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"When we dream alone, it?s nothing more than a dream. But when we dream together, it can become reality"

As a pacifist, feminist and activist, Cora Weiss has devoted her whole life to the peace movement.  She has played a very important role in the fight against nuclear testing in the United States, against the Vietnam War, and more recently in the passing of Resolution 1325.  She is currently President of the Hague Appeal for Peace and the International Peace Bureau.

I remember Cora from my first years of involvement in peace studies.  She organized the “Hague Appeal for Peace”, and the resulting proposals have been the basis for my peace work over the years, as they have been for many other people and organizations.  Cora visits Spain frequently.  Her experience as a feminist and a peace activist has made her a unique lecturer, capable of encouraging participation and filling an auditorium with enthusiasm.  She is a leading figure in international pacifism and has always known how to attract to the pacifist cause not only influential people but also base organizations that work for peace in their communities. Cora shows extraordinary dexterity in forging links and alliances with other women, and this skill has made its mark on her work for peace.

“You are the same age as your cause” she states, “and the cause for peace is always young”. “I have a husband, my anti-war and pro-disarmament accomplice for the last 53 years. I also have three children, my three great reasons for living, and many grandchildren to whom to leave a better world.  In life, when you follow a path with your heart, all routes, that of human rights, of justice and of equality, end up being the same.  For me peace has become part of my life.”

Cora has always been a fighter. In her years as a Law student she was the only woman in a class of 90 students. It was the era of McCarthyism and the witch hunt started by this senator McCarthy in the persecution of communists and left-ists.  The students, taking advantage of a constitutional loophole, managed to collect a large number of signatures asking for the senator’s dismissal.  Although the judge deemed “illegible” some of the signatures, thereby preventing his removal from office, the experience was a very important experience for her. It proved to Cora that with a combined effort, things can be changed. As she concludes, “If we all have the same dream, we can make impossible missions come true.”

Cora later became a mother, and peace came hand in hand with her worries for the health of her children. This was during the sixties and the United States was carrying out nuclear testing, and the radiations were suspected to be detrimental to health. A scientist proposed that some women should participate in a program to offer  their children’s milk teeth to be analysed in order to better determine the level of radioactive contamination and its effects on health.  Thus the organization “Women for Peace” was born, which encouraged the collaboration of many women in sending their children’s teeth to be examined.

The results of the study were devastating and confirmed the suspicion: the children were found to have toxic residues in their teeth.  This realization mobilized thousands of American women to organize a protest against nuclear weapons and against nuclear testing that ultimately achieved the desired result: President Kennedy signed a law prohibiting these tests.  Later came the United State’s conflict in Vietnam and many of these women, including Cora, became involved in putting an end to this war that was sending their children home in coffins.

Cora is a strong, independent woman and these qualities led her to accept the presidency of a disarmament program driven by a prominent protestant church of New York City.  She remembers those years affectionately.  It was ironic that Cora, a Jewish woman, should become campaign president, organizing activities and ceremonies in the protestant church.  However, rather than being an obstacle, this proved to be a positive element that allowed differences to be put aside and promoted meeting points within the community, irrespective of religion.  It was a creative campaign, full of hope, and in a constant search to do things differently by taking into account the people of the world.

In the eighties, when the United Nations were drawing up plans for the summits to tackle important issues such as the environment, women, social development and habitat amongst others, it was proposed that the last of them should be the issue of peace.  However, this proposal was blocked and peace was removed from the summits’ agenda. This decision caused carious civil society organizations to take the initiative to organize a peace summit.  This proved to be  complicated as the organizations had neither the resources nor the capacity to carry out the summir.  But eventually, the coalition of various organizations and the determination of people like Cora enabled more than 10,000 people to convene in The Hague in 1999 in support of world peace. It was one of the largest conferences ever organized for peace.  The resulting proposals were later adopted by the United Nations.  Of the many achievements gained at this peace conference, Cora pinpoints two in particular:

“A valuable peace education program was established that is still in force today, that offers 50 proposals for change from a culture of violence to a culture of peace.  Second, the dimension of gender was introduced to peace processes.  We could not accept the fact that women continue to be excluded from negotiation processes and have not been able to participate in decisions that affect their lives in such a direct way”. As a result, various organizations and individuals got together, formulating proposals that would encourage an increase in the participation of women in peace negotiation processes.  Cora worked untiringly in these years to ensure that these proposals eventually reached the Security Council.

Finally, in 2000, these years of hard work culminated in the Security Council’s unanimous approval of Resolution 1325, which laid a groundwork for the role of women in peace building. This was considered a huge triumph for the pacifist and feminist movements that had worked very closely over the years so that this Resolution could prosper.  The three key points can be summarized as “participation”, “prevention” and “protection”, (the three Ps). Participation, because women have a right to take part in all levels of decision making in peace processes.  Prevention, because violence against women should be prevented both at the local and global levels.  And protection, because women should be protected during times of armed conflicts where violation has become an instrument of war used to humiliate the enemy.  For this reason, Resolution 1820, passed in 2008, complemented Resolution 1325 by considering sexual violence a crime against humanity.

“It has been nearly ten years since the Resolution was passed” explains Cora, “and important advances have been made”.  Many countries have developed an Plan of Action, with formation and training programs to motivate women’s participation.  Much progress has been made, but there is still a long way to go.  “My final goal would be to achieve the abolition of war. In the same way that slavery was abolished, the 21st century should be the century in which war disappears and gives way to diplomacy.”  For Cora, peace could be symbolized by a huge glass table around which people convene to resolve their conflicts, because, as Cora knows, glass is as fragile and transparent as the construction of peace.