Tag Archives: Quakers

Swiss Occurings

22 Dec

Dear all,

In recent months, one of my main areas of work has been connected to the COPING project. COPING is a three year EU funded research project on the mental health of children of prisoners. QUNO has been involved, alongside a consortium of nine other NGOs and academic institutions across Europe. Whilst my involvement comes at the very end of the project, I am enjoying participating in the process of making recommendations from the research findings as well as disseminating the results in and around the UN. One disturbing statistic from the research is that 25% of children with a parent in prison are at high risk of mental health problems. Key recommendations include seeing a child’s visit to see their parent in prison as a right of the child rather than a privilege of the offender. I attended the final conference of the project in Brussels in November. Whilst I was there, I was fortunate to be able to meet fellow Programme Assistants; Chris and Bethany in person at the Quaker Council for European Affairs. QUNO’s counterpart represents Quaker concerns at the European level. Look out for a guest blog post from them, coming soon to PO Box Peace!

As stipulated in my recent journal letter, another of my highlights so far, has been seeing Turkey give their first ever report to the Human Rights Committee relating to their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The issue of Conscientious Objection to Military Service featured strongly. With this and other issues raised by NGOs and Turkish human rights activists, in a prior meeting with the Committee, being subsequently put to the State by individual Committee members. Whilst the topic of the lack of recognition of Conscientious Objectors (and their subsequent imprisonment and exclusion from access to government services) has often been raised at the European Court of Human Rights, due to the language barrier and lack of general knowledge about UN processes, many lawyers and NGOs in Turkey have not been aware of the Human Rights Committee as another method with which they can hold their government to account under its international legal obligations.

Outside of work, I have been sampling wine in local vineyards, practising Tai Chi by the lake, visiting thermal baths, enjoying the snow in Quaker House garden (see below), venturing to a Christmas market in Basel and generally enjoying what this part of Switzerland has to offer. I have also been busy with different writing projects. Fellow Peaceworker Owen and I wrote a review[1] in The Friend of David Gee’s excellent book on peace and nonviolence Holding Faith, and an article I co-wrote called Genocide and settler colonialism: can a Lemkin-inspired genocide perspective aid our understanding of the Palestinian situation? [2] was published in the International Journal of Human Rights. All in all it has certainly been a busy few months!

Joyeux Noel à tous!



[1] Please note you will need to register for a free trial to The Friend to access this article.

[2] The views expressed in said article are entirely that of myself and my co-author and do not in any way claim to represent the Quaker position on the situation in Israel/Palestine.


Musings on Climate Change and Cheese Fondue

19 Oct

Musings on Climate Change and Cheese Fondue…

Hello everyone!

My name is Ellie and, like Haifa, I am a new Programme Assistant for the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva. As Haifa has already told you all about who QUNO are and what they do, I will tell you a little bit about the programme I work on: Human Impacts of Climate Change. As the name suggests, the programme focuses on what the consequences of climate change will be for humanity, working on cooperation over natural resources, climate change and migration, and the international climate negotiations. Quakers are realising that the environment is a peace and equality issue. They therefore recognise that we need to limit the impacts of existing climate change, as well as mitigating future man made changes, in order to reduce the vulnerability of its victims. What’s really struck me since I started this job is how easy it is to assume that we can somehow damage our environment without damaging our people as well, or that climate change remains a distant Armageddon-like scenario. Over the last few weeks I’ve heard the stories of those whose lives have been devastated by environmental change and it’s hit home that for so many people around the world climate change is already a reality.

In my third week at QUNO I travelled to Vienna to attend a conference on Climate Change and Migration, which, as well as providing an opportunity to eat the world’s best crêpes and wander the city’s palaces, gave me a lot to think about. Questions of what will happen to people displaced by climate change have not yet been answered, whether it’s protection for rural farmers who can no longer make a living or the communities whose islands may someday soon disappear beneath the waves. At times it feels like these problems are too big for us to solve. When so much time is wasted in disagreement between States, the challenge we face can seem overwhelming and I worry that any solution we find will be too late to help these people. But I have faith that if we have taught ourselves to live within the current broken system, we can un-teach ourselves as well. That’s when I find it reassuring to be at QUNO and surrounded by people who are determined to make change happen, people working behind the scenes here at the UN in order to find ways to bring the right people together and move things forward.

When not pondering questions of climate change, me and Haifa have been busy finding the cheapest falafel in this ludicrously priced city and retreating from the cold to saunas and cheese fondue, with the occasional Autumnal dip in the lake (a freezing experience I’m not sure I will be repeating!)

Thanks for reading and Happy Friday!

Ellie, Quaker United Nations Office, Geneva

p.s. I leave you with two photos to brighten up your Friday afternoon. Swiss fondue and a Genevan lake. Beautiful.



A new batch of Peaceworkers…

7 Sep

Welcome to P.O. Box Peace!

This blog is a manifestation of the work that Quakers are doing towards building a more peaceful world. It has been voluntarily set up by the 7 current Quaker Peaceworkers for 2012 to enable us to share our stories of peace work from across the world – see more info. on our ‘about us’ page.

We come from varied backgrounds, and have spent the last two weeks together in preparation for our new roles before stepping out into the big wide world of peace work. Meeting on a Tuesday morning over breakfast at the Penn Club, we started our preparation with a busy first week at Friends House in Euston, London. Here, we spent our days learning about the broad work of Quaker Peace & Social Witness (QPSW), trying to get a grasp of the nuances between different strands of Quakerism worldwide, meeting with various international peace organisations, meeting our soon-to-be managers over Skype, and exploring our common ground within our shared values of peace, equality, simplicity and truth. One of the most useful parts of the week was having the chance to connect with the current outgoing Peaceworkers, to ask them questions, and hear about their year and where they are off to, now…it helped to put everything in perspective for me.

After collapsing at the weekend and re-couping some energy, I met with the others at Woodbrooke, the Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham, for our second week of preparation. The emphasis here was to take stock, reflect on the year to come, and relax. I particularly enjoyed the depth of our sessions with Woodbrooke Tutor Michael Eccles, where we looked at our activism; the meaning of Peace, conflict and non-violence; took inspiration from our forebearers and explored our commitment to this work. After spending 5 days enjoying the company of the other Peaceworkers, with plenty of time to read, sleep and play outside in the sun, and a cheeseboard at every meal, I floated out of Woodbrooke well fed, nourished and ready to start the next part of the journey. I can’t speak for the others, but I’m sure something along those lines was the general consensus of our time there.

Some of us have started work this week, and I have started my post as Campaigns and Policy Officer at Gender Action for Peace and Security UK! GAPS UK, established in 2006, is a network of NGOs who work in the fields of gender, peace building, humanitarian, development and human rights issues. Perhaps it’s not one that you have heard of before. We are an expert working group on issues of gender, peace and security, providing support to policymakers and practitioners who are engaged in work surrounding women’s rights in conflict affected countries. We do this by building on key policy instruments like UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security through advocacy, collaborative research and campaigning. Perhaps that sounds a bit jargonny – my posts will become more detailed as we move through the year and I really start to know what I’m talking about. All I do know, is that I’ll be building on the GAPS campaign No women, No Peace.’, and doing some policy, advocacy and research work. I’ve spent most of this week learning the ropes, finding my space in the office, reading up, and working out what my role will be in the coming year. I’ve already been down to Parliament for a meeting with some GAPS members, formulating a strategy that will aim to raise the profile of Afghan women’s rights on the agendas of key UK diplomatic vehicles. And this morning, I spent some of this sunny Friday with our friends at Amnesty International UK learning about campaign strategy, the importance of collaboration in campaign work, and getting clearer about our aims and objectives.

If our carefully crafted plan works, another of the UK Peaceworkers will be writing a post next, so I’ll leave you in their capable hands!

// Rhiannon at Gender Action for Peace and Security, UK

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