100th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to International Peace Bureau
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to the International Peace Bureau (IPB). Since its founding in 1891, in Switzerland, 13 IPB leaders have been awarded this honorable medal – the most of any organization. To mark this special occasion, the IPB hosted an exhibition in Geneva, Switzerland, its home-base, as a tribute to the people who “devote their time, energy, and resources to the cause of peace.” This event, Making Peace, brought together world renowned artists, musicians, international organizations and elected officials to provide a platform for making the peace movement visible again.
Since its inception, the IPB has witnessed two World Wars and many bloody conflicts. Despite these setbacks, it has also experienced the ending of the Cold War and the apartheid regime, as well as playing a major role in drafting a treaty ultimately banning the use of anti-personnel landmines (1996) and helping create the International Criminal Court. While today’s issues may be different, the aim of the organization remains the same: “working together for a world without war.”
In order to create the political and social atmosphere needed to adopt specific peacemaking policies, the IPB has grown to include 320 member organizations in over 70 countries. Its influence within this field has resulted in receiving consultative status with the United Nations and it continues to bring numerous organizations together in an effort to promote peace. According to Colin Archer, the IPB’s Secretary General, the IPB is “a bridge between the grassroots activists and the respectable governments, diplomats, and people in Geneva [the United Nations].”
Constantly working on a tight budget, these peacemaking communities and grassroots organizations have to fight against corporate interests and government strength. According to this year’s report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an authoritative and independent account of current military endeavors, the world spent a record $1,531 billion on the military alone last year.
“The Cold War is all over, spending was supposed to have gone down; but, of course, it has gone up again – especially after 2001,” added Mr. Archer. “We have to get back to international law, back to the United Nations.”
In order to bring greater awareness to this issue, the IPB set up a one month photo-exhibit on the shores of Lake Geneva. This exhibit includes over 120 panels related to war and peace. “The aim of the exhibition is really to get people to understand that there are ongoing problems, there are organizations who are working on these different elements: the environment, sustainable development, economic and social justice, disarmament, democracy and human rights,” stated Ashley Woods, Project Manager and Curator for Making Peace. While most of the images contain contemporary subject matter, there are flashbacks to Vietnam, the Great Depression, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Gandhi, reminding the viewer that things have not completely changed.
In an effort to promote peace education, all of the panels from the exhibit are free to download on the internet at schools worldwide. While photojournalists tend to oppose the use of their pictures without consent, this practice was allowed within schools given its tendency to encourage discussion on such issues.
To help launch this exhibit, and commemorate the centenary of its Nobel Peace Prize, the IPB hosted a one-day festival on June 6 in Geneva. Stands, exhibitions and films were on display all day with representatives from numerous international organizations (governmental and nongovernmental). Likewise, discussions were held with local specialists regarding issues such as the role of the environment, women and disarmament in peace. By the end of the day, there were hundreds of people lounging on the lawns surrounding the photo-exhibit discussing what they had seen. The event was culminated by an outdoor performance at sunset given by Mich Gerber, a local double bass sensation.
Among the guests present was celebrated National Geographic photojournalist and humanitarian, Reza Deghati. Reza (as he is known) is the founder of Aina (The Mirror), an international nonprofit organization dedicated to the education and empowerment of children and women through the use of media and communication. In recognition of his efforts as being the self-proclaimed “most ardent pacifist in the world,” Reza has been awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite, France’s highest civilian honor, Prince of Asturias Humanitarian Medal (Spain), and is a senior fellow of the Ashoka Foundation.
“I have seen the real brutality of war. And once you have seen it the main goal for all of your life is peace, and peace education,” he declared. “So, coming here and being part of it [Making Peace] is what I’m doing all over the world. I am moving for them [pointing to a picture of a child]. I am their voice.”
Despite all of the advances made in the past 100 years, the IPB still faces many challenges. When asked about some of the main challenges regarding peace, Mr. Archer came up with a rather interesting response: climate change.
While not as immediately threatening as a nuclear bomb, climate change has the ability to wreak far worse havoc. Take, for instance, Bangladesh. When the coastal areas of this country go under water and experiences hydrologic shock due to rising sea levels, where is this population of over 100 million people going to turn? Population shifts like this will continually threaten peace throughout the world.
Thus, the IPB is holding a centenary conference this September in Oslo, Norway entitled, “A Climate for Peace.” With a goal of attaining greater budgeting for “green” investments, the IPB and its partners hope to cut into some of the military budgets around the world – military planes are some of the largest emitters of greenhouse gasses worldwide.
“It’s a big dream, but we’re always doing dreams in the peace movement,” acknowledged Mr. Archer. “If there’s no dream then no change takes place. So we keep on dreaming.”