By Narin B. Stassis
The writer currently serves as the Vice Chair of the Committee on Teaching About the UN. She is a former Director of Curriculum and Instruction, a lifelong Educator, and holds a Master’s degree in International Education from Lesley University.
NEW YORK (IDN) – The United Nations was created with a determination “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. As the world body celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, the Committee on Teaching About the United Nations (CTAUN), convened a conference, “War No More”, co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Korea to the United Nations.
The UN Trusteeship Council Chamber, where the conference took place end of February, was filled to capacity with 673 people, mostly students from junior year of high school through graduate school, along with working and retired educators, and other interested individuals.
The program included Davos-style conversations, awards, short films, and topics all relating to the “War No More” theme.
Ambassador Cho, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea (RoK), pointed out some of the deeply resounding facts about the Korean Peninsula and its history entrenched in the horrors of war in the 1950’s, where families were divided and remain divided until this day.
He explained how the very existence of the RoK is a living testament to “War No More”, and that this sad history is one of the reasons the Republic of Korea stands as one of the strongest advocates for peace.
A powerful conversation between Gloria Steinem, and Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee ensued, moderated by media personality Carol Jenkins who spoke about how “the addition of women in keeping peace, ending wars, and as women participating in every aspect of peace” propelled the conversation.
Steinem explained how for the first time in history there are fewer females, than males on “spaceship earth”, which she attributed to societies that encourage male dominance and in some cases violence against females.
Her resounding comment referred to: “Listening as much as you talk, sitting in circles instead of hierarchies, and celebrating the fact we learn from our differences, not sameness.”
She said: “Peace is like a tree, it doesn’t grow from the top down, but grows from the bottom up. So, honor, respect, and pressure the UN, but don’t wait for the UN – Just do it.”
Leymah Gbowee told the attendees that, “The essence of no more war is something that cannot be achieved in the corridors of the UN. We can only guide the next generation through our actions, through our policies, and the way we conduct ourselves.”
The 2020 winner of the CTAUN Global Citizen Award, in memory of its founder Barbara Walker, was bestowed upon Cora Weiss, whose name came up in many a conversation throughout the day.
“She is our true born leader” said Jenkins, who with Gloria Steinem, spoke about her as a drafter of Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1325. The highly respected, and adored Weiss, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the fifth time this year, was lauded as a true global citizen for her lifelong contributions to peace and education.
The Peace Education and Transformative Education conversation began with Eunhee Jung, Founder and President of IVECA, who spoke about Transformative Education which develops people’s mindset to have an awareness of living in a global society with an understanding and sense of compassion, empathy, knowledge, and skills to solve issues.
Tony Jenkins, Coordinator, Global Campaign for Peace Education, expressed the need to transform all education to address the problem of the culture of violence that is prevailing.
Moderator, Ramu Damodaran, Chief of the United Nations Academic Impact Initiative, referred to the copy of the 1924 lithograph included in the registration packet by Käthe Kollwitz called Never Again War (Nie Wieder Krieg).
He said: “Where do the 193 member-states of this organization find the courage to send their daughters and sons to war when they, as governments, and this the United Nations, have tried to hold them in trusteeship with such loving care?”
The New Technologies conversation, facilitated by Columbia University student Mark Wood, included Michael Klare, Senior Visiting Fellow, Arms Control Association, Eleanore Pauwels, Senior Fellow with the Global Center on Cooperative Security; and Adaora Udoji, award winning journalist, media innovator and expert in emerging technologies.
Their conversation emphasized the increased speed with which new technologies are being developed. The experts discussed how warfare is changing with hypersonic weapons, cyber warfare, space warfare, and artificial intelligence.
Klare discussed the fear that “Generals and policy makers are rushing to weaponize new technologies and put them to the service of war, without giving consideration to the moral, ethical, and escalating implications of doing so”.
These implications could permit new technologies to decide when battlefield conditions and select military responses will be made by machines themselves using built-in algorithms. This ethical dilemma would put into question whether machines, not humans, should make decisions in warfare based on the bias of the programmers.
The Women Peace and Security conversation focused on topics that are exclusive to women and how they experience war and conflict differently than men.
The fact that there are 10 resolutions on women, peace and security shows the shift in recognition. Dinah Lakehal, Mallika Iyer, Heela Yoon GNWP’s Young Women for Peace and Leadership, illustrated the power of grass roots organizations and civil society who are breathing life into these resolutions.
The inextricable need and importance of peace education was affirmed by moderator George Lopez, Professor Emeritus of Peace Studies at the Notre Dame Kroc Institute.
The discussion on disarmament began with Lopez talking about “A world awash in arms of both the conventional and nuclear nature”.
Under Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu referred to the Secretary-General António Guterres’ message for disarmament, pointing out that he is the first UN Secretary-General who compiled and released such a comprehensive agenda which brings together issues related to disarmament as well.
She reinforced the need for partnerships to strengthen collaborations, corporations, and the importance of young people. She stated that the Secretary-General called young people the ultimate force of change.
Randy Rydell, Executive Advisor for Mayors for Peace, said the effects of nuclear weaponry were riveting, with 400 mph winds, temperatures as hot as the surface of the sun, the immediate after-effects of radiation, intergenerational and genetic changes and effecting climate with atmospheric possibilities like famine.
A rousing performance by Camryn Bruno, the New York City Youth Poet Laureate ended the conversation.
A recorded poignant message from Ben Ferencz, who was the lead prosecutor for the Nuremberg War Trials was shown before the World Peace Through Law conversation. Attorney Jutta Bertram-Nothnagel thanked Ben for his leadership to replace war with law. James T. Ranney, who served as the Counsel to International Trials of the former Yugloslavia, spoke about the need for arms reduction, compulsory international dispute resolution, and various enforcement mechanisms.
Ambassador Christian Wenaweser, Permanent Representative, Principality of Liechhtenstein, provided a brief history of the Crimes of Aggression and explained that the people who got together in 1945 and agreed on the Charter of the United Nations had in mind to save future generations from the scourge of war.
In essence, the Charter of the UN in 1945 defined the illegal use of force against another state with the exception of two circumstances, self-defense when attacked, or when the Security Council collectively authorized a member state to use force in special circumstances.
The conference closing statement came from Weiss, who thanked the Mission of Korea for co-sponsoring the conference. “Humanity has abolished slavery (basically). Humanity has abolished colonialism. Humanity has abolished apartheid. Humanity has abolished prohibition of women voting. So, why not abolish war?,” she asked. [IDN-InDepthNews – 12 March 2020]
Photo: Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace laureate, Gloria Steinem, author activist and Carol Jenkins, CEO of the ERA Coalition at the War No More conference Feb 28, 2020 UN and an overview of the conference. Credit: CTAUN/Don Carlson
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