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Rotary Peace Fellows host Global Peace Conference

‘Building Back Better: Human trafficking and sexual violence in conflict and non-conflict setting

 By: Eva Mackinely

It was a time of great upheaval. The events of 2019 and 2020 – Australian bushfires, the COVID-19 pandemic, global economic recessions, and the Black Lives Matter marches – brought home the fact that our lives are intricately and intimately woven together.

This upheaval prompted us, Rotary Peace Fellows from around the world, to reconsider what this meant for us as peacebuilders. What does a world grounded in peace look like? How can we galvanise our differences to work for the greater good? Who must we listen to if we are to work towards building a world where everyone is respected and able to flourish?” - Global Peace Conference Website. 

The second inaugural 2021 Global Peace Conference, hosted by the Rotary Peace Fellows Alumni Association, was held on the 19th of June. This conference is a volunteer-run initiative designed to bring together peacebuilders  - over 1500 participants and 400 presenters - from around the world for 24 hours of content across three different time zones. 

Rotary Peace Fellows from the University of Bradford Class ‘19 were invited to run a session titled ‘Building Back Better: Human trafficking and sexual violence in conflict and non-conflict setting’. June 19th marks the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, so we decided to base our session theme in recognition of that day, exploring the topic of sexual violence in conflict and human trafficking, in both conflict and non-conflict settings. Many of our cohort had just finished a module on Gender and have a strong interest in women and girls in conflict situations, so we found researching for the session engaging and interesting despite the heaviness of the topic. 

Our session was 90 minutes, and covered the topics of sexual violence and human trafficking in both conflict and non-conflict settings, using case studies from South Sudan, Colombia, the United States and North Korea to illustrate. We later separated into breakout rooms where there were some lively and insightful discussions on people’s own observations and experiences with these issues in their professional lives and the spaces they operate within. The session closed with reflections from the participants on grassroots initiatives they know of that are making a difference in these areas, and the importance of self-education and individual action to combating widespread problems. 

Despite so many efforts to the contrary, sexual violence features largely in the issue of human trafficking, and is still prevalent as a weapon of war. Despite the sensitive nature of these topics, it’s important that we continue to speak openly about them and loudly against them. Such discussions bring more awareness to the issue, and the advocacy people can perform in their everyday lives to make a difference. 

The University of Bradford Class ‘19 Peace Fellows were deeply honoured to be a part of the Global Peace Conference, and would like to acknowledge all the volunteers that ran an impressive 24-hour program of informative and engaging content to further advance the idea of peace. We look forward to participating again next year.

See the presentation here.