Thousands of people came for the 2-day event

Saturday October 1st, 2022

The “Normandy for Peace” World Forum, initiated in 2018 by the Region of Normandy, is an annual event dedicated to building and maintaining peace in the world. From the very start, our NGO Le Projet Imagine has been closely associated with this major event. As a member of the Scientific and Strategic Council, Frédérique Bedos is personally involved in organizing and facilitating the Forum.


“In these days where we are helplessly witnessing forced annexation, an odious democratic sham that we are well aware raises an already scarlet threat by another notch, the theme of the 5th edition of the World Forum “Normandy for Peace” resounds with great force: “Down with walls! Down with these confinements that lead to wars!”.

We are left to note the very relative reality of these borders, which are nevertheless underscored by fortifications that seem indestructible to us and which in the end are just an architectural translation of our fears and fragilities.

Faced with these dated delusions, people keep engaging, and tirelessly reach out to those who are drowning, bring food to the hungry, face all sorts of dangers to connect with those who are dying… Others engage in dialogue, they negotiate, they strive to find new paths of understanding… in short, they are reinventing diplomacy.

They may be idealistic, but they are not naïve! There is no need to be radically “No Border” to commit to an open approach.

Proof of this is the subtle vision expressed by Farhad Khosrokhavar at the end of our first morning in plenary session. In a speech that was vibrantly humane, he explained to us that walls make it impossible not only to access others but also to access ourselves. However, in order to be able to build a bridge toward others, a space of distancing is necessary. He therefore advocates a kind of LIMES area where we can exchange with others with all their differences, as well as with all the ways in which they resemble us.

May this wisdom bring light to these dark times!”

© Eric Biernacki/Région Normandie

An audience that included all ages and backgrounds flocked to the various conferences, to understand international issues and search out keys for working toward a pacified society. 

Many students from middle school, high school and university were present, all the more eager for information that the international news is worrying: Ukraine, Iran, Afghanistan… Walls rising all over the world, 5 times more numerous today than at the beginning of the 20th century. This topic of walling-in is one that many geopolitical experts, representatives of governments, of academia and civil society have been exploring through leading NGOs (MSF Doctors Without Borders, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, Action Against Hunger, SOS Mediterranean…) during two plenary sessions co-moderated by Frédérique Bedos and Francois-Xavier Priollaud, Vice-President of the Normandy region.

Center: Vadym Omelchenko, Ambassador of Ukraine. Frédérique Bedos ask him what everyone is thinking: “Putin has called for general mobilization, isn’t this the time to fear the worst?”

“Walls, obstacles to peace”

Whether tangible or invisible, walls are a source of separation, confinement, exclusion, fragility and ultimately, transgression… According to the political scientist Bertrand Badie, they stem from a reactionary attitude against the dissolution of sovereignties in globalization, against change that is movement, unlike walls that are static.

© Eric Biernacki/Région Normandie

So why walls? For what purpose? In the different fascinating, even moving, presentations, speakers mentioned political walls (Berlin…), defense walls (the Great Wall of China…), walls for protection against terrorism (Israel) or illegal immigration (the Tortilla Boarder), walls for segregation (Gated Communities…), as well as legislative walls, the walls of indifference or money… With a recurring question: to what extent does the protection of territories prevail over human rights, starting with the right to life? Speakers paid tribute to citizen commitment and engagement, as well as to the courage required to leave everything and decide to step over those walls! Courage or despair? “Immersion in a hopeless territory surrounded by walls is a mechanism for manufacturing violence“, a ferment for radicality and fanaticism. This observation by the President of Action Against Hunger was further fine-tuned by Farhad Khosrokhavar, retired professor at the EHESS, a specialist of jihadism. His remarkable talk must be viewed again and again!

▼ Find the content of these educational exchanges: “Walls are obstacles to peace” ▼

“Bring down the walls!” 

Introduced by the Minister of the Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu, this second plenary session highlighted the tools that make it possible to tear down walls: diplomacy, trade and culture, which includes education and civic engagement. 
This being said, we realize that commercial imperatives do not necessarily have an influence on geopolitical interests, as demonstrated by the iconoclast Maxence Brischoux, author of “Commerce et force”. Nicole Gnesotto, Professor emeritus of the CNAM and Vice-President of the Jacques Delors Institute, denounced “these walls that we have in our heads“, while ambassador Delphine O emphasized the current regression of women’s rights. Young Guinean Hadja Idrissa, who actively campaigns against forced marriages, energetically called to combat violence against women, and not only on International Women’s Day.

▼ View their presentations: “Breaking down the walls” ▼

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