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International Peoples College: An Institution of Peace
An Institution of Peace
[Image: artwork being created under a tent during the afternoon.]
Publication date: 2022-05-04
Time references to the video included in Sources below are in [HH:MM:SS] format. Timestamps are also included in the article. A full listing is provided above the video. References are limited to the morning seminar.
The International Peoples’ College in Helsingør (Elsinore) held a festival on April 30th, 2022. The town’s English name is derived from William Shakespeare’s masterful work, Hamlet. The college’s choice of celebration was timely, an International Peace Festival.
The morning seminar’s speakers were inspiring. The day’s activities displayed the culture of the school.
A Seminar at a Folk School
Before the parallel afternoon activities, which will be covered in a following article, the day began in the school's UN Hall. The auditorium had only been opened a few days previously, as can be seen during the video by observing the ground outside. Not one blade of landscaping is visible.
The hall was at capacity. The college's Principal Søren Launbjerg opened proceedings [00:23:14] by welcoming attendees and signaling remaining seating . He would then run the sound system as a "hands on" leader; a natural role for a person who is also a locally appreciated vocalist. The Chairman of the College’s Board, Lars, moderated the session to keep schedule. Each of the four speakers were allocated 15 minutes.
The first speaker [00:36:26] was Mogens Lykketoft, a consummate Danish politician who rose to the rank of President of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. With an historical overview of the UN from its inception to the current day, Mogens described the role which the UN plays in international conflict mediation. As with any political and administrative body there are imperfections and weaknesses. One of Mogens' key points was the UN’s success. It has outperformed all of history in its inclusiveness, with well over 95% of all national governments represented. The UN is a body of member states which are expected to converse with one another.
The second speaker [00:51:20], Ellen Margrethe Løj, represented Denmark as it filled one of the rotating seats within the UN Security Council (UNSC) during the early 2000's. She was later asked by the UN to run two UN peacekeeping missions and pithily observed that UN Security Councilors should run a peacekeeping mission before representing their nation at the council.
The challenge is distance.
The New York bound UNSC does not see what happens "on the ground" during far flung missions. Ellen’s comment of distance is not of geography, but that of complexity. Every peacekeeping mission is different, though councilors tend to cut/paste mandate texts between missions. A peacekeeping mission is constrained by its mandate text.
[Image: the speaker at the podium is Alberto. In the foreground from the left are Dan, Ellen and Mogens.]
The third speaker [01:11:04] was incisive. Dan Smith is an academician at a Swedish University department, SIPRI, which studies international conflict resolution. His role was to provide data. He described a period in which the number of ongoing conflicts worldwide had dropped dramatically from 50 to 30 while at the same time total international arms purchases reduced from 1.5 to 1 trillion USD. Hope for increasing peace has recently been dashed by conflict numbers rising beyond 50 as the arms trade exceeds 2 trillion USD (SIPRI report).
During the later Q&A session challenges of the exclusive veto powers awarded to the 5 permanent members of the UNSC, the victors of WWII, were discussed. Post WWII, Russia refused to join the UN unless she had a veto on resolutions tabled. She saw the body as dominated by the USA and other nations now aligned against her despite their very recent allied status. Dan and others spoke of changes in the evolution of veto power usage. Dan took the wind from the sails of those tacking towards UNSC and veto reform. He clearly argued that without these veto anomalies the UN would neither have been created nor persisted.
The veto powers are not a contradiction of the UN, but a paradox within it.
The morning session's fourth and final speaker [01:28:55] was Alberto Fergusson. The Professor of Psychiatry from Colombia spoke of the conflict resolution process between the Colombian government and FARC and other opposition movements. He described the benefit of persons recovering from abuse pairing with persons in the political mediation process. The "rebels" have put down their arms to join the political process. Conflict continues.
Eternally sanctioned Cuba hosted the talks which lead to this historic cessation of hostilities; 50 years of civil war were ended. The sad truth is that the Colombian government has been documented as murdering many of the opposition who laid down their arms to join the political discussion. Alberto participates in the Truth Commission which will soon issue a report documenting these and other grievances.
A Student Illuminates Core Issues
A student from The Netherlands asked a deep question [02:33:22] during the Q&A. Following a declaration of why he supported delivering arms to Ukraine to help its soldiers defend their nation against Russian aggression, he asked what will happen to these weapons when armed conflict concludes?
[Image: a student asks a deep question to the panelists.]
Should Europe be concerned about black market arms sales? Will some of these weapons reappear causing further conflict in states which provided them?
A related question, minimally addressed during the session, is why such disparity exists between arms supply and diplomatic efforts to actually end the conflict?
Peace is Built and Maintained by Society
The conclusion of the Q&A session addressed the role of civic organisations in establishing and preserving peace. The most authoritative response was by Ellen Magrette Løj. Having run two UN peacekeeping missions, first in Liberia and then in South Sudan, she informed the audience (paraphrasing, see the video for exact words):
The foundation of peace is having the local community own it.
The International Peoples College teaches skills and creates social connections empowering peace.
IPC Peace Seminar - 100 Year Celebration, International People's College (IPC) / Den Internationale Højskole, 2022-04-30
[00:23:14] Principal, Søren
(A video presentation is inter-cut.)
Q&A Session (QS below means question sequence; 3 questions and panelist responses).
[02:10:04] Introduction and QS1
The event was broadcast as a livestream. The video production staff were students, with some assistance from friends of the school. Some errors are made in audio connectivity and later in video inversion. The event was an important training opportunity for future media engineers.
Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 | Daniel Barenboim & the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (complete symphony), 2020-12-31
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