There’s also Nineveh: a request for help contacting media around the world

To all my family, friends and colleagues in the world: I need your help. This is a personal request from me to you. It would mean a lot to me if you take a moment to read it. Thank you.

There has been Brussels, Lahore, Baghdad, Mosul…but there’s also Nineveh

We’ve all seen the terrible violence in Brussels this last week. Many of us have also seen the violence in Mosul, Baghdad and Lahore. Right now I’m in a city called Duhok, in KRG – Iraq. It’s a few kilometres from Nineveh – somewhere that has come to mean a lot to me. Over the past several months I’ve been working with people from Nineveh – people who are Muslim, Yezidi, Christian, Turkmen and more, men and women, young and old, tribal leaders, Presidents, youth, mayors, activists, journalists, survivors. Almost all of them have been displaced from the fighting and war here – the violence many of you think of connected to ‘ISIS’ / Daesh.

And these people that I have come to know, to admire, to respect, to love…are amazing. They are women who have been raped and survived or driven from their homes or had family members they love killed…and with their courage have created a Women’s Peace Alliance uniting women from all communities, working together for peace. They are young people who have seen genocide and killing and, again, been driven from their homes and had people they love killed…and have chosen to go into refugee camps and help survivors, to hold trauma recovery processes, to create themselves a youth peace centre, to take brooms and buckets and go back into their villages and towns destroyed by war and…clean up. They are President Bashar Kiki of the Nineveh Provincial Council who has become passionately involved and worked to create a Peace Council for Nineveh bringing tribal and religious leaders together – together(!) to work for peace instead of war. They are my brothers, my sisters, my family. They are courage, humanity, in the face of loss and suffering and pain few of us could even image in our worst nightmares, and instead of promoting more hatred or anger or violence, they are doing something incredibly brave, incredibly heroic, incredibly simple: they are coming together working for peace.

This week, this Wednesday and Thursday, there will be a Nineveh International Forum for Peace. More than 200 survivors, grassroots activists, NGOs, tribal leaders, religious leaders, community members, men, women, mayors, government officials, the UN, journalists, and every national and international organisation working in Nineveh will come together. They will look at the role and leadership of women working for peace. They will look at how youth are choosing not to join militias or fight but to help heal, overcome sectarianism and hatred, and build a future beyond war and violence. They will look at how we can deal with trauma healing, recovery and reconciliation, civilian protection, introduce peace education into schools, create local peace committees, build the Nineveh Peace Council…and in the midst of all the violence and war we are seeing, in Nineveh, in the world…they will work to help us find a path towards peace. Them. The people who have been most affected. They are the ones doing this.

And what I’m asking from you..my friend, my family, my colleague, someone who knows me and has linked to me here, is this: please help us tell this story to the world. Please blog about it. Comment about it. If you know someone who is a journalist – if you’re married to them, friends with them, if you are one, if you know someone who knows someone – whether it’s for a local paper, a radio station, CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, CCTV, the Guardian, or any, any, any other, reach out to them, talk to them about this, help them know, realise, understand how incredibly important this is. If you wonder what can be done to stop terrorism, to stop war, to stop what we’ve seen happening in Belgium, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, France, Turkey – this is it. This is an important and major part of it. This is people – practically, concretely – building peace.

And their story needs to be told.

And all of us need to know, there is a reason to hope – not just because it matters to, not just because we want to, but as a result of our choices and actions.

I’m asking you, I need your help: please help us get this story told.

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It is time to Unite. Honouring Deah Shaddy Barakat (23), Yusor Mohammad (21), Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha (19) #Iamhuman

It is time to Unite.

Please read this, share and comment.

Honouring Deah Shaddy Barakat (23), Yusor Mohammad (21), Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha (19)

On Tuesday Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were shot and killed in the town of Chapel Hill in the United States. Deah and Yusor got married less than two months ago. All three are said to have been exceptionally bright, warm, committed people who worked in service to help improve the lives of others. Deah was involved in organising humanitarian support for Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Just Married 6 Weeks Ago
Just Married 6 Weeks Ago

In Chapel Hill and around the world there has been a tremendous outpouring of grief, support and solidarity for both families of those killed. There are people rising in Chapel Hill and across the United States…and around the world, to say: it is time. We need to stop the killing.

We need to stop the killing of ALL human beings – not to stop the killing of Christians or Muslims, of men or women, of “westerners”, “Arabs”, “French”, “Jews”, “Americans”, “Us”, or “Them”. We need to stop the killing…of all human beings.

Suzanne Barakat, Deah’s older sister, speaks beautifully of her beloved brother and Yusor and Razan. They lived beautiful lives, and they had all the possibility of the future ahead of them.

Sisters
Sisters

Their lives were cut short by violence. They were executed with shots to the head. On the same day (Tuesday, February 10) 28 people including Deah, Yusor and Razan were killed by gun violence – murdered – in the United States. Since January 1 2015 1,410 people have been murdered/killed with guns in the US, including 62 children (the youngest a few months old, the oldest 11) and 212 teenagers (between 12 – 17 years old). There have been 25 mass shootings / killings, and 229 ‘accidental shootings’ including one in which a 2 year old child killed his mother while handling her gun in a store.

Here is a truth: if this had been done by a foreign ‘organisation’ or a disease the entire country would be demanding action and mobilising to confront it. It wasn’t. It was done by people in the United States themselves, overwhelmingly by men.

In Syria, Libya, Iraq, the Congo, Mexico, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Ukraine and elsewhere thousands more have died. Have been murdered. Often by our own governments – military – police. Often by organisations claiming to fight for a belief.

Now…I am writing to you. I am writing to you and to each and all of us, and together with millions more around the world, I am saying: It is time for us to mobilise. It is time for us to unite. It is time for us to recruit one another – not to join ISIS, not to join an army, a militia, or police. Not to go out and kill in the name of religion, defence, belief, truth or justice. It is time for us to unite, to mobilise, to recruit each other to say: enough.

It is time for us to end armed violence and war.

In memory and to honour Deah, Yusor and Razan – to honour the thousands more killed around the world – to honour every mother, every father, every daughter, son and child – it is time for us to stop the violence and stop the killing.

There are moments when people think of those who have inspired them. When people think about the lives of Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. and so many others and think what they did was extraordinary. We see those who stood up for what they knew was needed and necessary, and who did so with vision, love, compassion, dedication, courage…and the very best of our humanity. We see them and we feel moved and inspired.

This is one of those times, but it is not a Gandhi or a King called upon to ‘rise’ or to mobilise and inspire us. It is ourselves.

Here is another truth. As a human being, I cried this morning as I listend to Suzanne speak of her brother; as I thought about him, his wife and her sister, and even the man – Craig Stephen Hicks – who killed them.Craig Stephen Hicks and his wife at Disney As I thought about people living in the United States and other war zones around the world whose lives are cut short by a psychotic system, institutionalisation and acceptance of violence which is a disease that, like other diseases – can be ended and cured.

So here is my pledge. Here is my commitment.

To the families of Deah, Yusor and Razan I want to send more than my condolences. I want to say thank you – for the beauty of your family members. For how they lived their lives and who they were, which is an inspiration for all who are learning of them.

More than that: I want to dedicate myself to the growing global movement to end and abolish war and armed violence. The movement of millions rising.

And I want to ask you to join as well.

It is time. It is time for us to unite. It is time to abolish war. That is my pledge. That is my commitment.

In honour and memory, and celebration of the lives of Deah Shaddy Barakat (23), Yusor Mohammad (21), Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha (19). Presente. You will not be forgotten, and we will continue in the service in which you dedicated your lives – to create a better world for every human being; a world in which every single person has the right and opportunity to feel loved, to be safe, to be whole, to be unafraid. To live.

I am asking you to help us together make that world a reality.

‪#‎Iamhuman‬

‪#‎timetoabolishwar‬ ‪#‎unite2endviolence‬ ‪#‎stopwar‬ ‪#‎endwar‬ ‪#‎endviolencenow‬
‪#‎ubuntu‬

To see the interview of

Suzanne Barakat talking to Anderson Cooper about Chapel Hill Shooting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rVLYyfn8XY

I Need Your Help: Asking You To Support Emerging Peace Leaders

Support Emerging Peace Leaders:
What you can do to make a difference in 4 people’s lives, and in the world 

Dearest friends, family and colleagues around the world –
I need to ask for your help to make a difference in 4 peoples lives and their countries

I am writing to ask you for help. As many of you know I have recently taken up the role of Co-Leader of Hacettepe University Peace & Conflict Studies Global Peace Institute. There we are creating what is an exceptional MA (masters) programme to truly and deeply train, inspire, educate and empower people from all over the world with the skills, knowledge, capabilities and confidence they need to make a difference – in their communities, their countries and globally. We have an incredible student body – people coming from many different backgrounds, including from deeply war affected countries, and united by their common commitment and dedication. 

We are now trying to make it possible for four remarkable individuals: Sarwat Sharif and Aftab Ahmad from Pakistan, Shakila Enayatzade from Afghanistan, and Georgiana Mariana Rus from Romania to join us for the coming academic year beginning now in January. These four individuals are receiving ‘Future Leaders Scholarships’ from the University, but we still need to raise funds to support their living, accommodation and travel.

[To support directly click here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/support-emerging-peace-leaders/x/9643078#home%5D

Sarwat, Aftab and Shakila are coming from countries deeply affected and wracked by war and violence. Billions of dollars have been spent in equipping and training people for war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We are…I am…asking for your help to raise a few thousands Euros to support Sarwat, Aftab, Shakila and Georgiana to spend one year getting one of the best graduate degrees in the world in peacebuilding, so they can make a real and meaningful difference in their communities and countries, in the world.

Fantastic 4 Thank you

You might be able to donate 5 Euros / dollars / pounds. You might be able to cover the entire costs for one or all four of them. You might know someone who can help, or be able to hold a bake sale, car wash, raise funds at your school or company to help them. For all four to cover all costs for their degrees for 1 year we need about 24.000 Euros in total. The rest we are providing from the university.

I need to raise these funds in 1 week for them to be able to come take part in time. I’d like to ask you to share this with anyone you know who may be able to help, and to get back to me directly at jacobsen@peaceoperations.org if you can.

I believe in Sarwat, Aftab, Shakila and Georgiana, and I believe we can make a difference. It’s time to say: we’re tired of the continual war and violence and use of violence fuelled by so many from heads of state to outraged groups. I want to believe in something better. I want to do something better. I want to help support and enable those who will make a difference in their countries and the world to be trained in peacebuilding.

Please – help us by donating directly even if just a few dollars / euros / pounds / yen or any currency, or as much as you’re able, and by forwarding this as broadly as you can through your networks, to friends, family, colleagues and others. This will make a difference, but we need you to help make it happen.

I’m asking you to help us change the world, and to change the lives of these four people by making this possible for them.

Thank you…for helping to make this possible, and for helping us to do something concrete and real to make a difference in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and in the world.

Emerging Peace Leaders: A Permanent Campaign You Can Help Succeed!

At the same time, this campaign is about much more than just raising support for Sarwat Sharif and Aftab Ahmad from Pakistan, Shakila Enayatzade from Afghanistan, and Georgiana Mariana Rus from Romania – though that alone would be an entirely worthy and important cause. We’ve decided to make this a permanent scholarship to support emerging peace leaders from around the world to take part in the Hacettepe University Peace & Conflict Studies international MA – quickly becoming one of the best in the world for people truly dedicated to learning how to DO peacebuilding in practice – in their communities, their countries and internationally. 

The scholarship will be dedicated to supporting extraordinary people: people of courage, people of dedication, people of inspiration, passion and commitment – people working to make a change in their communities, in their countries – often in deeply challenging and difficult circumstances. It will go to women working in their communities to overcome and prevent violent against women. It will go to youth and elders in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere working to inspire, mobilise and encourage people to unite to end the violence in their countries, to reach out across divisions, to rise for peace and stop the wars affecting their people. It will go to people in Israel-Palestine, Cyprus, the Congo and elsewhere bringing people together from ‘across’ conflict parties to go through their MAs together and build the trust, confidence, mutual understanding and real skill and commitment they need to support effective peacebuilding. It will go to people in Mexico, South Africa, Nigeria, the United States and other countries deeply affected by armed violence and help them study concretely proven and effective methods for reducing and preventing armed violence.

It will go…to people who are rising to do what is necessary and make a difference in this world. To people…being the change we need to see. And we’re asking you to be part of this.

Whether you can help by donating 5 $ or Euros or 5000 or 50.000, or by sharing this further through your networks, or by joining and reposting/sharing updates and information – or organising a car wash, bake sale, school fundraising, dinner with friends who come together to support…whatever you can do…you can do something. You can help, and make an opportunity that will change people’s lives and support peacebuilding in their countries possible. And for that…we thank you. I thank you.

In peace, in dedication,
Kai Frithjof Brand-Jacobsen

Co-Leader, Hacettepe International MA in Peace and Conflict Studies and Head of Peace Operations & Integral Development; and Director, Department of Peace Operations

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/support-emerging-peace-leaders/x/9643078#home

To Join the Support Emerging Peace Leaders Facebook Community go to:

https://www.facebook.com/SupportEmergingPeaceLeaders

Living Peace – Statement from the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates

LIVING PEACE
Final Statement
Living Peace Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates
Nothing is as antagonistic to peace as the human mind without love, compassion, and reverence for life and nature. Nothing is as noble as the human being who chooses to bring love and compassion into action.

This year we honor the legacy of Nelson Mandela. He exemplified the principles for which the Nobel Peace Prize is granted and serves as a timeless example of a truth he lived. As he himself said: “love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

He had many reasons to give up hope, even to hate, but he chose love in action. It is a choice we can all make.

We are saddened by the fact that we were not able to honor Nelson Mandela and his fellow Peace Laureates in Cape Town this year because of the refusal of the South African government to grant a visa to H.H. the Dalai Lama to enable him to attend the planned Summit in Cape Town. The 14th Summit, which was moved to Rome, has nevertheless permitted us to consider South Africa’s unique experience in showing that even the most intractable disputes can be resolved peacefully through civic activism and negotiation.

As Nobel Peace Laureates we bear witness that – as has happened in South Africa during the past 25 years – change for the common good can be achieved. Many of us have faced guns and overcome fear with a commitment to live with and for peace.

Peace thrives where governance protects the vulnerable, where the rule of law brings justice and the treasure of human rights, where harmony with the natural world is achieved, and where the benefits of tolerance and diversity are fully realized.

Violence has many faces: prejudice and fanaticism, racism and xenophobia, ignorance and shortsightedness, injustice, gross inequalities of wealth and opportunity, oppression of women and children, forced labor and slavery, terrorism, and war.

Many people feel powerless and suffer in cynicism, selfishness, and apathy. There is a cure: when individuals commit to caring for others with kindness and compassion, they change and they are able to make changes for peace in the world.

It is a universal personal rule: We must treat others as we wish to be treated. Nations, also, must treat other nations as they wish to be treated. When they don’t, chaos and violence follow. When they do, stability and peace are obtained.

We decry the continued reliance on violence as a primary means of addressing differences. There are no military solutions to Syria, Congo, South Sudan, Ukraine, Iraq, Palestine/Israel, Kashmir and other conflicts.

One of the greatest threats to peace is the continuing view of some great powers that they can achieve their goals through military force. This perspective is creating new crisis today. If left unchecked this tendency will inevitably lead to increased military confrontation and to a new more dangerous Cold War.

We are gravely concerned about the danger of war – including nuclear war – between large states. This threat is now greater than at any time since the Cold War.

We urge your attention to the annexed letter from President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Militarism has cost the world over 1.7 trillion dollars this past year. It deprives the poor of urgently needed resources for development and protection of the earth’s ecosystem and adds to the likelihood of war with all its attendant suffering.

No creed, no religious belief should be perverted to justify gross violations of human rights or the abuse of women and children. Terrorists are terrorists. Fanaticism in the guise of religion will be more easily contained and eliminated when justice is pursued for the poor, and when diplomacy and cooperation are practiced amongst the most powerful nations.

10,000,000 people are stateless today. We support the campaign of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to end statelessness within ten years as well as its efforts to alleviate the suffering of over 50,000,000 displaced persons.

The current wave of violence against women and girls and the perpetration of sexual violence in conflict by armed groups and military regimes further violates women’s human rights, and makes it impossible for them to realize their goals of education, freedom of movement, peace and justice. We call for full implementation of all UN resolutions addressing women, peace and security and political will by national governments to do so.

Protecting Global Commons

No nation can be secure when the climate, oceans, and rainforests are at risk. Climate change is already leading to radical changes in food production, extreme events, rising sea levels, the intensity of weather patterns, and is increasing the likelihood of pandemics.

We call for a strong international agreement to protect the climate in Paris in 2015.

Poverty and Sustainable Development

It is unacceptable that over 2 billion people live on less than $2.00 per day. Countries must adopt well-known practical solutions to eliminate the injustice of poverty. They must support the successful completion of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We urge adoption of the recommendations of the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons.

A first step to ending the oppression of dictatorships would be the rejection by banks of money arising from their corruption as well as constraints on their travel.

The rights of children must become part of every government’s agenda. We call for universal ratification and application of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The widening jobs gap needs to be, and can be, bridged and credible action must be undertaken to give the millions of new labor market entrants a viable job. An effective social floor can be designed in every country to eliminate the worst forms of deprivation. People need to be empowered to claim their social and democratic rights and achieve sufficient control over their own destinies.

Nuclear Disarmament

There are over 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world today. As the recent 3rd International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons concluded: the impact of the use of just one is unacceptable. A mere 100 would lower the earth’s temperature by over 1 degree Celsius for at least ten years, causing massive disruption of global food production and putting 2 billion people at risk of starvation. If we fail to prevent nuclear war, all of our other efforts to secure peace and justice will be for naught. We need to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.

Meeting in Rome, we commend Pope Francis’ recent call for nuclear weapons to be “banned once and for all”. We welcome the pledge by the Austrian government “to identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons” and “to cooperate with all stakeholders to achieve this goal”.

We urge all states to commence negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons at the earliest possible time, and subsequently to conclude the negotiations within two years. This will fulfill existing obligations enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which will be reviewed in May of 2015, and the unanimous ruling of the International Court of Justice. Negotiations should be open to all states and blockable by none. The 70th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2015 highlights the urgency of ending the threat of these weapons.

Conventional Weapons

We support the call for a pre-emptive ban on fully autonomous weapons (killer robots) – weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without human intervention. We must prevent this new form of inhumane warfare.

We urge an immediate halt to the use of indiscriminate weapons and call on all states to join and fully comply with the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

We commend the entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty and urge all states to join the Treaty.

Our Call

We call upon religious, business, civic leaders, parliaments and all persons of good will to work with us to realize these principles and polices.

Human values that honor life, human rights and security, are needed more than ever to guide nations. No matter what nations do every individual can make a difference. Nelson Mandela lived peace from a lonely jail cell, reminding us that we must never ignore the most important place where peace must be alive — within the heart of each one of us. It is from that place that everything, even nations, can be changed for the good.

We urge wide distribution and study of the Charter for A World Without Violence adopted by the 8th Nobel Peace Laureate Summit in Rome 2007.

*********

Attached hereto is an important communication from President Mikhail Gorbachev. He was unable to join us in Rome due to health concerns. He is the founder of the Nobel Peace Laureate Summits and we urge your attention to this wise intervention:

Mikhail Gorbachev’s Letter to Participants in the Nobel Laureates Forum

Dear friends,

I am very sorry I am unable to participate in our meeting but also happy that, true to our common tradition, you have gathered in Rome to make the voice of Nobel Laureates heard around the world.

Today, I feel great concern at the state of European and world affairs.

The world is going through a time of troubles. The conflict that has flared up in Europe is threatening its stability and undermining its capacity to play a positive role in the world. The events in the Middle East are taking an increasingly dangerous turn. There are smoldering or potential conflicts in other regions as well while the growing global challenges of security, poverty and environmental decay are not being properly addressed.

Policy-makers are not responding to the new realities of the global world. We have been witnessing a catastrophic loss of trust in international relations. Judging by statements of representatives of major powers, they are preparing for a long-term confrontation.

We must do all we can to reverse these dangerous trends. We need new, substantive ideas and proposals that would help the current generation of political leaders to overcome the severe crisis of international relations, restore normal dialogue, and create the institutions and mechanisms that fit the needs of today’s world.

I have recently put forward proposals that could help step back from the brink of a new cold war and begin restoring trust in international affairs. In essence, I propose the following:
• to finally start implementing the Minsk Agreements for resolving the Ukrainian crisis;
• to reduce the intensity of polemics and mutual accusations;
• to agree on steps to prevent the humanitarian catastrophe and rebuild the regions affected by the conflict;
• to hold negotiations on strengthening the institutions and mechanisms of security in Europe;
• to re-energize common efforts to address global challenges and threats.

I am convinced that each Nobel Laureate can make a contribution to overcoming the current dangerous situation and returning to the path of peace and cooperation.

I wish you success and hope for to see you.

This statement reflects the general consensus of the deliberations of Nobel Peace Laureates and Nobel Peace Laureate organizations gathered at the 2014 Rome Summit but does not necessarily bind any particular participant. For example, some organizations, such as the IPCC, by their constitution cannot endorse specific policy proposals.

* Participants in the Summit were the Dalai Lama, President Jose Ramon Horta, Lord David Trimble, Betty Williams, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkol Karman, Mairead Maguire and twelve Nobel Peace Laureate organizations: American Friends Service Committee, Amnesty International, European Commission, International Campaign to Ban Landmines, International Labour Organization, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, International Peace Bureau, International Physicians for the Prevention of War, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the United Nations.

Happy New Year…and something much, much more

Rise

Happy New Year…and something much, much more

I would like to wish you a happy new year – to you, your family, friends and loved ones; but I would also like to wish you and ask of you something much more. It is important to live your life to your full potential. To laugh, to love, to sing, to dance, to breathe, to make mistakes, to admit mistakes, to say thank you, to say sorry, to fall, and get back up again. It’s important to be happy. What I want to ask of you is something still more than that too. I want to ask you to realise that your life matters. That it matters, and it matters more than just finding personal happiness or the happiness of your friends, your children, your family. That is important, yes, but it is not – contrary to what we so often promote and hear – everything. It is important, and so is remembering that we live on and in the world…a world of extraordinary, breathtaking and sensual beauty and wonder…and a world in need. Harvey Milk used to begin each of his speeches with the line “I want to recruit you”. And yes: I want to recruit you. I want us to recruit each other. I want to ask you to do more than celebrate this new year and make personal resolutions that you wish to follow, pursue, achieve to make your life better. I want to ask you to organise, to engage, to take part, to actively make yourself aware, to care. I want to ask you to breathe…to breathe deeply…to taste, cherish and experience the life that fills your lungs…and to choose to do something that actually matters with that life. To say yes – I am alive, I am on this world, and I’m going to do something about it – something that matters. I will not stand by while injustice, exploitation, war, violence, and discrimination continue. I will not stand by while this year as in so many past years millions of people around the world live in refugee camps. I will not stand by or simply drink my champagne to welcome in the new year while there are human being living on the streets or in shanty towns. I will not simply toast, kiss or smile at beautiful firework displays while billions are in poverty while some can drink champagne. I will choose to be more than that. To do more than that.

We have a global economic system that brings tremendous achievements in many ways and is fundamentally perverse, dysfunctional and destructive in far more. We have autocrats, oligarchs and in many cases systemically dysfunctional governance – or misgovernance – systems that do not create the basic parameters and foundations of opportunity and well-being for all..and often sustain tremendous barriers to that well-being and opportunity for most. Systems which fundamentally do not support the extraordinary potential of our species, or respect the extraordinary beauty and sanctity of life of other species.

We live in perhaps the greatest age ever (so far) of creative, innovative, technological and productive capabilities…while billions of human beings live with little – or without – basic dignity, security and necessities of life. We live in a world where (to paraphrase former President and commander-in-chief Dwight D. Eisenhower) we are spending not only the genius of our scientists and wealth and capacity of our societies investing trillions of dollars a year in weapons and war, but we are hanging humanity by an iron cross.

You should be happy. We all should. We should relish in the greater freedom we have than any previous period on earth to choose our paths, dreams and preferences in life. That happiness should itself be part of a life truly lived, and a life AWARE that we cannot take, celebrate or pursue our own personal pleasure, joy, nirvana, bliss and serenity if we are in a world where billions live without, and where war and violence are all too rampant…and in some cases escalating.

No president, no parent, no priest, guru or leader is more important than you, or than any of us. Experts don’t always have the answer. Decisions are not always taken or made in our best interests or the best interests of those around us. That’s why it matters that we take part, get involved, and make certain that the decisions made are those we believe in and want to see – for ourselves, our communities, for the world.

Your life matters. This moment in the world matters. You matter. For much, much more. You…we…can do something to make a difference. Not a small difference. Not helping one or two people – which is absolutely important – but the difference of helping and changing the lives of billions, and protecting this magnificent earth and world we live on.

So yes…this ‘new year’ I want to do something more than to wish you a happy new year. I want to ask you to rise – to become active (or if we already are, to become much, much more active), to discuss, to train, to learn, to get involved and stand up – to take a stand – to say ‘pasta’, no, to what you know is wrong and unacceptable, and to open your lives, our lives, to the incredible number of yeses there are in this amazing world.

In the coming years, there will be a growing movement of millions…of hundreds of millions…working in many diverse ways, but uniting to assist us to realise our potential, and to throw away, discard and overcome outdated, dysfunctional, destructive systems. There will be a movement that will build on the history of past movements – of civil rights, women’s rights, human rights, anti-colonialism, environmental, and so many more movements. It will be a movement of diversity and pluriversity. Of celebrating difference, and connection. That movement is already here, but it…we…will grow.

Arundhati Roy once said “Another world is coming, and, if you listen closely, you can hear her breathing.” If you listen even more closely, you can discover…she is already here, living inside of you…and the choices you make.

Your life, this moment, the year and the moments ahead…matter. So what I wish, what I ask of you, what I ask of myself, is that you rise, we rise, and we continue to rise, until another world…is here.