L’Escalier awarded the distinction of “International City of Peace”.
On 23 June 2020, my village of L’Escalier was awarded the distinction of “International City of Peace”. This is the first-ever of its kind in Mauritius and it is therefore indeed a historic moment for the village, the district of Savanne and my country Mauritius as a whole. L’Escalier now forms part of a global movement with United Nations accreditation. This landmark proclamation is the outcome of an application I submitted to the International Cities of Peace, a US-based organization with Special Consultative Status with United Nations ECOSOC. There were certain requirements for L’Escalier becoming an International City of Peace. For instance, the city might be traumatized by war or have witnessed big peace-related events. It might also be advanced in peace studies and activities.
One should understand that no city is 100% a City of Peace, rather all are on the path to “becoming” a more peaceful city. Conferring a community as a peace city recognizes past achievements, encourages
current initiatives, and inspires future generations for practical peace building. From the European Union
to the United Nations to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, peace movements have helped shape the modern
world. Increasingly, however, cities are organizing to meet their own community-specific needs on a scale
that is smaller, localized and highly networked. Among the few cities that have successful made it to the International Cities of Peace list are Coventry in England, Bern in Switzerland, Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Nanjing in China and Berlin in Germany. Some of these have been traumatized by war, others have witnessed big peace-related events while others are advanced in peace studies and activities. Put it simply, every community established has a legacy of peace, whether it is by a historical event or by local peace heroes or groups who have contributed to their citizen’s safety, prosperity and quality of life.
Convincing the jury at international level has proved a challenging process but a village like L’Escalier
can certainly speak out about what our people have gone through and what they are doing to establish a
unique legacy of peace: our stories, our heritage, our landscape, our diversity, our culture and our local
peace heroes who have contributed to their citizen’s safety, prosperity and quality of life.
Allow me to touch upon some of the arguments used to convince at international level.
On the historical side, it is well known that there has been communal violence between L’Escalier and the
neighboring villages in the year 1983. Throughout the years, L’Escalier has successfully evolved to
become a role model in terms of peace: the village provides a true and accurate picture of the rainbow and
united Mauritius nation where all communities work hand in hand, where everyone gets the same
opportunities in a country where we live in peace, where our population is healthy, where girls and
women are treated with respect. All religions today live peacefully as one big family, be it the Hindus, the
Christians, the Tamils, the Telugus, the Muslims, the Chinese, etc. Citizens’ behavior over the last few
years has been nothing but positive and respectful. One can now describe L’Escalier as a “mini world” in itself inhabited by people from different nations and varied cultures who strive to build an inclusive
society based on equality, tolerance and community service. When it comes to the environmental aspect, there exist two strategic places which are a must for all tourists who come to our island to visit: Le Souffleur and Pont Naturel – real heavens of peace and harmony, amazing natural places. Besides, two popular lakes – the Bassin Canon and the Bassin Marmite make a lively situation for the inhabitants. The latter is blessed with an Aryur Vedic Spiritual Park. Moreover, Riviere du Poste ends beautifully at Bassin Carangue, which is yet another tourist attraction. Over and above that, these rivers have played a vital role for the inhabitants in the past and present including for the “Ganesh Visharjan” and the annual Cavadee.
On the economic side, L’Escalier has one rare sugar factory in Mauritius that is still in operation today
and contributes to maintain L’Escalier as a lively, economically stable and thus peaceful village.
Omnicane was launched in July 2009 through a strategic rebranding and specialises in the downstream
production of refined sugar, bioethanol, thermal energy, and electricity at its fully integrated flexi-factory
complex at La Baraque, L’Escalier. Omnicane was the first African sugar company to obtain the
Bonsucro certification in November 2019. Besides, Omnicane makes active CSR contributions and major
projects underway in L’Escalier and neighborhood. It is worth highlighting that since the proclamation of L’Escalier as an International City of Peace, a National Organising Committee has been set up in the village which has devised a strategic plan to mark this historic situation. A Covid-19 symposium has been organised in August 2020 at Domaine Dalais with over 50 youths that has focused on the economic, humanitarian and environmental impacts of the global pandemic. We have also successfully conducted essay and painting competitions with students of Gardes V and VI of both primary schools of the village. Thanks to the support of the Mauritius Film Development Corporation, a highly insightful documentary on the village has been produced and launched. Other activities in the pipeline for the year 2020 include a workshop on yoga, a peace march and a hiking though Le Souffleur.
The global recognition of International City of Peace proves what famous American writer Mark Twain
said when he visited then remote island of Mauritius in 1896, “Mauritius was made first, and then heaven;
and heaven was copied after Mauritius.” This year, it has been clearer than ever that we are not each other’s enemies. Rather, our common enemy is a tireless virus that threatens our health, security and very way of life. COVID-19 has thrown our world into turmoil and forcibly reminded us that what happens in one part of the planet can impact people everywhere. It is my firm conviction that the global recognition serves as a springboard to make the village of L’Escalier a role model across the whole world, including Africa and Asia, in the fight against drugs and an example for the ability of its population, made up of different communities, to live together peacefully and harmoniously. The 2020 theme for the International Day of Peace is “Shaping Peace Together.” Let’s celebrate the day by spreading compassion, kindness and hope in the face of the pandemic. Let’s all stand together with the UN against attempts to use the Corona virus to promote discrimination or hatred.
To conclude, my vision is that of a peaceful world that takes initiatives to address violence and build a
new generation of leadership dedicated to fostering a practical culture of peace. It is now time for all of us
to take our responsibility for helping create and maintain a peaceful world seriously. Peace is the only
way out for human beings.
L’Escalier International City of Peace, Mauritius.
Continent Director, Africa-Asia Youth Foundation.