UN Commission on Status of Women 63 - United Nations - Side Event
1:15 PM13:15

UN Commission on Status of Women 63 - United Nations - Side Event

The Permanent Mission of Iraq to the UN, Permanent Mission of Germany to the UN, UN Women and Grace Initiative Global side event for UN CSW 63


63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)

The Permanent Missions of Germany and Iraq, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, UN-Women Iraq Country Office and

Grace Initiative Global (NGO)


Have the pleasure to cordially invite you to a high-level side event on

 “Iraqi Women Taking the Wheel towards Rebuilding Peace and Stability”

Conference Room12

Friday 15 March 2019

16:45 -18:00

Special guests include First Lady of the Republic of Iraq

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Sustainable Peace and the UN World Faith Harmony Week
3:00 PM15:00

Sustainable Peace and the UN World Faith Harmony Week

Sustainable Peace through Interfaith Harmony

February 23, 2019

3:00 PM-5:30 PM at Zion Episcopal Church, Manchester VT



St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Bennington, VT

Yale Alum Non-Profit Alliance (YANA), VT

(Event listed on UN Calendar for World Faith Harmony)


In October 2010, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for World Interfaith Harmony Week as a way to promote harmony between all people regardless of their faith.  In the resolution, the General Assembly, points out that mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace and establishes World Interfaith Harmony Week.  Following this resolution, Interfaith Harmony events are held throughout the world during the month of February.


At the core of all the faith systems and traditions is the recognition that we are all in this together and that we need to love and support one another to live in harmony and peace in a sustainable world. It is important to increase our efforts to spread the message of good neighborliness based on our common humanity, a message shared by all faith traditions.  The theme for the observance of the Interfaith Harmony for 2019 is therefore “Sustainable Peace through Interfaith Harmony.”

To this end, Zion Episcopal Church (Manchester, VT), St. Peter’s Episcopal Church (Bennington, VT) with support from the Yale Alum Non-Profit Alliance (YANA) for Vermont will organize an interactive discussion on interfaith harmony and sustainable peace, on February 23, 2019.  


This inter-active discussion will take place at Zion, from 3:00-5:00 PM, followed by a 30 minutes of prayer – February 23, 2019.  Zionis located at 5167 Main Street, Manchester Center VT. 



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Burlington Forum on Coexistence - 70th Anniversary of Human Rights Declaration
9:00 AM09:00

Burlington Forum on Coexistence - 70th Anniversary of Human Rights Declaration



Burlington Forum on Coexistence

the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Episcopal Church Cathedral Church of Saint Paul

2 Cherry Street

Burlington, VT 

December 7, 2018 9:00 AM-1:00 PM

In honor of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, a milestone document that proclaimed the equality, justice and human dignity for all people - we are organizing the Burlington Forum on Coexistence at the Episcopal Church Cathedral Church of Saint Paul in Burlington on December 7, 2018, from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.  This Forum follows the spirit and rationale of the Boston Forum on Coexistence in a Democratic Society held on December 8, 2017.  

During the Boston Forum, the participants agreed that we should build upon the goals and outcomes of that Forum and hold fora in other parts of the United States. Therefore, drawing upon this inaugural Forum, we propose a series called the Forum on Co-Existence in a Democratic Society.  This Forum will emphasize the recognition and respect of the dignity of every person, a principle underscored in the Universal Declaration.  Regrettably, this fundamental right diminishes when it comes to accepting difference due inter alia of gender, race, religion or nationality. 

Respecting the dignity of all people is integral for coexistence in a democratic society. When we honor the dignity of another person, we treat him or her with respect. This dignity and respect transcends race, gender, religion, economic status, or even the part of the country one resides.  In this regard, the basis for respecting the dignity of others exists universally, independently of a person’s social utility, abilities, race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, or religion.  Respecting the dignity of others is critical for a peaceful and inclusive[1]democratic society. 

We will invite faith leaders and representatives of civil society, including those who work to combat economic inequality and violence, and those who defend migrants, refugees, and people marginalized by gender, race or religion.  

To this end, the purpose of the Forum is to promote a platform for dignity, respect and coexistence, and a road map for addressing the continuation of a heightened hatred, anger, exclusionary outcry. We look for paths of healing and for nurturing positive discourse, with a commitment to fundamental human rights, dignity, respect, and coexistence.  

On December 10, 1948, in the wake of the horrors of WWII, the International community convened to commit to respect the dignity of all humankind.  We hope to revive this spirit of commitment to human rights on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights during the Burlington Forum on Coexistence.

The 2018 Forum follows the spirit and rationale of “The Boston Forum on Coexistence in a Democratic Society,” which was held last year. The upcoming Forum builds on the goals of last year’s event by promoting the recognition and respect of the dignity of every person, a principle embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

The Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Ely, bishop of The Episcopal Church in Vermont, said, “Dignity is a topic that The Episcopal Church in Vermont has engaged with fervor in recent years. It was the theme of our 2017 diocesan convention, and we continue to explore this aspect of our calling at a time when human differences are so often portrayed as something to be feared rather than celebrated. Co-presenting the Burlington Forum with Grace Initiative is a natural fit and, I hope, will convey to the wider community our commitment to honoring the dignity of all humankind.”

“Respecting the dignity of all people is integral to peaceful, inclusive coexistence in a democratic society,” said Yvonne Lodico, founder of Grace Initiative. “That’s essentially the message of the Burlington Forum as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that inspired the event. Dignity and respect transcend perceived differences like race, gender, religion, economic status, and place of residence. In this regard, the basis for respecting the dignity of others exists universally, independently of a person’s social utility, abilities, race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, or religion.” 

About the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10, 1948 as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages. Learn more at http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/.


About Grace Initiative Global

The Initiative for Governance, Reconciliation, Agriculture and Coexistence - Grace Initiative Global – strives toward innovative peacebuilding and conflict prevention through strategies of healing, empowering and transforming. Grace Initiative carries out its goals through innovative and expert constructive engagement, focused empowerment, multi-stakeholder collaborations, and holistic understanding; through international and multi-disciplinary expertise. Grace Initiative adheres to and promotes global goals such as the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable DevelopmentUN Security Council Resolution 1325, international human rights instruments, and humanitarian principles. Learn more at http://www.grace-initiative.org/


About The Episcopal Church in Vermont

The Episcopal Church in Vermont comprises 45 congregations across the Green Mountain State that share in the mission to pray the prayer of Christ, to learn the mind of Christ, and to do the deeds of Christ. The congregations live into this mission through ministries of Formation, Liberation, Communication, Connection, and Celebration. The Episcopal Church in Vermont is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Learn more at https://diovermont.org/.  


Featured Speakers Who Have Committed So Far…

Featured Speakers who have committed to date are listed below. We are awaiting final word from several others. Please note that this list is subject to change:


·       The Rev. Nicholas Porter, co-founder, Jerusalem PeaceBuilders

·       Jeff Mandell, program director, Kids4Peace - VT/NH Chapter

·       Rabbi Amy Small, Ohavi Zedek Synagogue

·       Yvonne Lodico, founder, Grace Initiative Global

·       Syed Meesam Razvi, Executive Director, Alliance for Research and Scholastic Heritage

·       The Rev. Dr. Arnold Thomas, pastor, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Underhill, VT

·       Maurice L. Harris, diocesan communications minister and co-convener of the Racial Reconciliation/Healing Network, The Episcopal Church in Vermont

·       The Rev. Earl Kooperkamp, treasurer, and past President, Vermont Interfaith Action; rector, Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Barre, VT

·       Mark Hughes, co-founder and director, Justice For All

·       Bor Yang, executive director & legal counsel, Vermont Human Rights



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Workshop on Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention
10:30 AM10:30

Workshop on Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention

Healing, Empowering and Transforming 


For Inclusive Peacebuilding, Conflict Prevention and Sustainable Development

With the full integration of rural women in peace processes

Presented on October 26, 2018

            10:30 am -12:30 pm

The Justification

The framework for the workshop and the participants’ engagement includes: UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, respectively S/RES/2282 and A/RES/70/262, which called for sustaining peace by “preventing the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict.”  Further, it integrates global agendas such as the UN GA High Level Meeting on Peacebuilding,  held 24-25 April 2018, which underscored the axiom that we must work “to save peace while it lasts, not to deal with the situation once peace is lost.” Also, it adheres to the 2030 Agenda goals, especially SDGs 1, 5, 12, 15, and 16.  This concept also takes into consideration US House H.R. 5273 and US Senate S 3368, to reduce global fragility and violence. 


To this end,  this workshop on “Circles of Trust” will focus on peacebuilding and conflict prevention, through transforming and sustaining grass roots rural communities, with a particular emphasis on integrating women into this process. Therefore, the overall discussion will emphasize and explore how sustaining peace should in practical terms include conflict prevention, and why and how this includes the full integration of rural communities and especially rural women.


Our Focus

This workshop focuses on integrating holistic goals for peacebuilding, conflict prevention and sustainable development.  It concentrates on transformation of lives in rural areas and the impact on women and girls. To this end, we will examine the possibilities for integrating the goals of community healing, of governance through peaceful discourse, and rural sustainable development through community supported agriculture and value-added crops, for nutrition, sustenance and income generation.  This includes transformation of causes of conflict, promotion of peace and the prevention of conflict through healing, empowering and transforming lives[1]of rural women, including internally displaced. Rural women endure victimization from: conflict; forced displacement[2]; domestic violence; lack of nutrition and employment.[3]




Ms. Yvonne Lodico:

Founder,  Grace Initiative Global

Introduction to Program  Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention:  Healing, Empowering and Transforming – for  Sustainable Development and Sustaining Peace

 H. E. Virachai Plasai: 

Ambassador of Kingdom of Thailand to the United States

    Insight to Community Agriculture: Thailand’s Experience in implementing the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP) to support rural community development as well as empowering women in rural areas


Dr. Massimo Tommasoli

Permanent Observer to the United Nations, International IDEA 

Fostering civic engagement and governance in rural areas for holistic and sustainable peace.

Mr. Robert Terry

Director, Merck Forest and Farmland

Training for Engagement, Efficient La Tra    Training of Trainers for Rural Development,            Efficient Land Resource Management


                                    Application for Rural Peacebuilding - Colombia

Mr. Gabriel  Laizer, Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)

Peace and Food Security: Investing in Resilience to Sustain Rural Livelihoods Amid Conflict in Colombia.


Diego García-Devis,

Senior Program Officer – Global Drug Policy, Open Society, Soros Foundation

Land management and active rural women participation in drug cultivation areas. The role of women in decision-making processes path to sustain programs aimed at reducing illicit crop production.


Ms. Juliana Valderrama

National Secretariat of Pastoral Social - Cáritas Colombiana

Mr. Mario Pineda

Kroc Institute, Cáritas Colombiana


Explanation of Current Peacebuilding in Rural Areas of Colombian 

Insight to application of Circles of Trust with Rural 

Women in Colombia, and reflection on Peacebuilding and Reconciliation in Choco

Commentary on Monitoring Localized Peacebuilding in Colombia




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Celebration of the 100th Anniversary Birthday of Nelson Mandela
6:00 PM18:00

Celebration of the 100th Anniversary Birthday of Nelson Mandela

UN GA High Level Summit honoring President Nelson Mandela during the anniversary of his 100th birthday and the UN Declaration for Decade of Peace

Speaker: Ambassador Isaiah Chabala,
Former Permanent Representative of Zambia

to the United Nations
in New York and in Geneva

 Organized by

the Dorset Village Library, 
Yale Alumni Nonprofit Alliance (YANA), New England, VT chapter, Grace Initiative Global

(October 12, 2018, 6:00 PM)

On the first day of the opening of 73rd UN General Assembly, world leaders convened to reflect on the 100th anniversary on the remarkable life of Nelson Mandela – a leader imbued with a moral force.[1]  His life was indeed remarkable. Not only did his leadership triumph over apartheid and revenge; his leadership exemplified all that was possible through, forgiveness, democratization, reconciliation – so that all people, “the exalted and the wretched of the earth, can live as equals.”[2] During this Summit, the UN Member States unanimously adopted the Nelson Mandela Decade of Peace, 2018-2028.

Even during his imprisonment, which few could bear, his steadfastness was a catalyst for the international community to move toward coexistence. It is no wonder he received the noble peace prize in 1993.[3]  The peaceful election leading to his presidency in 1994, truly symbolized a joyous aspiration for the human spirit. In this regard, his legacy clarified and confirmed that inter alia: discrimination is not acceptableapartheid of any kind is unlawful; and, violence to gain objectives is unjustifiable.

Therefore, for this humble event we will reflect on Nelson Mandela’s goals and achievements and “his capacity for seeing the best in people and his belief in the dignity of humankind.”[4]


[2]Sampson, Anthony,Mandela, The Authorized Biography(Alfred A. Knopf, 1999) p. 239.

[3]https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1993/index.html. He shared the prize withFrederik Willem de Klerk "for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa."

[4]Ibid., 516.

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to May 14

Harvard Retreat on Empathy, Story Telling and the New Humanistic Psychology

On May 11-14 2018, Harvard Program on Refugee Trauma and William James College organized a retreat in Manchester, VT, with support from Grace Initiative. The retreat brought experts world wide for sharing ideas on empathy and story telling. During the retreat, Dr. Richard Mollica launched the New Humanistic Psychology.

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5:30 PM17:30

Restorative Rural Agricultural Development - Circles of Trust

As published in VT Digger



UN CSW 62 – International and Vermont –

Practices for Rural Agricultural Development and Peacebuilding 

On March 22, the Permanent Mission of Iraq to the UN, the Al-Khoei Foundation and the Grace Initiative(of VT), along with organizational support from the Yale Alum Non-profit Alliance (YANA)New England and Vermont, organized a seminar for the UN Commission on Status of Women (CSW) 62 in New York.  This year the UN CSW focused on the empowerment of women and girls in rural development.  In view of this year’s theme, our seminar called for empowering women and girls in advancing peacebuilding through community agricultural practices, with international and Vermont perspectives.  The CSW seminar focused on an innovative practice that Grace Initiative with its partners, including in Colombia, is promoting is called a Restorative Rural Agricultural Development (RRAD). Here, Vermont practices, through inter alia farmers, CSA managers and State legislative representatives provide insight. An organic fertilizer company, GrewGrow Ventures was a sponsor.

Restorative rural agricultural development combines qualities of restorative justice, such as story-telling and healing with relationship building, engagement, social cohesion with community agriculture endeavors, which promote sustainable food security and livelihoods. This is especially important for women and girls, who suffer disproportionately during conflict. To this end, we firmly believe that agriculture offers a variety of healing benefits as it provides those involved with purpose and opportunity as well as physical and psychological benefits.”[1] . In this regard, sustainable production of food, land and water are the sources of community peacebuilding, rather than the drivers of conflict.   According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), food insecurity and lack of water are a source for the rise of conflicts, exacerbated by climate-related shocks[2]. Our project aims to promote conflict transformation while providing a local source of food security and livelihoods. 

The CSW seminar, moderated by Ms. Jessica Scott of UN Sustainable Development Network, 

included international and Vermont speakers.  From the Permanent Mission of Iraq, Mr. Frias Alkhaqaniexplained the hardship that rural women face in Iraq, especially now after the war against terrorists. In this regard, RRAD has applications in Iraq. Ms. Rita Reddy, senior UN Gender Advisor, gave examples of women’s achievements in promoting community rural development in countries like Viet Nam, Malaysia and Timor-Leste.  Ambassador Isaiah Chalaba (Zambia)endorsed the notion of RRAD as it combines spirituality and healing with community agriculture.  He discussed current rural programs for women and girls in Zambia combining community agriculture and education.

While attendees appreciated the international speakers, many found the Vermont speakers particularly compelling especially its legislative efforts in promoting sustainable agriculture as well as its innovative community supported agriculture (CSA) practices. Representative Amy Sheldon(Middlebury/Addison 1), who participates on the VT legislative agriculture committee, discussed community goals and challenges in advancing local organic branding and food production. Also, she explained a variety efforts to promote VT farming and locally sourced food, through inter alia: the VT Food Bank; the link of fresh food from VT farms to schools and hospitals; the mission of the VT Land Conservation; and, the goals of the Women’s Agricultural Network (UVM). Also, Representative Sheldon discussed the hardship that dairy farmers face. Ms. Heidi Lynchof Vermont Farmers Food Center (Rutland) discussed VFFC programs for health care, its links with hospitals and the community to ensure nutritious and healthy food sourcing. Heidi also manages VFFC NEA program on community farm stories.  Finally, Ms. Amy Frostof Circle Mountain Farm (Guilford) concluded the program with soul searching existential questions such as the links of community farming and the meaning of wealth and the capacity to address life’s vulnerabilities and sudden shocks through farming. Also, Amy explained a link with CSAs and social justice. The Vermont speakers’ presentations exemplified local applications for global peacebuilding. As Dr. Susan Sgorbati, Director CAPA, Bennington College stated, "It is more imperative than ever to find ways to share information, collaborate on ecosystem projects, and build a world where we can providea safe and healthy environment for our women and children."

Ms. Sahar Alsahlani (Interfaith Farm Project and Khoei Foundation) and Ms. Yvonne Lodico, the Initiative for Governance, Reconciliation, Agriculture, and Coexistence (Grace Initiative), a non-profit registered in Vermont.




                           United Nations Commission on Status of Women 62                                                 

                                                    United Nations Church Center

                                                            777 UN Plaza, New York, NY

Restorative Rural Agricultural Development

for Empowering Women and Girls and Advancing Peacebuilding

Concept Note

Our presentation for the UNCSW focused on an Alternative Approach for Empowering Women and Girls in Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention through innovative community agricultural practices. Our approach is called a Restorative Rural Agricultural Development (RRAD). The programme focuses on women and girls’ leadership for rebuilding communities through healing and engagement combined with agricultural practices that comprise a purpose of fostering sustainable and resilient communities for an enduring peace.  Grace Initiative wishes to thank a sponsor GreenGrow Ventures[1], an organic fertilizer company based in Demopolis, AL., exporting to 22 countries, including all over Africa and Middle East.

Restorative rural agricultural development builds from the necessity for healing and for rebuilding of relationships, communities and societies after conflict, violence and extreme poverty. Its goals are transformational with objectives of community reconciliation, sustainability, and resilience.  

In addition to healing, community agricultural provides local food sources, providing directly nutrition and sustenance.  According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), malnutrition and food insecurity is on the rise. The food security situation has worsened in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, South-Eastern Asia and Western Asia, and deteriorations have been observed most notably in situations of conflict and conflict combined with droughts or floods. The number of conflicts is also on the rise. Exacerbated by climate-related shocks, conflicts seriously affect food security and are a cause of much of the recent increase in food insecurity.  To this end, our project aims to promote peacebuilding and to provide a local source of food security.[2]

Our proposed programme proposes a restorative justice programme that provides truth telling, healing, combined with sustainable agricultural mechanisms for women and girls who are reintegrating back into civil society after conflict and or extreme hardship due to violence or criminal activity. During conflict and violence, women and girls are at high risk of discrimination, gender-violence and extreme poverty. Also, when they reintegrate they do so with substantial trauma and this trauma needs to be addressed. 

As part of the healing and sustainability process, we propose community sustainable farming. We firmly believe that agriculture offers a variety of healing benefits as it provides those involved with purpose and opportunity as well as physical and psychological benefits.”[3] For example, through the CSA, women will learn about sustainable and organic farming, which in turn, will provide them with skill building, sustainable consumption and income alternatives for them, their families and their communities. This will ultimately result in high self-esteem for women who can become leaders for peace.

In addition, the program provides an alternative and cost-effective mechanism for facilitating and fostering peacebuilding through innovative community agricultural practices. This program combines qualities of restorative justice, such as story-telling and healing with relationship building, engagement, social cohesion with community agriculture endeavors which promote sustainable and resilient agricultural practices [4].  RRAD considers land management, alternative low cost energy and green technology, and programs such as community supported agriculture (CSA).  It will examine holistic policies and alternative development

In summary, the RRAD programme offers an innovative peacebuilding for enabling a sustainable peacebuilding. which mitigates drivers of conflict and helping to prevent conflict.  The approach for is applicable for programs which include civil society and faith communities, local governance, gender equity, and youth engagement. The programme’s goal is empowerment for women and girls for rural agricultural development for sustainable and lasting peace.

Achieving Global Goals

The restorative rural agricultural development program integrates global goals such as 2030 Agenda; food security; human rights notions of dignity and justice; climate change imperatives; action plans for preventing violent extremism; UN SCR 1325; the UN CSW62; the Beijing Platform; SDGs 1 (elimination of poverty), 5 (gender equality), 12 (responsible consumption), 15 (life on land) and 16 (peaceful and inclusive societies).

[1]  http://greengrowventures.com

[2] http://www.fao.org/3/a-I7787e.pdf

[3] http://www.farmvetco.org/about-us/our-vision-mission-goals/


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12:30 PM12:30

United Nations Commission on Status of Women

The Permanent Mission of Iraq, the Al-Khoei Foundation, the Grace Initiative, the Yale Alum for Non-profit Alliance (YANA) New England                                   

United Nations Commission on Status of Women

                                                               March 22, 2018

                                                              12:30pm -2:00 pm

                                                    United Nations Church Center

                                                            777 UN Plaza, New York, NY

Restorative Rural Agricultural Development

for Empowering Women and Girls and Advancing Peacebuilding

UNCSW focuses on an Alternative Approach for Empowering Women and Girls in Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention through innovative community agricultural practices. Our approach is called a Restorative Rural Agricultural Development (RRAD). The programme focuses on women and girls’ leadership for rebuilding communities through healing and engagement combined with agricultural practices that comprise a purpose of fostering sustainable and resilient communities for an enduring peace.

Restorative rural agricultural development builds from the necessity for healing and for rebuilding of relationships, communities and societies after conflict, violence and extreme poverty. Its goals are transformational with objectives of community reconciliation, sustainability, and resilience.   



Ms. Sahar Alsahlani, Al-Khoei Foundation                 Welcome


Ms. Yvonne Lodico, Founder, Grace Initiative            Welcome



Ms.  Jessica Scott, UN SDG Academy                                   Moderator


Ambassador Isaiah Chabala,                                      Visionary Empowerment for Zambia         

Ministry of Foreign Affairs,

Ms. Zaytoon Faraj,

Iraqi Delegation UN CSW                               Iraq’s Strategy for rural women and girls     

Ms. Rita Reddy, UN DPKO Adviser                             Discussion on Women  in Timor-Leste

Former, Gender Adviser, UNMIT                              

Former, Director of Civil Affairs,


                                                                                                                                             Yvonne Lodico                                                             Introduction to Vermont goals for women (YANA VT)                                                                      and rural development

Representative Amy Sheldon                                     Legislative initiatives for inclusive,

Middlebury/Addison                                                   sustainable development.

Ms. Heidi Lynch                                                           Community Supported Agriculture (CSA),

Vermont Farmers                                                       as a provider of health care                                                                                                                                 

Ms. Amy Frost                                                            CSA and Social Justice

Circle Mountain Farm


Ms. Sahar Alshlani                                                      Conclusion


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Boston Forum on Coexistence in a Democratic Society
9:30 AM09:30

Boston Forum on Coexistence in a Democratic Society

  • Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry (map)
  • Google Calendar ICS

The Initiative for Governance, Reconciliation and Coexistence (Grace Initiative) is convening a Forum to address intensifying differences in the US regarding the rule of law, fundamental freedoms, and inclusion.  The Forum draws from a recent Pew Research Study that recently found that Americans are more divided than ever over about social issues such as safety net, race, and immigration. To develop policy and to protect fundamental freedoms and rights, we need to find common ground for addressing collective challenges in our democratic society.

Our goal is to develop a strategy for a road map for coexistence in one of the world’s oldest democracies – the US. We hope to take up concerns, hopes and fears.  The Forum will provide a platform for strategies for promoting dialogue, countering extremism, and fostering healing to halt the rise of divisiveness. Also, we will examine how the globally endorsed 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals, especially for peaceful and inclusive societies, applies in the US.

This Forum will comprise of international and national experts in democracy, coexistence, immigration, psychology, and social justice. Speakers include:

Dr. Massimo Tommasoli, Permanent Observer at the United Nations for International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA); Dr. Theodore Johnson, Brandeis University, The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Associate Professor in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence; Rabbi Or Rose, Director, The Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership, Ms. Marion Davis, Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Coalition (MIRA Coalition); Mr. Syed Meesam Razvi, al-Kohei Foundation;  Representative from the Mayor’s Office.  Also, Greta Hagen of UU Urban Ministry will welcome everyone.

Please RSVP at: contact@grace-initiative.org. No cost, but donations welcomed.

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5:30 PM17:30

Grace Initiative co-develops and sponsors side event at the UN on Reconciliation and Peace in Colombia

You are cordially invited to attend an event following up on Pope Francis’ September visit to Colombia that the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN is sponsoring with the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the UN, Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic
Peacebuilding Network, the Krok Institute for International Peace Studies and Grace Initiative.

Below please find a poster with a list of speakers as well as a concept note with the background.


Event on
Reconciliation and Peace in Colombia:
The Impact of the Visit of Pope Francis

UN Headquarters Conference Room 12
1500-1700 • 20 October 2017

From September 5-11, 2017, Pope Francis visited Colombia, delivering messages and­­ prayers for national reconciliation and for a sustainable peace in Colombia.  The Pope’s visit — which included Bogotá, Villavicencio, Medellin and Cartagena — sought to reinforce the Final Peace Accord and to heal the wounds of the past, transcending the distrust and divisions generated by the unfortunate 52-year civil war.
With the signing of the Final Peace Accord between the Colombia Government and Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) in November 2016,[1] one of the world’s longest-running armed conflicts came to an end. Included in this Peace Accord was the responsibility to reintegrate thousands of former guerrilla fighters and foster national reconciliation.[2]  The Accord embraces all sectors of society so that the country can “achieve a just and lasting peace for all Colombians.”[3] In view of the magnitude of commitment required, the Pope aimed to reinforce the ongoing peace process.
As a member of the Latin American community with a global heart and a desire to accompany those who suffer, struggle and seek sustainable solutions for a life of real social development, Pope Francis has long been concerned with the needs and rights of the people of Colombia and sought to bring this care and concrete recommendations to the country last month — to the government, the Church, victims and violators, farmers and families. His solidarity of encounter did not at all mean he was intending to come with "answers" but rather with absolute respect for the simple and profound questions, asked so often through the decades — and now even more urgently in these recent days — by women, men, children, youth, wise elders.
The purpose of the Pope's visit, as of this UN Side Event, was not to pass judgment but rather to focus on reconciliation and authentic restoration of right relationships at every level of society — and especially in those remote places or circumstances where indigenous peoples could too easily be neglected, further violated further, or even feared for the depth of their understandable anguish. Indeed, he came to Colombia to state boldly, clearly that the life of every person matters, that every path to peace must be walked carefully and respectfully by all stakeholders, while noting that the task is daunting, perhaps dangerous, and indeed delicate as politics, processes and policies are unfolding.
The Pope's visit underscored that a focus on and shared responsibility for people first and always must be the method to ensure that there be human, integrated implementation of the Peace Accord, one that cares for the people, the land, the culture, and the next generation as one family enjoying a fruitful and safe common home. As part of his appeal in Colombia, the Pope Francis called for prayers for the 6,000 victims of violence and the millions displaced. He also called for a peace that also protects the environment as well as prayed for the end of human trafficking and all forms of modern day slavery and emphasized the universality of respect for human dignity. Indeed, with the arduous process of healing, with ongoing difficult negotiations, intense legitimate investigations, the need for justice, tolerance, patience, one of the most important concrete impacts from Pope Francis’ visit may to be remind everyone that “together we accomplish more for each other.”
While the country has achieved fundamental components of the Accord, challenges and obstacles to securing sustainable peace remain. Even with the FARC disarmed, critical elements of the Accord must make further progress for political, economic and social cohesion, such as an inclusive reintegration (reincorporation) of the ex-combatants; securing human rights and transitional justice; promoting economic development, especially in rural areas; and ensuring national security in the countryside, particularly in the zones of former guerrilla influence. Along with Colombia’s internal challenges, the increase in refugees from Venezuela has caused further strains. There is also the need for peaceful eradication of 188,000 hectares of coca production through adequate compensation and crop alternatives at a time when, according to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Colombia is now producing more cocaine than ever before.
International support is necessary to ensure that the goals of the Peace Accords advance stably, sustainably, legally, and holistically. Civil society, international organizations and the private sector similarly are urged to more engaged to help ensure that peace in Colombia is an irreversible process.
This Side Event will be able to focus on the progress made and the many challenges that remain.

Structure of the Event
The panel event will feature those with experience on the ground in helping to achieve the Peace Accords and implement them. The following are confirmed speakers:

  • Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN

  • H.E. María Emma Mejía Velez, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the UN

  • Msgr. Héctor Fabio Henao, Director of Caritas Colombiana and of the National Secretariat of Pastoral and Social Outreach for the Episcopal Conference of Colombia

  • Professor Gerard Powers, Coordinator of the Catholic Peacebuilding Network, Director of Catholic Peacebuilding Studies for the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

  • Mr. Joseph Cornelius Donnelly, Head of Delegation, Caritas Internationalis (Moderator)

RSVP and Questions

To RSVP for the event, please do so online by 4 pm on October 18, 2017 at the following link:


For questions or more information, please contact Fr. Roger Landry at 212.370.7885 x127 or rlandry@holyseemission.org
1. Acuerdo Final para la Terminación del conflict y la construccióon de una paz estable y durabera, 24 November 2016. Point 3, “la dejación de las armas y preparar la institucionalidad y al país para la reincorporación de las FARC-EP a la vida civil.”
2. https://www.usip.org/publications/2017/02/current-situation-colombia
3. https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2016/12/264709.htm

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5:30 PM17:30

Healing the Invisible Wounds of the Past

– Sunderland Event–

Special Event
for the opening of
Grace Initiative in Bogotá, Colombia


To celebrate the opening of Grace Initiative in Bogotá,  Grace Initiative held a special reception featuring a world renown expert in psycho-social healing: Dr. Richard F. Mollica. Dr. Mollica will discuss: Healing the Invisible Wounds of the Past: “in a cruel and violent world, there is hope – we can do more than survive- we can find strength and healing no matter what we have experienced.

Our mission in Colombia is to support reconciliation through Centers for Social Transformation and Economic Empowerment. We see agriculture as a healing mechanism, providing a path for responsible consumption, community decision-making, sustainable farming, and income alternatives to life beyond conflict. To this end, Vermont’s community centered agriculture and decision-making have special resonance for Colombia’s path for healing and peace-building.

Richard F. Mollica, MD, MAR is the Founding Director of the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma (HPRT) of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and the author Healing Invisible Wounds: Paths to Hope and Recovery in a Violent World. He received his medical degree from the University of New Mexico and completed his Psychiatry residency at Yale Medical School. While at Yale he also trained in epidemiology and received a philosophy degree from the Divinity School. Over the past two decades HPRT have pioneered the mental health care of survivors of mass violence and torture.


Following the discussion, we will serve farm to table delicacies and wine and VT beer.

*Your contribution of $30.00 to defray the costs would be greatly appreciated

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to Apr 1

Women's Economic Empowerment

– Invitation –

A Discussion with a Delegation of Women Ambassadors from the United Nations: In Honor of the United Nations Commission on Status of Women

Friday: 31 March, 2017 Northshire Bookstore
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Saturday: 1 April 2017, Bennington College, CAPA
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Vermont Farmers Food Center
1:00PM - 2:00 PM

The Theme of the Discussion is on Women's Economic Empowerment
in Peaceful and Inclusive Societies

In celebration of International Women’s Day and the UN Commission on Status of Women (UN CSW), the Grace Initiative—with the Center for the Advancement Public Action at Bennington College, Northshire Bookstore, and Vermont Farmers Food Center—is organizing a discussion on the theme of Women’s Economic Empowerment and Peaceful and Inclusive Societies. This event follows the successful G77 retreat in Vermont in September 2016 on Sufficiency Economy Philosophy and Sustainable and Resilient communities, under the chairmanship of Thailand. To this end, a small delegation of Women Ambassadors from the United Nations will participate in interactive discussions in Manchester, Bennington, and Rutland focused on the recent UN CSW.

They will connect its theme of Women’s Empowerment to the 2030 Agenda for Development goal for peaceful and inclusive societies.

Friday, March 31 // Northshire Bookstore, Manchester // 6:00 pm
Saturday, April 1 // CAPA Symposium, Bennington College // 11:00 am
Saturday, April 1 // Vermont Farmers Food Center, Rutland // 1:00 pm

For further information, please email: contact@grace-initiative.org


The Vermont event takes place on the heels of the recently concluded two-week UN Commission on Status of Women (CSW). The first meeting of the CSW took place at Lake Success, New York, in February 1947 and it has been held every year since then. For the first CSW, all 15 government representatives were women. The CSW forged a close relationship with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). One of the first goals of the CSW was to contribute to the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The CSW successfully argued against references to “men” as a synonym for humanity, and succeeded in introducing new, more inclusive language.

The Commission drafted the early international conventions on women’s rights, such as the 1953 Convention on the Political Rights of Women, which was the first international law instrument to recognize and protect the political rights of women, and the first international agreements on women’s rights in marriage, namely the 1957 Convention on the Nationality of Married Women, and the 1962 Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages.

In 1963, the UN General Assembly requested the Commission to draft a Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which the Assembly adopted in 1967. This declaration became the legally binding Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). In 1999, the Optional Protocol to the Convention introduced the right of petition for women victims of discrimination.


Every year, women and men from ministries of foreign affairs, government positions, and civil society from around the world convene at the UN to discuss, deliberate, and develop positions on CSW thematic issues. This year, the theme focused on the Empowerment of Women, and the changing role of women in the workplace. Further, it took into consideration the Millennium Development Goals for Women and Girls.

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6:00 PM18:00

Supporting Enduring Peace in Colombia

CSW Side Event on “Supporting Enduring Peace in Colombia through Female ex-combatants’ reintegration”


Thursday, 23 March 2017, 13:15 – 14:30
Venue: Conference Room B, United Nations Headquarters, New York


On 30 November 2016, the Colombian Congress approved a revised peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), officially ending Colombia’s 52-year long civil war.

The revised accord1 is both holistic and inclusive, keeping victims at the forefront and paying particular attention to the needs of women, minorities, youth, and the LGBTI population.2 In this regard, it entails a transformation of community relations and individual identity, redressing the loss of dignity and life suffered during the conflict. The peace agreement includes central pillars of a peace process, such as: security, especially in terms for demobilization, disarmament and reintegration, justice and reconciliation, local governance and development.3 Also, it addresses the specific needs of rural communities, whose suffering and healing is distinct from those living in urban areas.4

The accord has components, which are unique to Colombia’s civil war and impact on both sides. For example, it offers another element to breaking generations of cycle of violence through reparations. Further, the accord calls for FARC members—who carried out a minority of homicides and displacements but a majority of kidnappings, landmine use, and child recruitment, to participate in reparations and tell victims the truth about what happened to them and their loved ones.

In addition, the agreement maintains a component to integrate a political role for FARC. Under the agreement, FARC will develop into a political party, receiving 10 automatic congressional seats (5 in the 166-person House of Representatives, 5 in the 102-person Senate) between 2018 and 2026 (pages 70-71 in the new accord).5

The historic peace deal between the FARC and the Colombian government holds unique challenges for the thousands of female combatants reintegrating into Colombian society.

Women guerrillas made up about 40 percent of the FARC and about 25 percent of the ELN; about 20 percent of leftist guerrillas who participated in the government reintegration between 2003 and 2012 programme were women.6 Thus, it is anticipated that there are upwards of 6,000 female ex-combatants, who will be reintegrating into civil society, many of whom have experienced significant gender-based trauma during their time in the FARC.7

To this end, we will hold a side event on the reintegration of female ex-combatants at the Commission on Status of Women (CSW) on 23 March at the UN. The session will focus on the implementation of the security component, Disarmament, Demobilization, Reinsertion and Reintegration (DDRR) within the peacebuilding process, with special attention to the healing and transformation of former female combatants, from guerrilla fighter to participating members of an active, peaceful and democratic society.

In this regard, this CSW side event will examine the needs of former female combatants and their transformation from guerrilla fighters to leaders, contributing to the economic development and promoting community trust building. This will include a discussion on the promotion of reconciliation and the improvement of social vibrancy in receptor communities,8 especially in the areas of governance and political participation which can impact diverse areas ranging from legislative representation, rural engagement, to community service delivery (e.g. as entrepreneurs and managers of community supported agriculture [CSA]).


Mr. Massimo Tommasoli, Permanent Observer for International IDEA to the UN

Ms. Yvonne Lodico, Founder, Grace Initiative

Ms. Delphine Mechoulan, Policy Analyst, International Peace Institute
Prof. Kimberly Theidon, Henry J. Leir Professor of International Humanitarian Studies, The Fletcher School, Tufts University

Followed by an Interactive Discussion

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6:00 PM18:00


The Grace Initiative Participates in the first Macrorrueda for Reconciliation in Colombia

30 November to 1 December 2016 – Cali

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5:30 PM17:30

Retreat on Sustainability

The Retreat on Sustainability in Vermont
30 Sept - 1 Oct 2016

Carried out with The Group of 77 countries, The Initiative for Governance, Reconciliation and Coexistence (Grace Initiative), and the Hildene House. The Retreat took place over a two-day period in Manchester Vermont.

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4:00 PM16:00

Workshop at the UN

Workshop on Sufficiency Economy Philosophy and Sustainable Peace Processes: Ensuring Enduring Peace
24 June 2016


The Permanent Mission of Colombia to the United Nations
The Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Thailand to the United Nations
Initiative for Governance, Reconciliation and Coexistence (GRACE Initiative)

Cordially invite
Permanent Representatives/Permanent Observers, Deputy Permanent Representatives/Deputy Permanent Observers, Experts

to a
Workshop on Sufficiency Economy Philosophy and Sustainable Peace Processes: Ensuring Enduring Peace

Friday 24 June 2016
04:00 - 06:00 pm
At Conference Room 6
the United Nations Headquarters

Download Program

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