Peace award for UNIC Director

28 September 2014
Receiving the award

UNIC New Delhi Director Kiran Mehra-Kerpelman was awarded the Brahma Kumaris – Sister Shanti Award for “extraordinary ordinary and commitment to humanity” at a ceremony in New Delhi on 28 September.

Ms. Mehra-Kerpelman said she was humbled by the award, and that it was the “spirit of the UN Charter” as well as UNIC’s motto – UN-India Connect! – which guided and defined her work.

Ms. Mehra-Kerpelman was one of three awardees at the special ceremony.

The United Nations and the Brahma Kumaris have similar aims," Ms. Mehra-Kerpelman said in her acceptance speech. "Peace is one of the three pillars of the United Nations and it is our constant endeavour to promote it."

And “when I stand here and look at your faith in peace, tolerance and harmony, it gives me hope. Your work gives us strength,” Ms. Mehra-Kerpelman added. 

“Through this act of coming together for a common purpose, the United Nations, with organizations such as yours, strives to contribute to the cause of peace.

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First International Day for Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons observed in New Delhi

25 September 2014
At the event

On 25 September, the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), New Delhi, marked the very first observance of the International Day for Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons with a seminar hosted by Lady Shri Ram College's (LSR) new Aung San Suu Kyi Centre for Peace. This observance also dovetailed into UNIC’s ongoing annual Peace to Non-violence Campaign. 

Highlighting the UN perspective on the issue of elimination of nuclear weapons, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message said:  “What matters most is not which path is taken, but that the chosen path is heading in the right direction – toward the internationally agreed goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons.”

Validating that direction was the seminar inaugurated by UNIC Director Kiran Mehra-Kerpelman, and featuring JNU Professor Dr. CSR Murthy and LSR Professor Dr. Veena Ravi Kumar, who discussed the politics and morality of nuclear weapons, and the role of the UN in the world’s nuclear history. 

Siddharth Trivedi, Coordinator of LSR’s Conflict Transformation and Peace-Building course, also spoke on the occasion. Given that the very first UN General Assembly resolution ever passed was on the issue of nuclear weapons, the panelists noted the centrality of the question of nuclear disarmament to the UN agenda. Ranging from Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace Speech to the Rajiv Gandhi Plan for a Nuclear-free World, from the legality of nuclear weapons according to the ICJ to the various compulsions that shaped India’s path to nuclear status, the talks were both expansive and detailed. 

Ms. Mehra-Kerpelman opened the session with the Secretary-General’s message on this Day, describing it as an opportunity for the world community to reaffirm its commitment to complete nuclear disarmament. She was followed by Dr. Murthy who described the role of the UN as forum, a funnel and a front for nuclear disarmament, outlining key issues of politics of nation states around nuclear weapons. 

Dr. Ravi Kumar, speaking on the ethics of nuclear weapons, pointed out the evolving but constant moral grounding of India’s nuclear doctrine – from maintaining a nuclear option to today’s no-first-use policy, India has managed a moral justification for all its choices in the field of nuclear capability. Finally, Mr. Trivedi reminded the audience that 17,000 nuclear weapons still exist today and more than half of the world’s population lives in countries under the nuclear umbrella. 

The session closed with a number of deeply insightful and highly incisive questions from the audience, comprised of a number of political science students, and students of LSR’s Conflict Transformation and Peace-building course. A student raised a question regarding the fate of Scotland’s nuclear installations had the Scots chosen independence from Britain, leading into the far less hypothetical situation of the potential transfer of nuclear facilities in Pakistan. This was followed by a discussion of the threat to West Asian stability posed by Israel’s nuclear capabilities. 

The event ended with remarks by Mrs. Mehra-Kerpelman responding to some of the speeches.

Police reform an urgent need, say activists

23 September 2014
Participants at the event

The Guild for Service, headed by Dr. V. Mohini Giri, led an energetic discussion at the UN House in New Delhi on policing, the laws and policies that govern them, as well as the systemic issues that need to be reviewed and revised.

An array of activists, researchers, policy experts, students and others attended the seminar to help evolve a concrete framework of action. They included Dr. Syeda Hameed, former member of the Planning Commission; Shamina Shafiq, member  of the National Commission for Women; Ved Marwah, former Governor of Manipur and Jharkhand and former Delhi Police Commissioner; and Maja Daruwala of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. 

The Commissioner of Police (Delhi), B.S. Bassi also attended along with several colleagues to listen to the views and suggestions offered and to respond to citizens’ concerns.

In democracies, the police must act to advance public safety while treating people with respect, UNIC New Delhi Director Kiran Mehra-Kerpelman said in her address.” They must also be accountable, for while they have the power to coerce, they are also bound by laws that restrict and control the arbitrary application of those powers.”

“Much of this depends on the quality and implementation of laws and policies, the extent of independence that police forces enjoy and, let us not forget, the conditions in which they are expected to function, and function effectively,” Ms. Mehra-Kerpelman added.

“The starting point for any reform, it seems to me, is to evaluate the superstructure within which the police operates, and then to address systemic challenges, rather than evolve short-term solutions.”

Ms. Daruwala provided a comprehensive backgrounder on attempts to undertake police reform, including firm directives given by the Supreme Court of India. “We can’t judge police performance simply by crime figures,” she emphasized.

The Supreme Court directives address some of the core issues of policing, including the need to separate investigation and law-and-order functions and the need for a Police Complaints Authority – crucial to ensure accountability.

Quite apart from whether these directives are followed or not, Ms. Daruwala said, the police can themselves take steps to improve their functioning and efficiency and to be regarded as a friendly, receptive force. “To begin with, we need police stations that are welcoming,” she said. “We need to have a policing plan, and we need the police to be insulated from political interference.”

A number of speakers recounted experiences that pointed to the need for greater sensitivity on the part of the police, not merely senior police officials but also the constabulary. Many urged that training and awareness programmes focus on the disconnect between citizens and the police. 

Several speakers also drew attention to the less than adequate conditions that police personnel live and work in. “If a constable is overworked, goes back to an inhospitable dwelling and has no time for his family, how can we expect him to give us a patient hearing?” asked one member of the audience.

The Police Commissioner promised to take all of the concerns into account, and also invited them to inspect the systems, training programmes and day-to-day functioning of the police. He also welcomed social audits of the training curriculum. “My plan and objective is to continue to keep people safe,” he added.

The seminar concluded with all the participants resolving to foster mutual respect to bring about better police-community relations. “Let us cooperate with the police and let the police ensure that citizens can walk into police stations with confidence,” said Dr. Hameed.

World Expo 2015 – Cooperation UN system-Fabrica

22 September 2014

The UNRIC Brussels Desk for Italy arranged and took part in a meeting between Clara Velez Fraga, FAO-based representative of the UN Task force for the Expo, and Giovanni Flore, Fabrica’s Project manager and design researcher on prospective cooperation for the Milan event. The Desk Officer had, on the occasion of Clara’s mission to UNRIC last week, expressed the conviction that synergies could be developed with Fabrica, both reviving the Livewindow project ( and looking into new projects, with the aim of contributing to the UN system’s input into the Expo. Fabrica has long been UNRIC’s reliable partner in disseminating high-quality video products on the occasion of UN thematic days, including at HQ level.

At the meeting, which was followed by another meeting on 23 September, in the presence of the Task force’s art director as well, it was agreed that the Livewindow’s output – dating back to the campaigns held in 2011 and 2012, coordinating the work of a Fabrica-monitored network of creative institutes throughout Europe - would be included in the contributions that will have to be submitted to the Task force by 31 October 2014.

The Fabrica representative confirmed that he would present management with the proposal to give fresh impetus to, revive and renew the existing Livewindow platform, while in parallel looking into alternative forms of partnership, geared towards the corporate world. Fabrica undertook to keep UNRIC abreast of development, and then enhance the already excellent working relationship. The UN task force welcomed this development, acknowledging UNRIC’s crucial contribution. The office’s familiarity with Fabrica and its working practices are bound to prove an asset, in what is a win-win exercise as it would allow Fabrica to get access to the World Expo via the direct channel of the UN system. The next step is now UNRIC’s identification of visual material stemming from past Europe-wide info campaigns for submission to the Task force.