Five years after the passing of Kofi Annan, his vision for a peaceful global society continues to resonate powerfully. In this landmark year, the Kofi Annan Foundation, Geneva Graduate Institute and Geneva Peacebuilding Platform once again hosted their annual high-level lecture on peace: The Kofi Annan Geneva Peace Address.
On 3 November 2023, Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, delivered the 2023 Kofi Annan Geneva Peace Address. Enriched by his deep humanitarian experience, Filippo Grandi’s Address served as a poignant reminder of the necessity for peace and unity across all nations, reaffirming the commitment to dialogue and understanding during Geneva Peace Week, a time dedicated to these very ideals.
The Peace Address was opened by Marie-Laure Salles, Director of the Geneva Graduate Institute, who called on the importance of hope in our current climate, and noted that “Peace is a project, an eternal one. And a project that calls for courage and integrity. Peace has to be established. But we know that it must also be constantly re-established, sustained, and fought for on a daily basis.”
Nathalie Fontanet, State Councillor of the Republic and State of Geneva, added in her welcome remarks that “peace is not a destination but a journey.”
The event featured an exceptional performance by Barbara Hendricks, celebrated Soprano, human rights activist, and Lifetime UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. A champion for the rights of refugees, she sang her “Medley for Refugee Children” consisting of “Summertime”, “Home” (a poem by Warsan Shire), “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”, and “O Freedom We Shall Overcome”, with accompaniment by Ulf Englund on the bottleneck guitar.
The event and discussion were moderated by Ahmad Fawzi, one of Kofi Annan’s former spokespersons and Communication Advisor.
“Our world — this world at war — desperately needs a reboot of the very principles of law and humanity to counter the trends and actions that we are seeing today.” – An excerpt from Filippo Grandi’s 2023 Kofi Annan Geneva Peace Address
Watch the recording of the 2023 Kofi Annan Geneva Peace Address
A Call for Peace in a Time of War
Filippo Grandi opened his keynote lecture with the powerful statement, “We live — again — in a time of war”, noting the polarisation that rules the current global climate, citing the 46 emergencies in 32 countries declared over the past 12 months by UNHCR and the explosion of crises displacing refugees and displaced persons around the world, which has reached the unprecedented figure of 114 million displaced people, reaching 114 million in 2023. He emphasised the necessity of Geneva Peace Week and reminded us of Kofi Annan’s belief that we must all contribute to peace in our own way.
The 2023 Kofi Annan Geneva Peace Address was organised in partnership with the Kofi Annan Foundation, Geneva Graduate Institute and the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform as the closing event of the tenth annual Geneva Peace Week. The event was made possible thanks to the support of the Republic and Canton of Geneva, Geneve Internationale and the City of Geneva.
Excerpt from the 2023 Kofi Annan Geneva Peace Address
“This is a call to political leaders, policymakers, and men with guns. But there is also a second layer; a ‘software’ dimension that each of us – irrespective of position or power – must reflect on. And here, for sure, I hear Kofi Annan’s voice.
It is a voice of respect for others, even or especially those with whom we do not agree. It is a voice of care. Of compassion. Of positive contributions in language and in deeds. In a world where we see so much division, even within societies; within families; a world with so much hate speech, including in its abhorrent forms of anti-Semitism or Islamophobia or against refugees and migrants; in a planet that man is so relentlessly attacking – in this troubled world, respect, care, compassion, and solidarity with humankind, are so necessary.
For it is upon those foundations — those values and the ways with which we, as individuals, carry ourselves — that peace, real peace, even an imperfect peace, can be built.”
A summary and recording of the 2023 Kofi Annan Geneva Peace Address will soon be available. Subscribe to our mailing list to be notified when the video is released.