Six years ago a small group of us launched a campaign. Today it is moving across the Atlantic.
We began with two goals. To create a global coalition for peace in Congo. And to invest in Congolese visionaries. At the time, we had very little idea what those two things meant.
Starting immediately, Anders Olsson and the Stockholm Whistler Society will be taking over Falling Whistles. With fresh blood and new energy, they are ready to continue the coalition’s work toward peace. Our work is hardly done, but this chapter has come to an end — just as a new one is beginning.
He will work alongside Mike Beeston and Amani Mataboro, in building a fund, specifically dedicated to investing in Congolese entrepreneurs. Their team has begun with a high speed wireless internet cafe, a community canteen, a women’s brick making cooperative, and the exporting of conflict-free coffee.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen historic progress toward peace. With this progress comes new opportunities in Congo. Not for development experts, other nations, banks or corporations, but for the Congolese themselves — to envision and build a peaceful future on their own terms. We continue to believe it is crucial that Congolese entrepreneurs be able to launch conflict-free businesses to create jobs, and develop strong communities from within. The Swedish team will focus Falling Whistles entirely toward this goal.
The Stockholm Whistler Society has led the way in creating a cultural movement toward peace. As local chapters continue to grow in cities across the world, Stockholm will serve as a central headquarters — to organize the chapters, and connect the world to our partners in Congo. Beginning today, they will take over the organization. The movement, is taking over the movement.
In 2012, in the wake of the campaign to #stopM23, we accumulated some significant debt. We were responding to an emergency in real-time, and did what we felt needed to be done. The debt will remain within the U.S. organization, and we will work with Falling Whistles in Sweden to pay it back responsibly.
Back in the early days of the garage, we felt deeply that as the internet grew, the power of nations would fade. That in an era when the whole world could communicate, power would shift steadily from institutions, to individuals. And in that time, the role of unique individuals, willing to take a stand, would be more important than ever before.
We felt then, and still feel today, that the twenty first century would be the age of the whistleblower. And a new era demanded a new symbol. A symbol that represented the power we each now carry in our back pocket. A power previously held only in the hands of a limited few. We are the press. The press is now, us.
Individuals around the world can now use that power, to focus attention and energy in whichever direction they choose. In dozens of countries around the world, people have chosen to use that power for peace in Congo. Though we have used many forms of petitions over the years, we always felt that wearing the whistle was itself a vote. It inevitably created new conversations, and allowed a century of conflict and exploitation to be casually brought up within a culture that had long ignored it.
Today more than a hundred thousand people have the symbol. They are able to use it as a tool to elevate common conversation, and engage their community in one of the most pressing conversations of our time — how do we create peace, in a world so often at war.
At the end of last year, we created a publication asking that very question — the Free World Reader. With Anders at the operational helm in Los Angeles, a small team of us were able to break away and build Issue 0. It is our proudest work to date. I will spend my immediate future focused on family and health, but when the time is right, I look forward to creating the next issue, and many more after.
The last six years have only been possible because people decided to use what they had, when they had it. I simply cannot express my level of gratitude and love for the team that built Falling Whistles, and the community that built us. Countless individuals have offered their energy, creativity, resources and connections. The interdependent fabric of what they offered became the foundation of the coalition. We have been strong, because all of you made us so.
I am proud to be a part of a small but global community who has relentlessly resisted war, and pursued peace in its stead. We have not always agreed or succeeded — but we have not passively tolerated violence or oppression. Along the way, I have made more than my share of mistakes. Despite them, my sincere hope is that this community of creative resistance will continue to grow. And that each of you will take a chance on a new team, joining an old legacy, of attempting the impossible.
There remains enormous work ahead in order to see a lasting peace. The first offensive peacekeeping force in history — the Intervention Brigade — must persist in resolving the violence of FDLR and ADF. Two prominent Congolese generals have lost their lives in the last year of fighting, and this makes these offensives all the more challenging, and all the more critical. The Special Envoys must continue their work toward free and fair elections in 2016. And all technology companies should follow the lead of Intel, Motorola, Philips and Fairphone in pursuing conflict-free supply chains, and products for us all.
Ultimately, the work of peace in Congo belongs to the Congolese. The western world should support them by removing support from dictators in the region — and channeling that support to local leaders. They are the foundation of any peaceful future.
The nation deserves a chance to rebuild. They deserve a chance at peace. As do we all. If the last six years have taught me anything, it is that very little moves forward when it serves a single interest. It is only through the persistent work of pushing through our disagreements, and discovering our commonalities, that we see true progress.
Here’s to great progress toward peace.