Peace Happens!

Publish: October 3, 2016

On 21 September, the fourth edition of the Geneva Peace Talks was held at the Palais des Nations to celebrate the International Day of Peace.

Organized under the theme ‘Peace Happens’, the event brought together a diverse line-up of speakers to highlight that everyone has a role to play in peace, be it at home or in a far-away conflict zone. Through speakers’ extraordinary contributions to peace, the event shed light on three ways in which peace happens: through leadership at every level; through human connections and strong relationships and through trust building and tackling obstacle to peace.

Thanks to live webcast and live twitting of the event, the Geneva Peace Talks engaged a large audience beyond people in attendance and producing a trending conversation globally. The hashtag #GVAPeaceTalks generated more than 22 million social media impressions.

The event opened on the music played by Karim Wasfi, the Chief conductor & Director-Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra. Karim lives in Baghdad, where he founded ‘Peace through Art’ initiative as a way to resist terror through refinement and creativity. On the International Day of Peace, Karim’s story is a powerful reminder that ‘Peace Happens’ even in the most challenging environments.

Mimoun Berrissoun from the extremelytogether programme of the Kofi Annan Foundation highlighted that visionary and courageous leadership is needed to face most of today’s challenges. Leadership for togetherness can foster understanding between different communities and cohesion within wider societies.

The link between leadership and responsibility has also been highlighted by Lionel Aeschlimann, Managing Partner of Mirabaud. When guided by responsible leadership, finance can serve peace by boosting sustainable development and helping societies to grow in an inclusive way, making sure than no one is left behind.

Inclusion and participation are also vital elements of political processes. Dr. Kaba, Secretary General of the Mano River Union emphasized the leadership role played by women in settling civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia. In these contexts, women gathered together across the society to mediate between parties, while helping to translate the peace deals into the codes of reference used by different communities and bringing finally peace to their countries.

When youth leadership meets women’s entrepreneurship, it become easy to make the difference in communities where we live. Helen Calle Lin, an eclectic and creative entrepreneur, brought on stage her vision of contributing to peace through human connections. For the last 20 years Helen has led different socio-cultural projects to revitalise public spaces in Geneva and turning them into friendly areas where a diversified public can meet.

Trust is an essential ingredient of peace. Marc Bonnet from the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining showed how different activities – such as demining – can contribute to enhance trust between different groups. By working closely with communities, mine action work helped boosting the idea of dialogue at the local level and therefore was instrumental in the peace process in Colombia.

Ahmed Labnouj shed light on positive stories of reconciliation and dialogue between communities in Libya. A major takeaway from the peace mapping exercise that Ahmed conducted for Interpeace in Libya is the importance of focusing on elements that bring people together, rather than on what divides communities.

Building trust at the community level is something possible also at our doorstep. Mireille Widmer and Nicolas Witschard work together in a neighborhood’s contract in Geneva. As habitants of the area of Pâquis, they engaged in a process aiming at building bridges of understanding among old residents and newcomers to address security problems through dialogue.

The last inspiring Peace Talk was delivered through the music of Pososhok. Their energizing performance made the 500 participants move up their seats, reinforcing the message that music is a glue to make human connections hold and relationships grow stronger. An unplanned grand closing of this 2016 edition featured a jam session with Pososhok and Karim Wasfi playing a music for peace.

Pictures of the messages of peace from the popular Peace Talks photobooth can be found on the Peace Talks Facebook page

The Geneva Peace Talks was co-organized by the United Nations Office at Geneva, Interpeace and the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform. This year’s edition was held in partnership with the Kofi Annan Foundation, the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces and the Global Shapers Community Geneva. The event was made possible with the generous support of the Swiss Confederation, the Republic and State of Geneva, the City of Geneva, and Mirabaud.

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