ICDI’s Director is among the winners of the BOOKS for PEACE Award

The BOOKS for PEACE 2021: 6th edition
Special award for a culture of peace

The BOOKS for PEACE 2021 international award is present in 5 continents and 61 countries around the world, every year involves numerous artists, writers, personalities from the religious, political, social, humanitarian world, people and organizations who live for the Peace.

For more information about the award click here

Interviewing Nico on his ‘Books for Peace Award’

The International Award Commission honoured ICDI’s very own Nico van Oudenhoven among the winners of the BOOKS for PEACE 2022 International Award.

Congratulations, Nico on this award! A well-deserved award for your commitment and vision throughout your professional life. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Where did you grow up? Where have you lived?

Nico: I’m not so sure I deserved the Prize. There are millions of people who would before me in the queue, really, this is not false modesty. As to your question: I grew up in the Netherlands, graduated as a clinical child psychologist and worked at Leiden University and in an institute for people with mental health issues. After that I worked in Afghanistan for UNESCO, and UNICEF in New York, and a NL-based donor organisation and a research institute. The red line: children and young people exposed to toxic environments. Then, with Rekha Wazir, we established ICDI over 25 years ago.

About the Books for Peace Awards, why do you think you received this prize? 

Nico: Again, I don’t think I deserved the Prize, but I must admit that it feels good.

You are an avid writer; can you tell us a bit about the books you have written? Or your must recent one?

Nico: All books and papers find their inspiration in the pain and suffering in children and young people [and their families] I was so privileged to meet close by. If you listen carefully and try, in so far that this is possible, to take their perspective, you will be presented with so much meaningful creativity, innovation, and purpose that the writing becomes almost naturally.  What I then try to do [and of late with my wife Rona] is to embed these ‘lessons’ in existing research and documented practice as to make it accessible.

So, one of the first books I wrote was to rebuke the Dutch system of sending children who failed intelligence tests to special education schools, which would indeed hold them back and stigmatize them for the rest of their lives. Psychologist at the time didn’t realize that these children’s poor scores were not a reflection of a poor mind or lack of intelligence but rather of their under resourced environment. The most recent book, with Rona, ‘Paying it Forward’, argues that all of us stand to benefit when we try to invest in others, and especially in the future, without expecting a ‘pay back’.

Nico, you have worked in all continents, but always on behalf of socially excluded children and youth and with a special focus on their psychosocial well-being. Why did you choose this topic to make it your life’s work?

Nico: I really can’t answer this question. I think it is, at its heart, an irrational kind of behaviour.  I think that my mother had much to do with it. As a kid we had always people staying with us, who, for one reason or the other, needed a roof over their heads, a few meals, and a bed to sleep in. 

For our last question, can you tell us what is your ambition for children and youth in 2022?

Nico: This is such a big question. Here I look at the ‘instruments’ that are accessible to me and the first and the best that is in my reach is our own organisation, ICDI, a small internationally working NGO, with excellent, profoundly motivated colleagues. It has proven to be able to make major differences -always with local partners- in the lives of children, young people and those who care for them. What are these differences we hope to seek? Perhaps we, together, can make some places less toxic, so that the people we work for and with, can spread their wings and fly higher.