SDG16+ Champions of Change

The activist working to build a peaceful world


Champions of Change is an initiative started by the Pathfinders to highlight advocates who have made an impact in their communities and have helped to create peaceful, just and inclusive societies (SDG16+). It provides an opportunity to feature individuals, businesses, and organizations doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. As part of the Movement to Halve Violence by 2030, hear from Champions who have made building peaceful societies their cause and mission in life, and learn what you can do to join them!

Dr. Scilla Elworthy has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times for developing effective dialogue between nuclear weapons policy-makers worldwide and their critics, with the Oxford Research Group she founded in 1982. Peace Direct, voted ‘Best New Charity’ in 2005, goes from strength to strength under brilliant young leadership, founded by Scilla in 2002 to fund, promote and learn from local peace-builders in conflict areas.

Scilla was adviser to Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Sir Richard Branson in setting up ‘The Elders’, and was Awarded the Niwano Peace Prize in 2003. She co-founded Rising Women Rising World in 2013, and FemmeQ in 2016 to establish the qualities of feminine intelligence — for men as for women — as essential for building a safer world.

She is Ambassador for Peace Direct, a Councillor of the World Future Council and patron of Oxford Research Group; adviser to the Syria Campaign and the Institute for Economics and Peace.

We spoke with Dr. Scilla Elworthy to learn more about her work and what drives her:

­­What ignited your pursuit for safe and peaceful societies?

I’ve worked for 50 years in the prevention of violent conflict, both at international levels working with policy makers on nuclear weapons, and at local level setting up Peace Direct to support locally-led peace builders all over the world. My inspiration has been to prevent the acute suffering caused by the use of armed force to try to solve conflicts; it doesn’t work.

To achieve a peaceful, just, and inclusive world, what does success look like to you? And what are the key factors in achieving this vision?

We must put far more women in charge of decision-making on security – nationally and internationally. The UN has to be reformed to dismantle the veto of the P5, or be replaced with a body that has the power and ability to use proven violence prevention methods as a first response to the outbreak or escalation of armed conflict.

How does your work significantly reduce and prevent violence?

We currently engage with private philanthropic donors to ensure more money is dedicated to SDG16 related initiatives. While donations are essential the ultimate aim, which we are collaborating on with our partner organizations, is to identify how an investor can see a return on their investment. In other words, making SDG16 investible.

Drawing on our work with Peace Direct and many other partners working in areas of armed conflict, we have so far been able to identify 15 practical examples of situations worldwide where investors can make a real impact on preventing or reducing violence, while reaping a dividend in reputational or financial terms.

How has COVID-19 impacted your work? Are there any lessons learned from the pandemic that you hope to apply in future work?

COVID-19 has personally has given me more time to think and write new books and manuals, and make films. Financially it has been disastrous for the income of the Business Plan for Peace.

I hope it has taught a majority of people worldwide that we are now so inter-connected that we must learn to think and act globally, instead of nationalistically. Also that it is unnecessary to fly to meetings in other countries, thus saving carbon emissions.

What advice do you have for those seeking to make a difference for a more peaceful world?

At local levels, teach all children how to prevent and resolve conflict using Nonviolent Communication. Grow your own vegetables, and do not buy anything wrapped in plastic. In your community, form alliances of those determined to protect local forests, trees and sources of water. In companies and boardrooms, use the wisdom, guidance and common sense of women. At national levels, insist on cuts in military budgets steadily from now on and divert all the massive funds saved into the prevention of war by tried and tested means, into international systems to prevent migration by building jobs for young people at home, into a functioning international body to replace the UN, into closing the rich-poor gap, and into building renewable energy sources.