‘Hope is dangerous’
Opening the Paris Peace Forum, the Indian social activist Trisha Shetty warned against treating the entire enterprise as merely another talking shop. “Hope is dangerous,” she said. “Hope has an expiry date.”
She was quoting the new Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad, who was a stellar draw at the Forum herself; Shetty meant that to raise expectations and not to meet them was to run a great risk. It was a useful warning, because even next-step-oriented conferences like the Paris Peace Forum can easily fall into the speechifying trap.
By gently raising Murad’s concern, Shetty was signaling two things: that the Forum would not prove to be just another paper factory, and that the projects the Forum would choose to “monitor” would be under strict time constraints.
Over a hundred “projects” were featured at the Forum. In the end, the organizers chose 10 extraordinary projects to monitor for the next year, including the AU-EU Youth Cooperation Hub; Antarctica 2020 by Ocean Unite; the Climate Resiliency Zero Budget; Leveraging Visual and Statistical Evidence on Torture by the World Justice Project; Digital Democracy Charter by Luminate; Synopia Sharing Value; International Gender Champions, Women at the Table; Kumekucha by the Green String Network; Ranking Digital Rights; and the World Benchmarking Alliance by the Index Initiative.
These projects, Justin Vaïsse, head of the organizing committee, explained, can expect “help in visibility, political connections, [and] what we call venture support.”
Murad, used by the Islamic State as a sex slave, escaped from captivity and forged a new life for herself: as an activist campaigning for an end to human trafficking and as the face of a “forgotten people,” the Yazidi. What the young woman said, at an international conference several months earlier, is worth quoting at greater length.
“What I have learned is HOPE is dangerous. For years now, the Yazidi people have only had HOPE. Hope that things would change. Hope that the world would act. Hope that we could go home. Hope that we could have medical care. Hope that our children would be educated. But, hope has an expiration date.
“Years of advocacy, years of telling the Yazidi experience to world leaders, has been met with expressions of sympathy and outrage. But, when expressions of sympathy and outrage are not transformed into action to rebuild and protect — hope expires. Hope requires action to survive.
“We must confront REALITY! Attacks against minorities occur with haunting frequency. As a world, we have become deaf to such news. We see, we listen, and we express sympathy — but we fail to act. Sympathy doesn’t change the world.”
At the Paris Peace Forum, Justice Stephen Breyer made a strong impression.
Fluent in both French and anecdote, Breyer engaged in conversation with Stephanie Antoine of France 24 and a roomful of delegates.
The associate justice of the US Supreme Court was candid, instructive — and patient with questions about the newest member of the Court, Brett Kavanaugh. “For the first three years [after his appointment], I went around in a panic,” he said. “For most people, it takes three years to know” your place on the Court. Then the gentle, diplomatic, possibly even true clincher: “If there’s one person who doesn’t know how he’s going to vote, it’s Brett Kavanaugh.”
One of the questions thrown his way was about how to strengthen the independence of judges. He answered without hesitation.
“First, pay them decently. It’s true. It’s very practical.”
Secondly: “Find [a] method, which usually means more money, to get more cases settled before the court.” He mentioned alternative dispute resolution and mediation, but the unspoken assumption was the highly layered structure of US courts. At the level of the US Supreme Court: “We
only take about 80 a year.”
“Third, have a tough department of justice, where they will investigate instances of corruption and [where] the people will be punished.”
There but for the grace of God…
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