19 October 2020

UNAI Presents ‘Shaping Peace Together’ Virtual Concert to Celebrate International Day of Peace

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stark reminder of the interconnectedness of the global community and that what happens in one part of the world can impact people everywhere. In order to recover from the pandemic and build back better, solidarity should be at the core of our efforts as urged by the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his call for a global ceasefire that would allow the global community to focus on the true fight of our lives. 

The International Day of Peace is commemorated every year on 21 September. This year also marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations and an opportunity to “Shape Peace Together.” To celebrate this international day, United Nations Academic Impact teamed up with musician and producer Beth Nielsen Chapman, to host a virtual concert that featured music by Grammy-winning artist Keb’ Mo’, singer and songwriter Victoria Canal, legendary international artist and songwriter Melanie Safka, Grammy-nominated artist, author and teacher Mary Gauthier, and the Nu Deco Ensemble featuring singer-songwriter, musician, composer and record producer Ben Folds.  

Messages of peace were also delivered by singer Olivia Newton John, retired NASA astronaut Leland Melvin, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jody Williams, Dr. Kakha Shengelia, President of the International Association of University Presidents and Caucasus University, author and human rights activist Mungi Ngomane, and priest, author and social entrepreneur Reverend Becca Stevens.

The concert was opened by Ramu Damodaran, Chief of United Nations Academic Impact, who expressed his gratitude to the singers and songwriters for their songs and spoken words. He shared the lyrics of the song This Life That’s Lent to You by Beth Nielsen Chapman in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and highlighted “the inevitability of a happier future of us coming out of this together.”

After Mr. Damodaran’s remarks, Beth Nielsen Chapman performed the song and led a discussion with Victoria Canal, Keb’ Mo’ and Leland Melvin. Each speaker shared their views on what peace means in the context of a world grappling with an array of challenges, reflecting on the introspective nature of writing music, and how the pandemic has provided more room for self-reflection and bringing changes to the world. The discussion also underscored the fact that we are all connected by our shared experiences and the importance for the world to stay united as the UN commemorated its 75th anniversary. This discussion was followed by musical performances by Keb’ Mo’, Victoria Canal, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Mary Gauthier, Melanie and the Nu Deco Ensemble. 

The concert was enriched by messages of peace delivered by the severals peakers:  

Olivia Newton John – Artist and Environmentalist, Former UN Goodwill Ambassador

I wanted to congratulate you at the UN.  I have had such a wonderful experience at the UN in my life because I was lucky enough to be the goodwill ambassador for the environmental program for many years, and it was such a privilege to be a part of the United Nations for such a short time and see the wonderful work that they do and the wonderful peace that they help keep around the world. So, congratulations! Here is to 75 more, here is to 75 hundred more years of peace.

Rev. Becca Stevens – Author, Speaker, Social Entrepreneur

I am happy to add my voice to the countless voices celebrating this beautiful anniversary of peace for the UN. To me what peace means is a quality in the midst of our collective struggles for justice in this world. I have been working with women survivors for more than 25 years, with housing, with economic opportunities, with community resources, to say, even in the midst of injustice, even after the trauma, we can find this gift called peace, together. Happy anniversary! Let’s keep praying and working for peace

Mungi Ngomane- Author of ‘Everyday Ubuntu’, Human Rights Activist

On this anniversary of the International Day of Peace, I  just wanted to both send some love and also say that even though peace may not look or feel how we had hoped or expected or wanted, that it does not mean we cannot keep working towards it with each other. Ubuntu reminds us that we are all interconnected, and everyone counts. In that spirit and also with the words of my grandfather, I want to leave you with, do your little bit of good where you are, it's those little bits of good put together that all run the world. Happy International Day of Peace.

Jody Williams - Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

The late Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, who also received the Nobel Peace Prize, often spoke of a world in which people lived free of want and free of fear.  Those words carry particular weight in today's COVID world, and on the 75th anniversary of the UN Day of Peace, we should think long and hard about what kind of world we want to live in after the pandemic; what kind of peace do we want to see. Peace is not simply the absence of armed conflict; peace is a world in which we are all treated with justice and equality. It is as Kofi Annan said, a world in which people live free of want and free of fear.  If we work together, we can bring about that world.

Dr. Kakha Shengelia – President at International Association of University Presidents; President at Caucasus University

Located in Caucasus, Georgia has had a long and bitter experience with conflict and its poisoned fruits with law discrimination leads to conflict and hatred between people.  In these lessons, I have shared with the International Association of University Presidents with its own legacy of aiding peace, promoting understanding and helping academics caught in conflict zones around the world. It is better to strive for humble peace than glorious victory, for it is only in peace where true education and understanding may flourish. Thus, let us come together in these trying times where fear, disease and division are testing our spirit, to strive together for understanding and the common good. It is only through truth, compassion and understanding that we can share peace around the world and eradicate discrimination and fear mongering. When we turn on our neighbors in fear, we aid both physical danger and the spread of hate through our hearts. Thus, along with my colleagues, our university presidents, I celebrate and support the International Day of peace.  IAUP as a proud member of the UN family is ready to continue making its share in shaping peace around the globe. Do not let fear drive you, for as it is said reward is now too small for anything but brotherhood.  Thank you very much

Beth Nielsen Chapman brought the session to a close by thanking the United Nations for its work in the past 75 years and in the years ahead, with a song that relayed the message that “all that matters in the end is how we loved.”

'Shaping Peace Together' Virtual Concert