Peace is more than the absence of war

Last week, the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG) issued an infographic that gives a snapshot of what international Geneva does to foster peace around the world. Its publication was part of the UN’s ongoing campaign to show the remarkable breadth and depth of work carried out by Geneva’s international organisations, and it was released through the Twitter account @GenevaImpact with the hashtag #FridayInfographic. Michael Møller, Director-General of UNOG, blogged about it in the Huffington Post (see here).  


In his blog, Mr Møller points out all the ways that the UN works every day to translate peace into food, shelter, water, healthcare, education and decent work, as well as freedom, rights, and equality. In Geneva, he says, organisations contribute to peace in all its different shapes and forms. And, he says, peace is much more than the absence of war.

The reason I’m drawing attention to this is that CERN takes pride of place in the infographic. With our user community of over 11,000 people of over 100 nationalities, CERN works every day to translate peace into mutual understanding and respect, along with knowledge, education and innovation that benefits all of humanity. Peace, after all, is also about overcoming cultural barriers for the common good.

It’s pure coincidence that this particular infographic came out when it did, but with the recent atrocities in Paris, and equally appalling events around the world, it could not have been more timely. CERN’s message of peace is more valid today than ever, a reminder that, as Mr Møller puts it, there are far more people in the world seeking peace than trying to disrupt it.

Just this week, for example, some 150 people from SESAME Members gathered in Amman to look forward to the exciting research programme that’s set to get underway at the Middle East’s regional light source in 2016. They were representatives of the SESAME user community, which has been growing steadily in number and in skill through training programmes aimed at boosting scientific capacity throughout the region. Topics discussed ranged from medical research to the examination of archaeological artefacts, just as you might hear at any light-source user meeting anywhere in the world. For these mostly young people, peace is about being able to get together to discuss their shared ambitions and make plans for a bright future at SESAME, and it’s about being able to go about their business free from fear.

Despite what has been happening around the world these last few weeks, let’s not lose sight of the fact that the vast majority of people around the world are like these SESAME users, striving to live their lives in peace, and with dignity.

Rolf Heuer