Peace and Disarmament
Carla Koppell at SGI-USA Culture of Peace Distinguished Speaker Series
On March 3, 2010, SGI-USA members and guests welcomed Carla Koppell as part of the ongoing Culture of Peace Distinguished Speakers Series at the Washington DC Culture Center on Embassy Row.
Ms. Koppell, director of The Institute for Inclusive Security—which uses research, training and advocacy to promote the inclusion of women in global, sustainable peacemaking efforts—delivered a lecture on the topic of women in international peace negotiations.
Recognizing the Soka Gakkai's history of valuing and supporting women, Ms. Koppell noted that it is rare to speak before an organization whose founders have always been committed to the inclusion of women. Ms. Koppell shared that she began as a technocrat rather than as a "true believer" in the critical impact women can have in the peace process. She became convinced of such through observing international security politics. She noted what she deemed a fundamental flaw in peace negotiations—that women are often not included.
Less than five percent of signatories to peace agreements are female, according to the United Nations Development Fund for Women. Ms. Koppell emphasized that women feel accountability to local constituencies and, when involved in peace negotiations, tend to shift their priority from temporary cessation of violence to building stable, peaceful communities centered on education as a means to progress. Ms. Koppell then offered several helpful tips for promoting women's involvement in building a culture of peace, including raising awareness of organizations and people advocating peace, and engaging others in one-to-one dialogue.
At the reception that followed, a local SGI-USA member shared one valuable lesson he took away from the event. "It is important for men to develop open minds and open hearts to be able to work equally with women toward peace," he said.
The speakers series commenced in 2007, with lecturers focusing on one or more of the eight action areas defined by the 1999 United Nations Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace. The series aims at fostering a culture that rejects violence and encourages the active use of dialogue to address the root causes of conflict. Currently, the speakers series is hosted at the Santa Monica, New York, Chicago, Honolulu and Washington DC Culture of Peace Resource centers.
[Adapted from an article in the April 9, 2010, issue of the World Tribune, SGI-USA; photo courtesy of Philip Rosenberg]