4 December 2018

UNAI hosts its fifth J. Michael Adams Lecture on culture of peace

On 29 November 2018, United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) hosted its Fifth Annual J. Michael Adams Lecture and Conversation, entitled "Why 1999 Matters in 2020: A Conversation on the Hague Appeal for Peace Conference and the UN at 75.” Ms. Cora Weiss, keynote speaker for the lecture and President of the Hague Appeal for Peace, provided her insights on the past, present, and future landscape of global affairs and peace.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, Alison Smale, opened the lecture by praising the late J. Michael Adams for his success in promoting global citizenship among students and the support he provided in the establishment of UNAI. She also praised UNAI for developing a global network of over 1,300 universities in 130 countries that collaborate, research, and contribute to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ms. Smale commended the innovative atmosphere on university campuses, which harbors an intellectual community of international problem-solvers, “from   the   work   by   Roskilde   University   in   Denmark   on   climate-friendly   asphalt   that reduces fuel consumption in accordance with Global Goal 13 on Climate Action, to the work of students and staff at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University to develop solutions to the need to build more sustainable cities.”

Ms. Weiss’s keynote speech highlighted the importance of the Hague Appeal for Peace Conference in 1999, a meeting formulated by thousands of citizens from over 100 countries. Its outcome document, The Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice for the 21st Century, as stated by Ms. Weiss, is “a 50-point program for getting from a culture of violence to a culture of peace” that aimed to help the UN realize its mission of preventing future generations from experiencing the devastating consequences of war.

Ms. Weiss went on to emphasize the importance of S/RES/1325, which promotes women, peace, and security through the prevention of gender-based violence, increased political participation for women, and the inclusion of more women on peace tables. She identified that peace deals last longer when women participate in peace talks, while countries with higher gender gaps can be predicted to engage in violent conflict.

Later in the lecture, Ms. Weiss stressed two main threats to humanity: nuclear weapons and climate change. She warned of wildfires, rising sea levels, droughts, flooding, and environmental refugees caused by climate change, encouraging all to join environmental and peace organizations that promotes political activism. In regards to nuclear weapons, Ms. Weiss called for increased action by campaigns like ICAN to mobilize civil society to urge their government to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Nyuon Susan Sebit, Executive Director of National Alliance for Women Lawyers (NAWL) and Cora Weiss Peacebuilding Fellow, explained the vulnerability of women and youth to sexual, psychological, and physical abuse in South Sudan. Political, educational, and economic circumstances have prevented women from significantly participating in peace talks. Also, Ms. Sebit recognized the necessity of trauma healing in South Sudan as a means to increase stability. She supports initiatives like the Anataban Campaign in South Sudan, which uses education and art to promote peace in their youth population.

Susan Adams, widow of J. Michael Adams, thanked the United Nations for the event in honor of her late husband. She is an educator that continues to support the vision of global citizenship and empathy in education, which J. Michael Adams supported through his role in establishing the UNAI.

Overall, the panelists called for education as a means to achieve world peace, highlighting initiatives like the Global Campaign for Peace Education. Ms. Cora Weiss believes that with the rate of war tripled since 2010, it is time to abolish war through an educated civil society that encourages governments to work with the UN for establishing world peace.