Nobel laureate Gbowee tells UN to face up to world of fear

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Leymah Gbowee salutes on December 12, 2014 during the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Rome

Leymah Gbowee salutes on December 12, 2014 during the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Rome, Italy (AFP Photo/Tiziana Fabi)

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee told the UN Security Council on Monday that peace worldwide was losing ground and fear is on the rise as she appealed for changes to the top UN body.

The Liberian rights activist and winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace prize painted a dark picture of the state of global peace and security during a debate chaired by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

"We find ourselves at a place where the need for international peace is even greater now than (at any time) in the history of our world," Gbowee told the 15-member council.

"We all, in this room and outside, live with a deep sense of fear."

Gbowee evoked the Paris attacks in Paris and the rampage of Nigeria's Boko Haram fighters as the latest in a string of events fueling insecurity worldwide.

"The joy of getting on an airplane is gone; the freedom to worship when, where and how we choose is gone; education, especially for girls, is under threat."

"Freedom of expression and freedom of the press as we saw in Paris is a thing of the past," she declared.

"The simple and significant things that made us feel like we lived in a peaceful and secure world have been taken away."

Gbowee made an appeal for Security Council reform, arguing that the current structure was established at a time when the five permanent members were colonizers and could justify holding a seat of power.

She called for expanding the number of permanent members from five to seven to address what she termed as new "dynamics" in the world.

Gbowee made clear she was speaking with candor in her address to the council chamber at UN headquarters.

"As a peace activist and a grass-roots person, I doubt that I will ever come back here again, so let me have my say," she said bluntly.

The 42-year-old activist won the Nobel prize for leading a women's movement in Liberia that demanded an end to the brutal war that left 250,000 dead. Fighting ended in 2003.

Chairing the debate, Bachelet also spoke of the troubling recent surge of violence such as the attack on the Paris weekly Charlie Hebdo that shocked the world.

"In western Europe, the terrorist violence that we have strongly condemned is surging in the context of a growing malaise, with the most pessimistic voices saying that this amounts to a failure of multiculturalism in which intolerance and phobias of all sorts are on the rise," she said.