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Highlights of the Biennale of Luanda 2021 : Pan-African Forum for the Culture of Peace

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Excerpts from the UNESCO website for the Biennale of Luanda and the Biennale Final Communiqué

The 2nd edition of the Biennale of Luanda was held in an innovative hybrid format, combining face-to-face and virtual events. Over 4 days, the event gathered high-level participants from governments, international institutions, the private sector, the artistic and scientific communities, and many more.

The Presidents of Angola, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sao Tome and Principe and Portugal, the Vice-Presidents of Namibia and Costa Rica took part in the Opening Ceremony along with UNESCO DDG, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to the African Union and AU Commissioner for Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment.

There were 180 participants in the opening ceremony acting as speakers, moderators, session chairs including senior officials from the African Union, UNESCO, ICESCO, the Regional Economic Commissions (RECs), technical and financial partners as well as representatives of the United Nations system from over 60 countries. 120 Young Leaders participated from all African countries and representatives of the Diaspora, of which 9 were present in Luanda and the others virtually.

Other participants included 65 partners from institutions, civil society, the private sector, academic institutions and international organisations in Africa and its Diaspora, and other regions of the world and 20 personalities and artists committed to the Culture of Peace, from different continents.

The Biennale featured a Festival of Cultures with 44 countries represented in Virtual Pavilions showcasing rich content on cultural diversity and examples of national initiatives, as well as partners and associated personalities.

The Biennale received exceptional media coverage worldwide, both in traditional media and social media.

As a result of the Biennale, some key texts were adopted by the participants, putting into concrete action some of the recommendations and conclusions from the discussions which took place.

These included four Flagship Initiatives :

1.The Contribution of Arts, Culture and Heritage to Peace

2. Youth Empowerment and Participation in Peace and Sustainable Development

3. Africa and its Diasporas in the Face of Conflicts, Crises and Inequality

4. Harnessing the Potential of the Oceans for Sustainable Development and Peace

Question related to this article:

The Luanda Biennale: What is its contribution to a culture of peace in Africa?

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Other texts included :

– The Final Communiqué of the Biennale of Luanda 2021

– The Declaration of Regional Economic Communities of Africa

– The MoU signed between CEEAC, Angola and UNESCO

– Programme : Youth committed to the Pan-African Movement for a Culture of Peace

In the Final Communiqué, Biennal participants :

1. Encourage the organisers, for the holding of future editions of the Biennale, to consider the benefits of this innovative hybrid format in terms of the opportunity for a more widescale participation and thus appropriation of this event, the objective of which is to strengthen the Pan-African Movement for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the peace and sustainable development of Africa;

2. Welcome the official launch, during this 2021 edition, of the Alliance of Partners for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence in Africa, as a necessary instrument for the strengthening of the Pan-African Movement for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence, as well as for ensuring the sustainability and transformative impact of the Biennale of Luanda Initiative;

3. Encourage academic institutions and professional associations, youth and women’s organisations and associations, international organisations, the private sector, civil society, philanthropists and influential personalities within the continent and the Diaspora to join the Alliance of Partners for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence in Africa;

4. Welcome the strengthening of cooperation between the Government of Angola, the African Union Commission and UNESCO and call upon them to take the necessary steps, including within the framework of the Steering Committee of the Biennale, for the establishment of a permanent Secretariat to ensure the follow-up of the implementation of the Roadmap of this second edition of the Biennale;

5. Welcome the full participation and involvement of the Regional Economic Communities throughout the four days of the conference, as reflected in the Joint Declaration of the High Representatives of the Regional Economic Communities on the Culture of Peace and Non-Violence (Annex 1); declaration by which the RECs acknowledge their role, responsibility and commitment in the process of perpetuating the culture of peace and non-violence in Africa, which also includes the signing of the Agreement between the Government of Angola, ECCAS and UNESCO (Annex 2);

6. Request the support of the governments of African Member States and countries of the African Diaspora to contribute, from one edition to the next, to the sustainability of the Biennale of Luanda initiative, including by taking appropriate measures and implementing activities and projects for the culture of peace and non-violence at national and local levels to be progressively included in the roadmap;

7. Express their gratitude to their Excellencies, the Presidents, Vice-Presidents and Ministers who took part in the Opening Ceremony of the Biennale in Luanda;

8. Welcome the major role played by His Excellency, Mr. João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, President of the Republic of Angola, who once again hosted the event and mobilised the Heads of State and Government.

United Nations General Assembly Adopts Annual Culture of Peace Resolution

DISARMAMENT AND SECURITY .

Including sections on culture of peace from UN press reports of December 6 and December 9.

The annual culture of peace resolution, “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace”, was adopted on December 9 by the UN General Assembly. As of December 22, the adopted resolution was put here on the UN website.

There was only one substantive change in the operative paragraphs compared to last year’s resolution. It was the following: 11. Emphasizes the critical importance of an inclusive, resilient and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and in this regard calls upon States to promote the values of culture of peace, inter alia, in countering rising inequalities, discrimination, exclusion, hate crimes and violence;

The United Staters was not among the final 109 co-sponsors of this resolution, and while the European Union did not sponsor as a whole, this year there were several EU members that co-sponsored, including Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, and Spain.

Here is the verbatim record of the culture of peace debate on December 6

Culture of Peace

The Assembly then turned to the Secretary‑General’s report titled “Promotion of a culture of peace and interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/76/357) and two related draft resolutions.

RABAB FATIMA (Bangladesh), introducing the draft resolution titled “Follow‑up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace” (document A/76/L.19), said the text’s adoption this year assumes greater relevance and urgency as the world continues to grapple with the COVID‑19 pandemic.  In addition to technical updates, three new paragraphs — preambular paragraphs 13 and 31 and operative paragraph 11 — are included to reflect the realities of the pandemic and other important developments.  The new operative paragraph 11 calls upon States to promote the values of a culture of peace for an inclusive, resilient and sustainable recovery from the COVID‑19 pandemic.

By its terms, the Assembly encouraged Member States, United Nations entities, regional and subregional organizations to consider instituting mechanisms involving youth in promoting a culture of peace, tolerance and intercultural and interreligious dialogue and developing an understanding of respect for human dignity, pluralism and diversity that could discourage their participation in acts of terrorism, violent extremism, xenophobia and discrimination.

It also urged the authorities to provide age‑appropriate education in children’s schools that builds on a culture of peace and non‑violence, including lessons in mutual understanding, respect, tolerance, active and global citizenship, and human rights.

ENRIQUE AUSTRIA MANALO (Philippines) introduced the second draft resolution titled “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/76/L.21).  He joined the representative of Pakistan in pointing out the text’s two core objectives: to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue in achieving peace and stability and the full realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and to strengthen mechanisms and action for the promotion of a genuine, constructive dialogue across cultural and religious divides.  He called on States to further those aims by maintaining an open, inclusive and transparent approach throughout the negotiations process.

Noting a growing trend of xenophobia and religious intolerance, underpinned by the politics of identity, as well as the emergence of extremist ideologies in different parts of the world, especially under a continuing pandemic context, he underlined the important role of UNESCO and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations in promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue at the national, regional and international levels, and requested all States to adopt the draft resolution by consensus.

By the text, the Assembly called on Member States, which have the primary responsibility to counter discrimination and hate speech, and all relevant actors, including political and religious leaders, to promote inclusion and unity in response to the COVID‑19 pandemic and to combat racism, xenophobia, hate speech, violence, and discrimination.

It further invited Member States to promote reconciliation to help ensure durable peace, and sustained development, including by working with faith leaders and communities as well as through reconciliatory measures, acts of service and by encouraging forgiveness and compassion among individuals.  And it invited Member States to disseminate values of religious tolerance and interreligious dialogue through educational programmes.

NOOR QAMAR SULAIMAN (Brunei Darussalam), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), highlighted that the region is one of the most diverse in the world, with more than 640 million people representing different political, economic, ethnicities and social systems.  Guided by the ASEAN Charter, the Association has continued to promote a culture of peace, fostering a caring, cohesive and equitable community.  It has initiated several frameworks to promote cooperation and confidence‑building, she said, citing the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon‑Free Zone and other ASEAN‑led mechanisms.  In 2017, ASEAN leaders adopted the Declaration on Culture of Prevention for a Peaceful, Inclusive, Resilient, Healthy and Harmonious Society, promoting six key priorities.

In March, the fourth meeting of the ASEAN Working Group on Culture of Prevention addressed post‑pandemic recovery efforts, and challenges that hinder peace, security and sustainable developments in the region, she said.  She further noted the adoption of the ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on Upholding Multilateralism, upholding and promoting multilateral cooperation, anchored in international law.  ASEAN is committed to the Plan of Action to implement the Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Partnership between ASEAN and the United Nations for 2021-2025, to continue upholding multilateralism and cooperation in evolving regional architecture, as well as promoting sustainable and inclusive peace and stability in the region and beyond.  Emphasizing the invaluable role of the Alliance of Civilizations in advancing intercultural and interreligious dialogue, understanding and respect among civilizations, cultures and religions, she recognized its work in coordinating the United Nations Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites.  ASEAN will continue to support the Security Council’s women, peace and security agenda, as well as its youth, peace and security agenda.

THILMEEZA HUSSAIN (Maldives) said peace is not a goal achievable on its own, but one that is built on such foundations as a healthy environment and adequate health care and housing.  At the multilateral level, States must use such foundational institutions as the United Nations to resolve differences before they become disputes.  Citing a range of challenges, she said the pandemic has laid bare the international financial system’s inadequacies, and support must reach those most in need to ensure the maintenance of a culture of peace.  Climate change poses a significant threat to small island developing States, undermining their efforts to realize the Sustainable Development Goals.  More must be done urgently in this regard.  The Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace rightly identifies Governments, civil society, media and individuals as key actors for their effective implementation.  In this vein, peace requires inclusive and thoughtful engagement between all stakeholders, and only through open dialogue can they build a shared purpose and understanding.

EGRISELDA ARACELY GONZÁLEZ LÓPEZ (El Salvador) expressed concern about the pandemic’s effect on realization of the Sustainable Development Goals and human rights, stressing that  greater solidarity is the only way to recover from the crisis, and supporting the call of the World Health Organization (WHO) for better access to vaccines, which would prevent the resurgence of COVID‑19 variants.  She also noted the importance of aid to bridge the digital divide, with the support of the United Nations, to ensure equitable access to inclusive education.  She also described national policies to support early childhood education to promote a culture of peace and build resilience.

SAMUEL MONCADA (Venezuela) stated that his country has faced difficulties in recent years as a result of a campaign of aggression, based on the illegal application of unilateral coercive measures that have threatened national peace and stability. These criminal actions, which have intensified amid the worst pandemic humanity has faced in the last 100 years, are part of a policy of calculated cruelty, he said.  To consciously deprive an entire nation of its means of subsistence is an attack against peace and a crime against humanity.  He reaffirmed his support for the implementation of the Declaration and Programme of Action, as well as the continuity of its annual resolution before the Assembly.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco), noting that the COVID‑19 pandemic demonstrated the importance of promoting a culture of peace to overcome gaps in society, welcomed the Secretary‑General’s efforts to make the United Nations the centre of multilateral efforts to fight the pandemic.  Religious leaders have an important role to play in overcoming the challenges posed by COVID-19, he said, spotlighting the Secretary‑General’s organization of a meeting of senior religious leaders in May 2020 to address the pandemic.  Morocco supports United Nations efforts to promote peace between religions and cultures; it works on the national level towards this end and in the fight against all forms of xenophobia, discrimination, and hatred.  A melting pot of different cultures, Morocco is proud to have an ancestral tradition of tolerance and peaceful coexistence.  Respect for cultural and religious diversity is part of the country’s collective consciousness.  He also stressed the importance of education, which is a key to ensuring the development of a culture of peace and to countering discrimination, hatred and extremism.

SHEIKH GHAZALI (Malaysia), stressing that exclusion and inequality breed instability, consume peace and disrupt sustainable development, noted that his country recently introduced the concept of Keluarga Malaysia or “Malaysian Family” to further strengthen the ethos of togetherness and inclusivity.  Malaysia takes an affirmative and positive approach to peace, he said, stressing that peace lies with mutual understanding, respect and tolerance among religions, cultures and peoples.  Building a culture of peace is premised on equality and inclusivity such as in ensuring that people have access to food, shelter, education and decent work, he emphasized, calling on States to ensure that the right to development is pursued and realized at the national, regional and global levels.  Defamation of religion constitutes a derogation of the right to one’s own beliefs and it is not mutually exclusive with freedom of speech and opinion, he said, underscoring that both rights must be promoted and respected in a compatible, balanced manner.

MARITZA CHAN VALVERDE (Costa Rica) said that the culture of peace teaches that “conflicts are resolved at the negotiating table, not on the battlefield”.  Peace is always an unfinished task — “a horizon in motion” — and cannot by imposed by the barrel of a gun.  Pointing out that global military spending increased by $2 trillion in 2020, she said that, as more weapons are produced, more will escape the international community’s best efforts to manage and control them.  If a fraction of military expenditure was instead used to combat the COVID‑19 pandemic, tackle the climate crisis or bolster implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, the current generation could take pride in these achievements.  Unfortunately, this has not been the case, and promises made concerning the Goals continue to fall short.  Against that backdrop, she called on all States to reduce military spending and to consider how gender norms, including “militarized masculinity”, affect conflict and armed violence.  Peace is not sustainable if it is not inclusive, and women and girls are underrepresented both in the pandemic response and in other forums that make decisions pertaining to peace and security.

MOHAMED AL HASSAN (Oman), highlighting the urgent need for renewed cooperation to counter hate speech, Islamophobia, contempt of religion, misinformation, and extremist narratives, said that dialogue and cooperation are tools that build bridges for peace and reconciliation.  With peace, dialogue and understanding, people can work together to tackle climate change, the digital gap and COVID‑19.  Peace is a key component in Omar’s foreign policy, he said, adding that his country seeks to achieve peace in its relations with all countries.  Peace cannot be achieved with words, but with actions and conduct in accordance with international values principles and norms consistent with the United Nations Charter.

MOHAMMAD AAMIR KHAN (Pakistan) said that while globalization has brought people closer, it has also spawned divisions and friction among and within societies.  Due to a lack of understanding, extremist and terrorist groups have exploited the gap in understanding and tolerance to propagate such divisions.  Therefore, it is imperative to strengthen mechanisms that promote dialogue and understanding.  Noting the increase in Islamophobia in many parts of the world, he stressed that Islam is a religion of peace and should not be judged by the acts of extremists who exist in all societies.  Thus, the international community must effectively address unresolved disputes and conflicts, lack of inclusive socioeconomic development, and anti-migrant rhetoric.  To Pakistan, respecting and promoting freedom of religion and belief is not only a duty to its citizens, but also a way of life.  His country is building a welfare State that looks after its poor and needy and aims to reduce inequality by investing in human development.  It also seeks to build relations with its neighbours and others in the international community, he said, noting the opening of the Kartarpur corridor between India and Pakistan in 2019.

SHEIKHA ALMAHA MUBARAK F. J. AL-THANI (Qatar) said that her country has established institutions for the promotion of a culture of peace and intercultural and interreligious dialogues such as the Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue and the Arab Cultural House in Berlin.  Given the importance of education in enhancing a culture of peace, Qatar has placed education as a top priority in all its relief and development programmes.  Noting the important role of youth in achieving peace and sustainability, she said Qatar will host in January 2022 the International Conference on Comprehensive Peace Paths for Youth, to be held virtually due to COVID‑19.  As well, Qatar will host FIFA [World Cup of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association] in 2022, the first time it will be held in the Middle East and the Arab region.

ANDRÉS EFREN MONTALVO SOSA (Ecuador) said dialogue is the best instrument for prevention of violence and conflict.  Noting the negative impact of COVID‑19 on different spheres of society, he stressed the need for access to free, reliable multilingual and science-based information to stop the virus’ spread.  While a culture of peace is entrenched in Ecuador’s laws, the threat of violence from transnational organized crime could undermine the country’s democratic institutions.  Noting that the 2030 Agenda stresses the promotion of a culture of peace, he stressed the need to employ COVID‑19 recovery strategies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

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Question for this article:

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

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SHAUN LIM (Singapore), associating himself with ASEAN, noted Singapore is a diverse society of 5.7 million people — Chinese, Malays, Indians, Eurasians and others — living together on an island smaller than New York City, representing many of the world’s great religions.  In a 2019 Gallup poll, 95 per cent of respondents said the country was “a good place to live” for racial and ethnic minorities.  However, he noted that the country’s current harmony is built on painful lessons drawn from racial riots during the early years of independence and remains a work in progress.  The Declaration on a Culture of Peace affirms the key roles of civil society and religious bodies in developing such a culture, he said, with ground-up organizations and people of faith playing the largest role in building mutual understanding and trust.  As such, his Government works closely with the Inter-Religious Organization, led by a council of 31 leaders of 10 different faiths, building networks among them, countering religious extremism and radicalization, and promoting local and international interfaith dialogue.

FAISAL GH A. T. M. ALENEZI (Kuwait) said COVID‑19 has set back communication and dialogue between peoples, resulting in divisions.  Instead of ideas coming together, this also risks increasing intolerance and discrimination on racial and ethnic grounds.  In that regard, the international community must redouble its efforts to work together against the crisis.  Noting that Kuwait has made peace a State objective, he said dialogue, acceptance of others, tolerance are principles and values of Kuwaiti society and have been for centuries.  In the modern age, Kuwait’s Constitution has ensured freedom of expression and religious practices.  In its efforts to reinforce peace and tolerance, Kuwait created a high-level committee to strengthen tolerance and counter extremist actions and ideas.  It also participates in regional and international efforts to strengthen a culture of peace and dialogue.

PEDRO LUIS PEDROSO CUESTA (Cuba) said that while the Assembly meets to discuss peace, the use of force in international relations continues.  At same time, unilateral measures prevail even amid the most challenging conditions imposed by COVID‑19.  The implementation of unilateral measures impedes the exercise of the right to development of countries.  There can be no peace without inclusive social and economic development and as long as inequalities arise from an unjust economic order.  Moreover, there can be no peace if hate speech, racism, xenophobia and intolerance continue to be encouraged.  Haiti is committed to a culture of peace and to the promotion of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace.  He said the impacts of the most protracted economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed against any country have intensified during the pandemic.  As a country of peace, he said Cuba will not yield to attempts to sow confusion or discredit his country.

ASHISH SHARMA (India) said every one of the world’s major religions has a home in India, noting that his country has regularly provided refuge to those who have been persecuted in foreign lands and allowed them to thrive.  Noting disconcerting trends and instances of acts of violence based on religion or belief, in particular violence against the Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh communities, he urged the United Nations and Member States to counter such violence immediately.  He called for strengthened international efforts to foster and promote a culture of peace.  Noting that intolerance, violence and hatred have almost become the norm, he expressed concern about the increase in resources made available to groups who promote such acts.  Reiterating the call to fight against violence and discrimination, he said the international community must together build a culture of peace rather than fail separately.

Mr. BONCOEUR (Haiti), noting that the culture of peace, due to its complexity, requires much more commitment and greater involvement of stakeholders, encouraged Member States, United Nations entities, regional organizations and stakeholders to do more to promote peacebuilding and sustain peace.  Education and dialogue are the most effective ways to develop a sense of universal values required for coexistence and lasting peace.  In the context of growing insecurity, violence, racism, inequality and hate speech, global solidarity is becoming more necessary than ever.  In this regard, he called for support for all initiatives to promote a culture of peace and to join the efforts of the United Nations to promote dialogue, understanding and cooperation among religions and cultures in the service of peace.  Recalling the late Pope Paul VI and his speech before the United Nations on 4 October 1965, he reminded the Assembly of the important mission of the United Nations to teach peace.  “Let us make sure that we live up to this great and noble task,” he said.

Here is the verbatim record of the culture of peace debate on December 9.

Culture of Peace

The Assembly began the meeting by resuming its debate on the culture of peace and considering two draft resolutions on this agenda item.  (For background, please see Press Release GA/12392  of 6 December).

MOHAMED OMAR ELFAROUK HASSAN MOHAMED (Egypt) said that the scale of the international transformation could have been an opportunity to create a culture of peace, which should promote living together and tolerance, but technology has contributed to an increase in violence, aggravated by the pandemic, with serious consequences.  Optimism about vaccines and the effectiveness of the COVAX facility has dissipated in the face of inequalities in vaccine access.  He encouraged intellectuals and the media to play their role in fighting against hatred, ignorance and exclusion and in opposing extremism.  Deploring that social networks participate in the recruitment of terrorists using false religious pretexts, he recalled Egypt’s strong commitment to the culture of peace, both at the regional level and in its work with the United Nations.

WAEL AL KHALIL (Syria) said that a culture of peace cannot be maintained without respect for international law.  However, the major challenge to the implementation of a culture of peace is that some States attempt to dominate the Organization by putting its mechanisms at the service of their own interests while hiding practices that ignore the purposes of the Charter of the United Nations.  Collective will is needed to establish dialogue and cooperative action and put an end to hegemonic policies.  The international community must move from words to deeds, he said, emphasizing the need to combat the recent proliferation of extremist policies, the undermining of religions, xenophobia and ignoring the plight of refugees and migrants.

KHAULA ALI KHAMIS OBAID ALSHAMSI (United Arab Emirates), stressing that a culture of peace is essential for combating violence and conflict, noted that the COVID‑19 pandemic has been a test for the international community, regardless of borders.  Highlighting her country’s fiftieth anniversary, she reaffirmed its commitment to be a haven of tolerance and coexistence, as well as a beacon of well-being and peace.  Drawing attention to the noble values held in common by the entire world and advocated by all religions over the centuries, she said the Emirates involves all parts of society, notably the most vulnerable, in all aspects of life at the national, regional and international levels.  Also pointing to the “Global Alliance for Tolerance” initiative, launched by her country in the context of its 2020 Expo, she recalled the Assembly resolution on the International Day of Human Fraternity, which was sponsored by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

ZAKIA IGHIL (Algeria) said global solidarity and multilateral cooperation have emerged as crucial components of moving forward in the COVID‑19 recovery.  However, while the recovery efforts from the pandemic are ongoing, the unequal access to the vaccines undermines the efforts to end the pandemic globally.  Moreover, inequality, poverty, hunger and unemployment are widening.  Racism, hate speech and extremism are also on the rise.  Concrete actions are needed to realize the culture of peace by addressing the root causes of conflicts, including through decolonialization, combating violent extremism, eradicating poverty and fostering the rule of law, she asserted.  On promoting dialogue, Algeria has been a mediator for the conflict in Mali, leading to the signing of the peace agreement and national reconciliation in that country.  Algeria has also worked to launch and promote the inter‑Libyan dialogue, with a view toward a peaceful settlement of disputes in the region, she underscored.

JUAN MARCELO ZAMBRANA TORRELIO (Bolivia) said the Organization has a founding mandate to bring about a culture of peace.  This mandate is now linked to other concepts such as sustainable development and greater equality between women and men.  One of the goals of “Transforming our world:  the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” is to bring about a peaceful society without violence.  The world has been artificially divided and conflict and intolerance are worsening.  He expressed concern about increasing tensions due to the COVID‑19 pandemic and climate change crises, which have had a major humanitarian cost.  Bolivia has opted for a culture of peace and a culture of dialogue and diplomacy between nations to bring about peace.  Peace can be brought about if there is equality for everyone.  Yet intolerance has worsened in the pandemic era, he said, stressing the need for equal, universal access to vaccines.  The international community must keep working together to foster a revitalized and inclusive multilateralism.

Speaking in explanation of position before the vote, the representative of Armenia said that the draft resolution concerning promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue has many valuable provisions, but preambular paragraph 35 refers to an event held in a Member State with a long‑standing record of gross violations of human rights.  Noting that in 2020, amid an unprecedented global pandemic, Azerbaijan launched an aggressive war, that was accompanied by intentional destruction and desecration of the Armenian Christian heritage, he added that when relevant United Nations departments prepare reports on promotion of a culture of peace, it is imperative they pay attention to the context, in  which international events are being organized, and their real intent, before referring to such events as “key global platform for promoting intercultural dialogue”.  Due regard should also be given to the record of the host country, he said, requesting a vote on the draft resolution.

The Assembly then adopted a resolution titled “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace” (document A/76/L.19) without a vote.  By its terms, the Assembly encouraged Member States, United Nations entities, regional and subregional organizations to consider instituting mechanisms to involve youth in the promotion of a culture of peace, tolerance and intercultural and interreligious dialogue, and to develop an understanding of respect for human dignity, pluralism and diversity, including through education programmes, that could discourage their participation in acts of terrorism, violent extremism, xenophobia and all forms of discrimination.

It also urged the relevant authorities to provide age-appropriate education in children’s schools that builds a culture of peace and non-violence, including lessons in mutual understanding, respect, tolerance, active and global citizenship and human rights.  The Secretary-General was asked to submit to the General Assembly at its seventy-seventh session a report on actions taken by Member States to implement the resolution and on heightened activities by the Organization and its affiliated agencies to implement the Programme of Action and to promote a culture of peace and non-violence.

Next, the Assembly adopted a resolution titled “Promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” (document A/76/L.21), by a recorded vote of 139 in favour to none against, with 9 abstentions (Armenia, Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, Norway, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States).

By its terms, the Assembly called upon Member States, which have the primary responsibility to counter discrimination and hate speech, and all relevant actors, including political and religious leaders, to promote inclusion and unity in response to the COVID‑19 pandemic and to combat racism, xenophobia, hate speech, violence and discrimination.  It invited Member States to further promote reconciliation to help to ensure durable peace and sustained development, including by working with faith leaders and communities and through reconciliatory measures and acts of service, and by encouraging forgiveness and compassion among individuals.  It also invited Member States to disseminate values of religious tolerance and interreligious dialogue through educational programmes.

In an explanation of position after the vote, the representative of Slovenia speaking on behalf of the European Union,, expressed regret that the resolution duplicates and distorts the provisions of two other resolutions, one pertaining to freedom of religion and belief, and the other to combating discrimination.  As such, he said there is no need for the current resolution to address and redefine the same issues.  His delegation also regrets the lack of stronger affirmation of the positive intercultural and interrelational dialogue contained in the text, he said.  Furthermore, throughout negotiations, the European Union submitted proposals to enhance language regarding safeguards against human rights.  While his delegation believes the balance of the text could have been improved further, he welcomed the decision to biannualize the resolution.:

Also speaking in explanation of position after adoption, the representative of the United States reaffirmed her country’s commitment to rejecting violence as well as interreligious and intercultural dialogue.  Clarifying her country’s position on the text concerning follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, she voiced strong reservations about paragraph 15 where the text suggests that protections for freedoms of expression and religion or belief are at odds with one another.  “Protecting the freedom of religion and the freedom of expression promotes mutual respect and pluralism,” she said.

The representative of Ukraine acknowledged the importance of interreligious and intercultural dialogue for the purposes of peace and supported all steps to promote cultural diversity and religious pluralism.  Ukraine does not support the inclusion of the reference to the intentions of the Inter‑Parliamentary Union, he said.  Regrettably, the Russian Federation attempts to make all international events it hosts serve the goal of whitewashing its aggressive policies against sovereign States and repressive practices in the occupied areas, he asserted.  Drawing attention to the ongoing pressure put on religious communities in the temporary occupied autonomous Republic of Crimea, the city of Sevastopol, Lugansk and Donetsk territories of Ukraine, he condemned the human rights violations perpetrated by the Russian Federation.

The representative of Argentina said he voted in favour of the resolution because dialogue can help contribute to peace.  Argentina has the broadest respect for religious freedom and promotes an understanding of a wide range of beliefs and cultures.  His Government believes in combating all forms of discrimination.  International human rights laws compel States to adopt moderate approaches.  Argentina recognizes that all people have a right to religious freedom and the freedoms of expression and assembly, as long as any actions do not incite violence.  Yet the draft resolution places an unnecessary emphasis on limiting the right to the freedom of expression, he said.

The representative of Azerbaijan noted that the resolution welcomes the declaration of the Seventh Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations held in Baku.  He denounced the irrelevant comments of Armenia as counterproductive to the objectives of this text.  He said that he regretted that Armenia’s hostile position had prevented the General Assembly from adopting this text by consensus.

(A series of rebuttals by Azerbaijan and Armenia is omitted here but is available on the full report from the UN Press.

Biennale of Luanda 2021 : Pan-African Forum for the Culture of Peace

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION

Information from the programme published by UNESCO

The 2021 Biennale of Luanda is underway. Here is a brief resumé of the programme which can be found entirely at the preceding link.

Organized in partnership between UNESCO, the Government of Angola and the African Union, the Biennale of Luanda – “Pan-African Forum for the Culture of Peace” aims to promote the prevention of violence and the resolution of conflicts, by encouraging cultural exchanges in Africa, dialogue between generations and the promotion of gender equality. As a space for reflection and dissemination of artistic works, ideas and best practices related to the culture of peace, it brings together representatives of governments, civil society, the artistic and scientific community, and international organizations.

This 6-day hybrid programme combines in-person and on-line events.

• National Pavilions where countries offer cultural digital activities for
the promotion of the culture of peace, as part of the Festival of Cultures

• Partner Stands, where institutions and companies, foundations and NGOs will share best practices and future initiatives

Question related to this article:

The Luanda Biennale: What is its contribution to a culture of peace in Africa?

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On-line events – a live stream of the Biennale available in three languages (English, French, Portuguese). Register here for online or replay.

• November 27. The Official Opening organized in Luanda with high-level participants – Heads of State, Ministers, International organisations representatives and renowned personalities to support the Biennale.

• November 27. The Intergenerational Dialogue to enable young people to interact with Heads of State and Ministers and make their voices heard.

• November 27-30. The 4-day Festival of Cultures with virtual and live cultural events offering a unique space for exchange between the cultural identities of Africa and its Diasporas.

• Novemberr 29-30. The 4 virtual Thematic Forums to share best practices based on impactful initiatives already implemented for peace and sustainable development in Africa and elaborate flagship initiatives.

I. The contribution of arts, culture and heritage to sustainable peace

II. Engaging young people as actors of social transformations for conflict prevention and sustainable development

III. Africa and its diasporas in the face of conflicts, crises and inequality

IV. Harnessing the potential of the oceans for sustainable development and peace

• November 30. The Closing Ceremony to officially launch the Alliance of Partners for a Culture of Peace and adopt the Biennale Joint Communiqué and Roadmap.

• December 1-2. The 4 virtual Partnership Sessions to identify projects and initiatives, and mobilize resources to turn them into action within the Alliance of Partners for a Culture of Peace.

UN chief sees firsthand the progress and challenges five years after Colombia’s historic peace deal

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article from UN News

In Colombia to mark the fifth anniversary of the peace accord between the Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC-EP, UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Tuesday visited a small mountainside village he described as a “laboratory of peace”, where former combatants and civilians are living and working side-by-side.


UNMVC. Secretary-General António Guterres talks to villagers in Llano Grande, Colombia, where he witnessed how the peace process was developing in Colombia.

The Secretary-General visited the northern town of Llano Grande, in the Department of Antioquia, along with Colombia’s President, Ivan Duque, as well as the former FARC-EP commander, Rodrigo Londoño. The town is one of several areas in the country where the former guerillas are being reincorporated into civilian life.

Colombia has 32 Departments, or ‘States’. With up to 80 per cent of its population affected, Antioquia was one of the areas most impacted by the more than 50-year conflict.

Llano Grande is a town of 150 inhabitants, where former ‘enemies’ now live and work together. With the support of the United Nations and the Government, the small village has become a place where peace reigns, and as inconceivable as it may have seemed five years ago, FARC combatants and locals now consider themselves family.

The UN chief walked through the town and was able to talk with its residents who are benefiting from different reincorporation entrepreneurial projects.

“I am very pleased to be in Llano Grande and I see first-hand the achievements of peace,” Mr. Guterres while visiting the town’s tailoring workshop.

There, he spoke with worker Monica Astrid Oquendo, who recently told UN News  that the Peace Agreement had brought with it initiatives that have greatly helped their community.

Mr. Guterres also spoke with other workers about their labour and discussed the importance of women’s leadership in the peace process.

A new brand of coffee

Meanwhile, a group of former combatants took advantage of the UN Chief’s visit to launch Trópicos, a new coffee brand created by a cooperative with 1,200 members.

Mr. Guterres was very interested in the cultivation process of the plant and the different types of coffee that are produced in Colombia.

“Trópicos [Spanish for ‘tropics regions’] is a brand whose geography offers special characteristics. The ‘rebellion’ of the tropics makes this coffee special because it comes from the community, and from people in the process of reincorporation. It not only has a social background but also quality standards. We have carefully selected each grain to be able to achieve high quality and to offer ‘Trópicos’ to the world,” explained Frey Gustavo de Maté, one of its creators.

The Secretary-General also learned of other projects such as a town school, an arepas (Colombian cornmeal cakes) factory, and a soap factory.

Later, in a brief address to the community on the town’s soccer field, Mr. Guterres congratulated everyone for “their enthusiasm and dedication” to these projects, which, he added, have the support of the Government and the international community.

He also acknowledged that the projects have been hampered by financial difficulties and stressed that as such, it will be necessary to redouble efforts to guarantee their sustainability, as well as to involve the private sector to help find solutions.

The UN chief recognized the work of the community in the entire municipality of Dabeiba, of which Llano Grande is part, and in other nearby municipalities, which he praised “as an example of integration and reconciliation for receiving ex-combatants with open arms and normalizing democratic life”.

“This shows true human qualities of teamwork, generosity, hope and courage to build a better future,” he added.

(Click here for a Spanish version of this article.)

Questions related to this article:

What is happening in Colombia, Is peace possible?

Peace does not come overnight

After hearing from many more members of the community, Mr. Guterres said they know better than anyone that peace does not come overnight.

“It costs work to build it, take care of it, sustain it…There is a paradox: the objective of peace is a society with no enemies, but unfortunately there are enemies of peace,” he said expressing his solidarity with the victims and their families.

Since 2017, there have been 30 homicides and four disappearances, mostly men, only in the Department of Antioquia, according to UN reports.

Moreover, throughout the country, more than 300 former combatants have been murdered, with some 25 disappearances. Almost 500 human rights defenders and civic leaders have also lost their lives in violent attacks.

Mr. Guterres said he admired “the tenacity and commitment” of the people who “continue to bet on building peace in Colombia on a day-to-day basis”. He also warned that “ensuring their security is vital to consolidating peace”.

United Nations remains committed

The Secretary-General reaffirmed the commitment of the United Nations to support the peace process and assured that he will discuss with the Government both the issue of security and housing. “We are all going to take advantage of this meeting to enhance our work,” he said.

However, he said that he recognized “with humility” that the Organization’s work is secondary and that the essential work in the construction of lasting peace belongs to Colombians.

“If this were a film, we would not be candidates for the Oscar for Best Actor, but for the best Supporting Actor,” he concluded

Joining Mr. Guterres in Llano Grande was the ex-commander of the FARC-EP, Rodrigo Londoño, who stressed that even though some 300 signatories to the peace deal had been killed, “we remain committed”.

The visit of the Secretary General, he said, “shows that we have made progress and that this is not a failed process.” It also “refutes the assertions of those who do not believe in this process.”

Mr. Londoño also expressed gratitude to Colombian President, Iván Duque, saying that the leader’s presence in Llano Grande “is encouraging” and a hopeful sign that the Colombian people must continue travelling the path of peace.

In his remarks, President Duque stated that the progress underway in Llano Grande showed the will of his Government to support efforts to build lasting peace.

“I think the most important thing that we see today is the rejection of violence … We value those who have made the decision to categorically reject the violence that was once justified,” the President said, and added: “This implies that there is no cause or ideology …that justifies murder, kidnapping or any other form of violence that threatens our freedom.”

Marking five years of peace

From Llano Grande, Mr. Guterres and President Duque flew by helicopter to Apartadó, in the Urabá region, a province dedicated to the cultivation of bananas and where the Government chose to hold a regional commemorative event to mark the fifth anniversary of the peace accord.

Ahead of that event, they visited the region’s Territorial Development Programme, which seeks to  improve the collaboration of different territorial agencies to achieve more effective sustainable development. With the Government’s backing these programmes are supporting a range of reconciliation projects, including the building of a school that will be inaugurated soon.

The celebration event was held in a park and was attended by a large audience comprised of members of the municipality and the national government.

For his part, the Secretary-General highlighted the role of women in the peace process and stressed that their participation “can help generate more inclusion.”

He went on to express concern about the fact that several regions continue to face increasing insecurity.

“The actions of the illegal armed actors diminish the hopes of local communities, as well as jeopardize the prospects for sustainable development,” said the Secretary-General.

He concluded that “peace requires facing the suffering of the past” and “reconciliation is the only way to a stable and lasting peace.”

Tomorrow on his last day in Colombia, Mr. Guterres will participate in the commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Final Peace Agreement in the capital, Bogotá. He will also attend the ‘La Paz es Productiva’ fair.

United Nations : UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence against Women

. . WOMEN’S EQUALITY . .

An action circular from UN Women

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign that takes place each year. It commences on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day, indicating that violence against women is the most pervasive breach of human rights worldwide. It was originated by activists at the inaugural Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991 and this year marks its 30th anniversary. Over 6000+ organizations in approximately 187 countries have participated in the Campaign since 1991, with a reach of 300 million1 people. It continues to be coordinated each year by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) and is used as an organizing strategy by individuals, institutions and organizations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.

In support of this civil society initiative, under the leadership of the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General’s UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence against Women campaign (UNiTE Campaign), launched in 2008 is a multi-year effort aimed at preventing and eliminating VAWG around the world calling for global action to increase awareness, galvanize advocacy and create opportunities for discussion about challenges and solutions.( 1) Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) United Nations Secretary-General’s Campaign UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence against Women ACTION CIRCULAR: October/ November 2021 Theme: 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence BIMONTHLY ACTI

2021 CONTEXT

According to the latest estimates, nearly 1 in 3 women aged 15 years and older, around the world have been subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner, non-partner sexual violence or both at least once in their lifetime, indicating that levels of violence against women and girls (VAWG) have remained largely unchanged over the last decade.(2) These numbers do not reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and would be even higher if they included the full continuum of violence that affect women and girls including sexual harassment, violence in digital contexts, harmful practices and sexual exploitation.

COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated all the risk factors for VAWG and reinforced many of the root causes such as gender stereotypes and harmful social norms. It has been estimated that 11 million girls may not return to school because of COVID-19, thereby increasing their risk of child marriage.(3) The economic fallout is expected to push 47 million more women and girls into extreme poverty in 2021, (4) reversing decades of progress and perpetuating structural inequalities that reinforce VAWG.

In addition to the impact of COVID-19, the global context of violent conflicts and humanitarian crises, including climate related disasters, are affecting more people than ever before, with a disproportionate impact on women and girls, perpetuating all forms of VAWG. While the forms and contexts may differ across geographic locations, women and girls universally experience different forms of violence in public and private settings, in contexts of peace and in contexts of conflict as well as in humanitarian or crises settings. If we want to ensure that no woman or girl is left behind, we need comprehensive and inclusive approaches that can be adapted to rapidly changing contexts, preventing and responding to all forms of VAWG such as the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative which is making significant progress in preventing and eliminating VAWG even under the constraints of a pandemic. (5)

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Questions for this article

Protecting women and girls against violence, Is progress being made?

Does the UN advance equality for women?

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This year’s global campaign theme “Orange the World: END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN NOW!” will mobilize all UNITE networks, civil society and women’s rights organizations, the UN system, the Action Coalition on Gender-Based Violence, government partners, schools, universities, private sector, sports clubs and associations and individuals to advocate for inclusive, comprehensive and long-term strategies, programmes and resources to prevent and eliminate VAWG in public and private spaces prioritizing the most marginalized women and girls. VAWG is not an inevitable part of our societies. It is preventable and the 16 days of activism this year will be an opportunity to showcase effective strategies and interventions to inspire all actors to scale up what works. It is also an opportunity to promote the leadership of women and girls in their diversity and their meaningful participation in policy making and decision making from global to local levels and to build on the momentum created during the Generation Equality Forum.

MAIN PRINCIPLES OF UNiTE CAMPAIGN ADVOCACY

• Honour and acknowledge women’s movements and their leadership in preventing and ending violence against women and girls.

• ‘Leave No One Behind’: Apply a human rights-based approach and focus attention on the most underserved and disadvantaged groups of women and girls in efforts to prevent and end violence against women and girls.

• Survivor-centred: Take a respectful and ‘do no harm’ approach to the telling and retelling of survivor stories, only with their informed consent and under conditions in which they have agreed. This and the empowerment principles are vital for the engagement of survivor advocates/activists on their own terms. All UNiTE partners must ensure that survivor advocates’ rights, safety, dignity and confidentiality are prioritized and upheld.

• Multi-sectoral: Everyone in society has an important role to play in ending violence against women and girls and we all must work together across sectors to address the various aspects of violence against women and girls.

• Transformative: Fostering critical examination of gender roles, regimes and practices, while seeking to create or strengthen equitable gender norms and dynamics for fundamental, lasting changes for women and girls.

• Elevate the voices of young feminists: While the world’s reviewing progress made over the past 25 years since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, it is time to create platforms to elevate voices of the next generation feminists who are shaping their future now. • The colour orange continues to be a key tool unifying all activities to bring global attention to the initiative.

(1) Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL)

(2) Violence Against Women Prevalence Estimates, 2018 – World Health Organization, on behalf of the United Nations Inter-Agency Working Group on Violence Against Women Estimation and Data (VAW-IAWGED) (2021).

(3) United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Keeping Girls in the Picture (2020); United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Impact of the COVID19 Pandemic on Family Planning and Ending Gender-based Violence, Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage: Pandemic threatens achievement of the Transformative Results committed to by UNFPA (2020).

(4) UN Women, From Insights to Action: Gender equality in the wake of COVID-19 (New York, 2020).

(5) https://www.spotlightinitiative.org. Page | 3

Amnesty International: Leaders’ catastrophic failure on climate at COP26 shows they have forgotten who they should serve and protect – humanity at large

. HUMAN RIGHTS .

An article from Amnesty International

Leaders have catastrophically betrayed humanity at large by failing to protect people most affected by the climate crisis and instead caving into the interests of fossil fuel and other powerful corporations, Amnesty International said today as the climate conference, COP26, concludes for another year.  Following two weeks of negotiations by world leaders in Glasgow, Amnesty’s Secretary General, Agnès Callamard, said:

“The United Nations Climate Change Conference has failed to deliver an outcome that protects the planet or people. Instead it has betrayed the very foundations on which the United Nations was built – a pledge first not to countries, nor states, but to the people. Throughout their negotiations, our leaders have made choices that ignore, chip away or bargain away our rights as human beings, often discarding the most marginalised communities around the world as expendable collateral damage.

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Questions related to this article:

Sustainable Development Summits of States, What are the results?

What is the relation between climate change and human rights?

(Article continued from the left column)

“Their failure to commit to maintaining the global temperature rise at 1.5°C will condemn more than half a billion people, mostly in the global south, to insufficient water and hundreds of millions of people to extreme heatwaves. Despite this disastrous scenario, wealthy countries have failed to commit money towards compensating communities suffering loss and damage as a result of climate change. Neither have they committed to providing climate finance to developing countries primarily as grants, a decision that threatens poorer countries – the least equipped to cope with the climate crisis – with unsustainable levels of debt.

“It is bitterly disappointing to see the many loopholes in the COP26 agreement which bow to the interests of fossil fuel corporates rather than our rights. The agreement fails to call for the phasing out of all fossil fuels and all fossil fuel subsidies – demonstrating the lack of ambition and bold action needed at this critical time. In addition, the focus on carbon offsetting by rich countries, without even putting in place adequate environmental and human rights protection  measures, ignores the threat to Indigenous peoples and communities who risk being evicted from their land to make way for these schemes. It is a hollow and unacceptable substitute for real zero emissions targets. 

“The decisions made by our leaders in Glasgow have grave consequences for all of humanity. As they have clearly forgotten the people they serve, the people must come together to show them what can be achieved. Over the next 12 months, we must stand together to call on our governments to take ambitious action on climate change that puts people and human rights at its centre. If we do not put our hearts and minds into solving this existential threat to humanity, we lose everything.”

Amid rain and wind, Catholics join 100,000 demonstrators at COP26 climate march

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article by Brian Roewe from the National Catholic Reporter

On a wet, windy and cold day in Scotland, an estimated 100,000 people took to the streets of Glasgow on Nov. 6 in demonstrations calling for increased action and results from COP26, the two-week United Nations climate summit being hosted by the United Kingdom.

Among the throngs of people marching from Kelvingrove Park to Glasgow Green as part of the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice were hundreds of Catholics, many hailing from the U.K. while others represented countries across Africa, the Pacific, Europe and the Americas.


(Alphonce Muia/CYNESA)

EarthBeat asked some of the participants to share in their own words what the march meant to them and what message they sought to send to delegates and world leaders at COP26.

Ayaat Hassan, Student at Notre Dame Catholic High School in Glasgow, and part of SCIAF, the official relief and development agency of the Catholic Church in Scotland

“We’re here to represent the youth of today, because climate change is going to have the biggest impact on us and we deserve to have our voices heard. The message this march sends is that we care about this a lot.”

Lorna Gold (pictured), Board chair, Laudato Si’ Movement

“It’s very moving to be here with the Laudato Si’ globe and all the activists. We just hope the message here gets through to the COP itself. … So far it’s very high on aspirations and it’s high on long-term targets. But there’s no detail.”

Jesuit Fr. Leonard Chiti, Provincial for Jesuits in Southern Africa

“I bring a message from the poor adversely affected by climate change. Global warming and extreme weather patterns are making it difficult for people to survive. I come here asking everyone to act now to save the planet and save the lives and livelihoods of people in Southern Africa and other less-developed countries.”

Members of the Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA)

“CYNESA joined the global environmental movement [at both the youth climate strike on Nov. 5 and Global Day for Climate Justice on Nov. 6] to march and send a strong message of acting for [the] climate crisis with the urgency it deserves in the streets of Glasgow.

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Question for this article:

Sustainable Development Summits of States, What are the results?

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

Are we seeing the dawn of a global youth movement?

(Article continued from the left column)

“We made it known to the world that in Africa, most young people do not choose to be climate activists, but are forced, because their own survival is fully threatened and their future is not certain [because of] water scarcity, food insecurity, extreme weather events forcing high numbers of them to migrate to Europe in very appalling conditions.

”The future is not a destination that will wait for us; it is one that we must create, and CYNESA joins the global environmental movement to demand climate justice and a more ambitious outcome from this COP26 as the window of the opportunity to turn around the devastating effects of climate change, as we are the only generation with this unique burden of responsibility to do something about [the] climate crisis.”

Rodne Galicha, Executive director, Living Laudato Si’ Philippines

“Eight years after the onslaught of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, more than a thousand people are still missing. Year after year thenceforth, the intensity of extreme weather conditions is increasing.

“COP26 is an opportunity to address losses and damages, both for humanity and ecosystems. Climate action is not only about common but differentiated responsibilities, but a collective conscience and uncompromised moral imperative towards intergenerational justice, equity and common good.”

Alex Ugoh (pictured), 19-year-old CAFOD climate campaigner from Rainham, East London (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development)

“I am here to represent the drive and enthusiasm of young people across the globe who want a more sustainable tomorrow. The opportunity to be surrounded by a community of passionate young adults focused on future-proofing their planet for generations to come was something I simply could not pass up.”

Lydia Machaka (pictured), CIDSE climate justice & energy officer

“We push on, no matter what! We need climate action now!” she said, even despite barriers, whether inside the summit or with the rainy weather outside.

Sophie Pereira (pictured), 18-year-old CAFOD climate campaigner from Colchester, Essex

“We are living in a climate crisis, and I believe the youth deserve to be standing right next to the world leaders, contributing to their decisions.

“As young people, we are the next generation. We will be living in the world that the generation before left us. Because of that, we deserve a voice and deserve to stand together and fight for the world we’re living in before it’s too late.”

Giorgio Gotra, CIDSE campaign project officer

“Inspired by Laudato Si’, we renew our commitment to ‘change for planet and to care for the people’ and joined the march in Glasgow.”

Jane Mellett (pictured), Laudato Si’ officer, Trocaire, and member of Laudato Si’ Movement

“We sang. We chanted. We prayed. And it just was a very powerful day. Everyone is here for our common home, for climate justice and to call for justice for the most vulnerable people in our world and planet Earth.”

COP26: Thousands of young people take over Glasgow streets demanding climate action

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article from the United Nations

“What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!” echoed throughout central Glasgow on Friday as thousands of protesters took the streets during the dedicated “Youth Day” at COP26.

Although the march was initially organized by Fridays for Future, the youth-driven movement inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, people of all ages gathered at George Square to demand climate action.


UN News/Laura Quiñones

From small children waving their handmade picket signs, to older adults demanding a better future for those that will come after them, the COP26  host city saw citizen activists in unprecedented numbers rallying to get their message heard.

An even larger march is expected on Saturday. 

Welsh citizen Jane Mansfield carried around a sign that read: “Code red for humanity”, the signature phrase  UN Secretary General António Guterres used after the latest IPCC report  published earlier this year warned of a looming climate catastrophe. 

“I really care about the world that we are passing on to future generations, and what we are doing to the Global South. I live in southwest Wales and climate change is clearly happening, but we don´t even grasp what is happening in so many other parts of the world and I am scared,” she told UN News. 

Latin-American Indigenous leaders were also among today’s demonstrations. They were the ones leading the march and several of them sent a loud message to world leaders: stop extracting resources and to ‘leave carbon in the ground’. 

“Indigenous people are dying in the river; they’re being washed away by massive floods. Houses are being washed away, schools full of children inside, bridges, our food our crops, everything is being washed away”, they said at a stage in George Square. 

Meanwhile, some activists wore bobblehead masks of presidents and prime ministers and depicted them as being arrested with signs that read “climate criminals”. 

More real action, less ‘greenwashing’ 

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg was the last to appear on the protest’s stage, where she criticized world leaders for their continued “blah, blah, blah” after 26 years of climate conferences and put in doubt the transparency of the commitments they have made during this COP. 

“The leaders are not doing nothing; they are actively creating loopholes and shaping frameworks to benefit themselves, and to continue profiting from this destructive system. This is an active choice by the leaders to continue the exploitation of nature and people and the destruction of presents and future living conditions to take place”, she said, calling the conference a “greenwashing event”. 

Other Fridays for Future members, speaking to UN News, asked for more participation and better youth representation in the negotiations that are underway at COP26. 

“Every year we have been disappointed by COP, and I don’t think this year will be different. There is a sliver of hope but at the same time we don’t see enough action, we can’t achieve anything with just pledges and empty promises”, said a representative of Youth Advocates for Climate Change in the Philippines  

(article continued in right column)

Question for this article:

Sustainable Development Summits of States, What are the results?

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

Are we seeing the dawn of a global youth movement?

(Article continued from the left column)

“Negotiations are happening and yet we are here in the street, because we haven’t been included. The richest people come in their private jets and take the decisions. We are here and we won’t be ignored. We will make our own space”, another climate advocate added. 

The Youth Statement 

The same call was made inside the conference’s Blue Zone, where climate activists from YOUNGO, the Children and Youth Constituency of UN Climate Change, delivered to the COP Presidency and other leaders a statement signed by 40,000 young people demanding change. 

The statement raised several points of concern, among them inclusion in climate negotiations. It also asked Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to support young people’s efforts to have a paragraph mentioning the importance of the youth included in the final declaration that is expected to be adopted at the end of COP26. 

“We will be bringing these issues and demands to the attentions of the delegations, all of them are absolutely reasonable and justifiable,” she vowed during a panel discussion with young leaders.  

The statement, which was handed over to Ministers, also asks for action on climate finance, mobility and transportation, wildlife protection and environmental conservation. 

“Wherever I have been in the world, I have been struck by the passion and the commitment of young people to climate action. The voices of young people must be heard and reflected in these negotiations here at COP. The actions and scrutiny of young people are key to us keeping 1.5 alive and creating a net-zero future”, said Alok Sharma, COP26 President. 

Meanwhile, the UK and Italy, in partnership with UNESCO, Youth4Climate and Mock COP coordinated new global action to equip future generations with the knowledge and skills to create a net-zero world.  

As Education Ministers and young people gathered, over 23 countries put forward national climate education pledges, ranging from decarbonizing the education sector to developing school resources. 

The youth are right: the new commitments aren’t enough 

The UNFCCC published its latest updates of the national commitments  thus far to reduce carbon emissions, and although some advances have been made during the conference, they are still not enough. 

“A sizable increase, of about 13.7 per cent, in global greenhouse emissions in 2030 compared to 2010 is anticipated”, the report says. 

Before COP, the increase was calculated at 16 per cent, but for the world to be able to curb global heating and avoid disastrous consequences, emissions must be cut by 50 per cent in the next nine years. 

For Carla Huanca, a young activist who travelled all the way from Bolivia to be in Glasgow with her friend, the dinosaur “T-Resilient”, another extinction can’t be a possibility. 

“We young people will be the ones that will inherit this planet, and that is why it is so important that our voices are heard. We demand government actions so we can all have the planet we want,” she told UN News.

(Thank you to Phyllis Kotite, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

United Nations: Non-Violence Day offers prospect for ‘new era of peace, trust and tolerance’

EDUCATION FOR PEACE .

An article from the United Nations

In his message for the International Day of Non-Violence, on Saturday, the UN chief noted that the day provides an opportunity to usher in a “new era of peace, trust and tolerance”.


UN / Ryan Brown. Gandhi stamps created by the UN post for the International Day of Non-Violence.

Secretary-General António Guterres pointed out that it was no coincidence that the day coincides with the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi – leader of India’s independence movement and a founder of the principles of non-violence.

“For Gandhi, non-violence, peaceful protest, dignity and equality were more than words. They represented a guiding light for humanity, a map to a better future”, he said.

‘Template’ for the future

The UN chief also pointed to the movement as “a template” to confront today’s troubled times.  

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

Question(s) related to this article:

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

Can peace be guaranteed through nonviolent means?

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“Conflicts and climate change. Poverty and inequalities.  Mistrust and divisions.  All under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to devastate people and economies alike”, he said.

The UN chief underscored that the solution to these challenges “is in our hands: solidarity”.    
Solutions ‘in our hands’

The principle of non-violence, also known as non-violent resistance, rejects the use of physical force to achieve social or political change and has been adopted globally in campaigns for social justice.

 “We need to recognize, as Gandhi did, that what unites us is far greater than what divides us. That peace provides the only pathway to a better future for all”, he said.

Coming together as one

Addressing global challenges means “coming together as one human family, and embracing peace like never before”, Mr. Guterres said, calling on combatants around the world to lay down their arms and “focus on defeating humanity’s common enemy – COVID-19 – not one another”.  

He underscored the urgent need to deliver lifesaving vaccines and treatment, “and support countries in the long road to recovery ahead”; intensify efforts to reduce inequalities and end poverty; and create “a bold global plan of action” to heal the planet.  

Most of all, flagged the UN chief, “we need to renew trust in one another”.

“Hatred, division, conflict and mistrust have had their day”, he said.  “It is time to usher in a new era of peace, trust and tolerance”.

Mr. Guterres urged everyone to “heed Gandhi’s message of peace and get down to the business of building a better and more peaceful future for all”.

UN Urged to Declare a Global Peace Education Day

FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION

An article by Anwarul Chowdhury in IDN-InDepth News (published under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International)

Following is the text of Inaugural Keynote Address by Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations and Founder of The Global Movement for The Culture of Peace (GMCoP), at the First Annual Peace Education Day Conference organized virtually by The Unity Foundation and Peace Education Network.


Photo: UN Blue Helmets. Credit: United Nations

I thank Bill McCarthy, President and Founder of the Unity Foundation and Chair of this first annual Peace Education Day Conference and the Peace Education Network for organizing the conference with the excellent objective of getting the UN to declare an International Peace Education Day. I believe it would be better if it is called the Global Peace Education Day.

I am honored to be invited to speak at the conference as the inaugural keynote speaker on a subject which is very close to my heart and my persona.

As I have stated on many occasions, my life’s experience has taught me to value peace and equality as the essential components of our existence. Those unleash the positive forces of good that are so needed for human progress.

Peace is integral to human existence—in everything we do, in everything we say and in every thought we have, there is a place for peace. We should not isolate peace as something separate or distant. It is important to realize that the absence of peace takes away the opportunities that we need to better ourselves, to prepare ourselves, to empower ourselves to face the challenges of our lives, individually and collectively.

For two decades and half, my focus has been on advancing the culture of peace which aims at making peace and non-violence a part of our own self, our own personality—a part of our existence as a human being. And this will empower ourselves to contribute more effectively to bring inner as well as outer peace.

This is the core of the self-transformational dimension of my advocacy around the globe and for all ages, with special emphasis on women, youth and children. This realization has now become more pertinent in the midst of the ever-increasing militarism and militarization that is destroying both our planet and our people.

The International Congress on Peace in the Minds of Men was held in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire/Ivory Coast in 1989 organized by UNESCO under the wise and dynamic leadership of my dear friend Federico Mayor Zaragoza, then UNESCO Director-General who is joining this conference also as a keynote speaker. It was a landmark gathering to give a boost and a profile to the concept of the culture of peace aimed at promoting a change of values and behaviors.

On 13 September 1999, 22 years ago last week, the United Nations adopted the Declaration and Programme of Action on the Culture of Peace, a monumental document that transcends boundaries, cultures, societies and nations.

It was an honor for me to Chair the nine-month long negotiations that led to the adoption of this historic norm-setting document by the United Nations General Assembly. That document asserts that inherent in the culture of peace is a set of values, modes of behaviour and ways of life.

A significant aspect of the essential message as articulated in the UN documents effectively asserts that the “culture of peace is a process of individual, collective and institutional transformation …” ‘Transformation’ is of the key relevance here.

It is basic to remember that the culture of peace requires a change of our hearts, change of our mindset. It can be internalized through simple ways of living, changing of our own behavior, changing how we relate to each other, changing how we connect with the oneness of humanity. The essence of the culture of peace is its message of inclusiveness and of global solidarity.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations in its sustainable development goal (SDGs) number 4.7 includes, among others, promotion of culture of peace and non-violence as well as global citizenship as part of the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development.

It also calls on the international community to ensure that all learners acquire those by the year 2030. Keeping that in focus, the theme of the UN High Level Forum in 2019 observing the 20th anniversary of the culture of peace at the UN was “The Culture of Peace—Empowering and Transforming the Humanity” aiming at a forward-looking and inspiring agenda for the next twenty years.

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Question(s) related to this article:

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

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In my introduction to the 2008 publication “Peace Education: A Pathway to a Culture of Peace”, I wrote, “As Maria Montessori had articulated so appropriately, those who want a violent way of living, prepare young people for that; but those, who want peace have neglected their young children and adolescents and that way are unable to organize them for peace.”

In UNICEF, peace education is very succinctly defined as “the process of promoting the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values needed to bring about behavior change that will enable children, youth and adults to prevent conflict and violence, both overt and structural; to resolve conflict peacefully; and to create the conditions conducive to peace, whether at an interpersonal, intergroup, national or international levels”.

Peace education needs to be accepted in all parts of the world, in all societies and countries as an essential element in creating the culture of peace. It deserves a radically different education—“one that does not glorify war but educates for peace, non-violence and international cooperation.” They need the skills and knowledge to create and nurture peace for their individual selves as well as for the world they belong to.

Never has it been more important for us to learn about the world and understand its diversity.  The task of educating children and young people to find non-aggressive means to relate with one another is of primary importance.

All educational institutions need to offer opportunities that prepare the students not only to live fulfilling lives but also to be responsible, conscious and productive citizens of the world. For that, educators need to introduce holistic and empowering curricula that cultivate a culture of peace in each and every young mind.

Indeed, this should be more appropriately called “education for global citizenship”. Such learning cannot be achieved without well-intentioned, sustained, and systematic peace education that leads the way to the culture of peace.

If our minds could be likened to a computer, then education provides the software with which to “reboot” our priorities and actions away from violence, towards the culture of peace. The Global Campaign for Peace Education has continued to contribute in a meaningful way towards this objective and must receive our continuous support.

For this, I believe that early childhood affords a unique opportunity for us to sow the seeds of transition from the culture of war to the culture of peace. The events that a child experiences early in life, the education that this child receives, and the community activities and socio-cultural mindset in which a child is immersed all contribute to how values, attitudes, traditions, modes of behavior, and ways of life develop.

We need to use this window of opportunity to instill the rudiments that each individual needs to become agents of peace and non-violence from an early life.

Connecting the role of individuals to broader global objectives, Dr. Martin Luther King Junior affirmed that “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” The UN Programme of Action on the Culture of Peace pays special attention to this aspect of an individual’s self-transformation.

In this context, I would reiterate that women in particular have a major role to play in promoting the culture of peace in our violence-ridden societies, thereby bringing in lasting peace and reconciliation. Women’s equality makes our planet safe and secure. It is my strong belief that unless women are engaged in advancing the culture of peace at equal levels with men, sustainable peace would continue to elude us.

We should always remember that without peace, development is impossible, and without development, peace is not achievable, but without women, neither peace nor development is conceivable.

The work for peace is a continuous process and I am convinced that culture of peace is absolutely the most essential vehicle for realizing the goals and objectives of the United Nations in the twenty-first century.

Let me conclude by urging all of you most earnestly that we need to encourage the young people to be themselves, to build their own character, their own personality, which is embedded with understanding, tolerance and respect for diversity and in solidarity with rest of humanity.

We need to convey that to the young people. This is the minimum we can do as adults. We should do everything to empower them in the real sense, and such empowerment is going to stay with them for life. That is the significance of the Culture of Peace. It is not something temporary like resolving a conflict in one area or between communities without transforming and empowering people to sustain peace.

Let us—yes, all of us—embrace the culture of peace for the good of humanity, for the sustainability of our planet and for making our world a better place to live.