Tag Archives: QUNO

A PO Box Peace guest post from QUNO New York!

11 Jun

Dear readers,

Greetings from New York!  After working as a Program Assistant at the Quaker UN Office for the past 9 months, I am now entering the final stretch of my year here. It thus seems appropriate timing to reflect on my experiences so far, and what better place to do that than here!

I’m sure that P.O. Box Peace readers are already aware of the wonderful work that our friends at QUNO Geneva are doing. Activities in New York, although similar in practice, are focused on different subject areas; our work revolves largely around peacebuilding and the prevention of violent conflict. Like QUNO Geneva we are fortunate enough to have a Quaker House, just a few blocks away from UN Headquarters. It is here that we host informal meetings with civil society organizations, UN staff and delegates from country missions.

During my time here we have organized events on topics such as the Somali political transition, the Post-2015 Development Agenda, and peacebuilding in Liberia, Burundi, the DRC and Guinea. In the upcoming week we will be joined by Friends from Canada who will be attending the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which I am very much looking forward to.

It’s been a year characterized by big events (or maybe everything is just plain big in New York). The UN passed the Arms Trade Treaty and recognized the state of Palestine. The office also had a month of mayhem following Hurricane Sandy and we are currently anticipating a hoard of cicadas, expected to descend on the East Coast any day now!

In peace,

Amelia

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Amelia Breeze and Olivia Ensign, Program Assistants QUNO New York

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Quaker Peace and Social Witness Spring Conference

18 Apr

The weekend before last Ellie and I attended the annual Quaker Peace and Social Witness (QPSW) Spring Conference in sunny Swanwick, Derbyshire. QPSW works on behalf of Quakers in Britain, running a wide variety of programmes from Peace Education to the Ecumenical Accompaniment programme in Palestine/Israel (EAPPI), as well as the scheme for our fellow Peaceworkers.[1]

QUNO receives a lot of practical, financial and moral support from QPSW and Quakers in Britain and thus it was an extremely useful opportunity to give an overview of our work to Quakers who were, on the whole, relatively new to Quakerism. I have found that working at the international level means that it is all too easy to feel far removed, not only from the groups that we are researching and writing about (such as the children of prisoners) but also from the concerns and activities of individual Friends. We have returned from this conference inspired by those we met: their interest, enthusiasm, support, challenges and suggestions, and filled with motivation to continue this valuable work.

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Ellie and Haifa at the ‘meet the staff’ session at the QPSW Spring Conference

 

[1] For more on the work of QPSW see http://www.quaker.org.uk

European Workers’ Seminar (Party)

11 Apr

Dear Readers and Friends,

I’m trying a lighter tone with this post, and have included lots of pictures for your consumption…

In mid – March, Peaceworkers from London, Geneva and Brussels gathered in the Belgian Abbey at Kortenberg for a weekend seminar to reflect on this mid-point in the year.

Kortenberg Abbey

Kortenberg Abbey

For two days, we shared the highlights and challenges that we face in our work; explored the Quaker aspects of our work; and looked at what the next 6 months and beyond might bring. The workshop was a really useful platform to get together, and I think we all valued having the opportunity to spend  some time with others in the same position as us. It turns out that Kortenberg is a tiny town a bit in the middle of no-where, so we stayed mostly within the quiet grounds of the Abbey – a perfect space to reflect. Although the trip would have been a bit of a hoick for the Burundi workers, we did manage to Skype with Edith on Saturday, which was certainly a highlight. Edith, it was so great to see your glowing face and hear all about your adventures and joys you are finding in your work!

Skyping Edith

Skyping Edith

Thank you to Michael Eccles at Woodbrooke and Helen Bradford at Friends House for facilitating the weekend.

Waving Alissa goodbye on Sunday afternoon, Owen, Ellie, Haifa and myself continued the fun for two days afterwards as we all stayed on at ‘Maison Quaker’ in Brussels with the QCEA workers. We spent our time playing backgammon; learning lines; making a short film (the fruits of which will be showcased shortly!); writing letters; sharing lunches and seeing the sights:

Rhiannon, Owen and Haifa, Grand Place

Rhiannon, Owen and Haifa, Grand Place

It would be untrue of me not to mention the major activity that we took part in: tasting all the delights that Brussels has to offer; waffles, beer, frites, and mussels of course. They have a great rule in Brussels where you can buy frites from a friterie on the street, and take them into a local bar to eat them with your favourite pint:

QUNO, QCEA and QPSW

QUNO, QCEA and QPSW

We made a point of tasting as many different beers as possible in the evenings, and I personally fought to get as many toppings on my waffle as physically possible before the poor waffle collapsed:

Buying delicious waffles

Buying delicious waffles

Mussels are served in cauldron-like vats, and again served with frites. All in all, we had a lovely time together, and it was a welcome chance to have a little break, relax some, and catch up properly with eachother.

On behalf of the others, I’d like to extend a big thanks to Imogen, Chris and Beth for their warm hospitality!

All for now,

Rhiannon

An update genevois

27 Feb

Dear all,

I recently attended a meeting of the Inter Quaker Criminal Justice Liaison Group (also known as IQCJLG, one of many acronyms I encounter on a daily basis), formed by different Quaker organisations and individuals worldwide who work on Criminal Justice issues.  I found this particularly interesting as whilst Quakers may often have similar objectives, their specific focus may well differ between different contexts and it was interesting and useful to find out what Friends are working on, to share contacts and information. A number of the participants will represent Friends’ interests and concerns under the Friends World Committee for Consultation (QUNO’s parent body) in the UN Crime Commission in Vienna this April. As the meeting was in Friends House in London I was also able to take the opportunity to meet up with fellow Peaceworkers Owen and Rhiannon, who I had not seen since the blissful days at Woodbrooke Study Centre back in August.

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The winter in Geneva has not been as bitterly cold as we were lead to believe, I think last year’s lows of minus 12 degrees were exceptional. The emergence of crocuses and daffodils in the Quaker House garden herald the impending arrival of spring, whilst the odd snowflake reminds us not to be too hasty in our anticipation of warmer times. I haven’t yet ventured into the mountains, which many have chastised me for, so we are planning to go ‘snow-shoeing’ this weekend. I’m working my way up to skiing… possibly. Certainly the lifestyle here is generally a very healthy one (my monthly unlimited swimming pass must be heavily subsidised as it costs just £14) despite the endless fondue. On my recent trip to Spain I met a Ecuadorian lady who told me she wanted to leave the country (like the 40,000 people who fled the financial crisis there in the first six months of last year) and head for Switzerland, hoping that she can tap into some of the wealth and opportunities that reside here. Geneva’s 40% expat population certainly make it an interesting place to socialise, I found myself running between two parties last weekend and speaking four different languages at both – definitely an advantage of living here!

The next session of the UN Human Rights Council has just begun, when the vast corridors of the UN become alive with activity, exhibitions, events, networking opportunities, political negotiations and new resolutions. We are holding a side event on the issue of children of prisoners, to disseminate the results of the EU-funded COPING project that QUNO was involved in for the last three years.

A plus,

Haifa

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!

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Haifa


[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.

Aside

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.

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