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    Sustainable Peace

March 7, 2013

Rotary – Recruiting the Next Generation of Peacemakers

The Rotary Peace Fellowship offers full funding for a master’s degree or professional certificate in peace study at one of six Rotary Peace Centers around the world.

“Rotary believes, as I believe, that it is possible to have a world without war,” said Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. “By educating future peace-builders and working to ease the conditions that breed violence and conflict, Rotary is demonstrating to the rest of the world that peace is attainable.”

Rotary – Voices for Peace

Voices For Peace from Rotary International on Vimeo.

Since 2002, Rotary has sponsored 50 fellows every year, each of whom embark on one to two years of master’s-level study at leading Rotary Peace Centers around the world including:

  • Uppsala University, Sweden
  • University of Bradford, UK
  • University of Queensland, Australia
  • International Christian University, Japan
  • Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA

Additionally, in 2004 Rotary added the Professional Development Certificate program at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.  Each year, the Rotary Peace Center in Thailand trains up to 50 mid-level professionals from peace-related fields such as public health, education, international law, economic development, journalism, and social justice.

Now Accepting Applications

Applications for the 2014-15 class are due by 1 July 2013.  In order to apply applicants must contact their local Rotary club or district to gain endorsement.  Use the Club Locator to find your nearest club.

“When I talk about peace, I tell people that you must do more than simply ‘care’ about peace — you have to take action to achieve it,” said Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams, who won her prize in 1997 for helping ban antipersonnel landmines. “That’s what I admire about Rotary members—they lead by example, both at the community level and through their support of the Rotary Peace Centers.”

Rotary Peace Center alumna Izabela da Costa Pereira, now a director and project analyst for the United Nations Development Program, says the need for trained peace-makers has never been greater.  “With the plethora of conflicts in so many regions, more specialists are needed, particularly coming from conflict zones,” she said.  “One of Rotary’s greatest contributions is the promotion of peace through specialized education.”

Other Rotary Peace Center alumni of note:

Brigitta von Messling, Germany, earned her master’s degree at the Rotary Peace Center at the University of Bradford in 2006. She is the senior advisor for training and organizational development for the Center for International Peace Operations in Berlin, Germany.

Robert Opira, Uganda, earned his master’s degree at Rotary Peace Center at University of Queensland in 2007. Robert is a peace and conflict consultant providing technical support to humanitarian agencies helping internally displaced persons in Northern Uganda. He is also the director of the Great Lakes Center for Conflict Resolution in Uganda.

Rajaa Natour, Israel, earned her master’s degree at Rotary Peace Center at University of Bradford in 2011. Today she is a program manager of the Gemini Project in Jafaa, Israel. The project promotes constructive dialogue between groups of Jewish and Palestinian students across ten campuses and cities.

Jason Hutson, Japan, earned his master’s degree at Rotary Peace Center at International Christian University in 2009. He is the founder and CEO for What Sport Creative, a Tokyo-based organization that uses sports as a catalyst for youth development and cultural exchange.

Cameron Chisholm, USA, earned his master’s degree at the Rotary Peace Center at University of Bradford in 2008. He is the president of the International Peace & Security Institute and teaches peace studies courses at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Rotary is a global humanitarian organization with more than 1.2 million members in 34,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. Rotary members are men and women who are business, professional and community leaders with a shared commitment to make the world a better place through humanitarian service.

February 18, 2013

Frederick Douglass – Father of America’s Civil Rights Movement

Frederick Douglass was a man who continually reinvented himself and would, in time, create the modern American civil rights movement and reshape American politics.

young-Frederick_DouglassThe son of a slave woman and an unknown white man, “Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey” was born in February of 1818 on Maryland’s eastern shore. He spent his early years with his grandparents and with an aunt, seeing his mother only four or five times before her death when he was seven. While growing up, he was witnessed the degradations of slavery, seeing firsthand brutal whippings and spending much time cold and hungry. At the age of eight he was sent to Baltimore to live with a ship carpenter named Hugh Auld. It was there he learned to read and first heard the words abolition and abolitionists. “Going to live at Baltimore,” Douglass would later recall, “laid the foundation, and opened the gateway, to all my subsequent prosperity.”

Douglass enjoyed seven relatively comfortable years in Baltimore before being sent back to the country, where he was hired out to a farm run by a notoriously brutal “slavebreaker” named Edward Covey. And the treatment he received was indeed brutal. Whipped daily and barely fed, Douglass was “broken in body, soul, and spirit.”  These events were to propel him to become an activist against slavery.

Frederick Douglass – Mini Bio

On January 1, 1836, he resolved that he would be free by the end of the year. He planned an escape. But early in April he was jailed after his plan was discovered. Two years later, while living in Baltimore and working at a shipyard, Douglass would finally realize his dream: he fled the city on September 3, 1838. Traveling by train, then steamboat, then train, he arrived in New York City the following day. Several weeks later he had settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, living with his newlywed bride (whom he met in Baltimore and married in New York) under his new name, Frederick Douglass.

William-Lloyd-GarrisonDouglass continued to educate himself and was an avid reader. In New Bedford, he attended Abolitionists’ meetings and subscribed to William Lloyd Garrison’s weekly journal, the Liberator. After meeting Garrison in 1841, Douglass was mentioned in the Liberator and a few days later gave a speech at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society’s annual convention in Nantucket. It was reported that, “Flinty hearts were pierced, and cold ones melted by his eloquence.” Douglass became a lecturer for the Society for three years and his career as a speaker was launched.

Douglass was also an author and publisher.  In 1945, despite fears that the information might endanger his freedom, he published his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written By Himself.  Three years later, after a speaking tour of England, Ireland, and Scotland, Douglass published the first issue of the North Star, a four-page weekly, out of Rochester, New York.


Frederick Douglass' House

During the Civil War, he conferred with Abraham Lincoln and helped the Union Army recruit northern blacks to fight in the conflict.  Later he would go on to serve as U.S. minister to Haiti.

During his long life, he fought for the right not only of African Americans, but women and other oppressed minorities.  Through his writing, speaking and political activities, he helped establish the modern American civil rights movement. He had an enduring vision of America achieving justice and equal rights for all its citizens.  But first and foremost, he had a continually evolving vision of himself as someone who, despite his early years as a slave, deserved the freedom, dignity and respect he fought so diligently to obtain for others.

February 10, 2013

Ending Violence Against Women – Are We Finally at a Tipping Point?

Recently, in a crime that shocked South Africa, 17-year-old Anene Booysen was brutally gang raped. Her throat was slit; her fingers and legs shattered. The attackers had stuck a broken glass bottle inside her body and left her for dead on a construction site in the small town of Bredasdorp, about 120 miles from Cape Town. She was discovered by a security guard and identified at least one of the alleged rapists, before dying soon after.

Brutal Gang rape and murder shocks South Africans

The attack on Anene Booysen is one of several similar incidents in India and Pakistan that have attracted worldwide attention and brought widespread public condemnation.  It has also brought into much sharper focus, the problem of violence against women around the world.   In South Africa, the problem is especially acute. As reported in The Daily Beast, “the Medical Research Council estimates that up to 3,600 rapes happen daily in this nation of close to 52 million people. This places South Africa among the countries with the highest incidences of rape worldwide–and, outside of war zones, makes it one of the most violent societies, especially towards women.”

Anene Booysen funeralThe attack has stirred public outrage in the African nation.  Marches have been held in protest and hundreds attended Booysen’s funeral.  Activist Zubeida Shaik is one of the organizers of a planned mass march demanding an end to violence against women to take place on Valentine’s Day, Feb 14, 2013, in Cape Town and Johannesburg.  She declared:


“We’re placing demands now. It’s no longer about being polite about rape. It’s not about saying, you know, ‘we’re going to advocate, and we’re going to lobby, and we’re going to do all of this with government structures and institutions etc.’ That’s gone now. We’ve done that. It hasn’t worked, we’ve got to move on, we’ve got to make it a community problem or find solutions within the community because that’s where the problems are.”

Many groups in South Africa, like Shaik, have been working outside official channels to bring attention to the problem and spur action by authorities.  One such organization is the One Man Can Campaign which supports men and boys to take action to end domestic and sexual violence and to promote healthy, equitable relationships that men and women can enjoy.

This strong public reaction surprised many observers who say it may represent a fundamental  shift in attitudes about violence toward women.

indian-gang-rape-victim1Female activists in India have also gone on the offensive following the brutal gang rape and death of a 23-year-old medical student.  They have pushed for changes to Indian laws about rape, but are denouncing an ordinance put forth by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday to amend criminal laws on sexual crimes against women.  The activists say the law was “crafted behind closed doors” and if passed by the Indian Parliament, would do little if anything to confront the widespread culture of violence against women there.  As in South Africa, organizers and community activists are not waiting on their governments to take action.  New alliances are forming across a wide swath of Indian society.  As women’s rights activist Kamla Bhasin of Sangat, a South Asia feminist network noted:

“The spontaneous churning that has taken place is absolutely incredible. This agency by young people, students, lawyers, doctors, housewives and groups across the spectrum is a defining moment for us. It means violence against women is no longer just a woman’s issue.”

The lethargy of governments in taking action on the issue of violence against women is not unique to the developing world.  In the United States, Congress has been slow to renew the Violence Against Women Act in the U.S. which was originally passed in 1994 and then allowed to expire in 2011.  Congressional wrangling has blocked efforts to renew the law.  Now it appears that the Senate may finally be close to renewing the Act, though its passage is far from certain.

The recent rapes in India and South Africa were horrifying in their savagery.  Justice will be sorted out in the courts and law making bodies; history will determine whether the measures taken were appropriate.  But the real tipping point will come when we, as a world community, realize that such attacks against women do violence to all of us, and degrades our humanity.

January 6, 2013

Forgetting to Remember – The Scourge of Generational Amnesia

A sharp tip glinted out of the tree having traveled through from the other side. Chopping the wood open revealed the small bullet to be as shiny as the day it had been fired over 60 years before as Allied troops pressed into Germany in the closing months of World War II.

German soldiers in forest WWIIAnd there were more. This time a dull, blunt and rounded chunk of metal embedded deep into another tree— the remnant of heavy machine gun fire and a very tangible reminder of the hell that had been unleashed here.  We were told it is common to find bullets and shrapnel embedded in these trees.

We had come to the forest to cut a Christmas tree in the late days of December, an ancient tradition in this part of western Germany. The families of whom we were the privileged guests showed us around these quiet hills which, cloaked in freezing mist and joined by warm mulled wine with even warmer company, were a memorable part of this year’s Christmas for us.

The contrast for me was profound, at once a reminder of how far Europe has travelled away from its blood soaked past but also of the risks that never really go away.

After all there we were— a family from England who had met a family from Germany on holiday in France—standing in beautiful countryside and sharing traditions. That was the progress part.

But there, in this beautiful wooded countryside, we stood among the trees in the same forest where our grandfathers had slaughtered one another.  The violence of war had been visited on this place as a result of a political elite’s collective failure to address the rise of extremism, the wave of which they caused by first failing to manage the global economy.

A Not so Golden Dawn in Greece

Sadly that last bit about the failure of elites and the rise of extremism is an increasingly accurate description of the countries of Southern Europe today. When I was in Liberia earlier this year I met a Greek guy in his mid-thirties, about the same age as me.  He had never been to Africa before and ended up in a fairly random job in West Africa simply because he had been so desperate to get out of Greece. He gave accounts of elderly Greek people being wheeled out of care homes and left on the streets because their families could no longer afford the fees. That was terrible enough.

Golden Dawn leader at press conferenceGolden Dawn party leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos at a news briefing

But then he mentioned something in passing which was even more troubling. Before he left Greece, he had voted for the fascist Golden Dawn party, who now occupy seats in the Greek Parliament. When I asked him why, he assured me that he wasn’t a fascist—after all, he reminded me,  he had “… moved to Africa.” His reason for voting for the fascist party before leaving Greece was that the political system “needed a shock.” It could have been straight out of the mouth of a suddenly impoverished 1930s worker in Weimar Germany, casting his vote for the Nazis, to “send a message.”

Hitler Goes Retail in India

While in India the appeal of Hitler seems to lie in a perception that he was a firm leader who “got things done.”  Many businesses now appear to be cashing in on the Nazi brand, and sales of Mein Kampf are described as “brisk.”

hitler store in IndiaHitler Store in India

Those Indians who seem to admire Nazi Germany do not do so because they are filled with hate or are anti-Semitic, but are responding instead to the appeal of charismatic, strong leadership.

Remembering Not to Forget the Past

And therein lies the problem. If it is possible for the passage of time to sanitize a period even as blood drenched and cataclysmic as the Third Reich, then can we really be so complacent as to imagine it could never happen again?

That night in Germany, over more drinks and by the warmth of a fire, our hosts and I reflected on how our own generation’s world view had been shaped by the Cold War  and yet  how the fall of the Berlin Wall was now but a chapter in our children’s textbooks. To them the idea that they could be at war with each other was a bizarre notion. And yet one of our hosts described that as a young girl she had been taught how to use a rifle by her grandfather.  He was motivated by the ever-present shadow of fear that his granddaughter might face a future including a return to the carnage and mass rape that accompanied the Russian advance into Germany from the East which he had experienced first-hand.

As Europeans it is tempting sometimes to focus only on the progress we’ve made, and the EU’s role in that was recently recognised with the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize.  But the unfolding political chaos in Greece with the prospect of more countries to follow surely means that we have no room for complacency at all. And in the beautiful forests of western Germany trees bearing hidden bullets stand as silent testament to that truth.

December 29, 2012

How to Make the World a Better Place – Get Involved!

GirlUp logoAs we approach the New Year, it is important to think about how young people can become more involved as global citizens interested in global issues and their solutions. As a Teen Advisor for Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation campaign raising funds and awareness for UN programs that benefit girls, I have talked to countless teenagers about their role in making the world a better place for all. Many are unsure about where to begin or do not think that they can make a difference, but I believe that they simply do not understand how easy it can be. Here are four actions that anyone, but especially teenagers, can take to help create lasting change:

1.      Educate yourself. Read up on issues that you care about to be as knowledgeable as possible. Nicholas Kristof’s regular column in the New York Times is a good place to start for the latest information on international as well as domestic issues.  His book and documentary, Half the Sky, is a powerful way to learn about global issues affecting girls and women.
girl up stop child marriage logo2.      Advocate.  Make your voice heard! Meet with your elected officials to discuss pending legislation that matters to you, or send them an e-mail or letter. Don’t feel intimidated about meeting with your congressperson—they love to hear from their constituents, especially young people. The bill that I am passionate about is H.R. 6087 which lays out the U.S. plan for helping to end child marriage in foreign countries, and I plan to meet with my representative to discuss her support for it.
3.      Spread the word. Use social media to raise awareness about causes you care about. Tweets, Facebook status, and other posts have the potential to reach hundreds of people and take only seconds to write.
4.      Host an event. Don’t be intimidated—events don’t have to be elaborate or hard to plan. Ask a local restaurant to host a Charity Night where they give a certain percentage of one night’s profit to your organization. Alternatively, host a screening of a relevant documentary at your house or school and donate the admission fee.

The number of young people has never been higher, so we can be key allies in creating lasting peace in the world. Whether teenagers or young adults, I firmly believe that if we join together to make a difference in our own future, 2013 will be a watershed year for youth’s involvement in sustainable global peace.

December 9, 2012

Finding a Measure of Peace

Can we measure the peacefulness of the world?  And beyond that, estimate the impact of conflict on the global economy?  On first consideration, these seem like impossible tasks.  After all, the drivers of human conflict are varied and complex.  But one organization–using a tool called the Global Peace Index–has set about to do both.

The Global Peace Index (GPI) is an attempt to measure the relative position of nations’ and regions’ peacefulness. It is the product of Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) and developed in consultation with an international panel of peace experts from peace institutes and think tanks with data collected and collated by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The list was launched first in May 2007, and has been published each spring since that time. The study attempts to rank countries around the world according to their peacefulness. The index currently ranks 158 countries, up from 121 in 2007. The study is the creation of Australian entrepreneur Steve Killelea and is endorsed by individuals such as Kofi Annan, the Dalai Lama, archbishop Desmond Tutu, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, economist Jeffrey Sachs, former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, and former US president Jimmy Carter.

About the Global Peace Index – from Visions for Humanity

The Global Peace Index takes into account 23 factors.  Factors examined by the authors of the index include both internal factors–such as levels of violence and crime within the country–and external factors–such as a country’s  military expenditure, its relations with neighboring countries and the level of respect for human rights. The index is showcased each year at events in London, Washington DC, Brussels and the United Nations in New York.

2012-Global_Peace_IndexAn article in The Guardian compared the 2012 Global Peace Index with 2011 and found the following:

  • Somalia is the least peaceful country at 158th position and with a score of 3.392. Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo make up the bottom five
  • There has been change for the the indicators as well. The top three largest improvements have been for the Political Terror Scale, terrorist acts and military expenditure as a % of GDP
  • Iceland has remained at the top spot as the most peaceful country in the world, after dropping in the rankings in 2009 and 2010 because of violent demonstrations linked to the collapse of its financial system
  • Sub-Saharan Africa is no longer the least peaceful region in the world, for the first time since the GPI began
  • The US moved from 82 to 88

One of the most interesting aspects of the Global Peace Index, is its estimate of the “peace dividend” – the added economic value if we had lived in a world totally at peace in 2011.  This year’s estimate: $9 trillion.  In addition to the human suffering that a world in conflict

You can explore the Global Peace Index yourself, by downloading the spreadsheet containing the GPI information, or using the interactive map on the Vision of Humanity website.