A panel discussion held at the UN Office at Geneva under the auspices of the Association Internationale Soufie Alâwiyya (AISA ONG Internationale) marked the first celebration of the International Day of Living Together in Peace, after the adoption of resolution 72/130 by the UN General Assembly in December 2017. The International Day of Living Together in Peace aims at regularly mobilizing the efforts of the international community to promote peace, tolerance, inclusion, understanding and solidarity, while upholding the desire to live and act together, united in differences and diversity. The International Day of Living Together in Peace was celebrated around the world, with various festivities organized in Algeria, Switzerland, Spain, Netherlands, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Ambassador Idriss Jazairy, Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, was invited to join the distinguished panel of speakers who took the floor during the event organized by AISA in cooperation with the Adlania Foundation, the Swiss Foundation Bioniria and the NGO Graines de Paix. Ambassador Jazairy could not attend the panel discussion in person, due to his responsibilities as UN Special Rapporteur. His contribution was delivered by Mr. Moucharaf Paraïso, member of AISA, former director of the International Training Centre at the ILO and former professor at Lyon University in France.
Opening remarks were delivered by H. E. Mr. Boudjemâa Delmi, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria to the United Nations Office at Geneva and other international organizations in Switzerland, who deplored the rise of feelings of intolerance, radicalisation, xenophobia and racism, leading to increased discrimination and racial violence around the world. Ambassador Delmi welcomed the International Day of Living Together in Peace as an important means of promoting tolerance and mutual respect, and reiterated the fundamental role played by civil society organizations such as the organizers of the event and in particular, AISA ONG Internationale, in promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue. He remarked that the values endorsed by the International Day of Living Together in Peace were of key importance for Algeria and recalled that one of the most important Algerian historical figures, Emir Abdelkader had dedicated his life to promoting peace, dialogue, solidarity and living together in harmony. Finally, Ambassador Delmi noted that Algeria was investing tremendous efforts to support this International Day and to bring to the fore these values on the agendas of international bodies.
The discussion was moderated by journalist Jean-Marie Etter, former Executive Director and Co-founder of the Hirondelle Foundation, a Swiss non-profit organization that seeks to provide information to and to empower populations in crisis situations.
Ms. Nadia Mimouni, Professor at the Paris-Saclay University in France and member of the Board of Management of AISA ONG Internationale, delivered a comprehensive historical overview of the International Day of Living Together in Peace, from the emergence of the idea and the diplomatic and promotional efforts led by the Cheikh Khaled Bentounes around the world and at the UN, in order to harness support for its international recognition, to the moment of adoption and the wide acknowledgment and backing that this International Day has been gathering since.
Ms. Mimouni further showcased the work of AISA ONG Internationale, especially in the field of women empowerment and the promotion of gender equality. As noted by Ms. Mimouni, the idea of the Day of Living Together in Peace was launched during the International Feminine Congress for a Culture of Peace that took place in Oran and in Mostaganem in Algeria, in October 2014. She explained that the cornerstones of work of AISA were interreligious and intercultural dialogue for the sake of building bridges between tradition and modernity.
Ambassador Jazairy’s statement (read, as previously mentioned, by Mr. Moucharaf Paraïso), highlighted that the International Day of Living Together in Peace was very important in the current context where the values of tolerance, inclusion and solidarity were constantly challenged by populist movements, extremist groups manipulating religion to justify their violence, and unscrupulous politicians. Ambassador Jazairy deplored the ongoing conflicts around the world that gravely affected civilians and exacerbated the plight of migrants, refugees and other displaced populations. In this context, he remarked that many Western societies were drifting towards secularism, due to a politicized and restrictive interpretation of secularity that had been gaining strength, trampling on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly Article 18. Societies were experiencing a loss of identity that led them to isolation and exclusion, a fertile ground for populism, racist hatred and vile nationalism.
Against this background, religions represented, according to Ambassador Jazairy, a fundamental tool for promoting living together in harmony, compassion, solidarity and openness to diversity. In this regard, Ambassador Jazairy announced that the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue will organize a World Conference entitled “Religions, Creeds And/or Other Value Systems: Joining Forces To Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights”, at the UN Office at Geneva, on 25 June 2018. Organized under the patronage of H. R. H. Prince El Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the World Conference will welcome more than 25 high-level religious and lay leaders from around the world.
The Geneva Centre’s initiative was, according to Ambassador Jazairy, echoing the same values and objectives that had led to the creation of the International Day of Living Together in Peace.
Dr. Idriss Aberkane, author of numerous publications, international consultant, neuroscience specialist, and President of the Bioniria Foundation, underlined in his statement that knowledge and wisdom were the keys to living together in harmony. He remarked that the rapid development of neuroscience and of artificial intelligence was radically transforming the everyday habits and way of life of people worldwide, as well as their reactions and attitudes towards the surrounding world. In this regard, it was fundamental, according to Dr. Aberkane, that these tools were utilized so as to empower people to acknowledge the importance of living together, accepting the Other and embracing diversity, for a world in peace and prosperity. He underlined that history had shown that diversity was a prerequisite for technological development and economic prosperity, and that on the contrary, rejection of diversity and isolation were a recipe for backwardness from this standpoint.
Dr. Aberkane further referred to the example of the Human Development Index that was created by UNDP to emphasize that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone. He noted in this regard that an index of living together should be similarly adopted, in order to obtain a tool that could quantify these fundamental values and their impact on the well-being of societies and people, from an economic, social and political standpoint.
Ms. Delia Mamon, President and Founder of the NGO Graines de paix that works on designing curricula and trainings for future generations, focused on peace and living together and promoting dialogue and cooperation, delivered a statement on the topic of education for a culture of peace. She noted that sustainable peace could not be built if education did not start at an early age, in classrooms and within families. Education for a culture of peace was, according to Ms. Mamon, being gradually integrated in educational reforms in many countries of the world. The NGO Graines de paix was closely involved in the development of curricula and didactic methods to promote a culture of peace and an inclusive education, driven by the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The methods presented by Ms. Mamon aimed at ensuring academic achievement, as mentioned in SDG 4, preventing violence and radicalisation, in compliance with SDG 16 and, overall, promoting a peaceful and inclusive environment in classrooms.
Mr. Philippe Mottet, Secretary-General of the Adlania Foundation, presented in his statement the “10 Keys for a Culture of Peace”, a methodology that takes inspiration from the International Day of Living Together in Peace and from Cheikh Bentounes’s teachings, developed by the Adlania Foundation. This method focused on promoting values and qualities like living together, acceptance of diversity, dialogue and solidarity. Mr. Mottet spoke of the broader aim of the Foundation to promote the use of this methodology worldwide, thus encouraging the creation of Houses of Peace in every country, which would later federate into a World Academy of Peace. Some of the main pillars of the “10 Keys for a Culture of Peace” methodology proposed by the Adlania Foundation are respect and compassion for oneself, the other and the environment, togetherness, solidarity, and women as main actors of sustainable peace.