Geneva Peace Week: what happens and why it's important

Design: Hani Abbas for Geneva Peace Week 2020

Monday marks the beginning of Geneva Peace Week 2020, and it comes at a peculiar time, with Covid-19 bringing with it new and unprecedented challenges for peace and security. As the event kicks off, all eyes will also be fixed on the outcome of the US elections.

Under this year’s theme, "Rebuilding trust after disruption: Pathways to reset international cooperation", the week-long event will not only address the abrupt changes the world has undergone the past year but also explore how to tackle those issues.

With much uncertainty in the air, the gathering of actors across different institutions and sectors hopes to bring "authentic leadership, clear vision, and alternative narratives about how to make peace real."

“We are living in a period of fundamental systemic change in global politics,” said Dr Achim Wennmann, executive coordinator of the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform. “Geneva Peace Week offers a possibility to understand the practical tools necessary to adapt to this change – as an institution, as a professional, and as an individual.”

Why this week matters. The massive scale of disruption caused by Covid-19 has set the world on a path towards a fundamental yet highly uncertain change. With stronger calls for multilateralism amidst humanitarian crises, a week dedicated to peace at the heart of the international community can “highlight the strategic advantage of international Geneva as a global partnership hub", said Wennmann, who’s also the co-founder of the Peace Week.

“In times when the space for political participation becomes smaller at the multilateral level, and in many states, [the week] offers access to the voices of the professionals building peace on a daily basis.”

Peace Week aims to help people tackle these uncertainties and changes, especially at a time when “we are even more separated from each other”. The show must go on, even if it means moving the conversation online.

The digital shift. Running since 2014, this will be the first time that the live sessions – all 70 of them organised by more than 280 organisations in and out of Geneva – will be held online. With eight themes covering mediation, peacebuilding, economy, environment, and cyberspace, a new ‘GPW Digital Series’ of 70 pre-recorded videos and podcasts on peacebuilding will also be made available until at least the beginning of next year.

A green vision for peace. Falling on the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, the last day of the Peace Week will be dedicated to discussions and events featuring environmental peacebuilding. This will be an opportunity to present the crossovers and forge stronger networks between the environmental protection and peacebuilding communities in Geneva.

Live events to look out for, as these will not be recorded.


  • 2 November, 15:00 – The opening ceremony formally marks the start of the week, with speakers such as Tatiana Valovaya director-general of UN Geneva, Marie-Laure Salles, director of the Graduate Institute, and Sami Kanaan, city mayor.

  • 2 November, 11:00 – 'They lie to us...' The Liberian gang youth talk about rebuilding trust is a sharing session about the personal stories of the journey of gang leaders from the Montserrado county.

  • 2 November, 14:00 – The inclusion of refugees: what role can cultural organisations play? This event will discuss how 15 asylum seekers in Geneva joined the cast of an opera that narrates the journey of a refugee family fleeing Turkey and travelling across Europe to Switzerland.


  • 3 November, 12:30 – The essential role of fact-checking and media literacy will present concrete lessons learned from projects implemented in conflict-prone environments that tackled mis/disinformation on Covid-19.

  • 3 November, 14:00 – Building Trust in Cybermediation: A Collective Leadership Challenge? A discussion on how mediators can build trust in the digital space at a time when face-to-face meetings are not possible.


  • 4 November, 9:00 – 'Peace is in our hands' Women take the lead to rebuild trust will take a look at women's leadership for peace and security in different environments from different perspectives, including Ruth Dreifuss, former president of Switzerland.

  • 4 November, 12:30 – This session aims to address hate speech and hate crimes in Europe, tackling the challenges, filling the gaps and building synergies.


  • 5 November, 11:00 – Organised by Comic Relief and Good Chance Theatre, the session Poetry for Peace is a hands-on session where participants can create poems using prompts that focus on building peace.


  • 6 November, 12:45 – Conservation and peacebuilding: Towards greater collaboration aims to provide insights into how the two communities could work together in the field of environmental peacebuilding.

  • 6 November, 15:00 – The closing ceremony will be a multimedia experience – from live interviews, discussions, videos to audience participation – that focuses on impact and policy in the peacebuilding community.

You can find the full list of events and other available digital media on the Geneva Peace Week 2020 website.