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The United Nations Confronting War & Violence: Lessons After 70 Years

United Nations Headquarters, NY

Tuesday, January 26, 2015

United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) and the International Studies Association (ISA) were the organizers of this seminar with the purpose of revisiting what the United Nations did, are doing and can do to improve post World War conditions, in other words. The audience was reminded of the reason the United Nations was formed 70 years ago (to end all war and violence) and references were made to the UN Charter.

Lessons after War

 The panel, moderated by Ramu Damodaran, Deputy Director of the UN Department of Public Information, Chief, UNAI Secretariat, was made up of speakers from a wide variety of fields:

– Rima Salah, Former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF. She reiterated that the UN’s effort is to strengthen international peace and security for youth, women, and children. She also mentioned the increase of conflict and violence and strongly recommend if we want to see improvements, we need to be more people-centered, that is, more inclusiveness of citizens, have stronger peace partnerships with religious leaders, regional organizations, and academia. She emphasized that prevention of conflict is our responsibility — be humble and take advice from civil society, and be more flexible in peace building.

– Hardeep Singh Puri, Secretary-General of the Independent Commission on Multilateralism and Vice- President of the International Peace Institute. Mistake: not listening to the people on the ground – they know what’s happening. He stated the 3 ‘UN’s need to work together – UN member states, Secretariat, and Civil Society, think tanks, academia, etc. There was a need for urgency in 1945 that created the United Nations, in the same way, there is a need for greater urgency today: prevention, which takes more work.

– Jean Krasno, City College of New York highlighted violence against women – refugees, etc. Women are the primary caregivers of a family and they also work the fields. They have faced the burden of war the most. She noted that women are afraid to go to men, eg. police, because of being dismissed. More women are needed in the decision-making process, as stated in SDG no. 5. Political empowerment and economic rights are needed such as, land ownership, individual bank account, etc. To end violence against women, give women a voice. There is a need for women to mentor women. There is a growing impact to lead by example, which women are good at. Dr. Krasno recommended considering the next Secretary General of UN to be a woman!!

– Arturo Sotomayor, University of Texas, San Antonio gave a general description of conditions in Latin America, highlighting an increase in political violence and civil war in Colombia due to a lack of accountability. Issues regarding land, ethnicity, and lack of social justice were mentioned, as is said in Guatemala: justice delayed is justice denied. However, Costa Rica has had fair, legitimate elections since 1950’s. The up-side is many are realizing that war is no longer the way for political stability. He also brought our attention to the fact that scholars are poorly prepared with skills to predict crisis. They can only research based on the data that is available to them. He noted that mistakes were made in the past and will hopefully be amended in the future.

– Cyril Obi, Social Science Research Council stated that to deal with crimes, new knowledge is needed – this will help to bring change. There needs to be an holistic approach. Since Africa has the largest member states, 53, more attention needs to be paid to their increasing social issues. UN is of peoples across the world. Take the UN to the people – this is the role of the scholars. We need to hear the voices from the ground. Be open to new fresh ideas. Mutual effort from both sides is crucial: listen and learn.

– La Neice Collins, Communications and Advocacy Advisor at United Nations spoke of how rape has become the outcome of war. Why should violence against women be the by-product of war caused by men? There is a need for inclusion of women in all fields. Evolution of peace-making needs to be looked at.

Common areas: prevention, men and women empowerment, education, development and democracy, less state centered and more civil society, listen more to voices of those involve.

Peace is the innate quality of every human being. The more we realize this, the easier it is to see each other with a vision of kindness, respect, and equality, and listening becomes genuine. Every human being is born free, unique, and has a right to live.

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