Lakhdar Brahimi Receives Carnegie-Wateler Peace Prize 2014

There is only one Peace Prize in the Netherlands, and that is the Carnegie-Wateler Peace Prize. On 27 November 2014 it was handed over to Lakhdar Brahimi, one of the most important and successful members of the international global community. During his whole career, he saved no efforts in using his mediation talents to bring peace to countries and regions in conflict. In his impressive speech upon receiving the prize, Mr Brahimi honoured Nelson Mandela, one of his fellow members of the Elders Group. He recalled how Mandela spoke this same sentence before entering into prison (1964), and upon his release (1990):

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Mr. Brahimi ended his fervent acceptance speech by stressing the need for change of the deep humanitarian crisis that is the result of the ongoing Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The Peace award ceremony this year wished to underline, both in speech, music and film, that mediation is one the most complex tasks within human aspirations. The making of peace is a process which needs not only knowledge and insight, but requires outstanding human qualities like empathy, true perseverance and the ability to let go of individual convictions.

The musical intermezzi of the ceremony were part of the opera by Georg Friedrich Händel “Rodelinda”(1719), presented by Baroque ensemble Concerto Valiante and the highly gifted soloists Charlotte Munnik and Niels Berentsen. Two aria’s were selected for their relevance to the theme of mediation. Aria 15/16, Act II, in which Rodelinda (a victim of tyranny) defies the tyran to murder her son in front of her eyes in order to show the population how truly bad he is. The tyran ultimately refuses to do so and this becomes the turning point in the story. Aria 32, Act III, describing how at the end the tyran finds himself isolated. Alone, and in close contact with nature he becomes conscious of why it is preferable to be a good man and be respected by the people. He decides to change his behaviour.

A short film was made to illustrate Mr Brahimi approach to the task of being a mediator. The film starts with archival footage from the League of Nations Assembly (1929), in which Aristide Briand, First delegate of France, describes how disarmament is the most important tool to make an end to the scourge of war. This idea is one of the founding stones of the United Nations Charter and its ongoing plan of action. By making the historical link between the League of Nations and the contemporary work by UN delegate Lakhdar Brahimi, the laureate is put in line with all outstanding individuals that have taken upon them the difficult task of looking the beast into the eye, trying to subdue a personal ambition to the well-being of the majority.

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