More than 900 participants present in Barcelona and more than 1,700 online shows the tremendous international interest in this Peace World Congress. It was the right congress, at the right time, in the right city.
Barcelona proved to be a great venue for the congress with its university and congress center, but especially with the opening speeches of the mayor of Barcelona and the president of Catalonia, which were influenced by peace politics. Clear words for more active municipal and governmental commitment to peace. An urgent call for cooperation, the only way to overcome the planetary crisis.
The current political situation especially the insane rearmament, the confrontation but also the environmental catastrophe and the dramatic social global injustice requires clear peace policy responses of cooperation and disarmament. The abolition of all nuclear weapons is just as central as the challenges of climate change and social justice in all its diversity. The program and the speakers reflected this diversity, this difference of approaches to the peace issue. The current pandemic situation made preparation and implementation difficult and prevented in person participation from different parts of the world. The online presence helped, but it can never replace face-to-face meeting!
This atmosphere of solidarity in the common struggle for peace in all its diversity characterized this emotional, but also political and inspiring congress. The Congress sparkled with energy: it had and it gave energy!
It was the argument, it was the togetherness, the common and the search for more actions that were reflected in the plenary lectures and the more than 50 working groups.
Peace policy is environmental policy and climate justice – who could present this more convincingly than Vandana Shiva. The challenges of climate justice, which is much more than “getting a grip on global warming,” permeated the congress in the plenaries and working groups. Ending hunger and poverty is a central necessity if justice is the goal. There is no justice without peace and no peace without justice, these thoughts of Sharan Burrow General Secretary of the World Federation of Trade Unions, of Lula de Silva, the former and hopefully new President of Brazil were formative, impressive and illustrate the dramatic dangers humans and nature are facing. All this calls for the ultimate abolition of all nuclear weapons. Who could express this more impressively than Beatrice Finn of ICAN and Wada Masako, survivor of Hiroshima. The dangers of the confrontation of this world were intensively pointed out by Zhao Tong from China and Alexey Gromyko, among others, and especially underlined by Noam Chomsky in his video.
The congress was young and female, it was dominated by the young generation, as 40% of speakers were under 40 years. Representative for many are the impressive contributions of Amani Aruri from Palestine, of A-Young Moon from South-Korea, of Vanda Proskova from the Czech Republic, of Shristy Aware from India and others. The IPB Youth Network was an indispensable part of this Congress.
Indispensable for the congress and its great charisma were certainly the contributions of Bina Nepram from India on repressions against indigenous people, of Shirine Jurdi from Lebanon on the situation in her country and of Lisa Linda Natividad from Guam on US military bases.
All names are a selection from the multitude of great and content-rich contributions at this congress of solidarity and common ground. Perhaps the ones not mentioned are the ones who contributed the most!
The more than 50 working groups – mostly conducted on a hybrid basis – not only brought together an impressive variety of arguments and facts for peace, they also analyzed and, above all, worked out strategies for a more peaceful development of the world. One example of this is the discussion of a new formulation of the policy of common security. The tremendous argumentative force of these diverse working groups shaped the content and spirit of the congress.
The working groups were also a special challenge from a technical point of view. More than 50 hybrid working groups, of which at least 15 were always running in parallel: when has that ever happened at a peace congress? Technologically – also by the manifold videos and zoom insertion the congress was top – hopefully future large hybrid international congresses can pick up were it left of. And with even more in person attendance (which was not possible this time because of Covid) even more liveliness is possible in the future.
The defining feature of the contributions was certainly: we need – in line with the title of the congress (Re)Imagine – our World: Actions for Peace and Justice.
More actions, a strengthening, renewal, and revival of the peace movement is the central challenge. Without more actions, without more commitment no peace and disarmament, no reduction of the dramatic dangers of war! We need more peace education everywhere in schools and universities. Without comprehensive rights for indigenous peoples, without resolution of the more than 300 armed conflicts through civil action, we will not achieve comprehensive peace. There will be no peace without emancipation without an active and indispensable role for women. This idea permeated the entire Congress, also thanks to the great active participation of many committed women.
The congress took up this challenge in many ways, in the plenaries, especially in the round table and in the opening and final discussions. But also in the 18 videos that illustrated the great international support for this World Peace Congress.
Its intense echo was found in the need for commitment to peace in the documents presented at the Congress:
- The IPB Appeal from Barcelona to the world, to all Peace – Movements and -Shapers of the Future.
- The Statement: Indigenous Peoples Declaration at the Second World Peace Congress.
- The document on and about the Mediterranean Region: Mediterranean Forum Plan
- And the impressive presentation of the IPB Youth Network.
(All can be viewed in detail on IPB’s website, www.ipb.org).
All these diverse actions were summarized in the IPB Action Plan for the next years, detailed for the different peace sections from disarmament to nuclear weapons to arms exports and intensive coalition building. The action plan particularly emphasizes the interconnectedness of the peace issue with the challenges of climate change and global justice. It was clear to all – offline and online – there will be a next 3rd IPB World Congress!
Many actions are planned, from a peace congress on peace and justice in and around the Mediterranean region to participation in the protest actions on the occasions of the 50th anniversary of the first UN environmental summit and the 30th anniversary of the Rio de Janeiro sustainability conference, as well as the World Social Forum in May in Mexico and the NATO summit in Juno in Spain.
IPB yes the entire international peace movement, which was present online and offline in an impressive diversity and breadth – despite all the pandemic restrictions – has set itself an ambitious program.
The need to return to a policy of common security 40 years after the first Olof Palme requires ultimate cooperation, dialogue and negotiation, and mutual understanding. IPB together with the Olof Palme Center and ITUC will push for this survival idea just after this successful congress. Concepts such as the proposals of the UN Secretary General, the IPCC, the new social contract of the ITUC, the SDGs of the UN with their weaknesses show the general direction. The political will of almost all political leaders of the world is missing. We need more education, more information, more movement, more action for disarmament and a great social-economic transformation, which might be argued is the participatory revolution of the 21st century. The excuse that there is no money is ridiculous as long as we spend 2 trillion dollars every year on armaments and the 1% is richer than 2/3 of humanity.
This congress was only possible because of the great financial support from political foundations (especially RLS and Transform), from the city of Barcelona and the government of Catalonia, and from the international trade unions – thank you very much.
This congress was made a reality by the tireless commitment of the two preparing IPB offices in Berlin and Barcelona and the many helpers whose effort was essential in this congress organizationally, but especially also contributed to the insanely impressive positive atmosphere of the congress.
It was a congress of awakening, of shaping the future, of our responsibility for saving the planet and for a culture of peace. Hopes for more peace political engagement worldwide and more and bigger actions are necessary, because we are facing more acutely than perhaps ever before the alternatives: ruin and barbarism or humanity and peace.
By Reiner Braun, Executive Director of IPB