Peace is the overarching aspiration of all nations and peoples as reminded in the UN Charter. As in other parts of the world, the work of Geneva-based organizations and civil society aim ultimately at fulfilling this goal: establishing peace through development, social justice and cohesion. In other words, Peace is at the very heart of International Geneva.
It is undeniable that the world is facing an ever-growing number of unprecedented challenges that undermine the possibilities of peace. There is an urgent need to mitigate the climate and environmental crisis. Most recently, the return of full-scale interstate war at the center of international relations impacts us at the global political, security, financial, socio-economic and psychological levels. The gap between rich and poor, between urban and rural, those governing and those governed, is getting wider and wider. Technologies can be used to amplify and compound negative centrifugal forces generated by spaces outside of public and democratic reach.
At the same time, governments, international and non-governmental organizations, civil society, cities, craft solutions aimed at improving social cohesion, development, peace and justice. Efforts to analyse sources of conflicts, reinvent pathways to peace, strengthen prevention mechanisms and address development gaps exist. Technology innovations are developed to serve humanitarian and peacebuilding efforts. Communities are getting stronger to counter the ecological breakdown and there is increasing ‘evidence of climate action’ as reminded by the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of April 2022. In fact, the mobilization of resources by different actors and individuals to build a more resilient and solidary world proves that peace is possible. Building on these observations, the ninth edition of Geneva Peace Week (GPW) has the overarching theme ‘Peace is Possible’.
Geneva Peace Week 2022 will continue to build upon the thematic discussions that emerged in 2021, while creating spaces for contextualizing and discussing recent local and geopolitical developments, and how they impact the work of those working towards a more peaceful and just society globally. The thematic tracks for GPW22 have been developed and adjusted to build upon discussions from 2021, and to take them a step further.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development explicitly combines the promotion of peaceful, just and inclusive societies in its Goal 16, which ‘seeks to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.’
In that same vein, both the UN Security Council and the UNGA acknowledged, for the first time in 2016, the crucial relationship between human rights, development and peace through the twin resolutions on Sustaining Peace.
The work of peacebuilders, development and human rights actors on the ground, often touches on one another and may even produce ad hoc innovative collaboration. Yet, if people working on devising solutions to problems operate with a specific analytical frame in mind and only use approaches they are familiar with, operational collaboration, finance and reciprocal learning across these fields is likely to sustain siloed practice and offer opportunities for collaborative synergy and innovation supporting the work of both fields.
This thematic track seeks to explore the following questions:
Narratives around humanitarian, development, environment and peace concerns are increasingly framed in the language of existential security threats. These threats, according to such narratives, justify a variety of extraordinary measures and militarised responses that go beyond the bounds of normal political procedures and processes. From evoking “states of emergency” to counter violent extremism, to articulating ecological, health or migration concerns in security terms, a variety of international issue areas are being conceived as arenas robust stabilisation efforts.
Arguably, these securitisation dynamics are particularly pronounced in settings in which a variety of conflict and disaster dynamics intertwine to produce chronic socio-economic, political and environmental concerns to which there are no quick-fix solutions.
This thematic track seeks to critically reflect on some of these trends, raising the following questions:
Peacebuilding has traditionally been viewed as a human-centered activity that supports societies in their quest for conflict resolution. Today’s efforts to prevent, manage and end violent conflict are supported by a range of new methods and technologies. In particular, the digitalization of almost all aspects of our lives today has created new drivers and dynamics of conflict, requiring responses to phenomena such as online hate speech, disinformation and cyberwarfare. Unequal access to digital infrastructures, varying digital literacy, and new forms of cybersurveillance and authoritarianism threaten to marginalize a substantial part of those affected by conflict and reduce their agency in peacebuilding efforts.
However, digitalization also increasingly shapes how international and local actors design and implement peace support activities, as they aim to leverage the power of innovation to respond to violent or armed conflict. This ranges from data-driven conflict analysis and early warning, to online dialogues and computer-supported facilitation, to fighting online polarization and violent extremism, enabling participatory peacebuilding, and promoting ‘cyberpeace’.
Innovation also brought a range of new actors to the fore, including social media companies, PeaceTech labs, accelerator initiatives, and the scientific community, which must work jointly to leverage both technological and social forces for peacebuilding.
This thematic track will shed light on the power and limits of innovation in peacebuilding and will address the following questions:
The multiple and complex situations of armed violence pose great challenges, especially to the world’s most fragile environments and the most vulnerable communities. In addition to mounting civilian casualties in those contexts, life-threatening challenges to the sustainable and equitable access and management of basic vital natural resources require us to rethink paradigms of action and formulate responses at the international, state, and local levels. Where, and how, is peace possible?
This thematic track will address the following questions: