The first-ever Geneva Peace Talks

September 27, 2013

To mark the International Day of Peace, Interpeace teamed up with the United Nations Office at Geneva and the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform to co-host the first ever Geneva Peace Talks on Friday 20 September.

The goal of this annual event was to inspire reflection within audience members about what peace means to them, how it affects their lives and how it can be seen through a number of different lenses.

The talks featured speakers from diverse backgrounds who shared with an audience of almost 800 people their experiences with peacebuilding and what peace means to them. Two of the speakers, Noam Shuster and Jimmy Shilue, were from the Interpeace family.

Noam is a young Israeli woman who grew up in Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, the only community in Israel where Israelis and Palestinians choose to live, work and raise their children together in an environment of respect and equality. After working with genocide survivors and perpetrators in Rwanda and Uganda, Noam now works for Interpeace’s Israel team, engaging with populations often excluded from the peace processes. Noam explained to the audience both the struggles and advantages she had in coming from a diverse background and how this inspired her peacebuilding work. She summed up her talk as: “Dare to dream: sacrifice, compromise and vision.”

Jimmy also shared a bit about his background as he is originally from Liberia but due to the civil war was forced to seek refuge in Sierra Leone in the early 1990s. He was subsequently granted political asylum in the Netherlands, where he was reunited with his family four years later. Jimmy is now working in partnership with Interpeace as the Executive Director for the Liberian peacebuilding NGO, Platform for Dialogue and Peace (P4DP). His talk focused on how the meaning of peace changed for him personally as the context around him changed. He says that for him now: “Peace means to leave your comfort zone, to work through inclusive ways, to bridge divides, to restore hope to the hopeless as well as to respect the views and rights of others.”

Geneva Peace Talks

Photo credit: UN photo/Violaine Martin

After the speakers each told their stories there were short formal addresses from officials, which was followed by a reception where participants were given the opportunity to also share what peace meant to them on a large canvas. The talks received much positive feedback and the organizers are looking forward to next year’s event on 19 September 2014.

The full event can be viewed online.