Singing for peace: UN ambassadors launch CD to bridge cultural, generational divides
“We wanted to speak about peace in a way other than our speeches, which some people say are a little boring,” Simona-Mirela Miculescu said ahead of the launch of the Ambassadors Sing for Peace album, a compilation of songs promoting world peace, hope and togetherness performed by five United Nations Ambassadors and youth choirs.
“This is a beautiful synergy between diplomacy and music, and we’re very happy that we created this synergy” said Ms. Miculescu, who is the Permanent Representative of Romania to the UN.
“In troubled times like this, I think absolutely every kind of peace message has to go out. I hope when listening to this CD people will be aware of the fact that peace starts with each of us,” the Ambassador added before stepping on stage for a practice session of Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World” prior to yesterday’s launch and live performance at UN Headquarters in New York.
The album also includes “What a Wonderful World”, “Paix Sur La Terre” and eight other popular tunes and one original, all sung by Canadian Guillermo Rishchynski, Cape Verde’s Antonio Pedro Monteiro Lima, Eduardo Ulibarri of Costa Rica, and Marlene Moses of Nauru.
“We tried to come up with unique ways to present these songs so it was a little more of a world music view than the standard pop rock covers,” said Gary Fry, Emmy Award-winning composer who arranged and provided artistic direction for the album.
For example, he chose a Brazilian Machado rhythm on the ABBA song, ‘I Have a Dream’.
For the background vocals, instead of several singers, Mr. Fry used children’s choirs and high school singers from the Chicago area, where he is based.
“They were so excited,” he said about the young singers whose voices appear on the CD. “Children are the hope of the future for peace so it just makes sense to have linked between generations for this project.”
Asked about the greatest challenge of working with politicians turned temporary rock stars, Mr. Fry said: “Their schedules.”
He added, “The great thing is every time they got together, they were so joyful, so enthusiastic about the music. In their day to day routines, they are often dealing with very tough issues… I hope everyone can see how much nicer the world could be if everyone just treated it like a big jam session.”
The final CD is the result of “the right organizations and the right people” coming together, said Ms. Miculescu whose idea sparked the project.
The Ambassador, a former pop rock band singer in a Romanian student band Symbiosis, rediscovered her love of music while singing and playing with colleagues in Iraq.
The project is sponsored by the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation as part of its 40th anniversary celebration, with additional support from the SAE Institute.
“Today is just the beginning,” said Yin-Chu Jou, Artistic Director at the Foundation in reference to the CD launch. The team is looking to identify other performance opportunities, and other ambassadors have expressed interest in participating in a second album.
The CD is being made available at the UN Bookstore, as well as on iTunes, Amazon and other major international digital and online sales hubs. Proceeds from the album will go to support youth assemblies organized annually at the UN by the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation.
Asked about a possible live concert in the General Assembly Hall, Ms. Miculescu laughed and conferred with her diplomatic and artistic colleagues: “Well, I wouldn’t say no but we are kind of shy.” [x]
Rebels entrenched in the hills above one of eastern Congo’s largest cities declared a unilateral ceasefire on Friday, August 30 and began retreating from the frontline, the first indication that a joint United Nations and Congolese offensive might be gaining the upper hand in the conflict.
Indigenous canoe trip celebrating 400-year-old peace treaty culminates with UN event
9 August 2013 – More than 200 indigenous and non-indigenous canoe paddlers arrived in Manhattan today, after having travelled for almost two weeks down the Hudson River from upstate New York, to take part in an event at the United Nations to mark the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.
This year’s International Day aims to highlight the importance of honouring agreements between States, their citizens and indigenous peoples, emphasizing the principles of friendship, cooperation and peace.
The paddlers started their journey on 28 July, near Albany, New York, to travel 140 miles down the Hudson River to New York City, side-by-side in two lines, in honour of the first treaty concluded in 1613 between Dutch immigrants and the Haudenosaunee (a confederacy of six nations, with its seat in the Onondaga nation in New York state).
The treaty, called the Two Row Wampum, emphasized the principles of friendship, cooperation and peace, and formed the basis for all subsequent indigenous peoples’ treaties with the English and the United States.
“Our ancestors made this great agreement on our behalf 400 years ago,” noted Hickory Edwards, the lead paddler for the Onondaga Nation. “Now is the time for us to think about the people living in the next 400 years.”
Colombian, Venezuelan leaders say will meet to mend ties
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (left) and his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolas Maduro (right), plan to meet next week in a bid to improve relations after a diplomatic spat in May triggered by Santos’ meeting with Venezuela’s main opposition leader.
The president of Myanmar promised to release all political prisoners by the end of this year on Monday and said he thought a nationwide ceasefire was possible in the coming weeks for the first time in six decades.
"By the end of the year there will be no prisoners of conscience in Myanmar,” President Thein Sein told an audience at the Chatham House think tank in London. A special committee was reviewing every political prisoner’s case, he added.
Sein, who met Prime Minister David Cameron earlier on Monday, also said he thought a nationwide ceasefire was possible in the coming weeks after the government signed a peace deal aimed at ending the final ethnic conflict last month.
"It’s possible that there will be a nationwide ceasefire in the coming weeks," he said. "It would be the first time in 60 years that the guns fall silent."
Sein added that his country didn’t want to become aid dependent, but needed help to weather a transition period and stand on its own two feet.
Sein is on a two-day visit to Britain to talk trade, aid and democracy before travelling on to France.
Myanmar’s government has signed an agreement with a major ethnic rebel group to build mutual trust in an effort to defuse recent tensions between the armies from the two sides, state-run media reported.
The Kyemon daily said the five-point agreement signed Friday between a government peace delegation and the ethnic Wa rebel group includes clauses calling for prompt meetings between the two armies whenever military issues arise and committing the rebel United Wa State Army not to secede.
PICTURED ABOVE: Burkina Faso’s foreign Minister Djibril Bassole speaks to media after meeting with representatives of Touareg rebels and Malian government on June 10, 2013 at the presidential palace in Ouagadougou. [AFP Photo/Ahmed Ouoba]
Mali government, Tuaregs reach ceasefire deal ‘in principle’
A Malian government delegation and Tuareg separatist rebels have reached an agreement “in principle” that would allow planned elections in July to go ahead in the disputed northern Kidal region, a senior mediator in the talks said late on Monday.
Negotiations in Ouagadougou, the capital of neighboring Burkina Faso, opened on Saturday, after Mali’s army last week began advancing towards Kidal, the MNLA rebels’ last stronghold in the remote northeast, in the first direct fighting in months.
France launched a massive military campaign in January which broke al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters’ control over the northern two-thirds of Mali. However it allowed the Tuaregs to regain control of their traditional fiefdom.
The Malian government has made clear that it wants civil administration and the army to return to Kidal before elections scheduled for July 28 and had threatened to seize the town if no agreement was reached by Monday.
"On the point concerning the deployment of Malian armed forces in the region of Kidal, we have obtained an agreement in principle," Djibril Bassole, Burkina’s foreign minister, told journalists following a round of meetings.
"The two sides have requested a few hours to report back to their bases … in order to be able to come back tomorrow for the final adoption of this document," he said.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States hoped the talks “will set the stage for long-term national reconciliation.”
"We call on the parties to conclude a framework agreement for elections in Kidal without delay," Psaki told reporters.
In a major breakthrough, the Taliban and the U.S. announced Tuesday that they will hold talks on finding a political solution to ending nearly 12 years of war in Afghanistan as the Islamic militant movement opened an office in Qatar.
American officials with the Obama administration said the office in the Qatari capital of Doha was the first step toward the ultimate U.S.-Afghan goal of a full Taliban renouncement of links with al-Qaida. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record, said U.S. representatives will begin formal meetings with the Taliban at the office in a few days.
(MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images)
(Photo: Ebrahim Noroozi / AP)
Hassan Rowhani, a moderate cleric who scored a surprise victory in Iran’s presidential election, held out the prospect of improved relations with the United States.
Afghan volunteers distribute balloons for the ‘We Believe In Balloons’ campaign
The public art project organised by Yazmany Arboleda, in which 10,000 biodegradable pink ‘peace’ balloons were handed out in Kabul on May 28, 2013 to bring some fun and creativity to the city.
Photo Maassoud Hossaini
PICTURED ABOVE: South Korea’s unification policy officer Chun Hae-sung (right) shakes hands with the head of North Korea’s delegation Kim Song Hye.
Two Koreas in first talks in over two years “without argument”
The meeting in Pammunjon, where the armistice was signed in the 1950-53 Korean War, was taking place hours after U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed at a summit that the North had to abandon its nuclear programme.
The hour-long morning session appeared to pave the way for ministerial-level discussions next Wednesday. Such a meeting would be the first such encounter in more than six years.
A spokesman for the South’s Unification Ministry, said the two sides discussed technical issues for the ministerial meeting, including the venue and size of delegations.
"After the morning meeting, we both agreed to keep discussing," Kim Hyung-suk told reporters at the ministry in Seoul.
"And the atmosphere of today’s meeting, as both South and North Korea have come to the meeting table after some time…was such that the talks have gone smoothly without any argument."
The meeting was to proceed through the afternoon, he said.
There was no immediate comment on the talks from the North.
Afghan President Visits Qatar To Discuss Peace
Afghanistan’s president landed in Qatar Sunday to discuss his country’s stalled peace process and the possible opening of a Taliban office in the Gulf state, officials said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai said President Hamid Karzai will not hold any talks with Taliban representatives now in Qatar.
He will meet with Qatari officials on the sidelines of an annual conference on relations between the United States and the Muslim world.
"As we have already said, any official negotiations regarding peace with the Taliban can take place only between the high-ranking Taliban representatives and the High Peace Council of Afghanistan," Mosazai told reporters.
Rival Honduras gangs declare truce
Two of the most violent gangs apologise for their crimes and seek talks with the government on rehabilitation and jobs.
PICTURED ABOVE: FARC negotiator Pablo Catatumbo (L) shakes hands with Colombia’s government negotiator Frank Pearl during a conference in Havana.
Colombia, FARC rebels reach deal on land reform
The agreement is the first part of a possible peace accord. It’s a boost for Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who plans to seek reelection next year.
African Union brings Sudan, rebels together for peace talks
The African Union on Wednesday brought together for the first time for peace talks Sudan and insurgents fighting government troops in two states bordering South Sudan, in a conflict that has affected almost a million people.