The Founder and Executive Director of ACCORD, Vasu Gounden, was recently invited by the Dutch United Nations Student Association Utrecht (DUNSA-Utrecht), to be the Keynote speaker at their conference on international conflicts, entitled ‘A Struggle for Peace’. The conference was organized by DUNSA, in collaboration with the Netherlands United Nations Association (NVVN).
‘A Struggle for Peace’ was organized in celebration of DUNSA’s 25th anniversary and took place on 9 June 2007 at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. The primary goal of the conference was to raise awareness among the student population regarding international conflicts, as well as offering a platform where leading thinkers and policymakers from around the world could discuss these issues with students. Some of the speakers who participated in the Conference were the former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Sudan, Mr. Jan Pronk, Professor Johann Galtung and Major General Patrick Cammaert, military commander of the UN peace mission in Eastern Congo.
Mr. Gounden’s presentation was on the topic People Building Peace. As part of the presentation Mr. Gounden focused on conflict resolution in Africa, looking at ACCORD’s experience in Burundi.
DUNSA-Utrecht is an intellectual student association that organizes lectures, debates and symposia on international affairs on a weekly basis. The speakers at their lectures are primarily politicians, Ambassadors, leaders of non-governmental organizations and academic teachers. The NVVN is an organization that strives to promote the goals of the United Nations through raising public awareness on the need for international cooperation.
In April 2007 Mr. Gounden was invited by the National Committee for International Cooperation and Sustainable Development (NCDO) to be a resource person at the Dutch Africa Day, which was held on 14 April in The Hague. The Dutch Africa Day is the biggest Dutch event on development cooperation and Africa, where some of the other key speakers in the main plenary sessions included former Ghanaian President H.E. Jerry Rawlings and Dr. Mo Ibrahim, the founder of Celtel. The format of the Conference in Utrecht was very similar to that of the Dutch Africa Day, with the presentations structured so that concurrently with the main plenary sessions, there are also other individual workshops running on a variety of topics.
In 1996 ACCORD was recognized by the United Nations as a model for peace, and in 2005 Mr. Gounden was the first member of an African NGO to address the United Nations Security Council. More recently in October 2006 Mr. Gounden was a resource person at a leadership course hosted by the United Nations University’s International Leadership Institute (UNU-ILI), based in Amman for their course on “Non Violent Approaches to Conflict Resolution, Peace Building and Reconciliation”. In November 2006 he was invited to be a resource person for the Folke Bernadotte Academy at their Course on “ Facilitation of Dialogue Processes and Mediation Efforts” which was conducted in New York for staff from the United Nations Department of Political Affairs and in May 2007 Mr. Gounden was invited by the United Nations’ ‘Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People’, to be a resource person at the United Nations’ ‘Public Forum in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace’, which was held at the University of Pretoria, in South Africa.