Ahead of the International Day of Peace on September 21, USIP’s Joseph Sany says the occasion is “an opportunity to celebrate, reflect and demonstrate our commitment” to building peace in our communities — as well as a chance to connect with millions of others through the Peace Day Challenge.

U.S. Institute of Peace experts discuss the latest foreign policy issues from around the world in On Peace, a brief weekly collaboration with SiriusXM's POTUS Channel 124.

Transcript

Elliott Williams: I am joined right now by Dr. Joseph Sany, the Vice President of the Africa Center at the United States Institute of Peace. Dr., hello.

Joseph Sany: Hello, thank you for having me.

Elliott Williams: Thank you for being here, most importantly. So, I teased this, and I would direct everyone who's listening, after the show, of course, to Google the building of the United States Institute of Peace, because it's a beautiful bit of architecture on the Washington D.C. skyline just across from the Lincoln Memorial. And it's in the shape of a dove, which is a beautiful, poetic bit of architectural design, but it must be great. Do you work physically in that building?

Joseph Sany: Yes. And thank you for your generous comments on the building. It is indeed a wonderful building.

Elliott Williams: You know, number one, you wouldn't know it's a dove. Now, you won't be able to unsee it when you go look at the building, if anybody who sees it. But it also, it stands out on the skyline. You don't really recognize [it]. There's a lot of stately columns and monuments and so on and this beautiful building with a lot of glass. But take a look. Anyway, a lot of things to talk with you about today, sir. So, first of all, the UN General Assembly, which is an important event. But I don't know if everybody knows what exactly UNGA is, like when does the UN meet and why? So, first talk us through that, what is UNGA?

Joseph Sany: So, the UNGA is the United Nations General Assembly. So, they meet once a year, where we have global leaders. This week, we will welcome more than 140 world leaders. So, they meet once a year to discuss issues of global interest, issues of peace and global security. So, every year they meet in New York. And this will be the first time after COVID to have such a big gathering in person.

Elliott Williams: It is. So, I would say, my sitting here in the United States that the big issues on the UN's mind are climate and Russia-Ukraine, right? And those are the things that we sort of see most actively in the United States. But that may be a very U.S.A. centric view of what the UN cares about. If you had to say what is on the UNGA's is mind today. What is it?

Joseph Sany: I will say basically, you are spot on. I think the Russia invasion of Ukraine is a major issue. But it's a major issue in the sense that it exacerbates all the global issues that I hope either the 140 or so will focus on. For example, climate crisis, and then you are right. The world is really at the brink of major ecosystems under stress. No country is immune from the disruptive effects of climate change. So, my heart really goes to people in Pakistan, Puerto Rico, who have lost their lives and their livelihoods. So, climate change is a key issue, the climate crisis. Number two, I will say food insecurity and the combination of climate crisis. The war in Ukraine has exacerbated [an] already fragile global supply chain of food. So, we have people in Africa and other parts of the world experiencing famine. So, food insecurity will be another item. The economic stress, I mean, your listeners can feel it in their pocket. And then so more so in other parts of the world. I mean, most people have seen their purchasing power erode, and millions have been pushed into poverty because of the economic stress due to the pandemic, the fragility of the global supply chains, and also the war in Ukraine. But more importantly, I think it is time to refocus on the United Nations system itself. Mind you, Russia is a permanent member of the United Nations, and they launched a war against a sovereign nation. So, it calls for reform and I hope that this would be the beginning of at least a conversation on restructuring, redefining what the United Nations stands for and how the United Nations can organize itself to meet the challenges of the moment.

Elliott Williams: Before we move on, one more question. The interesting thing about climate is that often when we think about climate and climate change, you think about the immediate effects, right? The world gets hotter, polar ice caps melt, sea levels rise, and then cities like Miami or Honolulu, end up in peril, right? There's a very specific scientific thing that happens when sea levels rise. But there's a far bigger set of resource questions and land questions that crop up as the world heats up. I'd love to hear your thoughts on, like Freud would say sometimes climate change isn't just climate change. What actually happens around the world in a heating planet?

Joseph Sany: I wish you were the spokesperson on this issue. Thank you, you said this so well. I think it's more than just weather, right? So, it has implications on people's livelihoods, on migration. You will now have climate refugees, for example. Because as the world gets hotter, there are droughts and people cannot survive. And so, they move around. So you have refugees due to climate change. You have now deforestation then opening up new viruses we have never seen before. I would not be surprised that monkey pox came from probably a deforested area somewhere in Africa. So, I think it is not just about weather, it has ramifications and implications in every single aspect of our life, right? Pollution now, we have high instances of lung cancer because of pollution. And so, this is not just something about extreme weather, it really permeates in every aspect of our life, whether you live in an affluent neighborhood, or in a poor suburb somewhere in Asia.

Elliott Williams: Very good. So, tell me about the U.S. Institute of Peace, and specifically tomorrow, Wednesday, September 21, is the International Day of Peace. Can you tell us about that commemoration and what it's all about?

Joseph Sany: Thank you for bringing this up. I think against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine and multiple crises, I really want your listeners to remember that tomorrow, Wednesday, September 21, is the International Peace Day. And the theme of the Peace Day is: Say it. Do it. And share it. Say what peace means to you, do something about your commitment to peace, and share it with your friends, your family. So, this is a day, I wish every day was Peace Day. But it's always important to pause and reflect on this issue of conflict. And so, this day gives us the opportunity to celebrate, to reflect and to demonstrate our commitment. And at USIP, we have, and you started the show by explaining how beautiful the building is. At USIP we're inviting people to come and visit and talk to the staff to understand what we do to promote peace around the world because that's our mission. We work to mitigate, prevent and resolve conflict around the world. And this day is a wonderful day for us because it gives us the opportunity to welcome the American public in the building to explain our work and to explain the importance of peace, and more importantly to explain how each one of us can contribute to a peaceful world.

Elliott Williams: Last very, very quick question about 30 seconds you have a Peace Day Challenge. What's that?

Joseph Sany: Yeah, so this challenge is in the way of a hashtag. So, hashtag is the challenge. It’s a way to invite people. So, you go to the Twitter hashtag and to share everything you are doing, you will be doing tomorrow, to promote peace in your life in and around you.

Elliott Williams: Got it.

Joseph Sany: So please hashtag #PeaceDayChallenge and share.

Elliott Williams: Dr. Joseph Sany, vice president of the Africa Center at the United States Institute of Peace. Thank you so much for being here.

Joseph Sany: Thank you for having me and have a great day.

Elliott Williams: You too. Have a peaceful day.

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