WED 22 - 5 - 2019
Date: Oct 3, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
The nonviolent fight for a peace under threat
Hiba Huneini

Tuesday marked the commemoration of the International Day of Non-Violence, introduced by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007 in honor of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, the pioneer of a nonviolence movement that inspired the world. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres laid a wreath in honor of Gandhi at the Raj Ghat Memorial in New Delhi and there stressed how Gandhi’s legacy should inspire us all to work toward peace, sustainable development and human rights.

He had spoken just over a week before on the International Day of Peace (Sept. 21) where he announced, “peace is at risk and violated in so many places, but we will not give up.”

Then last week, extensive discussions took place at the 73rd session of the General Assembly and its various side events on issues related to peace, security, and development across the globe, as well as on how to strengthen the effectiveness and governance of the U.N.

The U.N. Youth Strategy, “Working with and for young people,” was launched at the same time under three pillars: peace and security, human rights, and sustainable development.

All these events show peace and nonviolence is being talked about perhaps more than ever before. And how necessary we are living through one of the most unstable and turbulent periods since World War II.

The principle of nonviolence has been defined as the “rejection of any kind of violence to achieve social or political change” which can be “considered as the politics of ordinary people.” The iconic leader Gandhi has proven nonviolence is about a choice to tackle challenges and obstacles in the way of achieving social justice.

Nonviolent choices can be passive, like avoiding conflict, or proactive, through nonviolent acts like protests and campaigns.

Peace, however, has no universal definition. Is it the absence of war and conflict? Or a positive status of relationship? For decades, the human right to peace has been advocated for such as in the 2010 Santiago Declaration. Peace is not a luxury, but a global public good to which all governments should aim and be held accountable.

With humanity challenged from all sides, the word “Peace” is losing its effectiveness. Young people are finding it hard to accept the ideals of peace and nonviolence while surrounded by conflict, anger and hate speech.

According to the UNHCR, 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from their homes, with 85 percent now hosted in developing countries. Among them nearly 25.4 million are refugees with half of those under the age of 18. And there are an estimated 10 million stateless people who have been denied nationality and access to basic human rights.

Over 192 million people are unemployed according to the International Labor Organization, while an astonishing 4.5 billion people lack safely managed sanitation services and water scarcity is a daily challenge for four out of every 10 people on our planet.

There is no doubt that there is an interdependence between security and development. This requires new global and national peace making initiatives, where governments give proper attention to their citizens’ security and take into consideration the development of their societies. This approach should be multidisciplinary, enabling people of all backgrounds to know the core values of peace and nonviolence.

Investing in education and the capacity building of young people is the cornerstone of any development agenda. Modern thought in economics has highlighted the high impact of inequality on economic growth.

One way to combat inequality is ensuring access to quality education for everyone, in general, and especially for vulnerable and excluded groups like women and minorities.

Lofty ideals of peace and nonviolence will never be reached unless they start in the classroom. As has come to be accepted in recent human history, education is at the heart of any long-term social transformation.

As a Lebanese citizen, I can’t help but observe just how much these terms have been exhausted.

For the Lebanese youth of today, peace is on trial. Young people are concerned about their basic human rights and the rule of law being threatened not least because of socioeconomic challenges that have crippled our country. We host the largest number of refugees per capita in the world and the challenges we face are much internal as they are a result of geopolitical turbulence elsewhere in the region.

To be negligent of the conflict, anger or hate speech that surrounds us is a form of violence, since it does not serve peace. We must be proactive in addressing these challenges through nonviolent acts in a strategic manner.

Hiba Huneini is the manager of the Youth and Civic Engagement Program at the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development. Email her at [email protected]
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 03, 2018, on page 3.

The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Arab Network for the Study of Democracy
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