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“Peace has to be sustainable”

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 3 2013 (IPS) - It’s a picture of an old lady who is looking right at you. You stare at her and she stares back.

The photograph of 93-year-old Viviette Applewhite from Philadelphia is inspiring as well as intense.

The photograph of Applewhite features in a book called “America Speaks: The first amendment in action” by photojournalist Tish Lampert.

The image is also one of her favorites, Lampert said.

At a photo exhibition Monday, Lampert’s photographic series featuring a range of pictures from the streets of the United States to the remotest corners of Africa, formed the foundation of a bigger discussion focusing on conflict resolution and advancing the culture of peace.

Calling for the inclusion of “sustainable peace” as one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury said, “peace and development go hand in hand.”

“For Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), we say that there is a missing MDG. The missing MDG is sustainable peace. In the context of sustainable peace, one has to understand that sustainable development is not possible without sustainable peace,” Chowdhury told IPS.

Chowdhury played a critical role during the adoption of the U.N. Declaration and the Programme of Action (PoA) on the Culture of Peace.

The United Nations had a greater responsibility towards ensuring that peace is long-term and sustainable, said Chowdhury. “What we now have is a fire brigade approach. But we need to ensure that fire doesn’t occur again.”

While funding can be a challenge for any project, Chowdhury suggested that out of billions of dollars allocated for peacekeeping budget, “the U.N. could allot seven to 10 percent of that budget for building institutional and community mechanisms to prevent conflicts.”

Educating women and the youth coupled with community leadership and community activism in order to avoid conflicts, especially in the developing world is the need of the hour, he said.

Peace is not just about stopping a war or signing a treaty, “it is also about fighting injustice oppression and injustice,” he said.

Lampert, too, seconds that.  She recalled a statement made by Applewhite, who challenged the voter ID law in Pennsylvania—“These politicians better pay attention because we have the power to take their jobs.” “It’s about never giving up,” Lampert told IPS.

On the larger context of the much talked about SDGs, Blair Evans, director of Detroit based organisation Incite Focus, which works on sustainable forms of development said that in this day and age there is a greater need to become less dependent on larger systems that are dysfunctional, fragile or vulnerable.

While experts have called for greater changes in public policy in order to drive those changes, Chowdhury emphasized that promoting culture of peace, which in turn will spur development, is in fact a long-term process.

“The elevator for sustainable peace is out of order. You have to take the steps one at a time,” he said.

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