Summer interview 2013 – Achim Wennmann, Executive Coordinator of the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform
What are you working on this summer?
I am using the quieter summer weeks to take a step back and push forward a number of drafting tasks. This includes a new three-year programme for the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform and an analysis of our work streams, especially on political transitions, on the prevention of violent conflict, and on risk mitigation in the context of large scale business investments. Tying loose ends and staying abreast of trends in peacebuilding is of course always part of summer work.
Holidays are the moment to be with the family, reconnect, and enjoy our time together.
What do you take the opportunity to do in Geneva during the summer?
Early summer is the ideal moment to organize informal expert meetings in Geneva. It is when the city and lake show themselves from their best side. Individuals traveling from all over the world find Geneva the ideal place to brainstorm, think out of the box, and test new ideas. They underline Geneva's appeal as one of the world's finest convening and networking places.
Do you have a place you really love, in Geneva or in the surrounding area?
I love the lake crossings on the Mouettes and the opportunity they offer to briefly disconnect and watch the city go by. Another favorite place is the Fondation Martin Bodmer – not just for its fine collection of books but also for its views on Geneva, and especially Genève Internationale.
How about a summer book recommendation for our readers?
My summer theme is reading about 'the other'. As an entry, I will re-read Ryszard Kapuscinski's The Other (London: Verso, 2009) which is a brief account of the variety of different perspectives on making sense of 'the other'. I may then put my head into a classic on the conquest of Mexico by Bernal Diaz del Castillo The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico (Cambridge: Da Capo, 2003). The book includes historic descriptions of the Mexico Valley and of life in Tenochtitlan – the capital of the Aztec empire – at the time of the conquest. The book also describes the encounter between Hernán Cortés and Montezuma – the last ruler of the Aztecs. For me, this encounter is one of the most gripping depictions of 'meeting the other' in world history. It took nearly four hundred years for the views of 'the other side' to be expressed. So the next step in my reading is Miguel Leon-Portillo Visión de los Vencidos: Relaciones Indiginas de la Conquista (Mexico: UNAM, 2012). Also in my reading bag – and to change continents – are The Travels of Ibn Battutah – the stories of the 14th century traveller who set out from his native Marrakesh to Beijing vising most lands of the Islamic world on the way. And finally, I take Porter Gale's Your Network is Your Net Worth (New York: Atria, 2013) to see how networks have transformed the way we encounter 'others', electronically or through platforms.