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2021 - Peace and Trust & Peaceful Coexistence

Here we are, into 2021, with more challenges ahead and peaceful coexistence of major concern. The nomination of 2021 as the International Year of Peace and Trust by the United Nations has made me briefly reflect on peace and trust with regard to peaceful coexistence by looking at the coronavirus pandemic and also election processes and outcomes around the world.

Elections of any kind at the international, national, or local level might be regarded to be of more importance to people involved in politics and people in specific geographical regions where elections take place. On the other hand, the coronavirus pandemic concerns everyone, because it has and continues to impact all of us in various ways, no matter who we are or where we live.

The complexities and impacts of the pandemic, including strategies such as lock-downs and travel restrictions around the world have created a sense of disconnect, loneliness, and alienation. The closure of borders (local, regional, and international) and the inability for many people to return home and be with their loved ones have contributed to mounting feelings of unease and heartache, anxiety and fear. And with time gone by, we can now observe growing isolation fatigue as well as rising frustration and anger among people. The fear of the physical threat along with the negative psychological impacts and the economic ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic have started to destabilise the domestic and international sense of trust and peace.

The importance of peace and trust shows itself on the global stage of politics - not only when we look at the coronavirus pandemic but also the processes and outcomes of national elections. The recent unsettling occurrences in the United States are signs that anything that undermines a sense of trust such as exclusion and inequity, lack of transparency, and violent communication challenge our individual and collective sense of peace – across borders and also within borders.

What we are witnessing is a growing climate of discontent, disillusion and distrust–

and the loss of inner and outer peace,

locally and globally.

Living in our media-centric and interconnected world, we are continuously reminded that a leadership style that embraces respect, empathy, compassion, and care for the common good is what is required to nourish trust and peace. Our observations tell us that peace is not only an outcome but also a process, with trust being of paramount importance.

Trust is most commonly viewed as a reflection of integrity, competence and reliability, yet it is also a question of intent, of goodwill or ill-will. The demonstration of positive intent as in goodwill includes acknowledgement of different perspectives, attendance to diverse needs, fair and equitable access to resources, and inclusion in decision-making for the benefit of all.

To foster trust and accordingly peace, it is worth our while to contemplate questions such as:

  • What is the actual intent behind certain actions? Is it one of good-will or ill-will, of mutual care or only self-care, of inclusion or exclusion, of values that reflect harmony or mastery?

  • What actions show integrity? Are the actions aligned with proclaimed values of peace and trust, with benefits extended beyond self and one’s in-groups?

  • What competencies are drawn on for acting upon proclaimed values - values that foster actions for the common good such as gender/health/education equity, poverty reduction, and climate change?

  • How reliably and transparently have the proclaimed values been at the core of decision-making and of the actions taken?

Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary-General pointed out at a speech in 2003 at the Tübingen University that:

“We need to find within ourselves the will

To live by the values we proclaim,

In our private lives, in our local and national societies,

And in the world.

Kofi Annan

No matter who we are, or what role we play as part of the system in which we live, work, or travel, all of us profit from reflecting on what is important for us and society at large–to take a look at the big picture.

As leaders in our daily lives at home as much as leaders on the global stage, it helps us to regularly get in touch with our individual and cultural value systems. And that means also power dynamics at play in our private spheres and within the public domain, including social structures and institutions across the micro to the macro level.

When we pause, we can see that the notions of peace and trust as guiding principles and aspirations for 2021 put forward by the United Nations carry importance in all life contexts, at an individual and societal level. Peace and trust are important in our personal relationships and in the political arena, including the context of travel and tourism, appreciating that tourism is a microcosm of society at large where

The joy of travel

is about

The art of travel


The art of living together.

So, let us make 2021 the year where we pay attention to proclaimed values and moral imperatives as a way to gain big-picture perspectives and foster trust and peace in all our life domains.

January 18, 2021

Birgit Trauer PhD


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