Insight on Conflict Mapping Local Peacebuilding Fri, 17 Apr 2015 10:18:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Copyright © Insight on Conflict 2014 (Insight on Conflict) (Insight on Conflict) 1440 Insight on Conflict 144 144 Insight on Conflict is a resource on local peacebuilders in conflict areas. You’ll find information on how local people are working to resolve some of the longest and bloodiest conflicts around the world. Insight on Conflict is a resource on local peacebuilders in conflict areas. You’ll find information on how local people are working to resolve some of the longest and bloodiest conflicts around the world. peace, peacebuilding, conflict, war Insight on Conflict Insight on Conflict no no The Balkan arms trade: a growing threat, or growing peace? Wed, 15 Apr 2015 13:10:02 +0000 A growing arms trade is helping to strengthen economies across the Balkans. Jemma Hoare argues that despite the drawbacks, weapons manufacturing could ultimately contribute to peace and stability in the region.

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The Mostar Bridge in Bosnia has become a powerful symbol of reconciliation in the Western Balkans. Can growth in the arms trade help consolidate peace in the region? Image credit: Lazhar Neftlen.

The Mostar Bridge in Bosnia has become a powerful symbol of reconciliation in the Western Balkans. Can growth in the arms trade help consolidate peace in the region? Image credit: Lazhar Neftlen.

Against the backdrop of the dissolution wars of former Yugoslavia, it seems logical to be apprehensive of the issue of weapons in South East Europe (SEE). However, the arms trade may have the potential to help secure peace in the region.

A clear distinction should be made between legal and illegal arms manufacturing and ownership. By the end of the wars, large numbers of weapons without serial numbers and other identifying features had been produced. This made it difficult for them to be traced, and hence attractive to criminals. Many firearms remain in circulation, constituting a destabilising factor for sustainable peace.

Projects to encourage citizens to relinquish illegal weapons have had some success – for example, the UNDP’s ‘Choose A life Without Weapons’ campaign in Bosnia-Herzegovina – but many stay hidden. A Journeyman Pictures documentary on arms in Croatia cites the fear of a subsequent war and high black market prices among the reasons for which people keep their weapons.

The numbers game: following the money in the Western Balkans

Calculating the number of illegal firearms in the region is difficult
Calculating the number of illegal firearms in the region is difficult. In 2012, gave a rough estimate of around 4 million remaining unregistered weapons in SEE, of which 80% are said to originate from the wars of the 90s.

The large number of illegal arms, and especially their retention in anticipation of further conflict, are a substantial threat to peace. The 6th Regional Approach to Stockpile Reduction workshop in 2013 stated that surplus munitions in SEE continue to threaten the region’s safety and stability.

However, the legal manufacturing and trade of arms in the region could play a role in maintaining peace, because of the relationship between economic growth and peace.

The main motivation of countries in SEE to increase their arms production is not the strengthening of their armed forces, as might be imagined. Many of the weapons produced are exported, which continues a trend from before the war; Yugoslavia had a relatively sophisticated arms manufacturing programme.

Arms for sale: making profit, not war?

According to, exports used to amount to $500 million annually, or 7% of total exports. The production process was divided among the republics: for example, different parts of the flagship Yugoslav tank, the M-84, were made in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, and then assembled in Croatia.

Due to this fragmented manufacturing process, arms embargoes, and the destruction of munitions factories by NATO in Serbia, the industry was severely weakened during the wars. But since then, efforts to revive the arms industry have been successful. And this has the potential to help national economies, especially in the context of economic stagnation. All the Balkan regional economies have seen substantial increases in arms export in recent years, contributing to growth and providing much-needed employment.

Cooperation and controversy

The production of munitions is controversial but has led to regional cooperation
Although the production of munitions is controversial, it is also a relatively stable economic sector. States in SEE have recently signed a number of long-term contracts with several NATO members, providing a strong and stable source of income. And it has led to regional cooperation as well: in 2011, a contract to modernise Kuwaiti M-84 tanks envisioned a joint project between arms manufacturers in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. While it did not materialise in the end, this shows that there is potential for economic cooperation across SEE in the industry.

However, if the arms trade can contribute to long-lasting peace in SEE, it must be ensured that it is not threatening peace elsewhere. Blic recently reported that arms from Bosnia were sold to Al-Qaeda by Serbian and Montenegrin intermediary companies. reported last year that Croatia is legally selling arms to Jordan, from where weapons have been transferred to Syria. And the New York Times suggested in 2013 that the scheme might be sponsored by the CIA.

So further efforts should be taken to ensure that arms exports are used in responsible ways. For example, reports that he majority of weapons from a factory in Kragujevac, in Serbia, are used in UN peacekeeping missions.

A clear distinction between legal and illegal weapons suggests the potential for arms manufacturing to contribute to peace in the region. The production of arms improves these countries’ economic stability by stimulating the labour market and increasing economic output. It also has the potential for cross-border economic cooperation. With economic security one of the keys to peace and stability, the countries and people of SEE could stand to profit from the growth of arms exports.

balkan-diskursThis an edited version of an article by Jemma Hoare that originally appeared on Balkan Diskurs. A non-profit, multimedia platform dedicated to challenging stereotypes and providing viewpoints on society, culture, and politics in the Western Balkans.

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Michael Brown: UN mediation expert Mon, 13 Apr 2015 14:08:54 +0000 The UN recently released a new guide to help mediators working on natural resource conflicts. Insight on Conflict spoke to Michael Brown, an expert on the subject and one of the authors of the report, about how it can help local peacebuilders end conflict.

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In February 2015 the UN published a guide to assist negotiators working to prevent and resolve conflicts over natural resources. The publication, entitled Natural Resource and Conflicts: a Guide for Mediation Practitioners, is the result of a collaborative research project by the United Nation’s Department of Political Affairs (DPA) and the Environmental Cooperation for Peacebuilding initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Insight on Conflict spoke to Michael Brown, who is part of the DPA Standby Team of Mediation Experts and a Professor of Practice in Conflict Mediation at McGill University, Montreal. Michael is an expert on mediation, conflict and peacebuilding issues with professional experience across the world. He has worked extensively on ways to resolve disputes over land and property rights, and also has experience on issues related to natural resource and wealth sharing, as well as on conflict issues related to mining, oil and gas, and water resources.

The UN report covers mediation in natural resource conflicts. Why is this important?

There is a general recognition that natural resources are both causal and driving factors in conflicts. But, despite this, natural resources conflicts are not adequately addressed. Resource conflicts typically fall through the cracks of the international system. This is partly due to their dual nature: they are both technically complicated and politically sensitive. Thus, the technical side of the international system tends to avoid resource disputes because of their political complications; whilst the political side of the international system shies away from them because of their technical complexities. The UN Guide draws attention to this gap and is specifically intended to help bridge it.

Can you tell us more about the report, and who it is aimed at?

This is the only publication of its kind. The Guide is based on practical experiences in mediating conflicts about extractive resources, land and water. It consolidates tools, strategies and practices related to mediation and conflict resolution in conflicts over different types of resources.

First, it provides mediation advice on resource disputes regarding each stage of a generic mediation process: assessment; design; negotiation; and implementation. For each phase, a series of tips and strategies are presented.

The report then goes through natural resources sector by sector, and provides specific mediation guidance tailored to each resource sector. The sectors include extractive resources (oil, gas, minerals and commercial timber), land and water.

Third, the report looks at resource issues in the context of broader peace negotiations. It explains when and why resources should be addressed in peace agreements, and summarises best practice on how peace agreements can address resource issues.

The report is aimed at mediators, people who work for international organisations with responsibilities for countries where resource conflicts prevail, member states of the UN, and parties to resource disputes. Don’t let the title fool you, though – the Guide is as relevant to conflict prevention and conflict sensitivity regarding natural resource disputes, as it is to mediation per se. Anyone who works on resources associated with conflict should find the Guide useful.

Indus river

The Indus river was part of a 1960 treaty between India and Pakistan over shared use of water. The treaty has remained in force despite decades of hostility between the two countries. (Image credit: Sanish Suresh)

Can you explain to us the links between natural resources and peacebuilding?

Natural resources have the ability to both cause and exacerbate conflict. Indeed, natural resources are often the root cause of many conflicts. But they can also act as a driving factor for conflict, often by directly providing funding for armed groups. The lack of control over the finances of a certain natural resource can also act to drive conflicts by creating tension and violence. On the other hand, natural resources offer potential for collaboration and the building of relations between conflicting parties.

The Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan is an excellent example of a joint agreement over a resource that has managed to survive for a long time (the treaty was signed in 1960) and through very difficult situations. The Indus Treaty and Commission has survived three major conflicts between India and Pakistan.

It is increasingly common to use natural resources to create a framework where both parties in a conflict can gain benefits, and thus encourage the progress of peace. In Sudan, for example, the shared benefits of oil revenue was used as an incentive for peace. One can see that natural resources have an enormous peacebuilding potential, although this does not get the attention it deserves. In fact, the collaborative potential of resources is specifically highlighted by the UN’s Deputy Secretary General is his foreword to the Guide.

Can the impartial third party in a mediation process be a local party, or is outside involvement crucial in resolving conflicts over natural resources?

This is a very good question. Indeed, selecting the right mediator is an extremely important part of resolving conflicts over natural resources. There is certainly a tendency to view an international third party as the typical mediator in such situation. But local, insider mediators can be extremely important and effective, as they are often very familiar with the local context or know the parties in a particular dispute. The role of insider mediators is relevant in many natural resources conflicts. They often have an excellent knowledge of the context of the natural resource and the history of the dispute. They also have a more nuanced appreciation of the relationships between the disputing parties.

The UN’s experience has also shown that insider mediators tend to place great attention on the relationship aspect of resolving natural resource disputes, and the significance of establishing long term relationships. Experience shows that insider mediators often end up staying engaged in the conflict dynamic after the ink has dried on any signed agreement. Insider mediators often have some role over the course of implementing the agreement. So insider mediators can be very important, although like everything in conflict mediation, the details depend on the context of the conflict.

How important is resolving disputes over natural resources to wider negotiations between conflict leaders?

Very important. As the Guide explains, one of the many important characteristics of natural resource conflicts is that they tend to play out at multiple levels – local, provincial, national or even international/trans-border. Accordingly, attempts to resolve or address a resource conflict should generally anticipate a strategy that promotes linkages between the different levels.

The wider negotiations between conflict leaders are often national peace negotiations. The political elite negotiate a national solution, yet natural resource conflicts typically play out at local levels. These wider negotiations must be attentive to the local level: they must address local issues and set up mechanisms that link to local realities. This is an important aspect of resource disputes and approaches to resolve them, yet it represents an area of weakness in peacebuilding.

Can you give us an example of when mediation has worked to solve a conflict over natural resources?

The examples of success are many. I was involved in setting up an integrated dispute resolution system in Sri Lanka to deal with the thousands of post-conflict land disputes in certain provinces of the country. This system is now going through into law. Local-level mediation tables are used in the post-conflict provinces to address and resolve land disputes. This kind of approach is very effective in allowing thousands of people to resolve their conflicts over land issues and thereby get on with their lives.

There is an important caveat. Mediation is not suitable to all disputes. In the Sri Lanka situation, for example, mediation is an excellent tool for resolving large numbers of local-level land disputes but it is not necessarily the right tool to solve high-profile political disputes involving significant power imbalances between the parties. Like any tool, to use it well, you have to know what it is suited to as well as its limitations.

Thinking more of the work that Peace Direct is involved in, there is also the example of Sudan. In Sudan, the sharing of oil revenue was key to the North-South peace mediation, as the dividing line between the two countries goes though the oil producing areas. A wealth-sharing agreement formed one of the six parts of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, and this agreement on wealth included aspects about oil revenue sharing.

In Sudan, oil was an incentive for peace, as oil cannot be produced in a conflict situation, and therefore profits cannot be generated. Here natural resources were part of the wider political discussions. In the case of Sudan, mediation allowed the potential benefits of natural resource to be used as an incentive for the parties to move beyond conflict.

What other key elements are there to mediation in natural resource disputes?

I would like to impress how the natural resources mediation Guide not only provides practical advice about resource mediation, but it is equally about conflict prevention and conflict-sensitive development in regards to resources. I highlight this, because I am receiving a lot of feedback already from many people who are not directly engaged in mediation. As I mentioned earlier, don’t let the title fool you. If your life or work revolves around a situation where resources are an important part of the conflict dynamic, then this Guide should be very helpful.

Thank you to Michael Brown for talking to Insight on Conflict.

Click to download Natural Resource and Conflicts: a Guide for Mediation Practitioners. For more information on peacebuilding and the environment, have a look at our resources page here.

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Guiding principles for young people’s participation in peacebuilding Fri, 10 Apr 2015 14:13:15 +0000 A "youth-friendly" version of the Guiding Principles for Young People’s Participation in Peacebuilding, illustrated with paintings by refugee youth from Myanmar.

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The Guiding Principles for Young People’s Participation in Peacebuilding was developed by a United Nations & International NGO Network with the help of the UN Peacebuilding Support Office and Search for Common Ground. Additional information can be found here.

What follows is a “youth-friendly” version of the principles. The images alongside each principle were painted by refugee youth from Myanmar and are featured in the book, Forced to Flee: Visual Stories by Refugee Youth from Burma. For more information, please visit

What is peacebuilding?

Peacebuilding is a series of coordinated activities designed to help communities in conflict resolve their differences, build their capacity to repair their broken relationships and promote sustainable peace.

Why involve young people in peacebuilding?

Open to new ideas, flexible and resilient, young people are catalysts for social change. Given opportunities to recognize their strengths, establish goals and develop knowledge and skills, they can help prevent and resolve conflict. When young people are engaged in and support peacebuilding efforts, their communities are more likely to achieve a just and lasting peace.

What are guiding principles for young people’s participation in peacebuilding?

The nine principles described on the next three pages encourage the creation of opportunities for young people to develop a positive self-identity, to learn ways to resolve conflict non-violently and to promote peaceful coexistence in their communities.


Ehnic Shan, 21-year-old Lao Kham migrated to Thailand to live freely. In Burma, he was afraid to express his ideas; independent minds were considered a threat to the status quo.

1. Promote young people’s participation as essential for successful peacebuilding

By acknowledging that young people’s role in peacebuilding is vital, this principle encourages youth to become forces for positive change. Young people’s fresh perspectives can deepen our understanding of the roots causes—and possible solutions—of conflict. Once invested in, young people can support peacebuilding efforts at all levels: social, economic, cultural and political.


16-year old San Lin Htay served as a child soldier to help defend his people, ethnic Karen. His spirits were buoyed by visions of one day attending a school that honored his heritage.

2. Value and build upon young people’s diversity and experiences

This principle challenges discrimination and celebrates diversity. Regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, culture, religion, class, caste, education, social status, sexual orientation, politics, ability or interests, all young people have a peacebuilding role to play. Special efforts need to be made to engage marginalized youth, including refugee youth and former child soldiers.


A 9-year-old refugee girl living along the India-Burma border, Naom knew of girls around her age, still living in Chin State, who had been pulled out of school and forced to dig roads.

3. Be sensitive to gender dynamics

This principle highlights gender differences while challenging gender inequality. In many cultures, females and males have different roles, aspirations and challenges. In conflict, those differences can be exploited. Systematic efforts need to be made to understand those differences and to include all youth in peacebuilding initiatives, regardless of sexual orientation.


Burman, 20-year-old Hlaing Htet Kyaw belonged to an interfaith youth group. He believed soldiers would wage peace, not war, if they had a chance to befriend “the other.”

4. Enable young people’s ownership, leadership and accountability in peacebuilding

This principle aims to identify influential youth and strengthen their leadership skills in peacebuilding. It isn’t always necessary to create new youth groups; it can be more beneficial to a community to identify and empower existing groups. Only when sensitive to youth’s needs and grounded in the local culture can initiatives gain traction and be transformational.


16-year-old Saw Yar Zar recalled the day his village was burned down. Having lost track of his father and sister in the chaos, he was forced to flee across the Thai-Burma border alone.

5. Create safe and supportive environments for peacebuilding activities

This principle calls on adult facilitators to create safe and supportive environments in which young people will feel comfortable sharing their stories, environments in which peacebuilding activities unify rather than divide participants. To enable youth to see one another’s humanity, activities need to take into account inequalities among young people and challenge prejudices.


After their Karen village was attacked, 19-year-old Kyaw Eh set out for the Thai-Burma border with other survivors. He said that along with his ancestral land, he left behind his childhood.

6. Involve young people in all stages of peacebuilding and post-conflict programming

This principle encourages the involvement of young people in every phase of the peacebuilding programming process: design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Young people can help identify and analyse potential causes and effects of conflict. Institutionalizing young people’s participation can ensure their representation and hold institutions accountable.


A former political prisoner, Nang Tin Tin Mya dreamed that her children would know their rights, think for themselves, be skillful at resolving conflict, and value diversity—all keys to peace.

7. Enhance the knowledge, attitudes and skills of young people for peacebuilding

This principle promotes trainings on leadership, mediation, negotiation, conflict resolution, communication, life skills and positive social norms for young people. Once qualified to support peacebuilding initiatives in meaningful ways, young people can serve as positive role models for younger children while developing a sense of purpose in their communities.


After their mother died, 21-year-old Sai Sai and his four siblings left Shan State for Thailand, to find work. He was homesick for his father’s love, guidance and encouragement.

8. Invest in inter-generational partnerships in young people’s communities

By encouraging interaction, dialogue and cooperation among children, young people, parents and elders, this principle promotes collaborative solutions to conflict. When adults recognize that young people share their concerns and peacebuilding goals they are more likely to support youth and encourage community leaders to develop long-term partnerships with youth.


Forced to flee his native land, Saw Yar Zar dreamed of a world where impoverished ethnic minority villagers were considered as worthy of human rights as wealthy city dwellers.

9. Introduce and support policies that address the needs of young people

This principle promotes the creation of policies that reflect the best interests of youth while creating opportunities for young people to inform policies that will shape their future. Research on the roles of young peacebuilders and documentation of their contributions to resolving conflicts and fostering peace can influence policy at local, national and international levels.

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Schooling in the Sahel: promoting peace in education Thu, 09 Apr 2015 14:21:16 +0000 West African regional organisation Ecowas has launched a new manual on peacebuilding. Oumarou Gado, Insight on Conflict's Local Correspondent in Niger, discusses how it might be used to train a new generation of young peacebuilders.

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Children in Niger. Image credit: Alessandro Vannucci

Children in Niger. Image credit: Alessandro Vannucci

Faced with increasing tension and security threats in Africa – and the problems they might cause for development in its member states – the Economic Community of West African states has inaugurated a new peacebuilding project: the “Consolidation of Ecowas policy to support the promotion of education on human rights, citizenship, democracy and regional integration.”

The project will operate in all 15 Ecowas member states, but in particular those that have experienced conflict. The approach takes as its inspiration the founding charter of Unesco – highlighting that “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”

Ecowas has in this spirit launched an online self-study course, on peace education and training for schools to use in its region.

Working to improve the future is one way of healing the wounds of the past
In Niger, the primary education ministry is in charge of introducing the work of the associated peace development manual, in conjunction with the Niamey branch of Unesco. It has been published in French as well as Hausa and Zarma, and will be integrated into formal schooling in order to help make young people aware of different methods of conflict prevention.

Edited with Unesco’s help, the manual contains seven modules, on:

  • Peace culture and conflict management
  • Human rights
  • Civic culture and citizenship
  • Democracy and good governance
  • Gender and development
  • Public health, the environment and sustainable development
  • Regional integration

Each module contains a range of teaching materials and methods to allow different Ecowas states to implement it according to local needs.

There is a strong focus throughout on a key set of values:

  • Tolerance
  • Communication
  • The importance of gender
  • Cooperation
  • Critical thinking
  • Social responsibility

The Nigerien context

The manual is a step in the right direction and could certainly help train a new generation of citizen peacebuilders. In Niger, the adoption of this manual will take place in a specific context. Demonstrations organised by students within the framework of the Union de Scolaires Nigériens have often led to violence, including the destruction of goods and property, such as traffic lights, street furniture and cars and other vehicles.

This has often led to the arrest of students, and endless trials which hold up their academic and personal development.

At the regional level, if Niger has for a long time been considered a welcoming and relatively peaceful country, it has in recent years seen armed conflicts linked to regional, ethnic and political claims.

The manual builds on the concepts of moral and civic duty in Nigerien education
It is currently surrounded by states in conflict or post-conflict situations, with whom Niger shares a communal history and culture. And Niger continues to face many difficulties, in particular with difficulties arising from the recruitment of young people by armed groups encroaching on the Sahelian region, such as Boko Haram.

While it may be true that these young people are recruited because of the lure of easy money, many analysts agree that they also have little in the way of education or training on the benefits of peace.

Nigerian teachers and academics are quickly familiarising themselves with the new manual, which builds on a discipline already well integrated into Nigerien education – moral and civic duty, or citizenship.

The arrival of the new course is therefore a welcome addition to African social values such as respect for elders, the rejection of lying and stealing, and the value of work and bravery.

Classroom concepts: training peacebuilders of the future

Students in primary schools in particular will now have lessons and group work based on all of these concepts, working towards creating a national culture of peace.

For example, each morning half an hour of class will be dedicated to discussing ideas such as tolerance, pluralism, respect for different views and the role of citizens in public life.

Clearly, it is premature to speculate on the impact of such work. But the idea of inculcating these values into young people can only help see the emergence of a new generation, committed to open-mindedness and the value in living life as part of a group, without destroying the peace and prosperity of others.

Beyond this, there will be an inherent value in the eyes of young people who have already been affected by conflict and violence, who have seen tragedy and death. Working to improve the future is one way of healing the wounds of the past.

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Genocide in Rwanda: a commemoration Tue, 07 Apr 2015 16:11:12 +0000 Jean de Dieu Basabose reports on the 21st anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, as events and ceremonies commence to remember the events of 1994.

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Many events have been taking place to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the genocide, such as the one organised by Never Again Rwanda.

Many events have been taking place to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the genocide, such as the one organised by Never Again Rwanda. Image credit: Jolly Jolson

Remembering the genocide is perceived as a crucial measure to prevent future atrocities
Each year, on the 7 April, ceremonies are held across Rwanda to commemorate the genocide of 1994. Called Kwibuka – meaning ‘remember’, the commemorations are held to remember the atrocities commited, honour the dead, and prevent them happening again.

This year, the Kwibuka activities have been organised around the theme of countering genocide denial and revisionism. Rwandans and their friends are called on to engage the international community on these issues, and emphasis is placed on genocide as a crime which should not be allowed to continue unabated. Denying the genocide is understood as an insult to Rwandans and the souls of those who died during the conflict, and recognising and remembering it perceived as a crucial measure to prevent future atrocities.

In preparation for the 21st commemoration ceremony, different organisations have begun various activities with a view to remember the victims, stand alongside survivors and renew hope amongst Rwandans for a brighter future. The commemoration also creates opportunities for acknowledging and honoring those who rescued people during the genocide, and reaffirms the necessity to work for a reconciled and united Rwandan society.

The AERG is an association of students who survived the genocide, and is one of the organisations involved in the Kwibuka activities. Last month, the AERG launched the Kwibuka 21 campaign, involving various activities which took place in Ngoma District, in the Eastern province of Rwanda. Through the campaign, the young survivors recognise and present their gratitude to those who stood up to it. Other activities include cleaning up and maintaining memorials and recording the names of families that perished. Members of the AERG plan to plant trees at these sites, to preserve the history and memory of victims, as well as supporting and advocating for survivors who need social and medical assistance.

Commemoration activities: bringing people together

As Rwandans and their friends commemorate the genocide, it is important to maintain the effort to resist hatred
The commemoration activities also involve flame lightings, church memorial services, remembrance walks, the proper burial of newly found victims, and radio shows, which envision a common future with a firm commitment to the slogan ‘never again’. As Jean de Dieu Mirindi, the coordinator of AERG explained during the event, the campaign will show “how grateful we are to those who rescued Tutsi during the genocide.”

“We want to bring genocide survivors together, share the history of the genocide and teach young Rwandans about the genocide, how to build themselves and their country, as we well as about genocide prevention,” he added.

Never Again Rwanda is another organisation that is coordinating remarkable activities. A national conference is being held to encourage young people to discuss and reflect on the events of 1994, aiming to provide a space to voice concerns and encourage hope for a better future.

This year, a conference on Policy and Practice of Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide Against Tutsis is acting as an opportunity for public dialogue, whilst simultaneously providing input into commemoration policy and practice. Everyone, regardless of their ethnic belonging, age and historical background, is called on to play an active role in Kwibuka activities. Even the perpetrators are engaged in remembering the innocent men, women, and children who were killed. The conference is expected to enlighten ways towards a shared and inclusive understanding on various issues.

As Rwandans and their friends commemorate the genocide, it is important to maintain our efforts to resist hatred, to cultivate a culture of nonviolence, and to strive for a just world, that works for all human beings, in order to prevent the repetition of such atrocities.


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The Mamasapano clash and the clamour for peace Thu, 02 Apr 2015 14:00:25 +0000 A recent – and unintended – clash between the government and rebel forces appeared to derail the Mindanao Peace Process in the Philippines. But as Insight on Conflict’s new correspondent Rey Ty reports, activists fighting for peace have had the strongest message.

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Cong. Christopher Belmonte of Quezon City District VI (4th from right) poses with students from Culiat High School during a caravan calling for peace in Mindanao.

Posted by Bureau of Public Information – ARMM on Monday, 16 March 2015

In Muslim Mindanao – and all over the Philippines – people rejoiced at the prospect of peace with the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law last year. The law is intended to provide for the establishment of a distinct political entity to satisfy the demands of those who wish for an autonomous Muslim region in the southern Mindanao area of the Philippines.

However, fears were raised after what has become known as the Mamasapano clash in January.

A secret operation called Oplan Exodus was launched by the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Filipino police to capture Zulkifli Abdhir. Also known as Marwan, he was on the FBI’s most wanted list.

Marwan was in the territory controlled by the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) group, which had been in the middle of peace negotiations. However, the SAF began its operation without informing the MILF, as stipulated in the agreement between the Government and the MILF.

The SAF and MILF never intended to engage in conflict
The SAF and MILF never intended to engage in conflict. The SAF intended to serve a warrant of arrest for Marwan. The unplanned result was armed violence and the killing of 44 SAF personnel, 18 MILF forces, five Bangsa Moro Freedom Fighters rebels, five civilians, and Marwan himself.

There is a backlash taking place against the prospects for a peace deal as a result of these deaths. The predominantly Christian population of the Philippines has described the 44 commandos as fallen heroes. At the same time, many civil society organisations have cautioned against automatically blaming the MILF for what happened.

The public clamour for transparency resulted in separate Senate and MILF Reports on the Mamasapano clash. Fingers are now being pointed in different directions as to who was responsible for what is being described as a ‘misencounter’ between the government and rebel forces. Some have reported US funding for the operation.

Clamouring for peace: activists and archbishops join forces to reject violence

At the grassroots level, civil society organisations are continuing to call for the reinvigoration of the peace process between the Philippines government and the MILF. The Lanao Peace Partnership and its partner organisations have said that there must be a comprehensive peace agreement between the government and the rebel group.

An SAF officer involved in the Mamasapano operation has anonymously posted an online petition calling for the every effort to be made in pursuing the peace process in Mindanao.

The “true face of war is not that dead soldier or rebel on the battlefield. It is a mother fleeing home with a cartload of offspring, amid sounds of gunfire,” he said. At the time of writing, the petition has over 6,500 signatures.

Hundreds of advocates walked barefoot to show their support for a peaceful resolution
In February, hundreds of peace advocates walked barefoot for an hour in the Autonomous Region of Mindanao to drumbeat their desire for a peaceful resolution of the fallout of the Mamasapano clash.

And in March, the Mindanao region itself organised a peace caravan in the capital, Manila. More than a million people have signed another petition supporting the peace process in Mindanao.

In a show of support, a huge variety of people joined: students and faculty from different universities, politicians, employees of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, and members of the public.

In Cotabato City, peace organisations held another caravan and peace rally only last week, to celebrate a year after the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Leading the Mindanao-based Friends of Peace, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo has invited representatives of peace organisations to meet on April 6, 2015. They will discuss the problems with the peace process, including issues related to the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and different ways forward.

At the same time, President Begnino Aquino has named several Manila-based activists, including the Archbishop of Manila, Antonio Cardinal Tagle, to lead a National Peace Summit to discuss the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

With all the clamour for peace, the Filipino people will hope that their calls for a just and peaceful settlement of the conflict in Mindanao fall not on deaf ears, but on the reasonable minds of the legislators.


Background: Peace Direct will soon be launching a new section on the Philippines. Please check back for updates and profiles of local peacebuilding efforts in the country.

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April 2015 Wed, 01 Apr 2015 12:03:18 +0000 A monthly selection of the best new research and resources on local peacebuilding worldwide, as chosen by Insight on Conflict. This month’s edition features articles on Syrian civil society, community-led resilience, and more. Sign up here to receive the newsletter by email each month.

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Latest research

International and local/diaspora actors in the Syria response

The question is not which of the two groups is better: both have their limitations, as well as capabilities and potential. The formal system has its place just as local actors do. The question is how they can work together where doing so will enhance the humanitarian response, while also recognising that at times they will choose to operate separately.

International and local/diaspora actors in the Syria response, from the Overseas Development Institute, examines the work of local organisations in Syria, with a particular focus on the relationship between locals and internationals. The paper argues that the situation in Syria demonstrates the limits of the formal humanitarian aid system, and the need to rethink how it responds to similar crises in future.

Leveraging local knowledge for peacebuilding and statebuilding in Africa

The nature of conflict settings today, the repetition of violence, and the frequency of relapse in most conflict-affected states require new strategies and approaches from actors seeking to build peace and governance.

Leveraging local knowledge for peacebuilding and statebuilding in Africa, from the International Peace Institute, explores how local ownership and knowledge can inform international decision-making processes. Drawing from five case studies of locally-led peacebuilding in action, the report provides recommendations on how better to promote and learn from local knowledge.

#PeaceTech: Everything You Need to Know, from Social Media in Afghanistan to Humanitarian Drones in Syria

#PeaceTech’s point of departure is that technology, per se, is not inherently good or bad, powerful or not; it is people’s decisions that have the power to design, use, or misuse technology—and influence where it leads us.

#PEACETECH, the latest edition of Building Peace, focuses on the potential of new technologies to contribute to peace. The publication features articles on technologies in action, as well as the policy issues they can raise.

Community-led partnerships for resilience

[M]any policymakers are unaware that community-driven initiatives are already underway addressing the needs of impoverished, marginalized communities in the face of disaster and climate change.

Community-led partnerships for resilience, from the World Bank, looks at examples of grassroots women’s organizations that are strengthening resilience to disasters and climate change in their communities. The case studies demonstrate how, although often hidden, these community-driven projects have a vital role to play in building resilience.

Peace and security along the Ivorian-Liberian border: the local perspective

Tensions between different sectors of society remain deeply entrenched. There are widespread and often contradictory accusations that certain ethnic groups harbour and assist militant groups.

Peace and security along the Ivorian-Liberian border, from Conciliation Resources, shares the perspectives of local communities and government officials of violence across the border between Ivory Coast and Liberia. By providing a detailed analysis of the concerns of local people it is hoped the paper will inform peacebuilding practice in the region.

Civil society under fire

Taking the time to find a partner that has a high degree of local trust and legitimacy, and with whom you share ideas about what peace looks like and how it can be built matters.

Civil society under fire, from INTRAC, explores the issues international organisations face when choosing local civil society groups to partner with. The paper identifies three questions that internationals need to answer when looking for partners, and offers advice on how to answer them.

From the blog

The art of peace: Bosnia and Herzegovina

By Balkan Diskurs: How local organisations in Bosnia are using the arts to encourage reconciliation and forgiveness. Read more »

International volunteering and local peacebuilding

By Nicholas Barker: Nicholas Barker, an EVS volunteer in Georgia, discusses how international volunteers can contribute to local peacebuilding. Read more »

A plea for peace: violence in Yemen must end

By Ahmed Hezam Al-Yemeni: Insight on Conflict’s new Local Correspondent for Yemen, Ahmed Hezam Al-Yemeni, issues a plea for peace in the wake of disturbing developments in the country. Read more »

South Sudan peace talks: the role of IGAD

By Khamis Cosmas: What is the role of IGAD in South Sudan’s peace talks? Read more »

Building bridges in Bosnia: using storytelling to close the gap between theory and practice

By Nerkez Opačin: Nerkez Opačin reports on the unique way in which Sarejavans are remembering the victims of the Bosnian war. Read more »

Demystifying the wars of the future: the past and current state of water conflicts

By Adan E. Suazo: Adan Suazo argues that conflict over water is not just an issue for the future. Read more »

Iraq’s continuing struggle with conflict pollution

By Wim Zwijnenburg: While Iraq is still recovering from the environmental impact of both Gulf wars, the current conflict with Islamic State presents new environmental problems. Read more »

Calling all conflict researchers

By Kevin McCann: Insight on Conflict is looking for volunteer researchers to help provide background information on conflict zones around the world. Read more »

Making waves in the mountains: the women’s groups fighting for a fairer future in Nepal

By Ambika Pokhrel: Ambika Pokhrel describes the dedicated but under-reported work being done by volunteer women’s organisations to foster peace in Nepal. Read more »

Speaking up: indigenous voices in the Philippines’ peace process

By Nerea Bilbatua: Nerea Bilbatua tells the story of Froilyn Mendoza, the woman chosen to represent the Teduray in the Philippines peace process. Read more »

Just getting on with it: a Burkinabé attitude to change

By Lise Østergaard: Lise Rosendal Østergaard argues that a national sense of pragmatism helped prevent violence after the removal of Burkina Faso’s president last year. Read more »

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How to punish the perpetrators? Criminal justice in CAR Wed, 01 Apr 2015 10:53:14 +0000 The disintegration of the state and a lack of basic policing means that criminal impunity is on the rise in the Central African Republic. Solène Brabant discusses the implications for those trying to build peace in the country.

The post How to punish the perpetrators? Criminal justice in CAR appeared first on Insight on Conflict.

Soldiers training in CAR. Image credit: UN Photos

Soldiers training in CAR. Image credit: UN Photos

To commit a crime is, in theory, to invite judicial punishment. But in the Central African Republic, perpetrators have been committing crime without fearing judicial reprisals, and are free to wander throughout the country.
Two years after the beginning of the Central African crisis, a renewal of violence is taking place. This has led to the displacement of some 50,000 people since the beginning of 2015, according to the UNHCR.

To commit a crime is, in theory, to invite judicial punishment. But in the Central African Republic, perpetrators have been committing crime without fearing judicial reprisals, and are free to wander throughout the country. Before the present conflict began in January 2013, criminal judicial institutions were already lacking. Now, they are almost non-existent, and impunity prevails.

Without any justice, reparations cannot be obtained by victims, and people live surrounded by fear and suspicion. This breeds a climate of distrust and insecurity, which in turn contributes to the cycle of violence. The fight against impunity is therefore a must to re-establish security in the country, but also to rebuild trust among the population and to enable victims to obtain compensation and begin on the path to reconciliation.

To date, the management of the crisis perpetuates a long-lasting culture of impunity in Central African Republic. Many amnesty laws have been passed during the last few decades, benefiting political leaders and the heads of armed groups. Among them are former president Ange Félix Patassé.

Amnesty: peace at the expense of justice?

On 28 January 2015, ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka representatives reached an agreement in Nairobi with the help of Congolese President, Denis Sassou Nguesso.

This agreement provided for a change of government, a new political transition for the country, an amnesty law and a cease of hostilities between armed groups. Denounced by the international community, the parties reached another agreement on February 21, giving up on all political aspects, including the amnesty law, but retaining the ceasefire. But practices of the international community and the national authorities continue to rise to impunity.

Civil society has taken action to begin investigating crimes perpetrated in the Central African Republic
Indeed, the upcoming national forum for reconciliation organised in Bangui by national authorities will gather various armed groups leaders, but no criteria have yet been made official considering the responsibility of various actors in crime perpetration. There is a clear problem here, as this type of event allows for an inclusive national dialogue – but means criminals do not fear justice.

Facing this lack of judicial institutions, civil society has taken action to begin investigating crimes perpetrated in the Central African Republic. International groups such as Amnesty International and the Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’Homme (FIDH) have published detailed reports reporting crime and identifying perpetrators.

Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, has opened an investigation into crimes committed in CAR, but past experience shows that the process can take years. The Ministry of Justice and MINUSCA, the UN peacekeeping mission, signed an agreement providing for the settlement of a hybrid jurisdiction, the Special Criminal Court, composed of national and international judges. Despite some limits, hybrid tribunals have shown efficiency in the past years – for example, in Sierra Leone and Cambodia – but they can require months and year to be effective, with all parties needing to reach an agreement on the financing and composition of the tribunal.

Alternative solutions: how civil society can help

What is certain is that considering the almost non-existent judicial system in the country, alternative solutions must be taken by civil society.

The Central African Republic has a strong network of NGOs defending human rights, with many gathered into a national network, the Réseau des ONG de Promotion et Défense des Droits de l’Homme en République Centrafricain. There are also many charismatic religious leaders acting for peace. They have the means to help pursue justice. Their main tool is the fight against religious and identity issues helping to perpetuate the conflict. But they can be helpful in many different ways, including:

  • Welcoming and protecting the victims of crime: they can help create local self-defence groups, gathering ethnic and religious groups living in the same area to defend their community from armed groups and provide early warning of possible danger to alert international protection forces.
  • Encouraging victims and witnesses to testify: using traditional dialogue institutions to encourage people to talk, using mediation mechanisms to intervene when tensions rise and organising workshops to re-establish and maintain peaceful relationships between different communities.

Civil society and the diaspora community have a lot of ideas to help promote reconciliation in the Central African Republic. Their work will be crucial in the important fight against insecurity. But criminal justice should not be forgotten in the fight to break the endless power of armed groups.

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The art of peace: Bosnia and Herzegovina Tue, 31 Mar 2015 11:43:06 +0000 Civil war has left deep scars on society in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This article explores the innovative work of local organisations using the arts to encourage reconciliation and forgiveness, and bring divided communities together.

The post The art of peace: Bosnia and Herzegovina appeared first on Insight on Conflict.

Photo credit: Tatjana Kovačević

Photo credit: Tatjana Kovačević

Twenty years on, Bosnia and Herzegovina is still suffering the effects of a war that shook the very soul of the country. A myriad of factors hinder the forgiveness process: the lack of justice for war crimes, the paucity of reparations, and the lack of government support for victims of rape and those afflicted by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Reconciliation and forgiveness can only be achieved by tackling these issues from all sides, but the opportunities for interaction between conflicting groups are few.

The arts can be an integral part of reconstruction after conflict
The arts can be an integral part of reconstructing social infrastructure after conflict, offering emotional relief and facilitating the communication necessary for reconciliation. The arts create a neutral space for dialogue and exploration, addressing issues such as collective memory and victimisation. Being able to see a story from a different perspective can be the catalyst that sets the process of forgiveness into motion; the feelings of loss and suffering bringing people together instead of setting them apart.

The ability to exert control while using artistic mediums is important for victims lost in the chasm that warfare perpetuates. Something as simple as picking up a pencil and beginning to draw can bring relief from psychological suffering. Art can be a way to speak when a trauma is too terrible to express in words.

Photo credit: Tatjana Kovačević

Photo credit: Tatjana Kovačević

Groups in Bosnia are using art to create change
There are groups in Bosnia who are using art to create change, ensuring that this ripple effect of kindness and creativity has the power to transform. One such example is the Sarajevan clay workshop “Stories in Clay,” run by artist Tatjana Kovačević as part of a reconciliation programme that aims to present different stories to participants. This opens up a forum for discussion, understanding and perspective-taking, strengthening interpersonal relations as well as the connection between mind and body.

“Clay is an extraordinary medium through which we can express hidden emotion and thought. It has a beautiful ability to transform human suffering into joy, bringing a sense of freedom, meaning of life and hope for the future,” says Kovačević. “By working with the clay, and using various techniques such as hand-building, hollowing and adding, the participants really get to know the clay, redirect their own feelings of sadness, anger and frustration into the medium, all of which are hidden beyond our conscience,” notes Kovačević.

The initiative brings together women of different ethnic backgrounds, giving them the opportunity for communication in a neutral setting. The clay absorbs emotion and is a malleable medium, allowing the person to create impressions and forms however they choose. “Through different creative tasks, the participants will discover their identity and be able to express themselves, as well as communicate and accept the differences in others,” Kovačević explains.

Photo credit: Tatjana Kovačević

Photo credit: Tatjana Kovačević

“Drama and art is a part of life that is uncorrupted; in the history of the world there wasn’t one war that was started because of it,” says 24-year-old Law student Marko Rozić, who was involved in another community enterprise, Youth Bridge Global’s (YBG) theatrical productions in Mostar.

“I often find that, in Mostar, children from one side of the Neretva River have never been to the other side,” says Professor Andrew Garrod, co-founder of YBG. “Many of them seem to accept the fact that they are taught in classrooms devoid of other ethnicities as a perfectly reasonable way for education to be conducted. I want to shake up these assumptions with my plays, bring kids together so that they can artistically produce something wonderful in which ethnicity has no role.”

Photo credit: Andrew Garrod and Youth Bridge Global

Photo credit: Andrew Garrod and Youth Bridge Global

Mostar saw heavy fighting during the war and is still very ethnically divided, mostly between Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats. The reconciliation process is slow. Children are taught under the so-called “two school under one roof” system. Although intended to bring children of different ethnic backgrounds together, these schools have separate entrances, schedules and curriculums that separate children according to ethnicity, making it hard for them to interact socially.

“The project was a refreshment for us. It was a project that Mostar needed,” stated Marko Rozić. “It brought diverse people together, we drank coffee together everyday and shared special moments. We created a ‘wall’ around us, a world of our own, without the borders and limitations we usually face.”

When people are sick of war stories, they turn to creativity
“When people are sick of war stories and manipulative politicians, they can turn to creativity. We used Shakespeare’s timeless subjects to send messages of love and absolution. We didn’t just send a message to the audience; we spread it among the cast,” Rozić said.

The attainment of peace is a complex journey and one could argue that it is never fully achieved. What society needs is people along the way who can make this journey easier – to bring joy and faith to everyday life – in the hope that by changing the small things, it will affect those which are out of our control. Reconciliation and forgiveness need approaches from all sides, and community projects such as art, music and drama workshops are a vital part of the healing process.

balkan-diskursThis an edited version of an article by Clara Fantoni that originally appeared on Balkan Diskurs. A non-profit, multimedia platform dedicated to challenging stereotypes and providing viewpoints on society, culture, and politics in the Western Balkans.

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International volunteering and local peacebuilding Mon, 30 Mar 2015 11:24:22 +0000 Nicholas Barker, an EVS volunteer in Georgia, reflects on what it means for an international volunteer to work for a local peacebuilding NGO, and discusses the potential benefits and limitations.

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World Peace Day 2014 at Kartlosi. Image credit Kartlosi

In December 2014, I arrived in Georgia to start a European Voluntary Service (EVS) project with a local peacebuilding NGO in Gori, near the breakaway region of South Ossetia/Tskhinvali. The notion that volunteers are trying to ‘do good’ or ‘make a difference’ is often accompanied by the belief that they are at best well-meaning but not very useful, and at worst a liability. So people in my situation often feel the need to justify what they are doing.

Can international volunteer programmes like EVS contribute to local peacebuilding?
This is part of a more important debate over the role of civil society in peacebuilding and what outsiders can and should contribute to local peacebuilding efforts. In this post, I offer my reflections on what it means for an international volunteer to work for a local peacebuilding NGO, and discuss the potential benefits and limitations. Can international volunteer programmes like EVS contribute to local peacebuilding?

EVS is a European Commission project that allows young people (aged 17-30) to volunteer abroad, within or outside the European Union. EVS projects cover a diverse range of topics, from human rights and citizenship to arts and culture. Many of the organisations that host volunteers are involved in peacebuilding and post-conflict work in countries such as Bosnia, Kosovo and Georgia. The organisation I am volunteering with is called the Public Union Bridge of Friendship ‘Kartlosi’ (‘Kartl’ means ‘Georgian’, and ‘Osi’ means ‘Ossetian’).

Its mission is to contribute to the peace process and resolve the conflict with South Ossetia, to conduct dialogue between communities divided by the conflict, and to support the sustainable development of local communities in the Shida Kartli region (an area that borders South Ossetia). Kartlosi have hosted many EVS volunteers who have engaged in a wide range of activities in support of the organisation.

Georgia ABL Fence

The ABL fence in Georgia. Image credit: Kartlosi

I think there are clear benefits that come from the involvement of international volunteers in an organisation like Kartlosi. This is especially so if peacebuilding is understood to encompass civil society activism and strengthening communities in ways that go beyond the immediate political issues relating to the conflict. International volunteers enable local NGOs to carry out a more diverse range of activities than would otherwise be the case. Foreign language training is one of the most tangible examples, and the region’s young people are often interested in receiving this training.

Young people are the ones who really matter for peacebuilding in Georgia
A lot of the work I have been doing has been with young, local volunteers as part of Kartlosi’s Youth Self-Government project. These are the people who really matter in the prospects for peacebuilding in Georgia. International volunteers also act as entry points to European and international networks, and can facilitate greater collaboration within the peacebuilding community, allowing further exchanges of ideas, knowledge and people.

And of course, I benefit a great deal from my involvement with Kartlosi and EVS. There is the personal satisfaction of being involved in something of immediate and substantial importance. And the knowledge and understanding that come from working first-hand with local peacebuilding NGO would be impossible develop through other means. As a researcher and student of conflict and peacebuilding, this has been of immeasurable importance for me.

But it is important to be realistic about what volunteers can accomplish. Even the longest EVS projects will only begin to scratch the surface of the issues they deal with, and in many cases international volunteers will lack the language skills and deep local knowledge and expertise required to carry out the most important work that peacebuilding organisations do. But this is not their role.

The challenge is to find the right standard by which to judge the contribution that volunteers make. EVS focuses on the training of young European citizens and the development of the volunteer, as well as the benefits that volunteers bring to their organisations and communities. It would be inappropriate to hold a volunteer’s contribution to the standard of a professional, whether local or international. The impact EVS volunteers and international volunteers more generally, make on local peacebuilding may be marginal in the grand scheme of things, but sometimes what happens at the margins is what matters.

Workshop on multiculturalism in Kaspi

A workshop on multiculturalism in Kaspi. Image credit: Kartlosi

I suspect that I will gain more from my time in Georgia with Kartlosi than they will gain from my contributions. Nonetheless, I believe that the collaborative nature of EVS exchanges has the potential to result in real benefits. The most immediate and direct of these will come from teaching English to the local volunteers, activists and journalists who will make a real difference in the future of peacebuilding and conflict resolution in Georgia, from the direct personal exchanges of ideas and experiences, and from writing for an international audience who otherwise might not get to know about the work of organisations such as Kartlosi.

I believe there will also be more intangible and long term positive effects. In addition to the depth and breadth of my own experience here, I am also part of an ongoing process of exchanges between European citizens in EU countries and beyond, and between organisations that are working towards peace, stronger communities and an active, socially engaged population. This process is not self-sustaining and cannot be taken for granted.  It requires ongoing involvement from volunteers, NGOs, and governments and international organisations.

The Public Union Bridge of Friendship ‘Kartlosi’

Kartlosi is a local peacebuilding NGO that operates in Gori, Georgia. Its aims are to contribute to the peace process and resolve the conflict with South Ossetia, to conduct dialogue between communities divided by the conflict, and to support the sustainable development of local communities in the Shida Kartli region.

Click here to visit Kartlosi’s website, and here to see their Youtube channel, which includes recordings and documentation of personal testimonies from the conflict in Georgia.

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