New Nobel Forum Director

Augsburg College appoints Gina Torry to head Peace Prize Forum

Photo courtesy of Gina Torry Gina Torry, new Director of the Minnesota-based Nobel Peace Prize Forum.

Photo courtesy of Gina Torry
Gina Torry, new Director of the Minnesota-based Nobel Peace Prize Forum.

Leslee Lane Hoyum
Rockford, Minn.

Gina Torry, an international peace-building expert, will lead the Minnesota-based Nobel Peace Prize Forum beginning Oct. 1. She has extensive experience in United Nations security initiating and policy development for mediations and ceasefires.

“If anyone had told me in August that I’d be living in Minneapolis in October,” said Torry, “I’d have thought he or she was crazy! But when such a wonderful opportunity as working with the Nobel Peace Prize Forum was offered, I couldn’t say no. And here I am.”

Torry has worked closely with the United Nations, its member states, regional organizations, women’s civil society groups, and networks worldwide. Most recently she served as executive director of the Peace Research Endowment, which is the North American presence of the Peace Research Institute in Oslo. In collaboration with international mediators and mediation experts, Torry finalized the United Nations Department of Political Affairs Guidance for Mediators: Addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Cease-Fire and Peace Agreements.

“Sustainable Peace,” Torry said, “depends on the full participation of women in all decision-making to prevent continued violent conflict and to protect all civilians. Unfortunately, most cease-fire negotiations are treated as if we were still fighting a traditional, two-army conflict. For example, the negotiations would include a provision that each army promises not to shoot at the other and not to cross the designated borders. Today, most wars are greatly civil. More than guns are used as weapons, and cease-fire negotiations must include other forms of violence, including physical, mental, and sexual. We can no longer consider them just ‘spoils of war.’”

So what are today’s unspoken spoils of war? In many cases, according to Torry, it’s sexual violence, whether against women or men. It also can surface in various forms of torture. Someone who raped you yesterday may be your neighbor tomorrow, and there has been nothing in cease-fire agreements to protect a woman or man from repeatedly being raped or otherwise sexually exploited or humiliated. Torry says that one Syrian survivor described sexual exploitation and violence as extreme “spiritual pain.” You can fix a building, but sexual violence can hurt a person for a lifetime.

Torry brings her universal view of peace to the Nobel Peace Prize Forum. She has participated in many innovative cease-fire agreements that in days gone by were merely dreams. Open discussion is one of the keys to success. This was realized in central Africa in 2013 where the first agreement to include a prohibition against sexual violence took place. It worked because women were included in drafting the ceasefire agreement and in monitoring it thereafter.

“There is always room for dialogue,” Torry says. “I see the Nobel Peace Prize Forum as a way to address critical issues of our time. A place to learn, understand, and implement ideas from the foundations created by the peace laureates. And, of course, a forum to explore issues that have fallen off the radar and to engage today’s youth.”

Torry also is the former coordinator of the Non-governmental Organization Working Group on Women, Peace, and Security, and has authored several publications, including Financing Inclusive Peace and Security for Women in Nepal: From the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to the Nepal Peace Trust Fund. In 2007, she was invited to address the United Nations Security Council in an open debate on women, peace, and security.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts in comparative literature and political science from the American University of Paris and a Master of Science in gender studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The Nobel Peace Prize Forum is a premier international event designed to inspire peacemaking. Now in its 27th year, the Forum studies the work of Peace Prize Laureates, and deeply explores questions of peace and conflict. It is housed at and coordinated by Augsburg College in partnership with the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the School of Public Health. The next forum takes place March 6–8, 2015, over International Women’s Day.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 31, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

Norwegian American Logo

The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.