Exult! Solutions
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Exult! Solutions

You and I, and structural violence

One crazy endeavour I was part of last weekend was the Rotary Peace Fellows Alumni Association’s Global Cyber Peace Conference. I call it crazy because in a matter of just over 4 weeks, the conference was thought of, organised and executed, all virtually of course, with almost 1500 registrations from around the world. That in itself was an exercise in peacebuilding.
One of the highlights of the conference for me was a group of attendees — around 30 of them — who had gathered in a hall in Lae, Papua New Guinea, and were viewing and participating in the sessions through a projector screen. I often saw them making furious notes, paying serious attention. During the breakout sessions, they would always quickly converge to respond to questions that the speakers would ask, and their coordinator would then relay the responses to us on behalf of the group. All through, they spoke as one voice, though they represented different parts of PNG and some of them had flown into Lae to avail of this opportunity. The reason I was touched by this particular group was how they embodied peacebuilding: their community figured that the members may individually not have internet access or perhaps the technical knowledge to be able to attend a virtual conference. So the community drew upon its resources — something it may have done for one or a few members anyway — to be inclusive and make the opportunity available for a sizeable number of people who may otherwise not have had the opportunity. They showed us that it is not about having financial resources or access to technology, but about the will the be inclusive, that creates equity. We have enough resources in the world — what we need to work with is our ability to be generous with what we have, to notice that sharing resources only enhances impact; it does not take anything away from us.
Parts of the world are still in lockdown, but can we dare to share in every manner that we can, the resources we have:
- If we have a large space with internet access (for example, malls in cities), can we find a way to safely allow students who do not have wifi at home, to attend their online classes there?
- Can organizations with cafeterias figure how to use their infrastructure as community kitchens?
- Can we repurpose radio channels to transmit educational content for students who may be in remote areas with no access to virtual education?
There’s some of this and other initiatives happening already, thanks to the generosity and courage of willing individuals. The point is to continue this beyond the pandemic. We have enough resources, as a world. The Oxford Research Group estimated that it would cost only $30 billion a year to end global starvation and hunger (2018 figures). On the other hand, every year, the world spends around $2 trillion on militarisation. So it’s not about what we do not have. What do we choose to do with what we have?
In our panel on structural violence, Chintan Girish Modi, Joyanto Mukherjee and I spoke about the role of individuals like you and me in mitigating conflict created by our own misplaced priorities. Do look up the recording featured at the top of this post.

#RukminiIyer #peacebuilding #structuralviolence

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