Page 1


The Iceberg book series was inspired by the Perception Change Project’s Iceberg Infographic, a visual demonstration of what the media chooses to broadcast when reporting on the United Nations in the light of global challenges, compared to what the reality is.

The production of this book has been made possible by generous financial support from the Fondation pour Genève. Special thanks go to the Division of Conference Management at UN Geneva for editing, translating and printing the books, and to art students in Memphis, Tennessee, United States of America, for illustrating them.

Printed by the Production and Support Service at UN Geneva, 2023.

Illustrator: Ashley Webster



the Iceberg Collection





Climate Change





The series is created by the Perception Change Project team in the Office of the Director-General at UN Geneva.


What defines peace? Is it defined by the absence of war or does it go beyond that?

Peace is so much more than the absence of conflict or violence. It means living in harmony with one another, with respect and mutual understanding for our counterparts. Peace is where justice, equality, inclusivity, and human rights are the pillars on which societies stand on, because without these, there is cause for hatred, conflicts and violence to erupt. As Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres, once said, “All that we strive for as a human family – dignity and hope, progress and prosperity – depends on peace. But peace depends on us.”

With conflict all around us, it is hard to believe that this world is in reach. Instead of a world at peace, we are living in a world in pieces. And while there may be improvements in some regions, there are growing instabilities and uncertainties in other parts of the world. While the absolute number of war losses has been declining since the end of World War II, conflict and violence are currently on the rise, with many protracted conflicts today waged between non-state actors such as political militias, criminal, and international terrorist groups. Unresolved regional tensions, a breakdown in the rule of law, weak state institutions and the scarcity of resources exacerbated by climate change have become dominant drivers of conflict in the 21st century.

The World Bank estimates that, by 2030, two thirds of the people living under the poverty line will be in conflictaffected areas. Today, a person living in a war-torn country is 10 times more likely to be poor than a person living in a country that has not been in conflict in the past 20 years. This vicious circle of war and poverty can only be broken if the root causes of conflicts are addressed.

In 2015, 193 UN Member States unanimously adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which provides a blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. The Agenda consists of 17 interrelated Sustainable Development Goals. One of the targets for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16: promote peace, justice and strong institutions is to “significantly reduce all forms of violence and related deaths everywhere”. This requires everyone at every level to actively build peace in their own capacities, and that no initiative is too insignificant to matter. In other words, building peace is everyone’s business.

In fact, it is increasingly agreed upon that peace agreements are only sustainable when they are supported by local citizens. This means that initiatives at a grassroots level are the essential building blocks to lasting peace. When local people take the lead in building peace, they are making decisions based on knowledge of the context on what measures will or will not work. It is them who have a greater knowledge and profound understanding of the societal dynamics and other factors in their respective communities that will promote or prohibit peacebuilding efforts. Locally-led initiatives requires a long-term commitment and trusted relationship with national authorities, as well as flexible partnerships between different sectors of the international community, such as humanitarian, peacebuilding and development actors.

The United Nations, in its everyday efforts to promote sustained peace and security, is strongly committed to directly and meaningfully engage with local populations and communities. The organization orchestrates the international response and ensures a better coordination between humanitarian, peacebuilding, and development actors, who work to improve lives around the world so that everyone, everywhere can live peaceably and without fear.


When I was a young boy, I would play football with my best friend, Damir, and some of our neighbors. Almost every day after school, we would go to a public open space between trees where we marked out a field to play. Often times, we were losing track of time, and our parents would call us home to do homework.

I have loved football from a young age. If I had a bad day at school, it helped lift my spirits when they were low. It helped me express myself when there were no words. I have lots of happy memories from playing football.


My best memories are of the intercommunity matches that were held at the end of our country’s annual spring festival to celebrate the end of winter. It was a 5-day event to feast on warm pancakes, watch traditional dances, listen to live music, and partake in other cultural activities. People from different communities would travel to this festival. It was these crowds that would stay to watch our big football game at the end.


The year the violence started, the festivals, the football matches and other social gatherings stopped occurring.


I was 12 years old when the civil conflict started. Everything changed abruptly. People were either outside participating in the violent clashes, or they were staying indoors to protect their families.

It was not the first time there had been protests because of socio-economic tensions, but this time was different. It was the most brutal and longest lasting conflict that I’ve lived through and lives were lost. So much hatred and distrust between neighbors and whole communities developed during those days and will take long time to heal.


For decades, our country had been grappling with poverty and deep-rooted inequalities. There had been many protests about the corruption at all levels of power and the rising inequality in the country. Although all citizens wanted justice and equality to reign in the country, different people acted out in different ways. Some, whose lives were mostly affected, initiated violent protests. Others, although they were worried about the growing income inequality and did not necessarily agree with the government’s decisions, were against violence which feared would lead the country down a path to total lawlessness. One side believed that social-economic changes can be made only through force and vigorous protests, while the other believed that much needed reforms can be implemented only through negotiations with government and consistently warned against shedding innocent blood.

After the controversial presidential elections, just before my twelfth birthday, a new president was inaugurated, while the former president was arrested on corruption charges. This fueled violent protests from certain communities, and it split the country even more. It was not just a divide between rich and poor. Communities that previously had good relations with each other and common political understanding, became enemies.


After six months when the street protests had ended, the people who remained in my community, were not the same. Their jovial spirits were no longer. It was a horrible and lonely time to live through.

My biggest nightmare had come true when I received a phone call from a friend, telling me that my brave and honorable friend, Damir, had been killed during the riots in his protests against the government for more justice and equality.


Without the motivation that Damir brought to the players as our football team captain, and without the enthusiasm or trust across different teams, we jointly decided to cancel our big football game until trust had been rebuilt in our country. This felt like an impossible goal. I thought to myself that intercommunity football would never be a part of our country anymore.

There was a glimmer of hope when our community leaders announced that the spring festival was due to take place. I, and some of my teammates, went to the festival. Unlike previous times, the event was poorly attended, and didn’t carry a light, whimsical atmosphere that it had previously been known for. It felt like our country was in a season of darkness and gloom.


I, Vimal, was frustrated with seeing our people this way. I wanted to see rejuvenated spirits in the lives of people again and in my own life, so I decided to go on a mission to turn this country around, one person at a time, until the only fight left in us, was the fight for peace.

I decided to get onto the football field again, the one place where people could come together and unite themselves and where we could, for a moment, forget about the painful past. I wanted to bring oneness back into our community so that we could rebuild trust between each other and could laugh and have fun together like we once did.


I created a football team for peace and unity. I invited friends and neighbors of different ethnicities and ages. No one was too young, too old, too religious, or not religious enough, no one was too upper class or lower class. Everyone was invited. At first there were few of us, but within weeks, more and more were seeking to join, including those in whom we had lost trust.

Football taught the players a lot of things. It taught us to rely on our team players, to lose well, to always treat the opposition equally and with respect.

Football helped improve the lives of everybody. Over time, people started sharing stories and jokes again. Our football field was more than a place to kick a ball. It was a field of new beginnings, a place where different people could come together around a common interest and a common goal.


The field was the start of conversations between those who were hurt and those who caused hurt. Although it triggered traumatic emotions from the past, where sometimes fear, anger and resentment would arise, it was the start of acknowledging and accepting the past. It was the start of friendships. And over many, many games, it slowly became the place of reparation and forgiveness.

In memory of citizens who died during the conflict in our country, our football team initiated a campaign to install a memorial wall in our city. Supported by our local authorities, the monument was erected nearby the stadium to remember our lost compatriots and local citizens, including my friend Damir.


Soon after my 16th birthday as we were coming out of winter, we held our first official tournament: Football for Peace and Unity. It was the very first time since the start of the conflict that former adversaries came together in a friendly and festive environment. The feeling of oneness was back. The sportsman’s spirit was alive in all of us. Supporters from different communities filled the stadium. The atmosphere was vibrant. There was a sense that there was more trust and confidence between people.


It was a close game with strong players on all sides. The winning team managed to score the final goal in the last seconds of the game. The game ended in a friendly manner with a meal shared between both teams. Our communities once again felt like a united society, despite the painful past. The following day we saw a TV report about the match. Thanks to a nationwide broadcast, people from different communities of our country saw that it was possible to come back to normal life without denying what happened to us throughout these turbulent years. In parallel to these local peacebuilding efforts, our government implemented some important institutional reforms, as a result of which the government became more transparent and accountable to the people it serves.


Football for Peace and Unity wasn’t the only means of rebuilding a peaceful society. It was one of many grassroots initiatives. But through football I have seen that sport has the power to help reunifying a country torn apart by violence, to shine light in dark places, and to empower people to choose forgiveness for the sake of healing the wounds of war.

Like my compatriots in different communities, I have started looking to the future of my country again.


Although Vimal is a fictional story, there are many real-life stories like his, of men and women, boys and girls who have survived a war and initiated programs to rebuild their country and reconcile with their adversaries for the sake of creating a peaceful society.


After the Rwandan genocide, Monica took part in a reconciliation initiative. The project brought together genocide survivors, former combatants and ex-prisoners to help build peace and trust among them.

Monica shared her story with International Alert, telling them how the project was helping her come to terms with losing her husband and children and how it was helping her to rebuild her life.

“Initially, when the community facilitator came, we’d say: what are they talking about? Who would forgive? But look at me now. I sit together with the people who killed my children,” says Monica.

“I feel like I have been relieved. Being part of the dialogue club and having trauma counselling has helped me accept what happened to me, move on and accept my family. I feel better now and have no fear like I used to. I feel like a burden has been lifted off me. The fact that the club continues to meet every week, without additional support, makes me feel safe”.

“After the genocide I didn’t have a place to stay. By building me a home, the dialogue club members (both Hutu and Tutsi) made me feel like I belong. It won’t bring back my children, but it will help me feel part of the community again.”

International Alert 28

“My name is Amal. I am a mother of three. During one airstrike, I rushed with my children to a basement underneath a half-destroyed building. My children were terrified by the devastating noise caused by bombs and were screaming, crying loudly, trying to grab my hands, legs and dress.

I tried everything to calm them down, but they kept crying and holding me tight and using my dress to hide their faces. On this occasion, I had taken copies of a magazine to the basement with me. I took it out and started to read some stories. After three or four sentences, my children stopped crying and started listening. After a minute, they looked at me, exploring my face and my expressions while reading the story.

Then, remarkably, they sat down and started to listen to the story with full attention. They began to smile and ask questions about it. The atmosphere changed from being in a shelter avoiding bombs to a reading session in a kindergarten. All the children were listening and had gathered in a circle around me, wanting to hear more stories. The stories explained why they were hiding in the basement, and what all the scary noises were.”

The magazines Amal shared with her children during the siege were produced by the HurrasNetwork.

‘Tayara Warak’ (meaning Kite in Arabic) is a project they have developed to help children deal with the stress of war in the midst of difficult times. The colourful “kite” magazines are filled with stories, songs, games, puzzles and handicrafts. They also include advice for children on what to do if they lose their family or are displaced, or how to protect themselves during shelling and violence.



“After the Genocide I fell into a sort of darkness,” Claudine says. “Most of my birth family were killed, and my husband belonged to the group that had killed them. I was not able to grieve. I hated my husband and became cold towards my own children. I belonged neither with my husband’s family nor with the surviving members of my birth family, who considered me a betrayer. I stayed alone at home, and often could not even summon the energy to take a bath. I simply gave up on life.”

Fortunately, Rwanda recognised the need for trauma healing in the immediate aftermath of the Genocide. Several trauma healing initiatives were launched.

Never Again Rwanda (NAR) and Interpeace implemented a psychosocial support group therapy programme over a four-year period, fostering both individual healing and social cohesion. The results of the programme are both encouraging and instructive. Participants have gradually become able to express themselves in a group setting, resulting in greater empathy and tolerance. Claudine is one of the participants who have finally been able to face the past. “It is only when I joined this support group, and realised I was not alone in my sorrow that I let it pour,” she says.

“Finally, I can breathe again. I feel alive again.”

Young People engaging as active citizens

Sri Lanka


After the end of Sri Lanka’s long-running civil war, the Centre for Peacebuilding and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka brought young people from different religious identities together to take part in joint cultural activities, in order to foster collaboration and a sense of common citizenship.

Its Young Visionaries programme, implemented in five regional centres, was found to have created a cadre of young people trained in concepts of peaceful co-existence, and who had got to know people from ‘other’ identity groups – from which many would otherwise have grown up isolated. This stimulated a widespread willingness to form relationships with young people from other ethno-religious groups, whereas only one in ten of them had previously had friends from outside their own community.

Participants devised collaborative civic initiatives, such as public health campaigns and environmental clean-ups. In a knock-on effect, some of their parents adopted the tolerance and collaboration they witnessed in their children.


South Sudan

The Citizen’s Theatre movement in South Sudan also uses cultural activities as the basis for engaging young people for peace. Since 2012, it has trained around 800 young facilitators to lead community forums in six states, and organized inter-school theatre festivals in Juba, Bor and Aweil. Theatre groups remain active in secondary schools across the country, regularly using performance and dialogue to raise important issues related to peace and development in their communities. A central element of the approach is that young participants take the lead in selecting the issues around which to build dialogue.

The process has created a rare safe space for communities – led by their youth – to consider how the problems they face stem from and feed into wider conflict. The style, subject and emphasis differs from location to location, but typical issues have included cattle raiding, tribalism, hate speech, moral values and corruption, all of which have a link to conflict, and thus to peace.

Evaluators found that the Citizen’s Theatre movement has increased young people’s social networks across ethnic and cultural divides. It has helped improve mental health and wellbeing, reduce fear, and increase mutual understanding of the ‘other’. Participants are more likely to engage in leadership and problem solving within the community. A young woman in Bor attributed her success in securing the release of her unjustly imprisoned brother to the skills and confidence she had developed in the programme. The number of drama clubs in secondary schools is increasing year on year, and the movement has persuaded the Ministry of Education to incorporate drama in schools.

Peace Direct and Alliance for Peacebuilding

“From solidarity and compassion in our daily lives, to dialogue and respect across political divides… From ceasefires on the battlefield, to compromise at the negotiating table to reach political solutions… Peace must be our goal and our guide. All that we strive for as a human family – dignity and hope, progress and prosperity – depends on peace. But peace depends on us. I appeal to you all to join me in committing to peace, today and every day.”


Building a peaceful society is often a long road to walk, but that does not mean that progress is not being made. Below are a few examples of the positive statistics that should be making headlines. As the numbers are changing daily, please see the websites of the relevant organizations for the most up-to-date information.

• According to data from Never Again Rwanda and Interpeace, Group trauma counselling reduces the effects of trauma among participants by 25%, and reduces the likelihood to seek revenge through violence.

• According to data from Never Again Rwanda and Interpeace, 66% of participants of Group trauma counselling in Rwanda no longer experienced suicidal thoughts as was the case before counselling.

• The participation of civil society groups, including women’s organizations, makes a peace agreement 64% less likely to fail. Source: Nilsson

• Worldwide, the proportion of peace agreements with gender equality provisions increased from 14% to 22% between 1995 and 2019, according to UN Women.

• When women are at the negotiating table, peace is 35% more likely to last at least 15 years. In Syria for example, women have played critical roles in promoting stability in their communities. The Syrian Women’s Political Movement was formed, calling for 30% representation in negotiations and deliberations on Syria’s future.

• Following Colombia’s historic Peace Agreement in 2016 which ended the world’s longest running active civil war, over 85% of former combatants received Government economic support and 90% of them participated in vocational education and training programmes.


International Geneva

The city of Geneva lies in the southwestern tip of Switzerland and boasts some of the country’s most recognized qualities. The spectacular views of the surrounding mountains capture first-time visitors and long-standing residents alike, its competitive financial centre attracts business persons from around the world, its quality of life is second to none and, above all else, Geneva hosts a high number of international organizations. This led to the term “International Geneva” being coined.

It all started in 1863, when the Red Cross was founded in Geneva to protect victims of armed conflicts.

Today, people come together in this city to address not only humanitarian needs but also challenges related to peace, health, science, human rights, migration, climate change and more. International Geneva unites international organizations, academic institutions, an international business community, many nongovernmental organizations and the permanent representatives of 178 Member States of the United Nations.

The lives being affected by International Geneva extend well beyond Geneva itself and the leitmotif that runs through its work is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are the way that International Geneva, together with its many partners across the world, fights against poverty, prevents violence, protects the planet and does so much more.

Geneva may be small in size, its reach is global. It is the venue where the world crafts solutions.

Sustainable Development Goals

In an era when we are bombarded with negative news, it is easy to feel discouraged and unequipped to improve the world we live in. Thankfully, to address the many problems, world leaders have adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: a set of 17 goals that are humanity’s road map for transforming our planet into a better place. The goals reach everyone, they leave no one behind, they are all interconnected and they are everyone’s responsibility.

We have everything we need to help everyone thrive and reach their potential. Together, let’s create a world where peace, rights and well-being become a reality.


The Perception Change Project

Time and again, when people hear about the United Nations for the first time, their eyes light up. Especially children. The comfort and reassurance we feel knowing that there is an organization that brings the entire world together, for peace, rights and well-being, are unparalleled. We don’t need to explain why there is a need for such an organization. We all get it. It’s there, for all of us. And it’s in International Geneva.

At the same time, this feeling of awe and security fades away quickly because we live in tumultuous times and, of course, the reality is different. We have ups and downs, and we are also constantly adapting to address new challenges. News stories often focus on the negative, while we all take the positive for granted. We have a natural tendency to put the spotlight on issues that need to be fixed rather than celebrate what we are good at. But the mission and underlying impact of the work of the United Nations and its partners remain the same, and we don’t always realize it in our daily lives.

The good news is that this constellation of organizations that make up International Geneva is still there, carrying out its noble mission. And it belongs to all of us. For it to thrive, we all need to recognize its value, its impact and make sure it can do what it was designed to do. This is what the Perception Change Project has set out to do and it succeeds every time eyes light up when people hear about the United Nations, just like they did the first time.


The aftershock of war can have lasting consequences on societies if not dealt with on a governmental level as well as from the grassroots level. For Vimal, a local who had survived the civil war in his country, he was motivated to heal the wounds of his community through their common love for football. With a challenge to radically change the lives of his society, he found that his own life too was transformed through the power of sport.

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.