With offices in New York City, USA and Geneva, Switzerland, QUNO works with “the UN, multilateral organisations, government delegations, and non-governmental organisations, to achieve changes in international standards and practice.” Their work is known for challenging unjust policies, war, environmental degradation, and more. QUNO is committed to the Quaker testimonies and “look for what seeds of war there may be in all our social, political, and economic relationships.” Website: quno.org.
Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) believes young people are key to building peace because peacebuilding is a generational process that needs the inclusion of all to be sustainable. Historically, young people have been stereotyped as security risks, resulting in some governments overlooking youth’s contributions to peace, and instead targeting them as risks to law and order. Thanks to the work of youth activists the approach of policy makers is shifting.
Under the United Nation’s “Youth, Peace and Security” agenda, more opportunities for young peacebuilders are being created; however, challenges remain, and truly inclusive practices are not yet the norm. This shows the need for continued action and advocacy. To support this, QUNO launched work to strengthen youth inclusion so UN policies reflect young people’s priorities. QUNO initiated a series of listening exercises to hear directly from youth peacebuilders.
On May 31, QUNO hosted the first discussion, which engaged young people living in the United States. Participants shared experiences of building peace in their communities and discussed the obstacles they face participating in peace and development work. The conversation bolstered what has been seen in the policy space: young people want to build a peaceful and just world and are taking action even when access to formal political and peacebuilding processes does not exist.
People throughout the world are witnessing and living through crises, whether the result of violent conflict, humanitarian need, or the impact of the pandemic. These complex crises span borders, showing Friends that the world is ever more interconnected. Also, they are often affected by climate change and migration, which require sustainable and people-centered solutions. Recognizing this, Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) began new programming in the area of peace and crisis. This work examines how peace is understood by the United Nations when developing responses to crisis situations. The first step into this new area was to launch a research and learning process in 2021. A key part was a listening exercise, which provided an exciting opportunity to converse with UN staff, diplomats, and civil society colleagues. QUNO explored key questions: How can crisis response contribute to peace? How can a practice of peacebuilding support the delivery of humanitarian aid? Drawing from this exercise, QUNO released the publication, Building Peace in Times of Crisis, which identifies six key shifts in efforts already underway and can strengthen peacebuilding and crisis response. QUNO hopes this publication will be a resource that guides UN colleagues as they grapple with the challenge of simultaneously responding to complex crises and building peace.
Switching from Quaker House to a virtual setting, Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) continues in a pandemic-conscious way to host dialogues aimed at fostering peace. A recent convening, “Advancing UN Prevention Efforts Across Sectors and Institutions: Collective Pathways for Effective Prevention,” examined the future state of conflict prevention at the United Nations (UN).
UN actors, civil society, and member state participants filled the “room,” each bringing their own unique expertise and perspectives. The event’s speakers also reflected a range of experiences—from working to promote civil society at the local and national levels to exploring the significance of networks in bridging the international divide. Throughout the discussion, speakers repeatedly turned to the need for reinvigorating initiatives around prevention and to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a “roadmap” for addressing new global challenges. These challenges include climate change, changing migration patterns, new technologies, and the growing role of non-state actors.
The concluding remarks of the dialogue expressed the following: urgent action is needed by the multilateral system to meet these challenges today, so that the same system is not overwhelmed in the future. This conversation, like many others co-facilitated by QUNO, reinforced the need to capitalize on the momentum for meaningful inclusivity and to advance the prevention of violent conflict at the UN.
The International Day of Peace (September 21) was established in 1981 by unanimous agreement of the United Nations General Assembly and is dedicated to strengthening global commitments to peace and nonviolence. For the past five years, QUNO has facilitated the development and distribution of a sign-on statement supported by peacebuilding organizations globally to recognize the day and engage with UN member states and stakeholders at the opening of the UN General Assembly session.
The 2020 statement was signed by over 170 organizations, including several Quaker organizations, and called on governments to prioritize inclusion in analysis and action, make space for building peace, and reaffirm multilateralism and international norms as a safeguard for the most vulnerable.
Last year, the International Day of Peace fell in the midst of the global COVID-19 health crisis. Signatories used the statement as an opportunity to call on member states to mainstream peace in the pandemic response, recognizing that this crisis could be typical of the disruptions that may arise in years to come. The statement emphasized that the continued progress that has been made toward building, keeping, and sustaining peace is now under threat, and therefore a recommitment is needed to focus on peace, justice, and inclusion now and in the long-term.
As United Nations (UN) representatives of the global Quaker community, Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) uses quiet diplomacy as a central working method for engaging the UN system, including bringing people together in off-the-record gatherings that allow for open sharing of perspectives and experiences.
QUNO programming has historically taken place through in-person dialogues at Quaker House in New York City, but the COVID-19 pandemic has required the organization to consider how to cultivate these spaces virtually. It also created opportunities for including more perspectives from outside of the UN environment into the work.
Since 2016, QUNO has co-facilitated the Civil Society–UN Prevention Platform, supporting the violent conflict prevention agenda by strengthening coordination and information sharing amongst civil society and UN actors. QUNO’s approach to the platform’s work seeks to create trust-based spaces for participants. In February through August, QUNO cohosted the platform’s discussion series, “UN Prevention Across Sectors and Institutions: Pathways for Effective Prevention,” bringing together member states, civil society, and UN experts to reflect on existing practices and remaining challenges for prevention. All six discussion events took place online. The series explored how to strengthen civil society: UN partnerships that focus on the contributions of grassroots actors, including young people, women, and community leaders. Participants also looked at strategies to address longer-term structural causes of violence such as inequalities and social grievances.