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Basel Peace Forum 2020

January 9-10, 2020

ARC attended the Basel Peace Forum 2020 on January 9-10, 2020. ARC was invited by SwissPeace, the conference organizer, to help highlight the importance and role of art in peacebuilding. The theme of this year’s conference was “Cities of Peace?” Bringing together around 200 experts, decision-makers, and practitioners from politics, business, finance, civil society, and academia working on peacebuilding conflict resolution, the Forum looked at cities as agents, laboratories, and/or sites of peace and conflict. Cities are increasingly risky places to live in, but they also provide opportunities for social mobilization, collaboration, and innovation. 

On January 9th, ARC attended the opening reception, which featured a panel with Zarifa Ghafari, the youngest female Afghani mayor and mayor of Maidan Shahr; Erion Veliaj, Mayor of Tirana, Albania; and Ghada Rifai, Syrian architect. The panelists briefly explored the question of cities of peace and how cities can be innovative in ways that aren’t possible at the national level, from engaging community members to experimenting with local peace-making initiatives. Mayor Veliaj, for example, discussed how a citywide effort to build playgrounds helped make Tirana safer.

On January 10th, ARC had a pavilion on “Art Under Pressure” in the general conference space. A major highlight of the pavilion was a solidarity wall for two imprisoned artists/cultural practitioners. We highlighted Galal El-Behairy’s case, as well as that of Aras Amiri, an Iranian curator for the British Council who was sentenced to 10 years in prison. We received messages of solidarity in 6 languages - English, Spanish, French, Greek, Turkish, and Swiss German. A particularly wonderful note was one written to Aras from the aforementioned Mayor Zarifa Ghafari.

During our morning pavilion highlight, ARC's director Julie Trebault had an “impact talk” with Yescka, co-founder of the ASARO (Asamblea de Artistas Revolucionarios de Oaxaca) collective, about street art, state repression, and art as a tool for social movements in Oaxaca and in Mexico more generally. 

Later in the evening, Julie moderated the closing panel, “The Power of Street Art: Insights from Kabul, Oaxaca, and Diyarbakir.” Panelists were Yescka of ASARO Collective; Omaid Sharifi of ArtLords; and Zehra Dogan, who ARC continues to work closely with since her release from prison in February 2019. Her artwork was exhibited alongside our pavilion. Unfortunately, Zehra was unable to physically attend the Forum, but she participated via Skype. Each panelist had experienced repression and backlash for artwork that sought to bring change to their respective countries. The panelists dove into topics such as how art can be used in community-building, how the soft power of art can affect conflict resolution, and how art can be used to open people to new ideas and generate social change.

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