Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams visits Ghana on behalf of the PeaceJam Foundation
28 June 2018
Accra - Ghana
Ms. Jody Williams is the founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), which was launched by six NGOs, including Human Rights Watch and Handicap International, in 1992. She and the Campaign jointly received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. Today, she serves as campaign ambassador for ICBL, as chair of the Nobel Women's initiative, and as member of PeaceJam. Ms. Williams participated in events in Accra from 28 June to 1 July 2018.
Ms. Williams is one of 14 Nobel Peace Laureates affiliated with the PeaceJam Foundation. The program was launched in 1996 to promote peace by inviting Nobel Peace Laureates to work with young people around the world. Ms. Williams’ visit to Ghana was hosted by the West Africa Centre for Peace Foundation, PeaceJam’s official chapter in Ghana. Last year, Nobel Peace Laureate Betty Williams, who campaigned to end the conflict in her home of Northern Ireland, joined the PeaceJam events in Accra.
During the weekend, PeaceJam organized its yearly youth conference at the University of Ghana. Students from 12 high schools had participated in peace training activities throughout the year, ranging from ending racism and discrimination to promoting diversity and critical thinking. They came together to share their activities and proposals and learn from students in other schools.
In a working lunch with UN officials, partners in Government and representatives of NGOs, PeaceJam officials from the US and Ghana discussed PeaceJam’s work. Mr. Wisdom Addo, PeaceJam Coordinator in Ghana, explained how students learn about the life and work of Nobel Laureates in after-school activities, learn conflict-resolution skills, and apply these lessons to problems in their schools and communities. He said that the issues they raise most frequently are inequality, poverty, corruption, and bullying in their schools.
Mr. Brian Kelly, youth entrepreneur as founder of the travel service website “The Points Guy”, is a global ambassador and major financial contributor for PeaceJam. He spoke of being impressed by the depth of understanding of social problems by young people in Ghana and their commitment to be drivers of change. PeaceJam’s Executive Director, Ms. Kate Cumbo, explained that the primary school programs created by PeaceJam are year-long, voluntary, and involve up to 90 students per school, and culminate in annual conferences with Nobel Laureates.
At a public lecture on Thursday, 28 June 2018, Ms. Williams spoke about contemporary peace and security concerns and about how human rights are the basis for inclusive growth. “No one person can change the world on their own,” she reminded the audience, but “People should come together and think critically to produce the good they are after.” She brought up the “Nobel Women’s Initiative” as an illustration, where eight female Nobel Peace Laureates work together to support women’s groups fighting for justice around the world. Ms. Williams appealed to the audience to act in the face of injustice, whether confronted by hate, racism, bullying, or inequality. Young people should be taught that they are powerful and able to make a difference, and she extolled young people to work together, reminding them that “Emotion without action is irrelevant.”
On that note, Bola Ray, Ghanaian radio presenter and entrepreneur, directly addressed the youth to help communities in need and take leadership, such as holding governments accountable for their actions, and Mr. Kelly even encouraged young people to run for public office to make the change they seek a reality. Christine Evans-Klock, UN Resident Coordinator in Ghana, complimented PeaceJam’s contributions to mobilising young people to attain the Sustainable Development Goals in Ghana, saying that “by focusing on conflict resolution, building communication and respect across groups of young people, and empowering girls to achieve their full potential, young people can lead the way in making sure that everyone has a voice, and from a young age, they can work to bring everyone along, leaving no one behind.”
At the weekend youth conference at the University of Ghana. students were enthusiastic about the prospects of peace and activism, and were adamant about defending the basic human rights of every individual. Their commitment to peace was strengthened by being able to discuss their proposals for making a difference in their schools and communities with each other and with Ms. Williams and Mr. Kelly – Nobel Laureate and successful youth entrepreneur.