USA: Horizon Summit Bridges Generations of Peace Leaders

Grace Kellett and Hanabeta Deshotel
March 29, 2018  

WFWPI Holds 2nd Annual Intergenerational Gathering In New York City


If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. - African proverb

Over the weekend of March 17 and 18, 2018, WFWP International (WFWPI) and WFWP USA co-sponsored the Horizon Summit at 4 West 43rd Street in New York City, an event center and one of the locations for the 62nd UN Commission on the Status of Women's parallel events.  Originally started in 2016 as a young women's leadership program, the Summit has grown into an intergenerational gathering dedicated to fostering peace leadership. This year's theme was "Rising Side by Side." The panel and discussions highlighted the necessity for inclusiveness and collaboration.

The guests arrived for the Summit on Saturday morning, where they were welcomed by WFWPI staff and invited to converse with one another over tea, coffee and pastries. By the time everyone was called to the main Social Hall, there was already a steady buzz of friendly chatter around the tables.

Professor Yeon Ah Moon, President of WFWPI, opened the Summit with her characteristic grace and charm. Her caring heart for the future of the global family was apparent when she reminded participants, whom she addressed as "my family," that what is most needed in peace leadership today is love.

The morning's panel on peace leadership, composed of Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook, Ms. Carolyn Handschin, Director of the WFWPI UN Office worldwide and Vice President of WFWPI, Ms. Prativa Khanal, Cora Weiss Peacebuilding Fellow at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, and Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, founder and CEO of the Afghan Institute of Learning, reiterated Professor Moon's statement in their presentations on their current peacebuilding work.

After lunch, there was a brief presentation on WFWPI internships, after which guests had the opportunity to attend two one-hour capacity-building sessions given by various peace leaders and activists. The sessions in the first time block were given by Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook, Ms. Margaret Williams and Dr. Thomas Ward. The second round of sessions were led by Ms. Iris Dotan Katz, Ms. Angelika Selle and Ms. Katarina Connery and Dr. Sakena Yacoobi.

Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook, the first female and African-American U.S. ambassador for International Religious Freedom, is a poised and polished woman who quickly transforms into pure power and dynamism when sharing her life experiences. Her session, "Women Brokering Peace," was eagerly attended by women seeking to "up their game" and transition to the next level of leadership. Ambassador Johnson Cook gave her nine (9) principles for becoming that higher-level game-changer, gleaned from her years of often being the only woman at the decision-making table. As the ambassador said, "One plus one is two, but side-by-side, that makes eleven." Participants held hands and repeated power-giving mantras to one another and left with tools and inspiration that they, too, could make a difference on the international stage.

Ms. Margaret Williams, Senior Peace and Security Officer at the World Federation of United Nations Associations in New York, led a session entitled "Advocacy: Building out a Strategy" which outlined the factors necessary to consider when creating an advocacy strategy. The session was insightful and casual. The participants introduced themselves, making it clear that many in the room already had a specific issue in mind, from creating a girls' mentoring group in Philadelphia, to advocating on behalf of the mentally ill in Australia. Ms. Williams kept her session relevant to the issues expressed in the room, making the hour feel more like a working meeting than a theoretical lecture. Participants were left feeling better equipped and motivated to put this strategizing into action.

Dr. Thomas Ward, dean of the University of Bridgeport's College of Public and International Affairs, impressed participants with his expertise and first-hand knowledge of global affairs, as well as his warm and diplomatic bearing. He offered a practical toolkit for analyzing real-world conflicts, focusing on the North Korean nuclear issue. Participants were guided through a practice of utilizing these tools and making sense of where and when such conflicts can be influenced for a more positive outcome.

Ms. Iris Dotan Katz, a psychologist and an expert on reconciliation, is a woman of palpable serenity. She shared in her session, "Mindful Social Action," principles of Buddhism that she uses both with individuals and families and in her consultations with international organizations. She pointed out that the best results in peacemaking come from beginning with the state of mind of "not knowing" but truly "listening from the heart" to the other person. She led participants in an exercise in which partners acted as "activist" and "client." As one pair said, it was surprising to realize just how much more connected they felt when the client was simply listened to, and not offered subjective solutions from the get-go.

Ms. Angelika Selle, President of WFWP USA and Vice President of WFWPI, and Ms. Katarina Connery, Vice President of WFWP USA, presented together on "Discovering the Leader Within." They led participants through exercises in which each woman could come to understand her own unique strengths and talents, and how she can become a strong and impactful "Leader of the Heart." One participant from Nigeria was so moved by the exercises, and her resulting revelations, that she promptly declared her intention to conduct the same exercises with her team at home.

In Dr. Sakena Yacoobi's session, she chose to focus on the topic of "What Works." Dr. Yacoobi opened the session with a prayer, contributing to the intimacy and warmth felt by those in the room. Everyone introduced themselves and shared which issues they were passionate about. Dr. Yacoobi emphasised her desire to learn from the participants' experiences, making the session an exchange of knowledge and an opportunity to ask questions.  She explained the various facets of her work, from how she engages with the government to what she looks for in training her staff. She explained how to be strategic and fair in conducting grassroots work with limited funds. However, it was the depth of her conviction that came across as the clear foundation for all her work.

On Sunday, March 18, the participants were able to choose from four different tours in New York, including the FDR Presidential Library and East Garden Museum. They returned to 4 W 43rd St. for the closing program and a Korean dinner.

Ms. Ward and Ms. Selle closed the program together, thanking the guests for their participation and sharing their hope that the Horizon Summit offered an opportunity for growth and learning in the participants' journeys as peace leaders. The core organizing team including, Krista Smith, Christina Lange and Sungmi Orr, were welcomed to the stage. Appreciation was expressed for all their hard work over the six-month preparation period for the summit.

Click here to see more photos of Day 1

Click here to see more photos of Day 2