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Conference Marathon: Follow Up

Mujahiden/Photo: Erwin Lux/Wikipedia

Mujahiden/Photo: Erwin Lux/Wikipedia

As I told you in my last blog post, last week I went to two conferences in Switzerland: swisspeace and UNO-Academia.

The swisspeace conference focused non-state actors and featured brilliant speakers with first-hand experience with the topic. We listened to a former IRA fighter and various academics that had conducted dialogue between non-state armed groups (NSAG) and governmental forces.
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Conference Marathon

Swisspeace Annual Conference

Swisspeace Annual Conference

On Tuesday, 3 November I will attend the Swisspeace Annual Conference. The topic is “Rebels with a Cause? Understanding and Dealing with Non-State Armed Groups During and After Violent Conflicts.”

The Swiss NGO has invited some high-level speakers that have field experience in negotiation with non-state actors, such as the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, and our partner Small Arms Survey. For more information on non-state actors, you can check the ISN keyword on our website that contains a lot of publications.

Then on the following Thursday, I will attend the annual conference of UNO-Academia on “Collective Security and Maintenance of International Peace and Security: What are the Stakes?”. UNO-Academia is a network between all the Swiss universities that gathers research on UN-related topics.

According to the program, academics will be joined by policymakers to develop a comprehensive approach on the above mentioned question. For a short summary of the concept of “Collective Security”, you can check out this story from ISN Security Watch partner World Affairs Journal by Peter Beinart. The conference will be preceded by a roundtable discussion in which I have been invited to speak:  “Youth Meets the United Nations: Which Role for Youth in the United Nations?”.

Of course, I’ll update you next week with the outcomes of these conferences. If it happens that you are also taking part in the same conferences, it would be a pleasure to meet you there.

ISN Weekly Theme: UN (Ir)Relevance

UN-toilet-paper

Photo: Bernardo Londoy/flickr

On the occasion of the 64th UN General Assembly the ISN asks whether the UN makes a difference in world politics.

In the ISN podcast this week, I ask Ambassador Christian Wenaweser of Liechtenstein to evaluate the work of the UN. Due to the media’s focus on peace and security, people tend to neglect the UN”s activities in the fields of human rights and development, says Wenaweser.

The UN faces management problems. The five permanent members of the Security Council are unhealthily influential, and this is not only in the Council. Yet, according to Wenaweser, the organization has achieved much, for example in responding to the 2004 tsunami disaster or in promoting international criminal justice.

What else do we offer on the UN?

  • Security Watch features a story by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on the vast agenda facing UN leaders at the 64th General Assembly.
  • In our policy briefs section Eric Rosand of the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation examines the strengths of the UN’s Terrorism Prevention Branch and identifies challenges lying ahead.
  • Rob Jenkins of the Crisis States Research Centre writes on the two-year old UN Peacekeeping Commission and its role in disseminating international norms, in our publications section.

This and more you’ll find on the ISN website.

Is Peace (only) a Matter of Spirituality?

Beware of God

Beware of God / Photo : Synaptic Impulse - Flickr

Today is the International Day of Peace. Started by the General Assembly in 2002, it is supposed to celebrate peace worldwide.  According to the official calendar that lists all the events taking place in the world today to celebrate peace, at least 70% of the events are related to spirituality and to religious activities.

I find it quite ironic that peace is associated with religion when most of the conflicts that are currently taking place have at least a religious component if not a religious background: the civil war in Iraq, the insurgency in Afghanistan, civil war in Somalia, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the insurgency in the southern Philippines and many more. I understand that religion and spiritual values can breed tolerance, cultural understanding and open-mindedness. Unfortunately this is not always the case and the most belligerent minds and groups often use religion as a justification for their distinctly unpeaceful agendas.

Wouldn’t it be possible to promote peace without including faith in the package? Couldn’t we establish a true understanding and a peaceful world by using different concepts? The ancient Greeks who invented democracy and laid the foundations for our modern civilization were also confronted with the need to make peace. At the time, peace was established on foundations of social justice, sound legislative processes and economic growth.

This ancient understanding of peace is one that the modern world would do well to keep in mind and it could serve as a useful alternative to spirituality for this International Day of Peace.

UN, G20 and the Dollar

Dollars ! / Photo: pfala, Flickr

Dollars ! / Photo: pfala, Flickr

In the August 2009 ISN Special Issue entitled “Redesigning Global Finances- The End of Dollar Dominance?“, I asked whether the window of opportunity to redesign the global financial architecture has already passed with no real progress having been made. This week, the UN Trade and Development report was published, calling for a “new approach to multilateral exchange-rate management to complement stricter financial regulation.” Their critique of the dollar system contains the usual arguments: it is prone to fluctuations, creates current account disequilibria and requires poor countries to create huge reserves better used elsewhere. To mend this, they suggest nothing less than a new Bretton Woods system. Accordingly, it would be based on managed flexible exchange rates at sustainable levels, thus making great fluctuations and currency crisis a thing of the past and level the playing field for international trade. The report is interesting not because it contains revolutionary new ideas, but because a UN agency officially calls for alternatives to the dollar system.
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