Social Capital

Leadership that Transcends Borders at the 2019 McNulty Prize Presentation

July 27, 2019  • Aspen Global Leadership Network

The 2019 John P. McNulty Prize laureates, five extraordinary individuals, shared their courageous and bold social impact ventures at the Resnick Aspen Action Forum on Wednesday night.

McNulty Foundation President Anne Welsh McNulty, who founded the award in honor of her late husband, described the McNulty Prize as a call to action. “You have shown the moral courage to work and strive for a more just world,” she said in reference to the laureates and the fellows in the audience.

Following her remarks, Anne McNulty welcomed 2018 McNulty Prize winner Lana Abu-Hijleh  and international statesman Olara A. Otunnu to the stage to discuss peacebuilding in the face of conflicting borders.

“As a Palestinian Arab woman, I live with so many invisible and visible borders,” Lana opened up the panel recalling her first conversation with Olara. In that initial conversation he told Lana, “You have the conviction; justice will prevail. Don’t let any borders stop you.”

The discussion continued covering several topics that demonstrated the power of conviction and justice including Olara’s experience as a student while Idi Amin was in power, his role in leading the resistance against the regime, and how his path led him to work at the United Nations.

While at the UN, Olara worked to expand the UN Security Council’s agenda to prioritize and support “those who are the most affected when peace is broken” which includes civilians, women, and children. His efforts were successful and while he celebrates his work at the UN, he also emphasized something that he thinks is missing in the conversations about countries impacted by conflict. “Generally, we see and we think of the ugliness and the evil in conflict situations…but, what we don’t always notice, which I was very struck by, is just how much goodness, how much generosity, how much incredible sacrifice is done by regular, ordinary people in the same theater, in the same place where there is this ugliness, hatred, and bloodshed,” he said.

The path to peace building and reconciliation in conflict areas is a process and there are important steps that cannot be skipped –– including awareness and acknowledgement. “You cannot leapfrog your way from a situation of denial to reconciliation when there has been some very grievous wrong, some terrible situation of suffering,” he said. Peace building is not a comfortable process, but honest conversations can move toward greater awareness, accountability, and healing.

Olara has continued his peace building work in Uganda; however, speaking up for what he believes in has come with some challenges. Olara has been summoned several times by the police in Uganda to be questioned at the intelligence headquarters. He took one case to the Constitutional Court saying the law that was enforced was against the spirit of the constitution. This year in a positive change of events and after the case remained open for years, the court unanimously decided that it was unconstitutional.

“When there are important ideas, whether the rule of law or justice or reconciliation or fighting against impunity or corruption, it is worth keeping those ideas alive…and letting people know it is worth fighting for that better day and that better time,” he said.

This year’s five laureates are fighting hard to keep brave ideas alive and move them from thought into action. By advocating for living wages, providing ethical choices for consumers, dismantling misogyny, and giving mothers the tools to address climate change, the laureates are dedicating their time to justice and no borders can stop them.

Learn more about this year’s laureates  and watch more sessions from this year’s Resnick Aspen Action Forum.