and nationalism and the formation of a new international order’. Heffermehl quoted Jagland’s words in his speech at an event in central Oslo last November launching The Real Nobel Peace Prize and rightly claimed that he had now an ally with impeccable credentials. It may well be that Jagland, eventually, had been persuaded by the case so tenaciously pursued by Heffermehl. Heffermehl said, ‘I wish to declare my war of sixteen years with the Nobel awarders over. We can proceed on the basis of a common interpretation’. It is ironic that only a few weeks later he passed away at this crucial turning point. It remains to be seen whether his campaign will have had a lasting impact on future decisions of the Nobel Committee.

Book review: The Real Nobel Prize


A CPNN book review

Frederik Heffermehl begins his book, “The Real Nobel Prize” with the words from the testament of Alfred Nobel: a prize “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for creating the brotherhood of nations, for the abolition of reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

Nobel tasked the Norwegian parliament to establish a five-member committee to award the prize.

The internal committee’s archives are available until 50 years ago, and for more recent years Heffermehl examined the reports from consultants and the committee’s shortlist to determine if Nobel’s intentions were respected. “It was a daunting task. The material is enormous. Fortunately, the Nobel Foundation, at its website, presents all laureates with a short essence of the reasons – under Facts.”

Considering the choices made by this committee over the years, Heffermehl says, “No doubt, the Norwegian committee has honored many fine people and purposes, humanitarian aid, democracy, resource conservation, the fight against poverty and child labor, for the environment, climate, human rights, education” but these do not correspond to Nobel’s testament as expressed above. Heffermehl concludes that only 36 awards over the 134 years pass the test.

If his Nobel’s will had been carried out correctly in recent years, Heffermehl argues that the prize could have gone to the following nominees:

2020: Federico Mayor, who created the Culture of Peace Programme at UNESCO.

2021: Julian Assange, who distributed to the world press “a huge and horrifying amount of revealing documents on US diplomacy and war crimes in Asia.”

2022: Alfred de Zayas, who “has become a leading, most prolific defender of improving global co-operation and “Building a Just World Order”, the title of his latest book.

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Question for this article:

What are the most important books about the culture of peace?

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Instead, the prize in 2020 went to the World Food Programme “for its efforts to combat hunger.”

The prize in 2021 went to Maria Ressa (Philippines) and Dmitry Muratov (Russia) “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression.” As Heffermehl says, “In 2021 the committee had several nominations asking it to help stop the probably deadliest onslaught against media feedom in human history”, e.g. Assange, “but the committee did not wish to embarass the US war machine. . . ”

In 2022, the prize went to three human rights advocates, Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, Memorial from Russia, and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties. “As was the case in 2021, all three laureates were financed generously by a tool for the US secret services, the National Endowment for Democracy. They used their acceptance speeches to ‘parrot US State Department:Pentagon talking points’, even directly asking the the Norwegian government for weapons. . . the prize was used to take sides in an ongoing war, instead of against all war and war culture.”

As a Norwegian citizen and scholar concerning the Nobel Prize, Heffermehl has tried to correct the work of the Nobel Prize Committee. He first published his critique in 2007. The first official response came in June 2008 from the speaker of the Norwegian parliament who argued that “Parliament has no power to instruct the Nobel committee.” A few months later he became a member of the committee.

Over the years, Heffermehl has continued to request the Parliament to nominate committee members who would respect Nobel’s testament, and several times he has been joined in his request by other specialists. However, the Parliament even voted against the idea that Nobel’s intention should count in the election of members for the Nobel Committee.

One should not give up, however, and the book provides an appendix on how to nominate, and how to get nominated for the Nobel Prize.

At the end of the book, after listing his many acknowledgements, Heffermehl concludes, “My warmest thanks . . . to the inspiring line-up of peacemakers I discovered in the archives of the Nobel Committee. It has been heartbeaking to follow how our society, blinded by militarism, so far has been unable to benefit from their wisdom and unselfish dedication to our common security and survival.”

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(Editor’s note: On December 12, two months ago, Frederik Heffermehl sent me an email, saying “Thanks for the fine contribution to the Vijay Mehta and David Swanson talk on the net Saturday. I think you should consider my latest book as a very useful tool for peace education and creating awareness of the vast and varied movement for a fundamental change of attitude to weapons and war – launched a month ago: The Real Nobel Peace Prize. I would like to send you a copy – but then will need your postal address.” In reply I sent him my address and then received a copy of his book in the post. I then wrote the above review and sent it to him for his additions and corrections. But I did not receive a reply, and recently learned that he died on December 23. An article about his life is reprinted here on CPNN.)

Press Release: Peace Starts Here – The Global Movement For Local Peacebuilders


A press release from Peace Starts Now

Today (January 31), a cohort of local peacebuilders from around the world launch Peace Starts Here, a global movement for peacebuilders. The campaigners are inviting people to sign a manifesto demanding that local peacebuilders be seen, heard, and better supported locally and globally. 

Peace Starts Here will highlight the effectiveness and necessity of local peacebuilding, while calling for more international support and educating the bigger system about the realities of local peacebuilding. It will also galvanise a movement for change in the sector.

Through a manifesto for change, this campaign aims to ignite a movement that will change the status quo. With five separate asks, the manifesto centres local peacebuilders, and calls on the wider sector to ensure they are supported to lead:

° Make space for local peacebuilders – Create more inclusive ways for local peacebuilders to lead, shape and influence the peace process in their regions.

° Fund more local peacebuilding efforts – Remove the barriers to funding for all genuine grassroots peacebuilding initiatives making a difference for local people, and proactively channel resources to local peacebuilders in communities closest to conflict.

° Support and strengthen local peacebuilders – Build the capacity and resilience of local peacebuilders so they can participate in sustainable peacebuilding and build trust with policymakers, funders and donors.

° Centre peacebuilding around local people – Invest in more human-centred, collaborative, and community-led approaches to global peacebuilding efforts, encouraging local peacebuilders to play an active role in decolonising the role of global actors.

° Learn from local peacebuilders – Promote successful local peacebuilding initiatives to aid learning, insight-sharing and collaboration in the wider peacebuilding sector.

Join the movement today by sharing your thoughts on the asks and signing the manifesto.

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Question related to this article:

How can we develop the institutional framework for a culture of peace?

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Backed by Peace Direct and now with the added support of United Network of Young Peacebuilders (UNOY) and Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP) Peace Starts Here is for local peacebuilders and by local peacebuilders.

Diana Ishaqat, one of the campaign’s co-creators and local peacebuilder, says:
“We are calling for the recognition of local voices for peace. It is us who navigate the consequences of conflict and violence; it is us who should lead in building long-lasting peace. This is the real story of peace, told by local peacebuilders. It starts with them. It starts with their work. It starts in their communities.”

Visit  to read about the co-creators behind this campaign, their journey and the manifesto asks.

Notes for editors:

° Peace Starts Here is a global campaign created by 10 peacebuilders from around the world

° For the past year, ten local peacebuilders from around the world have worked together to co-create a global movement to improve recognition and support for local peacebuilders. Together, they drafted a manifesto for change based on their experience of the peacebuilding sector, particularly their experience of the marginalisation of local perspectives in international discourse

° The idea of a co-created global campaign began in Beirut, Lebanon in August 2018. Peace Direct’s Peace Exchange event brought together a group of peacebuilders from around the world to discuss how to best resolve conflict in their communities and build sustainable peace. During one of these conversations, the idea of a locally-led, global campaign was born

° The campaign creation phase was facilitated by Peace Direct, an international peacebuilding NGO, InsightPact and creative agency Neo.

Contact details:

° Luis Alvarado Bruzual, Campaign Co-Creator, Caracas, Venezuela – (GMT -4hrs

° Diana Ishaqat, Campaign Co-Creator, Beijing, China – (GMT +8hrs)

° Ruth Mileham, Peace Direct, London, UK – (GMT)

° Amal Atrakouti, Peace Direct, Montreal, Canada – (GMT -5hrs)

The Culture of Peace – Utopia or Alternative Security Policy?


Received at CPNN by email

Is it possible to see the UNESCO/UN culture of peace program as a blueprint for a feminist, non-violent security policy? Are there alternatives to war and militarisation, or is the culture of peace just utopia? Can a more pacifist view help us out of the increasing horrors of war?

These are questions that Ingeborg Breines, a former UNESCO director and president of the International Peace Bureau, raises in her new book The Culture of Peace – Utopia or Alternative Security Policy? published May 2023, by the Orkana Publishing House, Stamsund/Oslo. The publication, which is written in Norwegian, has gotten good reviews. It consists of 416 pages in hard cover and includes rich reference material and some illustrations.

The publication has three parts. The introduction describes the intentions of the author and the challenges facing the culture of peace vision. (See attached table of contents.) The author argues both for peace on earth and peace with the earth. Drawing on her background she challenges the old thinking that “Si vis pacem, para bellum/If you want peace, prepare for war”. For the survival of humanity it is considered urgent to develop a new paradigm and new structures and practices underlining that “If you want peace, prepare for peace”!

Part I describes the culture of peace program of UNESCO/UN – the origin, the process, the vision, the goals, the partners, the hopes, the enthusiasm, the achievements. The author brings to the forefront a series of guiding documents, inspiring projects and publications such as the International Year for a Culture of Peace, the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World, the Manifesto 2000 on a Culture of Peace, the Seville Declaration on Violence, the Statement on Women’s Contribution to a Culture of peace, the Declaration on the Right to Peace and not least the Constitution of UNESCO with its emphasis on international intellectual and ethical cooperation and its credo: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that defences for peace must be constructed” .

Part II highlights factors that hinder the culture of peace to take roots, notably the broad and growing militarization, not only of society but also of the human mind. The author argues that humanity is facing three alarming existential crises: (i) the climate and environmental catastrophe, (ii) the growing gap between the “haves” and the “have- nots”, and (iii) the nuclear arms threat. She considers that the military-industrial complex seriously – economically, ecologically and ethically – stand in the way of finding innovative and sustainable solutions to the challenges facing humanity.

Part III presents an holistic approach to peace-building based on the eight pillars of the UNESCO/UN culture of peace program: (i) Learn to live together, (ii) Promote sustainable social and economic development, (iii) Promote respect for human rights, (iv) Secure equality between women and men, (v) Foster democratic participation, (vi) Foster understanding, tolerance and solidarity, (vii) Promote free flow of information and knowledge, (viii) Foster international peace and security, with special emphasis on pillar one on education and pillar eight on peace-building.

Part III contains descriptions of relevant international structures and institutions, both within the UN system and regional and sub-regional, as well as peace building projects and ideas, including from the international peace movement and visionary individuals. Seen together, the publication provides both important knowledge and suggestions for an effective transition from a culture of war and violence towards cultures of peace and non-violence.


Military expenditure was reduced in the period between the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the attack on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001 and many people started to hope that finally the world’s military and political resources would be used for welfare instead of warfare. UNESCO developed a global program for a culture of peace that got broad and enthusiastic support. Individuals, organisations, institutions and countries contributed to the development of the vision of a culture of peace and got inspiration, energy and sense of community and meaning. The UN, both in a visionary and hopeful way, put the culture of peace as the headline for the new millennium.

But the war against terror changed everything. Also Norway participated in wars in countries where we had no controversies. Fear, enemy images and suspicion were created – again. The climate- and environmental crisis is threatening both humanity and the planet. A worldwide pandemic has further aggravated poverty, violence against women and social unrest.

The war in Ukraine has brought the horrors of war closer to us. Could it lead to disgust for all war, for war as an option? Could the vision and experience of a culture of peace help us stand against a dominating and desperate belief that weapons, ever more numerous, ever more lethal and potentially capable of full extinction of humanity, and that it is necessary in order to build peace and justice? Is the time ripe for acknowledging that it is only through disarmament and détente that we can manage to meet the ecological and social challenges facing us?

This book is a contribution to the strengthening of the world’s fragile peace architecture and gives suggestions as to how a culture of peace may be build through education, diplomacy, dialogue, democracy, justice, gender equality, art, culture and sound common sense.




° The dream of peace and the fight for a world organisation
° Utopia
° The vision
° The League of Nations
° The UN
° UNESCO and the Culture of Peace
– The vision of a culture of peace – a new Millennium – new hope
– The concept of a culture of peace
– The culture of peace program
– The International Year for a Culture of Peace and the UN Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence
for the Children of the World.
– Manifesto for a Culture of Peace
– Culture for peace
– Women and a culture of peace
– National culture of peace programs
– The UN High Level Forum on the Culture of Peace


° Corona collapse and a new security concept
° Hindrances for a culture of peace
° Military meaninglessness and powerlessness
° ”Security” or peace?
° Militarisation
° Criminalizing war
° War against terror
° Why would a rich country need an arms industry?
° Economic warfare – sanctions
° Hybrid war
° Defensive, non-aggressive defence
° Nato – beyond expiration date
° Closing down Nato
° Our “big” ally
° Star wars
° Norway says no to the UN, yes to Nato
° Russia, our neighbour
° Neighbours as friends, not foes


° Anthropocentric
° Mother Earth
° Nexus environment – security
° The military and the environment
° Ecocide
° Food insecurity
° From capitalism to a new green deal


° The billionaire report
° The social report
° Inequality between men and women

(Continued in right column)

Question for this article:

What are the most important books about the culture of peace?

(Continued from left column)


° How to stigmatise, delegitimize and prohibit nuclear arms.
° How many nuclear weapons exist, and where?
° Status symbol?
° It is called balance of terror?
° Usable nukes
° Enough is enough
° First use
° Nuclear weapons agreements
° The Non-proliferation Treaty
° The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear weapons, TPNW
Norway, party to the NATO strategy on nuclear weapons
The International Atomic Energy Agency – verification and dual role
° Environmental and health consequences
° Nuclear weapons and nuclear energy – Siamese twins
° Depleted uranium
° Women and nuclear weapons
° Nuclear free zones
° With the UN for nuclear disarmament and development
° Anti-nuclear arms organisations


° Mother Earth and the Matriarchy
° Rather pluralism than unilateralism
° Who do we want to be?
° World future orientation
° Meaning and happiness
° Change and transformation
° Positive thinking
° Emotional intelligence
° Getting out of fundamentalism
° The Seville Declaration on Violence
° Radical love, the ultimate goal?
° Hope
° Creativity


° Education for all
° Good development requires good education
° Children on the run
° Peace education
° Disarmament education
° Methodology
° It is fun to be nice
° My history – and your history
° What is the situation for peace education in Norwegian schools?
° How to avoid militarization in schools?
° The education of the heart
° Moral codex and ethical standards
° Pakistan – Afghanistan – examples
° To teach a culture of peace in Pakistan


° The desired future – the UN Agenda 2030
° Food security
° Limits to growth
° To do without – what is enough?
° Finance capitalistic globalisation
° Human – humanistic – humanitarian
° Ecologic economy
° What is productive work?
° Useful, bullshit and dangerous jobs
° Converting the military industry
° Progressive taxation
° Guaranteed minimum income – basic salary – citizen’s salary
° Social contract
° Democratic multilateralism


° The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
° The Human Rights Council
° Universal Periodic Review, UPR
° The International Court of Justice, ICJ
° The International Criminal Court, ICC
° International law – the duty of peace – prohibition of violence
° Humanitarian law– the international law of war
° Responsibility to Protect, R2P
° Norway, a champion of international law?
° From international law to the law of war?


° The rights, resources and representation of women
° Gender equality is healthy
° The end of Patriarchy?
° Men and masculinities
° The rationality of care
° Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security
° Sexualized violence
° Feminism – both a tool for change and an imperative
° Feministic foreign policy


° Are the people allowed to rule?
° Democracy-ranking
° Direct democracy or disciplined democracy?
° Lobbying
° 99% versus 1%
° Non-hierarchical structure and local democracy
° Centralization weakens local democracy
° Military exceptions
° Thinking globally – acting locally
° Regional cooperation


° The grey-pink race and racism
° Symbols and statues
° Longing for meaning
° Religious tolerance – interreligious understanding
° The image of God of Spinoza
° Violations, humiliations of honour and human dignity
° Ethical disposition
° Compassion


° New Information and Communication order
° Languages
° News and fake narratives
° Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Expression
° The language of peace – the language of war
° Getting rid of enemy images
° Dialogue – debate – discussion
° Whistleblowers and human rights defenders
° Peace journalism
° Women in the media – women journalists
° War and cultural industry


° Peace by peaceful means
° The right to peace
° Peace as a condition for sustainable development
° Disarmament, essential, but not in vogue
° How to strengthen the political will to disarm?
° Peace race or arms race?
° Dismantling of national capacities for war
° Preventive diplomacy
° Is the UN able to unite the nations?
° Human security
° Common security
° Pacifism
° Civil obedience – civil disobedience
° Nonviolence
° Conscientious objection – civil service
° Equality in the military – on whose terms?
° Community service – new conscription
° Ministries of a culture of peace
° Peace tax
° Peace movement
° Peace research – research for peace?
° The Nobel Prize for Peace Promoters
° Nobel Summits
° Military-free and environment conscious Costa Rica – a role model


° Bibliography
° UN days
° Acronyms

Ingeborg Breines (

The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Selects Seven Youth-Led Organizations as Recipients of its Youth Solidarity Fund


A press release from the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations

The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) is pleased to announce the latest recipients of its Youth Solidarity Fund (YSF).

UNAOC received over 600 applications from 86 countries to consider for funding and capacity-building support. Seven youth-led organizations across three continents were selected, following a rigorous evaluation process, to implement projects contributing to the promotion of peaceful societies based on their creative approaches to building peaceful communities through intercultural and interfaith dialogue and their potential to have a positive impact on their respective communities.

The seven recipients join a group of 73 other youth-led organizations that have benefited from YSF. Since it was established in 2008, YSF has contributed to advancing the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2250 by providing opportunities for partnership, capacity-building and financial means to young people to carry out activities that prevent violent conflict, and promote peace and social inclusion.

Further, YSF continues to be one of the leading mechanisms in the UN system that works directly with young people to realize the Sustainable Development Goals and drive positive change in their communities and societies.

All of the selected projects are developed and implemented by young people. While their projects frequently target other young people, they have the potential to impact entire communities by involving religious and political leaders, policymakers, educational institutions, and media entities. UNAOC supports projects that reach out to, and connect, marginalized youth from diverse socioeconomic, cultural, and religious backgrounds to foster broader and transformative engagement of all youth and reduce polarization in their communities.

In addition to seed funding, YSF recipients receive technical support to strengthen the implementation of their projects. Workshops and training sessions to boost their intercultural and peacebuilding competencies are delivered alongside mentorship guidance to bolster
organizational development.

The Youth Solidarity Fund Recipients are:

1. Community Engagement for Peace and Conflict Resolution by Ikon Initiative for Sustainable Development, Sierra Leone

Ikon Initiative for Sustainable Development aims to address the issue of election-related violence in Bombali district, northern Sierra Leone, which often undermines electoral processes and generates unrest, hatred and mistrust among community members. By using intercultural dialogue, sports and drama, the initiative strives to promote peaceful coexistence, create safe spaces for open conversations, foster empathy and equip community members with conflict resolution skills.

(continued in right column)

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

(continued from left column)

2. Amplifying Community Voices for Sustainable Peace in the Rwenzori region by Access Youth Initiative Uganda, Uganda

Access Youth Initiative Uganda aims to focus on strengthening engagement of young people in peacebuilding and preventing violent extremism through their meaningful inclusion in mediation platforms, dialogue sessions, youth camps and sport tournaments. The initiative seeks to develop youth peace champions while integrating intergenerational exchange, community service and mentorship with innovative information and communication technology and sports activities to build resilient relationships and engage in intercultural
conversations for peace.

3. Training of Young People to Promote Peace “NO KUDJI PAZ” by FINSJOR – Young Girls Social Intervention Forum, Guinea-Bissau

FINSJOR aims to increase awareness of young people to promote peacebuilding and conflict resolution in their communities and support the national development process by equipping young people with skills in non-violent communication. Additional activities, such as radio debates, school campaigns and conferences, will explore the root causes and consequences of ethnic tensions in the country.

4. Engaging Youth in Increasing Religious Tolerance Awareness through Online Peace Narrative Campaigns to Safeguard Religious Sites by Yayasan Pemberdayaan Masyarakat Indonesia Cerdas (YPMIC), Indonesia

YPMIC aims to respond to a rise in online radical religious views and vandalism of religious sites involving youth by actively engaging young people in creating and spreading peace narratives online and offline. The project aspires to increase religious tolerance among young people in South Sulawesi region through peace training, religious site visits, digital campaigns, talk shows and exhibitions.

5. Bridging Faiths: Fostering Interreligious Tolerance Among Muslim and Christin Youth in Zomba, Malawi by Zomba Center for Creative Arts (ZOCCA), Malawi

ZOCCA aims to address increased violence and incidents of religious intolerance among young people in Zomba, Malawi through sport, dialogue sessions, interfaith workshops, community service projects and cultural exchange events. These activities intend to promote interreligious dialogue, foster empathy and respect and encourage cooperation among young people from different faith backgrounds.

6. Detect, React, Protect by Youth for Peace, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Youth for Peace aims to address ever-present tensions and hate speech between people of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina by bringing together youth from both sides of the border to work together to foster better understanding among the two nations. Focusing on peace education and freedom of religion and belief, Youth for Peace will strive to create a space for safe interaction, open dialogues and and better relations.

7. Bridging Communities: Promoting Intercultural and Interfaith Dialogue Among African and Egyptian Youth in Egypt – Diverse Voices, United Communities by AlMahrousa for Development and Participation (MDP), Egypt

MDP aims to bring youth from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds together with migrants and their peers in Greater Cairo communities to foster mutual understanding, collaboration and the promotion of the values of peace and inclusivity through youth-led workshops, interfaith and intercultural dialogues and public awareness campaigns. Young leaders from both groups will aim to develop plans of action and community initiatives to counter social polarization and ethnic/religious extremism.

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Artists for peace in Gaza


A survey by CPNN putting the term “artists for peace in Gaza” in search engines

On a global level, more than 4000 artists came together under the collective Musicians for Palestine, demanding a ceasefire as the war in Israel and Gaza continues. This was published by Euronews on November 23.

In the United Kingdom, on October 17, Artists for Palestine UK published a declaration “accusing governments of “aiding and abetting” Israel’s “war crimes” in Gaza”, stating that “Palestinians face “collective punishment on an unimaginable scale”, and demanding “Governments should “end their military and political support for Israel’s actions”. It was signed by over 4,300 producers, curators, writers, DJs, architects and designers.

Also in the United Kingdom, DJ Magazine published on November 15 an open letter #MusicForACeasefire signed by over 1000 artists.

In the United States, Artists4Ceasefire sent a letter signed by over 300 artists to President Biden saying “We ask that, as President of the United States, you and the US Congress call for an immediate de-escalation and ceasefire in Gaza and Israel before another life is lost.”

In South Africa, , The Artists’ Collective Project for Peace in Palestine announced on December 1, that “our first event brings together local artists in Cape Town to create a live mural in support of the Palestinian people. The event will be filmed and shared across various social media platforms.”

In France, French artists, including actressers Isabelle Adjani and Emmanuelle Beart, led a silent Paris march of thousands of people on November 19 for peace between Israelis and Palestinians

(continued in right column)

Question related to this article:

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

(continued from left column)

In Qatar, The Souq Waqif Art Centre in Doha – in a powerful expression of solidarity and a call for peace – will host an exhibition featuring around 26 paintings by Doha-based artists. These works focus on the dire conditions faced by Palestinians in Gaza and advocate for a lasting solution to the ongoing conflicts in the region.

In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Artists for Peace – Shadow Ban This! continues to hold concerts to raise funds for UAE’s Compassion for Gaza campaign. Dozens of performers, including artists, musicians and poets, have taken part in the events.

In Malaysia, more than 700 artists across acting, theater, music, and visual arts have endorsed a memorandum demanding that ASEAN nations halt economic ties with Israel until Gaza is safe and Palestinians are shielded from military attacks. In addition to launching the memorandum, the SEA Artists, Creatives & Cultural Activists for Peace, Stop Genocide in Gaza, read and diffused 31 monologues by Gazan youth.

In India, Odisha-based sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik creates a sculpture titled Solidarity With Humanity, as a symbolic prayer for peace between Israel and palestine.

In Canada, Artists for a Ceasefire Now published a statement on November 1 pledging support for the Palestinian people in the face of over 75 years of Israeli apartheid, settler colonialism, military occupation, and ethnic cleansing. The signature list numbers more than 2,000 artists.

Even in Israel there are artists opposing the war. The website lists several Israeli illustrators and cartoonists who have been finding ways to make meaning and communicate their heartbreak about the lives lost, the hostages and the trauma of war. 

As for Palestine, CPNN has recently carried the story of a young Palestinian artist who paints murals on the rubble of buildings that have been destroyed, “in order to send a strong message that we will remain on our land and never leave it.”

The biographies of Palestinian and Israeli writers and artists who have been killed or wounded in the Gaza conflict are published on an updated web page of PEN America

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Wealth of five richest men doubles since 2020 as five billion people made poorer in “decade of division,” says Oxfam


A report from Oxfam

The world’s five richest men have more than doubled their fortunes from $405 billion to $869 billion since 2020 —at a rate of $14 million per hour— while nearly five billion people have been made poorer, reveals a new Oxfam report on inequality and global corporate power. If current trends continue, the world will have its first trillionaire within a decade but poverty won’t be eradicated for another 229 years.

“Inequality Inc.”, published today as business elites gather in the Swiss resort town of Davos, reveals that seven out of ten of the world’s biggest corporations have a billionaire as CEO or principal shareholder. These corporations are worth $10.2 trillion, equivalent to more than the combined GDPs of all countries in Africa and Latin America.

“We’re witnessing the beginnings of a decade of division, with billions of people shouldering the economic shockwaves of pandemic, inflation and war, while billionaires’ fortunes boom. This inequality is no accident; the billionaire class is ensuring corporations deliver more wealth to them at the expense of everyone else,” said Oxfam International interim Executive Director Amitabh Behar.

“Runaway corporate and monopoly power is an inequality-generating machine: through squeezing workers, dodging tax, privatizing the state, and spurring climate breakdown, corporations are funneling endless wealth to their ultra-rich owners. But they’re also funneling power, undermining our democracies and our rights. No corporation or individual should have this much power over our economies and our lives —to be clear, nobody should have a billion dollars”.

The past three years’ supercharged surge in extreme wealth has solidified while global poverty remains mired at pre-pandemic levels.
Billionaires are $3.3 trillion richer than in 2020, and their wealth has grown three times faster than the rate of inflation. 

Despite representing just 21 percent of the global population, rich countries in the Global North own 69 percent of global wealth and are home to 74 percent of the world’s billionaire wealth.

Share ownership overwhelmingly benefits the richest. The top 1 percent own 43 percent of all global financial assets. They hold 48 percent of financial wealth in the Middle East, 50 percent in Asia and 47 percent in Europe. 

Mirroring the fortunes of the super-rich, large firms are set to smash their annual profit records in 2023. 148 of the world’s biggest corporations together raked in $1.8 trillion in total net profits in the year to June 2023, a 52 percent jump compared to average net profits in 2018-2021. Their windfall profits surged to nearly $700 billion. The report finds that for every $100 of profit made by 96 major corporations between July 2022 and June 2023, $82 was paid out to rich shareholders.

° Bernard Arnault is the world’s second richest man who presides over luxury goods empire LVMH, which has been fined by France‘s anti-trust body. He also owns France’s biggest media outlet, Les Échos, as well as Le Parisien.

° Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest person, holds a “near-monopoly” on cement in Nigeria. His empire’s expansion into oil has raised concerns about a new private monopoly. 

° Jeff Bezos’s fortune of $167.4 billion increased by $32.7 billion since the beginning of the decade. The US government has sued Amazon, the source of Bezos’ fortune, for wielding its “monopoly power” to hike prices, degrade service for shoppers and stifle competition.

“Monopolies harm innovation and crush workers and smaller businesses. The world hasn’t forgotten how pharma monopolies deprived millions of people of COVID-19 vaccines, creating a racist vaccine apartheid, while minting a new club of billionaires,” said Behar.

People worldwide are working harder and longer hours, often for poverty wages in precarious and unsafe jobs. The wages of nearly 800 million workers have failed to keep up with inflation and they have lost $1.5 trillion over the last two years, equivalent to nearly a month (25 days) of lost wages for each worker.

(Article continued on the right column)

Question for this article:

How can the growing economic inequality in the world be reversed?

(Article continued from the left column) 

New Oxfam analysis of World Benchmarking Alliance data on more than 1,600 of the largest corporations worldwide shows that 0.4 percent of them are publicly committed to paying workers a living wage and support a living wage in their value chains. It would take 1,200 years for a woman working in the health and social sector to earn what the average CEO in the biggest 100 Fortune companies earns in a year. 

Oxfam’s report also shows how a “war on taxation” by corporations has seen the effective corporate tax rate fall by roughly a third in recent decades, while corporations have relentlessly privatized the public sector and segregated services like education and water.

“We have the evidence. We know the history. Public power can rein in runaway corporate power and inequality —shaping the market to be fairer and free from billionaire control. Governments must intervene to break up monopolies, empower workers, tax these massive corporate profits and, crucially, invest in a new era of public goods and services,” said Behar. 

“Every corporation has a responsibility to act but very few are. Governments must step up. There is action that lawmakers can learn from, from US anti-monopoly government enforcers suing Amazon in a landmark case, to the European Commission wanting Google to break up its online advertising business, and Africa’s historic fight to reshape international tax rules.”

Oxfam is calling on governments to rapidly and radically reduce the gap between the super-rich and the rest of society by:

° Revitalizing the state. A dynamic and effective state is the best bulwark against extreme corporate power. Governments should ensure universal provision of healthcare and education, and explore publicly-delivered goods and public options in sectors from energy to transportation.

° Reining in corporate power, including by breaking up monopolies and democratizing patent rules. This also means legislating for living wages, capping CEO pay, and new taxes on the super-rich and corporations, including permanent wealth and excess profit taxes. Oxfam estimates that a wealth tax on the world’s millionaires and billionaires could generate $1.8 trillion a year. 

° Reinventing business. Competitive and profitable businesses don’t have to be shackled by shareholder greed. Democratically-owned businesses better equalize the proceeds of business. If just 10 percent of US businesses were employee-owned, this could double the wealth share of the poorest half of the US population, including doubling the average wealth of Black households.

Notes to editors

Download Oxfam’s report “Inequality Inc.” and the methodology note.

It will take 229 (almost 230) years to ensure the number of people living under the World Bank poverty line of $6.85 was reduced to zero.

According to the IMF’s World Economic Outlook Database, the combined GDP of economies in Africa in 2023 is $2,867 billion, while that of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean is $6,517 billion, for a total of $9.4 trillion.

Oxfam defines windfall profits as those exceeding the 2018-2021 average by more than 20 percent. 

Contact information

Annie Thériault in Peru | | +51 936 307 990
Belinda Torres Leclercq in Belgium | | +32 (0) 472 55 34 43

For updates, please follow @NewsFromOxfam and @Oxfam

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The women leading the fight for peace in Palestine: Women in Black


An article from Open Democracy

On 4 October, thousands of women met in Jerusalem at an event led by the Israel-based Women Wage Peace and the Palestine-based Women of the Sun to discuss how to bring peace to the region. Three days later, one of the former group’s founding members, Canadian-Israeli activist Vivian Silver, was killed by Hamas in the deadliest attack on Israel in its 75-year history.

The women’s work has become much more difficult in the weeks since. Some 1,200 Israelis were killed in the attack and 160 taken hostage, more than 100 of whom are yet to be released. Israel has responded by reducing much of northern Gaza to rubble, killing 15,000 Palestinians and wounding 30,000 more.

Peace now seems a distant prospect. But the women have not given up hope. In a statement released on 14 October, Women Wage Peace said: “Every mother, Jewish and Arab, gives birth to her children to see them grow and flourish and not to bury them.

Branches of Women in Black lead silent vigils around the world to call for peace | Jesus Merida/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

“That’s why, even today, amid the pain and the feeling that the belief in peace has collapsed, we extend a hand in peace to the mothers of Gaza and the West Bank.”

As Siobhan Byrne of the University of Alberta later said: “This was undoubtedly a difficult statement to write through their grief and anguish.”

Both Women Wage Peace and Women of the Sun are relatively recent movements for peace in the Middle East but another women-led group has been calling for Israelis to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza for 35 years.

Women in Black (WiB), a low-profile, remarkably persistent and very global movement, was launched in West Jerusalem in January 1988, prompted by the first intifada the previous year.

The group is distinctive in two main ways: firstly for the role of vigil in its fight for change and secondly, for its varying calls of witness, not just in war but more generally on violence against women.

Its protests often take the form of public vigils by small groups of women, dressed entirely in black, largely silent and bearing messages of their beliefs. The vigils are repeated, often on specific days of the week and in the same place, such as outside a mall or in a city square.

As for its calls of witness, they may vary with country or local circumstance, but they may have a common message of the need for peace, either in a specific conflict or on a generic issue, though they also extend to much more pervasive issues of gendered violence, both in time of war and in wider society.

Feminist activist and scholar Cynthia Cockburn, who was among the most persistent supporters of WiB, began to write a book on the history of the movement in February 2019. Though she sadly died later that year having written only the first five chapters, the book was completed, at her request, by Sue Finch, aided by copious files that Cockburn had left and by people in WiB groups from across the world.

(Article continued in right column)

Questions related to this article:

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

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

(Article continued from left column)

Published earlier this year, Women in Black: Against Violence, for Peace with Justice tracks the development of the movement over more than three decades. It details how WiB is not a centrally organised entity but more a coalition of groups that snowballed across the world within six months of the movement’s start in Jerusalem.

Italian feminist activists, who had travelled to Israel and Palestine as part of a project called ‘Visiting Difficult Places’ in the late 1980s, joined WiB’s actions and took their approach back home. A feminist community in Belgrade, in what was then Federal Yugoslavia, in turn learned from them, and a similar approach evolved there. That group remained active throughout the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, bearing witness against the Bosnian and Kosovo wars.

Over time, WiB spread to Colombia, Germany, India, South Africa, Argentina and more than a dozen other countries spanning five continents, and nine international WiB conferences took place.

Introducing the book, Cynthia Cockburn summed up the movement’s evolution over the years, describing the differences between the various groups that had sprung up. “For some, especially those living through war,” she wrote, “theories about the relationship between gender and militarism are the most vital.

“Other women, living in relative peacetime choose combating male violence against individual women, and campaigning for the right to abortion, contraception and control over their own bodies, as the centre of their activism.

“The theories that connect Women in Black across the world, as a result, include the continuum of violence against women, and a causal relationship between gender and war.”

Women in Black is not a rigid centrally organised movement but has considerable autonomy between countries and branches. Any group of women in any part of the world may organise a vigil and while that is the most common action, responses may also involve nonviolent direct action at military bases or simply refusing to comply with orders.

A uniting feature is the value of the sense of solidarity, with women in one branch in a particular country knowing that if they bear witness to a particular happening or circumstance such as a specific conflict or incident of repression, they will be acting alongside a group in the country and also o9thersw across the world.

Because of its structure, the numbers involved in WiB may vary. Writing on its website, the movement gives one example: “When Women in Black in Israel/Palestine, as part of a coalition of Women for a Just Peace, called for vigils in June 2001 against the Occupation of Palestinian lands, at least 150 WiB groups across the world responded… The organisers estimate that altogether 10,000 women may have been involved.”

In recent years, Cockburn’s own writings, including on global disarmament and women peacemakers, have been highly influential. She worked in many regions of tension and conflict – including Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Israel/Palestine, Cyprus, South Korea, Spain and the UK – on a wide range of projects primarily focused on gender, war and peace-making.

Her work was paralleled by many years of activism, much of it stemming from an early visit to the Greenham Common women’s peace camp in 1980, and in 1993 she was heavily involved in establishing Women in Black in London. This book is certainly a very valuable contribution as a hugely informative account of the growth of what is now a worldwide movement but it is also a fitting remembrance of Cynthia Cockburn, a remarkable person.

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