Friday, October 5, 2012

Captions: Kassym-Jomart Tokayev ( third from right ) Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva ( UNOG ) and participants on the occasion of the International Day of Peace. 21 September 2012. (Photo: Jean-Marc Ferré)To mark the International Day of Peace, the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the United Nations in Geneva, in coordination with the Spanish society for International Human Rights Law, Initiatives of Change and many other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), supported by the NGO liaison unit of the UN office at Geneva, organized a High Level meeting on the Right to Peace.

The event was opened by the Director-General of the UN in Geneva, Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, after a brief musical introduction. There were more than 60 people present from various UN missions and UN departments as well as many different representatives of different NGOs.

Participants at the High Level meeting on the Right to Peace, 21 September 2012. (Photo: Jean-Marc Ferré)The right to peace is a new legal concept that is being promoted by some countries and NGOs. One of its longtime supporters is Ambassador Mohamed Sahnoun. It is made up of certain standards in peace education, development, the environment, and for victims and vulnerable groups that can be considered to support the foundations of peace. IofC’s Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Rainer Gude, was one of the representatives of civil society organizations who briefed the audience on ‘the progressive development of the right to peace’. His speech is given below.

Although IofC has not really worked directly on the Right to Peace in the past, in a certain sense it has always worked according to this concept. A glimpse at IofC’s long history gives many examples of how working according to ethical standards, and with the conviction that human beings are meant to be at peace with one another, can lead to real personal and global change.

Frank Buchman’s quote that, ‘peace is not just an idea, it is people becoming different,’ struck a chord with people and helped underline that the purpose of the right to peace, and peace itself for that matter, is people and not just countries or international structures.

The Right to Peace as a means to strengthen Dialogue and Cooperation

Rainer Gude, Representative of Initiatives of Change to the United Nations in Geneva on the occasion of the International Day of Peace. 21 September 2012. (Photo: Jean-Marc Ferré)(Presentation by Mr Rainer Gude, Representative of Initiatives of Change to the United Nations in Geneva)

Dear Director General, Ambassadors, Representatives of the UN, Representatives of NGOs, fellow members of Civil Society, good afternoon. On behalf of the international network of Initiatives of Change which I represent, in the name of our President Dr. Omnia Marzouk, and with special greetings from our former President, Ambassador Mohamed Sahnoun, a great advocate of the right to peace, I wish you a very happy peace day!

Ambassador Sahnoun asked me to thank the other co-sponsors and also hailed the efforts of Costa Rica and other countries who have promoted the Right to Peace. He considers it of the utmost importance since, ‘it can help people realize that confrontation and wars are often initiated to serve interests without looking at the consequences for people.’ In a word, the Right to Peace, and the standards it proposes, places people at the focus since they are the main beneficiaries of peace. However, Peace is only possible when people prefer dialogue and cooperation to war. We have found that in promoting a Right to Peace a strengthening of these two capacities is a natural outcome.

We at Initiatives of Change support the Right to Peace because we believe that by creating standards particularly in the area of peace education, development, the environment, and victims and vulnerable groups, we can more easily conceive how peace can be built and maintained. In fact, approaching peace in this manner, by not merely seeing it as an immense and unachievable goal, but by proceeding in small steps, even down to the individual level, has been very much part of Initiative of Change's long experience. We know that war will not disappear simply by making a law against it, but by promoting standards in different yet inter-connected fields that are the foundation of peace we can make progress both for the right to peace as a concept and to peace itself.

Initiatives of Change aims to build bridges across the world's divides. Our approach is a holisitic one that links both global and personal change. As our Founder Frank Buchman realized, not only structures, but people, have to change for any change to be lasting and for peace to be achieved. He once said, ‘Peace is not just an idea, it is people becoming different.’ Long before the concept of the Right to Peace was even formulated, members of what was then called Moral Re-armament, our previous name, were able to galvanize support to buy and renovate the Caux-palace Hotel above Montreux in 1946 with the dream of helping Europe heal after WWII. There was no concept yet of a Right to Peace, but there was a strong conviction in the wrong of war. Between 1946 and 1950, 3,000 Germans and 2,000 French visited Caux, among them parliamentarians, industrialists, trade unionists and journalists. Robert Schuman and Konrad Adenauer were also present and paid tribute to Caux’s support in the reconciliation process. These conferences did not try to promote peace as such, but promoted forgiveness and reconciliation through dialogue and started with a look at personal lives and motivations. They could be considered a large-scale training in dialogue or even a crash-course in the Right to Peace. The increased capacity of dialogue and habits of cooperation built there among all levels of society were of tremendous use in solidifying peace and the subsequent reconstruction of Europe.

Since then, many other exciting things have happened in Caux, not to mention the fact that three Costa Rican Presidents have visited us there. Caux has been the incubator for change and source of inspiration for many meetings involved in the process leading to Tunisian Independence, Aboriginal rights in Australia, Minority rights in South Tryrol, healing religious tension in Lebanon, and many peace initiatives for Burundi as well as countless personal experiences of reconciliation. It is a place where dialogue can be learnt and cooperation is practiced and has of course given birth to many of our grass roots projects in over 30 different countries. Our holistic approach, which touches on each of the standards that the Right to Peace is promoting, has produced what we could call a normalization of dialogue and cooperation. We believe that in promoting the Right to Peace these important ingredients to peace would be naturally promulgated and strengthened.

What the world needs now, are not simply more peace treaties, but a strengthening of the foundations of peace and our capacity to work for them. This is precisely what the Right to Peace proposes and what we at Initiatives of Change strive for.

I thank you for your attention.

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