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Responses to Nicole and Catherine

Nicole Maylor:

Like in my previous post about the work of the Stable Seas project I am very interested in the use of the word “terrorism” in the context of maritime violence/crime. One thing that stands out to me, especially when you use the example of Nelson Mandela, is the racial/racist dimension of using the terrorist label. Other than that the proceeds of these crimes may go to “terrorist organizations” the activities of pirates sound more like organized crime. What is the line between organized crime and terrorism? Is it the case that we in the West are very quick to label someone a terrorist when they are Muslim and when the victims are white Westerners?

Catherine Labasi-Sammartino:

I was struck by the following statement in your post: “the use of the law as not only a tool to solve a single fact pattern but as a tool with the potential to create population shifts and improve health conditions on a national scale”. As I have explained, I am critical of international human rights law and the way you described the use of law is one of the reasons why. I am wary of the imposition of legal rules universally – exactly because it does not take into account the specifics of the cultural/social/political/economic context. For example, it is inappropriate to hold countries with vastly different levels of wealth to the same standards of health. This is something I confront in the area of disability rights because of how expensive it is to provide the medical interventions or social supports for people with disabilities to live independently and with dignity. Further, accessibility in the built environment is hard enough for a wealthy country like Canada. It would be nearly impossible to hold every country to the same standard.

Your post also made me think about the way in which international human rights standards/norms are unidirectional. Many of the aspects of the “right to health” are predicated on a country’s level of wealth. Yet I can think of aspects of Western practices that would be unacceptable to other countries. For example, we in the West have medicalized and segregated old age. We place our family members in long term care facilities because we do not value care work that is done within the family, so for many it would be financially catastrophic for an otherwise employable adult to stay home to care for an elderly (or disabled) family member. Further, we pretend that we will be young and able-bodied forever so when we learn of abuse or neglect in nursing homes (like in Quebec where seniors are only given one shower a week) we fail to allocate more money to improve living conditions. Perhaps those involved in international human rights law ought to include the values and practices from outside the West. Like, for example, allowing seniors to age in place with the assistant of family members or other forms of home care.

Responses to Maia and Francesca

Maia Stevenson:

Maia, your work at the CCLA in the burgeoning area of cyber-crime and gender is fascinating.
I was reminded of an article I read in The New Yorker a couple years ago (https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/12/05/the-attorney-fighting-revenge-porn) about this new practice area. I would be interested to know about the positions that the CCLA is taking in the area of revenge porn since, as The New Yorker describes, the ACLU has actually opposed American laws meant to combat revenge porn on the basis of being “overbroad” and infringing the First Amendment. I am also curious about the international aspects of this area of law. For example, what remedies are available when the individual posting the revenge porn is not in Canada. Is there a cause of action against ISPs or the website that hosts the images?

Francesca Nardi:

I really enjoyed your post about the cultural differences between Canada and Argentina when it comes to the pace of life and valuing time spent on areas of life beyond work. Because you are also doing work on disability your post reminded me of “crip time”. Crip time is a concept from critical disability and queer studies. It refers to the way time and life cycles are different in the lives of people with disabilities because it is impossible or unhealthy to keep up with the pace of the able-bodied. This adjustment to crip time has been difficult for me since a car accident a couple years ago paralyzed me and required me to adjust to a slower lifestyle in which I am dependent on the schedules of others to get help with basic tasks or to get around the city.

Since you are working on public transportation and disability in Argentina I wonder if you have reflected on the inaccessibility of Montreal’s public transportation system. As a wheelchair user, I cannot use the Montreal metro since only a few stations have elevators and I cannot use buses reliably because even when a bus has a ramp it is rare that it works or the bus driver won’t put the ramp out in the snow because it is against STM policy to risk the ramp getting stuck. So people with disabilities are relegated to the Transport Adapté system, which requires bookings 24 hours in advance and often requires users to wait an hour or more for their ride.

When it comes to other aspects of the built environment, Montreal is the most inaccessible city in North America. Not only am I, as a wheelchair user, excluded from most restaurants and stores but I am excluded from places like the Mile End Mission/Legal Clinic (which finally got a temporary ramp this past month after I urged them to stop excluding wheelchair users).

As you might imagine I could go on and on about this issue. The final thought I will leave you with is the role of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). I have deep skepticism about its importance since the United States has not ratified the CRPD and yet it is the most physically accessible country and its federal legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), is looked to as the gold standard. In fact, the ADA predates the CRPD by 16 years and in Canada the provinces have used it as a template for laws like the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Responses to Léa and Alix

Hi all,

Unfortunately WordPress won’t let allow me to post comments individually to each of your blog posts. If anyone has any suggestions  on how to fix this issue I would be very grateful. I’ll go ahead and post my responses as blog posts, maybe doing 2 or 3 responses at a time starting with the ones below.

 

Léa Carresse (Stable Seas Project):

The important difference that you identified between the concept of terrorism in the West and the piracy that is the subject of your research at the OEF is that piracy is financially motivated rather than exclusively based on religious extremism (or radical left wing ideology like in your example from Germany). Those involved in piracy are not sacrificing their lives or murdering civilians for a greater cause. Rather, pirates are involved in a criminal business enterprise. The issues of recruitment to piracy and the way that it financially supports groups like ISIS do highlight its similarities to or connections with our traditional understanding of terrorism.

The connections between piracy and terrorist groups complicate maritime governance. International assistance in policing the seas is not sufficient to counterbalance the recruitment efforts that take place online. Further, international law can go only so far since it must first be incorporated into national law to be enforceable and the decisions of international courts also depend on nation states to implement them. I wonder if your research on the Stable Seas Project has given you any insight on the relative effectiveness of international law versus supporting an individual nation (like Somalia) to improve its own capacity to police its waters.

 

Alix Genier (Aswat Nissa):

First, I apologize for replying in English rather than French – my written French is terrible!

Your post about immersing yourself in an entirely new culture made me think back to a course I took on international human rights law during my JD at the University of Toronto. The course was “Can There Be Universal Human Rights?” and it was taught by a brilliant professor Jennifer Nedelsky. We took the course with two other law schools outside of North America and we would use blog posts (similar to the one we are using now) to have discussions with each other. The course challenged some of the assumptions I had about the inherent “goodness” of human rights. Further, I developed a more nuanced understanding of the way some institutions that form part of the international order, like the WTO or the World Bank, work to undermine international human rights by perpetuating poverty (see “Recognized and Violated by International Law: The Human Rights of the Global Poor” by Thomas Pogge).

I’m looking forward to hearing more from you about your work with Aswat Nissa. My understanding is that it is a women’s rights organization. I thought you might be interested in one of the articles we read in Nedelsky’s course, “Arrogant Perception, World Travelling and Multicultural Feminism: The Case of Female Genital Surgeries” by Isabelle R. Gunning (1991 (23) Columbia Human Rights Law Review 189). Gunning does an excellent job of trying to work through the interaction between (Western) law and cultural practices.

 

 

Hi 2018 interns!

My name is Stephanie Chipeur and I am one of the doctoral students at McGill’s Faculty of Law. As Professor Ramanujam explained in her email to you all, I will be responding to your blog posts this summer.

My doctoral project is about disability and the regulation of the built environment in Canada, focusing mostly on Montreal. My work is critical of the procedural aspects of human rights law in Canada and our failure to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I propose that people with disabilities ought to engage with construction codes and municipal bylaws to improve access to the built environment. Waiting to challenge inaccessibility after the fact and on a case-by-case basis is simply too burdensome and ineffective.

I’m looking forward to learning from all of you this summer through your blog posts. Even though I am critical of international human rights law in my work, I hope that we can have a productive discussion about its advantages and disadvantages.

Best,

Stephanie

The Right to Health in Uganda

I have been in Uganda for a little over a month now and have already learned so much, both from my work as an intern at the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) and from my daily life in Uganda. I have visited Ugandan courts, taken countless boda rides and visited the source of the Nile. My first challenges were mostly activities that usually seemed simple to me, such as getting to work. My colleague’s kindness and patience in showing me the way around allowed me to feel much more comfortable in Kampala and to focus on my work as a legal intern.

CEHURD was created to advance the right to health for vulnerable populations such as people living with HIV/AIDS, women, and children. It is divided in three complementary programs (1) the Research, Documentation and Advocacy (2) Community Empowerment and (3) Strategic Litigation. As a second year law student, I was assigned to the Strategic Litigation program. Their objective is to provide legal support to persons whose rights have been infringed upon in Uganda and to litigate issues with the potential to redress systematic problems in the country’s health system. I have supported their work by drafting legal opinions on incoming cases and federal bills, completing research papers, and putting together grant proposals. This experience has allowed me to witness the use of the law as not only a tool to solve a single fact pattern but as a tool with the potential to create population shifts and improve health conditions on a national scale.

Most of the cases move for the implementation of the right to health. However, the Constitution of Uganda lacks an express provision on the right to health, which makes the conceptualization of each case particularly demanding. The right is implied from other constitutional clauses, the national objectives and the directive principles of state policy, each with health-related facets such as the right to life, human dignity and women’s rights. Furthermore, the implicit nature of the right to health in Uganda makes it so that its realization largely depends on political goodwill, judicial interpretation and the treatment of the other rights from which it derives. This particular situation highlights the importance of advocacy and community engagement in the respect of human rights and the delivery of safe and acceptable health services. As much as one may put together a case supported by persuasive evidence demonstrating a human rights violation in the delivery or lack of health services, the societal attitudes towards specific issues and vulnerable populations are often the last and most difficult barriers to overcome in obtaining justice. For example, CEHURD & Kabale Benon v Attorney General is a recent case that demonstrates the prevailing stigma surrounding claims made by individuals who have suffered from periods of mental distress. In addition to silencing the plaintiff based on his identity as an individual with a mental health disorder, the court also disturbingly put all medical decisions above the scrutiny of the law. This message discourages Ugandans from taking initiatives towards ensuring the respect of their rights and towards keeping the government accountable in its actions. CEHURD has recently filed an appeal for this case.

Overall, I am very motivated by CEHURD’s work as they put forward that the right to health extends itself to the causal determinants of health such as adequate sanitation facilities, health infrastructure, trained workers and essential drugs. I hope to contribute to my team’s work as much as I can in the following weeks and am excited to learn more about the right to health in Uganda.

Catherine Labasi-Sammartino

CEHURD’s office in Nakwero, Kampala

View from the National Mosque

A haiku on a shrinking space

By Kerry Marcotte

show me solutions
enough about the process
reframe our story

an adversary
pushing neighbours off the map
hunt us and forget

lines within borders
they see drought but resistance
exclusive clubs gold

First weeks at OEF: the ambiguity and appeal of terrorism

By: Léa Carresse

The film “Carlos”, making terrorism look good since 2010 (or 1970, depending on how you see it)

Researching 1968 onward in West Germany for my undergraduate degree brought to my attention the ambiguity of the terms “terrorism”, “terrorist” and “terrorist activity”. I never really thought about it before, my knowledge restricted to 9/11. In the 2018 Western world, it almost goes without saying what, unfortunately, the stereotypical terrorist profile looks like: Muslim, brown, probably of North African or Middle Eastern descent, predominantly young and male, often single, former petty criminal, targeting civilians. Cause: “religious extremism”.

Forty years ago, in West Germany, your terrorist profile was the following: Christian, white, “urdeutsch” (the Nazi term for “ethnically pure” German), predominantly young and female, often married with middle-class or wealthy backgrounds, well-educated, attempting to exclusively target West German State officials, businessmen and the US military. Cause: “radical left-wing ideology”. The plasticity of the terrorist profile, of terrorist activity and of the terms used, is brought further to light in my work at OEF.

As an intern in the Stable Seas project, my work so far has concentrated on maritime security in sub-Saharan Africa and, because the project is expanding, to North Africa, in the countries of Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Libya, among others. The areas of maritime security that I focussed on include researching those of illicit trade (including arms, drugs and wildlife trafficking, but also that of cigarettes, oil, cosmetics, foodstuffs and more…), piracy and armed robbery and Yemeni terrorism as embodied by the Houthi rebels, AQAP and ISIS.

Through my time at OEF thus far, I discovered that concepts of criminality, instability, terrorism and general conflict are even messier than I previously imagined. There is no international or common legal definition of terrorism, though some domestic criminal codes, such as the 1995 Australian Criminal Code, and international treaties or organisations will attempt to include examples of terrorist activities as an effort to define terrorism. These include hostage-taking and hijacking. But how then would that be different from piracy and armed robbery at sea, for example, where those very same methods are employed? An answer would be that a terrorist’s goal is primarily political, while criminal activity at sea, particularly in underdeveloped regions with limited or no economic opportunity, is centered on financial gain. That answer doesn’t take us very far, however. How do you define political? How far can “religious extremism”  be termed as “political”? And what about the existence of a crime-terror nexus, where terrorist groups will financially invest in and benefit from certain organised crime groups? An example is the trafficking of Libyan antiquities by ISIS to the Italian mafia, or the Italian mafia adopting “terror” tactics to protest against the anti-mafia drive in Italy of the 1990s.[1] These are all questions that I am faced with at OEF.

As a final observation, a “fun” link that I discovered here between the contemporary terrorist group ISIS and that of the West German terrorists, RAF, is the “marketing strategy” that served both groups well. Ironically, though both anti-capitalist, the groups still engage(d) with branding to attract recruits and attention to their cause.

The film The Baader-Meinhof Complex (2008) on the RAF illustrates this perfectly: Sexually liberated women with heavily made-up eyes and mini-skirts brandishing guns, “exotic” training camps in Yemen, their youthful faces splashed on the front news pages of tabloids, adopting particular styles of talking and writing to facilitate in-group dynamics. Their aesthetic proved so successful that it was appropriated by the fashion industry, which rebranded it as “Prada-Meinhof”, a play on the group’s other name, “Baader-Meinhof”.

Johanna Wokalek as Gudrun Ensslin in The Baader Meinhof Complex (2008), formerly one of Germany’s most feared terrorists.

Similarly, ISIS develop their own brand:  Their “poster girls”, “tastefully accessorized” (as an ISIS blog notes) with AK47s and their fellow gangster Jihadis in Nikes against graying American counterterrorist bureaucrats in suits; Twitter hashtags such as #accomplishmentsofISIS; the mass dissemination of “atrocity porn” with rehearsed beheadings shot in a Hollywoodesque style; filmed “testimonials” of fighters in paradisiac settings on how they found their true selves in ISIS; and even video games.[2] Those are all part of the evolving dimension of terrorism infiltrating the cyberspace, the progress of which we have yet to fully track and understand.

ISIS “poster girls” today. Sources: ISIS Twitter and US Homeland Security website.

[1] Tamara Makarenko and Michael Mesquita, “Categorising the crime-terror nexus in the European Union” (2014) in Global Crime.

[2] Simon Cottee, “The Challenge of Jihadi Cool” (2015) in The Atlantic.

On Mountains, Skies, and Llamas

by Jessye Kilburn

Suddenly it’s fall, my internship is over, and next year’s interns will soon be perusing this blog as they work on their applications. I didn’t want my last blog post to give prospective interns the impression that all I did was sit around and think angsty thoughts about the ocean! So here is a little glimpse into life outside the office.

South Table Mountain Park is accessible by bus/foot from Denver, with beautiful views into the Rockies.

Chattauqua Park is full of trails accessible by bus from Boulder.

The Royal Arch in Chattauqua: a steep but worthwhile climb!

To really get up into the Rockies, you have to go by car (but it’s so worth it!)


Yes, these are llamas. And, yes, I got to go hiking with them (!)

Colorado’s sunsets are amazing, and I was a little obsessed.

Red Rocks amphitheatre is an outdoor concert venue carved out of Colorado’s red rock formations. Seeing the symphony play Holst’s “Planets” and Mozart’s “Jupiter” out under the stars was a huge highlight.

Even within the big city of Denver there are pretty little lakes: this was my favourite running route.

So, yes, even this BC girl was pretty impressed with Colorado’s natural beauty: combined with fascinating internship work, it made for an incredible summer.

Science Fiction and Empiricism: On Imagining and Measuring a Better Future

Greenberg AnastasiaBy Anastasia Greenberg

Hanging unassumingly on a wall in the hallway that divides the Research Department from several other departments at One Earth Future Foundation (OEF) is a framed version of OEF’s Institutional Logic Framework: a manifesto followed by a sort of “ten commandments” listing the organization’s core values. This mundane framed text is sandwiched between walls that are adorned with large colourful emotionally provoking photographs taken across several countries in sub-Saharan Africa – quite the juxtaposition. While OEF staff seem to pay little attention to this moral code passed down to them by the Board of Directors; the upper management, on the other hand, seem to taut these phrases in an almost cult-like fashion at every staff meeting. One of these “commandments” – my personal favourite – is: “we are relentlessly empirical”. OEF clearly has a penchant for hard data and quantitative research methodology, which is why I was surprised to walk into a development talk one day at the office led by a PhD graduate who has decided to venture outside the academic lines by pursuing science fiction.

The project that was being presented, led by Dr. Andrew Merrie, is called Radical Ocean Futures. Using a method called “science fiction prototyping”, Merrie wrote a compilation of four science fiction stories to depict four different future scenarios for the world’s oceans, integrating some predictions loosely based on scientific research on ocean health. Two of the scenarios were dystopian. In one, ocean life has died off and humanity with it, leaving behind a sole surviving fisherman. In the other, a complete industrialization of the oceans has taken place. The last two scenarios are more utopian: humanity survives sea level rise by living in underwater cities, and the most favorable scenario is that in which humanity succeeds at a sustainable ocean future, featuring robots responsible for cleaning and upkeep of ocean health. What’s more, is that Merrie also commissioned a high-profile concept artist, Simon Stålenhag, to create incredible digital artworks to represent each sci-fi scenario.

While I found all of this engaging and entertaining from an artistic point of view, what really struck me was the audience that Merrie was able to target outside of sci-fi nerds. News outlets picked up the story immediately. Most impressively, Merrie was recently invited to present this work at the United Nations Ocean Conference, with Stålenhag’s artwork displayed throughout the event. Academics from the environmental sciences have been warning us about the grave realities of climate change effects on the oceans for decades, but apparently science fiction and art were the channels that could get policymakers to tune in.

This got me thinking about the word “impact”: what does it mean and how do we measure it? In a world that is increasingly data-driven, OEF is feeling that thirst for empiricism. While the Radical Oceans project is only loosely based on actual empirical information, OEF was drawn by the perceived “impact” that it was having on their stakeholders of interest. OEF has been undergoing some major changes to their organizational structure and mandate, and a major part of this change will be to solidify a way to measure the organization’s social impact.

Coming from an academic background, the word “impact” and its measurement has always meant something very specific to me. A scientist’s “impact” is measured by a very precise formula that takes into account the number of publications that one has and the number of citations that each of those publications has accumulated. This essentially measures how influential one’s work has been on the scientific community, but not necessarily beyond those academic boarders.

My connotation of the word “impact” has really started to evolve. OEF is a multifaceted NGO that aims not only to have others cite its research and policy reports but to actively facilitate peaceful conflict resolution in fragile states. Impact in this realm is really hard to measure. However, OEF is also “relentlessly empirical” and it is difficult to pride themselves in this regard without any tangible measure of their impact on peace.

Peace is not only difficult to measure, but even to define. At staff meetings, conversations constantly revolve around concepts of “negative” versus “positive” peace and which of these OEF should concern themselves with. Negative peace is the absence of violence and war. This is relatively simple to measure, the so called “body bag count” will do. The Global Peace Index (GPI) is a sophisticated attempt by the Institute for Economics and Peace to measure such negative peace. The GPI gives a peacefulness score for every country based on several factors including: numbers of internal and international violent conflicts that a country is involved in, levels of violent crime, political instability, as well as military expenditure. The GPI is updated on an annual basis so that progress over time can be assessed. Of course, even measuring such negative peace statistics accurately, as the GPI tries to do, is just the first step in figuring out whether a small organization like OEF has any causal role in the measured progress towards peace.

Positive peace on the other hand, deals with structural violence, issues such as: poverty, discrimination, inequality and other social injustices. Negative peace is reactive, while positive peace is proactive. While even measures of negative peace can be highly contentious, positive peace is substantially more difficult to define and measure. Nevertheless, the Positive Peace Index tries to do just that by considering the effectiveness of government institutions, levels of corruption, freedom of information, and so forth.

Although such complex information is aggregated into numbers, the data tells a rich story much like those sci-fi scenarios. These data come with their own artistic depictions, albeit less awe-inspiring. The picture below shows that the PPI has been improving on average across countries for the past decade, with about three quarters of all countries showing an improvement in positive peace. These data seem to point towards the possibility of a more utopian future scenario. Quantifying peace in such a manner has always been politically controversial, especially when dealing with governments of countries who score low on these “Western” standards of peace. This is a legitimate criticism given how many facets of life an index such as the PPI will inevitably omit.

Given that peace is such an elusive concept, is it futile to attempt to measure it and the social impact of NGOs like OEF? As Steve Killelea, founder of the Institute for Economics and Peace, has said: “If you don’t measure peace, how can you understand it?“. Thinking back to science fiction prototyping in the context of the future of peacebuilding, I can imagine a dystopian scenario in which we have given up hope on measuring peace and the world has spiraled into perpetual violent conflict. On the utopian end of the spectrum, a meaningful way of measuring social impact and peace has become a reality. In this future, we can even diagnose early signs of political conflict and initiate the right preventive measures – a “positive peace” approach. To get to this utopia, we need an empirical and critical approach that challenges the meaning of impact, peace, and a deep understanding of the data that shed light on these issues. And maybe a little art can help too.

 

The Story and Relevance of Christine de Pizan (1364 – 1430)

By Monika Erzsebet Berenyi

The narratives, movements, texts and happening of the past draw us inextricably into the present, and it would be careless and limiting to conceptualize the parameters and content of the women, peace, and security agenda, so expressed by UN Security Council Resolution 1325, without revisiting the lengthy history of its progenitors. The efforts, achievements and struggles of those who fought for and forged the very ideas upon which the contemporary policy stands, continue to provide us with guidance, inspiration, and reference points – which mirror the path of our past whilst reflecting the present.

In this context, I return to the medieval era – France to be precise, and draw from the story of Christine de Pizan – a writer, historiographer, and activist, whose cunning wisdom, words and legacy – cumulatively, a representative of a watershed moment in women’s history. For those unfamiliar with de Pizan, her writings were instrumental for enabling the concept of equality for women in medieval France, and her works are considered to be among the earliest feminist writings, inclusive of novels, biography, autobiography, along with political, literary and social commentary. Here it is also important to highlight that the work of de Pizan should also be appreciated within a spectrum of other great medieval women writers, activists, warriors, and leaders – whose courage and work continues to anchor many a discussion regarding women’s rights and equality. I recount the words and actions of Christine de Pizan, thus, in company with the likes of Marie de France, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Margery Kemp, Trota of Salerno, Hildegarde of Bingen, the women troubadours, and many others. The imperative importance of and appreciation for the stories, actions and creativity of medieval women are a source of truth and inspiration to me, – which have also come to illuminate my “contemporary” workspace at Our Secure Future (One Earth Future Foundation). Encouraged to transcend space and time, from the happenings and context of medieval France to the present foothills of Boulder County, I count myself fortunate to be surrounded by individuals, who bear a consciousness and appreciation for the past. For, as history continues to show, it is our predecessors who set the tone for bringing life, energy and movement into the formation and dissemination of new policies. Thus, at Our Secure Future, we remember the story of Christine de Pizan while we face and grapple with the continued challenges of achieving equality and peacebuilding for a better future.

Christine de Pizan was born in Venice and was raised at court in Paris. In 1380, the young Christine de Pizan married Etienne du Castel – a nobleman from Picardy, who supported her passion for education, writing and advocacy. Widowed during her early 20s, she chose to continue her passion and talent for writing, supporting herself and three children, on the fruits of her labour. In sum, she may be understood, or viewed, as one of the first women in history to have lived solely from creative endeavour.

I cite here two works, which allow me to transcend the past with the present. In The Book of the City of Ladies (Le Livre de la Cité des Dames), completed in 1405, the social importance and imperative of women’s equality in the context of relationships and partnerships is exemplified both anecdotally and metaphorically. A deeper reading of this work, or perhaps, reading between the lines, brings the notion of human security to mind, such that only through equality, can networks of sustainable and lasting peace, for society, be achieved and fortified. In this respect, I am encouraged to consider the relatively of the roots of de Pizan’s arguments, which highlight women’s independence while advocating for uniform opportunities and equal rights through a subtle and powerful approach.

With clarity of vision for a better present and future, de Pizan showed how equal treatment and fairness, in everyday contexts, can improve the ebb and flow of life of equality of all. In this respect, de Pizan used the power of the written word at the intersection of the quotidian and Christian morality, coupled with a stylized ability to deploy rhetorical strategy, to illuminate and challenge societal behaviour and sources of women’s oppression. In sum, her ability to deliver a message based in gender equality, so many centuries ago, was both insightful and intuitive – and is one which echoes her visionary ability to delineate the critical role women play in the greater process of conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

I also cite the work The Book of Deeds of Arms and of Chivalry (Le Livre des faits d’armes et de chevalerie), completed by 1410. This book may be conceptualized as a strategic resource for its time, as it provided a vernacular study of military strategy and warfare, coupled with a discussion on the meaning of “just” war. The work is particularly important for the perspective it provides, suggesting arguments for why and how women could be equally knowledgeable and capable as men, to the discussion of war and conflict prevention, and to the facilitation of counsel for that matter.

To conclude, Christine de Pizan conveyed her opinions with subtlety, through the medium of the written word, supported by the framework of the illuminated manuscript. In the twenty-first century, deconstructing the lessons de Pizan chose to express, the issues she addressed, and the mechanism within which she deployed her message, affirm the breadth and depth of the peace, which informed her approach to penetrating the constraints and rigidity of patriarchal society. When considering the power of documentary media, her work and integrity of character, were groundbreaking for their time, as they sounded the alarm – by way of text, image, and action with respect to the hazards, which inequality poses to society.

I am humbled by having been able to learn about the story of Christine de Pizan, by reconnecting the meaning, integrity, and relativity of her story to the work, which informs my days at Our Secure Future – affirming that justice remains a continuous work in progress.

Image from Le Livre de la Cité des dames (Christine de Pizan reading in her study). Copyright of the Bibliothèque de Genève

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