Nobel Prize Winners Gather at Augsburg

Christa Kelly, Contributor

This past weekend marked the 30th Nobel Peace Prize Forum hosted by Augsburg University. This year’s forum explored the theme    “Paradox of Peace” as speakers from across the globe gathered, including representatives of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the executive director of ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

   Friday’s plenary featured speakers discussing the efforts to reach peace in Columbia after decades of civil war. After a taped address from President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work towards ending the conflict, the speakers addressed Columbia’s war-torn past and what their hope for a better future would be.

   According to Colombian sociologist Leonel Gomez, there were still steps that needed to be taken before peace could be reached. “Before gluing, one must clean the two broken parts,” he stated, “Colombia is a country that has memories without a future … a political economy of hate.”

   Claudia López, a Colombian senator, had a more positive outlook. She said that something had become radically different in the last few years: “People wanted change.”

   “The state is much stronger than before,” López said.

   Nancy Lindborg, President of the United States Institute of Peace, credited the movement towards change to the “extraordinary engagement of women, victims and youth.”

    Gomez ended by sharing some wisdom for the United States. “The divide along racial lines here in the United States needs urgent action. Americans need reconciliation … words are for reconciliation. Arms are for revenge. As a Colombian, we are laying down our arms. Perhaps it’s time for the United States to do so as well.”

    Saturday’s plenary focused on the work of ICAN and the organization’s work towards establishing an international treaty banning the development, testing, possession and use of nuclear weapons.

    Beatrice Fihn, executive director of ICAN, stated that the organization was already seeing success. The proposed treaty has so far been signed by 67 countries and ratified by 14. She noted the importance of finishing the mission. By stating “countries have held the world on the brink of destruction for seven decades.” She further argued that nuclear weapons, though intended to provide security, have the opposite effect. “Security based on fear and luck isn’t security at all … We will not be held hostage through these weapons any longer.”

    When asked by Asle Toje, a member of the Norwegian Nobel Committee and the interviewer for the plenary, what ordinary citizens could due to help, Fihn urged the audience to join ICAN; she insisted that the conversation about the morality of nuclear weapons has for too long been only available to the people in positions of power. “It removes our agency,” she explained. But she made it clear that this could change. “It’s a pretty simple question: weapons of mass destruction, yes or no. It’s as simple as that … This is a problem for all of us.”

     The Nobel Peace Prize Forum concluded with a call to action to all peacemakers who gathered during the weekend to discuss topics ranging from the work of Nobel Peace Prize laureates to local community members from Cedar Riverside.

This article first appeared in the Friday, September 21 edition of The Echo.

Photo taken by Office of Marketing and Communication/Courtney Perry.