October 6, 2016, Paris—The economic impact of violence on the global economy as measured by 2016 Global Peace Index was $13.6 trillion in 2015, equivalent to $5 per day for every person on the planet. In 2015 alone, UN peacekeeping expenditures of $8.27 billion totalled only 1.1% of the estimated $742 billion of economic losses from armed conflicts.
These, along with other startling statistics were presented by noted peace builder Dr. Scilla Elworthy at the Inaugural Ahinsa Lecture jointly organised by UNESCO MGIEP and the permanent delegation of India to UNESCO. The lecture, which was on the theme “Peace or War? Why War continues, how peace can be built, what it will cost and who can do it?”., was held at the UNESCO Headquarters in the evening of 6 October 2016 by Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education on the occasion of the International Day of Non Violence marked to celebrate the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
Three-time Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, founder of the Oxford Research Group, Peace Direct, Rising Women Rising World and recipient of Niwanao Peace Prize, Dr Scilla Elworthy delivered the first Ahinsa Lecture. Setting the tone, Dr Elworthy commenced her address by quoting the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at World Sufi Forum where he said “Let us challenge the forces of violence with the kindness of our love and universal human values….and Lastly, Let us restore the light of hope and turn this world into a garden of peace.”
Dr. Elworthy observed that distinction needs to be made between the concepts of war and conflict. She noted that humiliation triggers violence which is neutralized by demonstration of respect, empathy, awareness and understanding. Dr. Elworthy pointed that conflict and wars are part of human experiences and humanity must understand the forces driving wars and the ways to end these “tsunami of suffering”. Reiterating humanity’s pressing challenges, the speaker noted that militarism cannot address the contemporary and the future threats it faces such as climate change, migration, water shortage, rising inequalities and widening gap between the rich and poor which is further fuelling the growth of terror groups and revolutionary movements.
Discussing the “software”(developing trust, finding common ground) against the “hardware” (heavy military spending, alliances with despotic governments, the arms trade, arms-racing, coercive interventions in other countries, and torture) approach to peace, Dr. Elworthy presented a ‘Business Plan for Peace’ based on assumptions concerning power and cost effectiveness of the prevention of armed conflict and profitability of peace from the business point of view. Systematic support for local civilian initiatives, building infrastructures for peace, enabling qualified women into peace-building processes, creating regional rapid response funds, taxation on international arms transactions.
She called for establishing permanent United Nations Emergency Peace Service, an alliance of country to prevent war atrocities, genocide and crimes against humanity. Dr Elworthy presented the detailed budgetary calculation to bring this global Peace Plan into action which she estimated to cost $1,750,000,000. With a world population of 7,349,000,000, this equals 23 cents for every person on the planet.
The address highlighted examples of simple measures which can be adopted and adapted at individual, local, regional and international level in building, fostering and furthering peace in the society. She ended her lecture by saying that peace begins with the self and therefore ability to ‘listen to self’, ‘integrating wounded part of self’, ‘listening to small voices within’, ‘deciding how can I be most powerful’ and connecting these to the passions is the first step towards peace building. Dr. Scilla Elworthy invoked power of UNESCO, its teachings and educational materials to reflect not only the peace building work which is essential for future, but also upon the inner awareness to enhance the effectiveness of this work.
The audience at the lecture comprised High Commission Officials, members of delegations to UNESCO, entrepreneurs, NGO’s, academicians, researchers. Chairman of the governing board of UNESCO MGIEP, Dr Karan Singh; DDG UNESCO Mr. Getachew Engida, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of India to UNESCO Ms. Ruchira Kamboj, Director UNESCO MGIEP Dr. Anantha Duraiappah, also spoke on the occasion.
About Dr Scilla Elworthy
When Scilla Elworthy was 13, she sat in front of her television set watching as Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest. Immediately she started packing her bags. “What are you doing?” her mother said. “I’m going to Budapest,” she said. “They’re doing something awful and I have to go.” Years later, Elworthy is a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and a recipient of the Niwano Peace Prize. In 2002 Elworthy founded Peace Direct, which supports local action against conflict, and in 1982 founded Oxford Research Group, a think-tank devoted to developing effective dialogue between nuclear weapons policy-makers and their critics. Beginning in 2005 she helped set up The Elders initiative as an adviser to Sir Richard Branson, Peter Gabriel and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
About the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development(MGIEP)
Based in New Delhi, MGIEP is a technical advisory body to governments, organizations and academic institutions leading UNESCO’s work on advancing research, policy and discourse on Education for Peace and Sustainable Development.
About Ahinsa Lecture
Ahinsa is derived from Sanskrit word hims meaning injury and its opposite (a-hiṃsā meaning without any injury) refers to non-violence. This ethical philosophy was popularized by Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest champion of nonviolence in the world. UNESCO MGIEP organized the Ahinsa Lecture as part of its Distinguished Lecture Series inviting speakers from among the world’s leading intellectuals and policy makers to spark transformative ideas for shared future. The Ahinsa Lecture will bring public speakers of the highest calibre active in the field of peace and non-violence to the forum for the benefit of peace builders, policy makers, youth,UNESCO Member states and international community. Ahinsa Lecture is organized to mark the International Day of Non-Violence celebrated on 2 October to mark the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
Catch visual highlights of the lecture: here
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