Insight on Conflict http://www.insightonconflict.org Mapping Local Peacebuilding Mon, 01 Sep 2014 16:01:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Copyright © Insight on Conflict 2011 ruairi@peacedirect.org (Insight on Conflict) ruairi@peacedirect.org (Insight on Conflict) 1440 http://www.insightonconflict.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/IoC14x144.jpg Insight on Conflict http://www.insightonconflict.org 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 ruairi@peacedirect.org no clean September 2014 http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/09/september-2014/ http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/09/september-2014/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 16:01:30 +0000 http://www.insightonconflict.org/?p=38301 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 local ownership of Security Sector Reform, reintegration of LRA abductees, and more. Sign up here to receive the newsletter by email each month.

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Research this month

Security Sector Reform, local ownership and community engagement

State resilience, an effective security sector, and a sustainable peace are all, in large part, built upon the extent to which people can influence decisions that will shape their security and their futures.

Local ownership is widely regarded as being an essential component of successful Security Sector Reform (SSR). However in Security Sector Reform, local ownership and community engagement  Eleanor Gordon argues that in practice local ownership is often sidelined. Her paper looks at why this is the case, and how improving local ownership can lead to better state resilience and more sustainable peace.

Back but not home: supporting the reintegration of former LRA abductees into civilian life in Congo and South Sudan

For small communities trying to cope with chronic insecurity, poverty and influxes of displaced people, making time for returnees falls low on the list of priorities. But in the long-term failing to reintegrate returnees fully into civilian life creates extra psychological and economic burdens, while the consequent family and social tensions undermine community cohesion and productivity

Back but not home,  from Conciliation Resources, examines the experiences of former LRA abductees as they return to civilian life in DR Congo and South Sudan. The report looks at the difficulties they face reintegrating, and suggests that by making the process more locally-led and holistic, reintegration can be made easier.

Syrian women’s CSOs and service delivery

Evidence suggests that the uprising has contributed to a shift in perceptions around gender roles, which in the words of one respondent from Homs, has “set a precedent for the years to come in regards to women’s roles in service and aid delivery.”

Syrian women’s CSOs and service delivery, from Integrity Research and Consultancy, maps the work of women’s civil society organisations in Syria. The research finds that women’s organisations are actively delivering services in many areas of Syria, including conflict areas. It also highlights the difficulties these organisations face, such as lack of capacity and restrictions on movement.

Getting coherence and coordination right: principles for the peacebuilding policy community

Coherence must be assessed and driven by local actors themselves or else peacebuilding efforts will not be effective, in large part because it is local actors who have a more robust understanding of prevailing political situations and therefore know how to prioritise issues.

Getting coherence and coordination right, from ACCORD, looks at whether better coherence and coordination between different peacebuilding approaches and actors can make peacebuilding overall more effective. The paper examines what coherence and coordination mean in a peacebuilding context, the challenges the concept faces, and recommended principles for best practice.

Information in the midst of crisis

Listeners reported being significantly more informed and demonstrated positive changes in behaviour. For example, female respondents who were frequent listeners reported feeling better informed  about protecting themselves while away from the compound than occasional listeners.

Information in the midst of crisis, from Internews, shares the work of an Internews project providing information to IDPs in South Sudan. The project demonstrates how providing basic information can dramatically improve the lives of IDPs by helping them access basic services.

African Journal on Conflict Resolution, Vol 14. Issue 1

The most recent issue of the African Journal of Conflict Resolution includes articles on dispute resolution mechanisms in Ethiopia, young peoples’ perceptions of violence and conflict in east DR Congo, and the Nigerian state’s response to the emergence of Boko Haram.

From the blog

Malala and the missing Nigerian girls

By Fr. Justine John Dyikuk: Fr. Justine John Dyikuk asks if Malala Yousafzai’s visit to Nigeria will make any difference to the search for the 300 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.Read more »

Israel and Palestine: challenging conventional peace and conflict paradigms

By Adan E. Suazo: Do we need to challenge conventional peace wisdom in order to find a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict? Read more »

Interview with Rosa Emilia Salamanca

By Heather McLoughlin: An interview with Rosa Emilia Salamanca, Director of Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económia, a Colombia peacebuilding organisation. Read more »

Security, religion and gender in Al-Anbar Province, Iraq

By Ala Ali: Conflict analysis of Al-Anbar province, Iraq provides important insights into recent developments & the advancement of ISIS. Read more »

PEACEapp is now open for submissions

By Helena Puig Larrauri: Developers, technologists and peacebuilders around the world are invited to submit digital games & gamified apps facilitating dialogue, preventing violence. Read more »

2015 Election: A genuine threat to Nigeria’s stability?

By Chinwe Ogochukwu Ikpeama: Chinwe Ogochukwu Ikpeama highlights the potential risks facing Nigeria during the 2015 presidential election campaign. Read more »

Paving the way for women’s inclusion in Palestinian and Israeli peacebuilding

By Vanessa Thevathasan: How this unique organisation is giving young Israel and Palestinian women the knowledge to play an active role in building peace. Read more »

Whose peace are we building?

By Kirthi Jayakumar: Kirthi Jayakumar examines at the dangers inherent in outside intervention. Read more »

Viking 14 in Sweden: Creating conditions for local ownership in global peacekeeping operations

By Nat B. Walker: Creating conditions for local ownership in global peacekeeping operations Read more »

Interview with Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer

By Insight on Conflict and Heather McLoughlin: Insight on Conflict speaks with Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Chair of the Philippines Government Peace Panel with talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Read more »

Voices of reconciliation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

By Vanessa Thevathasan: What role do grassroot civil society organisations play in helping to bring peace to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Read more »

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Talking peace in Nepal http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/08/talking-peace-nepal/ http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/08/talking-peace-nepal/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 08:54:51 +0000 http://www.insightonconflict.org/?p=38372 Subindra Bogati, a Nepalese peacebuilder, looks at the state of peace talks between the Nepalese government and the countries many small armed groups.

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© The Advocacy Project

Although the activity of Nepali armed groups has decreased significantly in recent times, a taskforce under the Constituent Assembly’s (CA) Constitutional Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee is currently in talks with different armed outfits in the Eastern Hills and the Terai. The committee aims to solicit their views on constitution writing and the delineation of federal provinces, provided the groups give up arms and armed activities.

Including voices from outside of the CA is certainly a good development. However, this is not the first time that the government and armed groups have been engaged in such talks. Despite frequent changes in government coalitions and ministerial representation, the Nepali government managed to hold several rounds of negotiations with at least 18 armed groups between 2008 and 2012. Though they were reaching agreements, formal mechanisms to institutionalise ongoing talks or to address the grievances put forth by armed outfits were never implemented.

The failure on the part of the government to institutionalise the talks is due to its ongoing struggle for conceptual clarity on whether the armed groups in question are political or criminal in nature. Unlike the Maoist rebels, the armed outfits do not present a direct threat to the state, lack clear structure, and are prone to splintering.

The difficulty in distinguishing the so-called political actors from those that have a more criminal orientation has led the government to take two-pronged strategy in dealing with armed groups. With the political groups, the government focuses on engaging them through peace talks, while with the criminal groups, more heavy-handed police tactics are adopted. As part of the heavy-handed approach, in 2009 the government launched Special Security Plan (SSP) in the Terai, Eastern Hills and the Kathmandu Valley – areas deemed by the government to be ‘at-risk’.

The SSP was introduced to improve law and order across the country by considerably expanding the local presence of the Armed Police Force – a force that was set up in 1998 to fight the Maoist insurgency. Since the introduction of SSP, extra-judicial killings of alleged members of armed groups have risen. In 2010, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported an alarmingly high number of deaths in custody and other encounters.

The mixture of hard and soft tactics has helped improve the security situation in some areas of the Terai and Eastern Hills. There were more than one hundred armed groups in 2009. By 2012 the government estimation was that around a dozen groups were still active, while about twenty had given up their armed struggle and were negotiating with the government.

The peace talks have been simple. The government delegation meets with the leadership of the armed group in question. In the preliminary phase, meetings tend to focus on the handover of weapons and reaching an agreement on the discontinuation of violent activities. In return, the government grants an amnesty and initiates the release of key leaders and cadres, permanently withdrawing legal cases against them. Subsequently, both parties focus on resolving more systematic issues that fuel the armed group’s grievances.

While government officials and media are quick to point to the decline of armed groups, they rarely explain what changes have caused it. Nor do they analyse the characteristics, organisation, or conduct research into the recent increase of other forms of armed violence and criminality in both rural and urban areas of Nepal.

Armed groups proliferated following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006. Their concentration and activities were mainly in the Terai, the Eastern Hills and Kathmandu Valley. The majority of those involved in armed and criminal activities are young males, mainly local criminals and unemployed youth. Their involvement has also contributed to an increase in the use of small arms in these areas.

Alongside these government led initiatives, there are other governmental and non-governmental activities designed to promote peace and reconciliation in areas affected by armed groups. It is expected that the incentive to resort to armed activities will diminish if underlying grievances and structural causes of insecurity are addressed. At the forefront of these efforts is the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction, which has supported the establishment of so-called Local Peace Committees (LPCs). Composed of prominent community representatives, including political parties, the LPCs are expected to defuse crises before they lead to violence.

Given Nepal’s situation, it is very important that the government is addressing the underlying reasons that allowed armed outfits to emerge in the country. The constant political instability and uncertainty, fragile economic outlook, the state’s continued inability to establish law and order, the criminalisation of politics, and the persistence of youth unemployment have all been cited as causes of the re-emergence and flourishing of armed and criminal groups. Unless we address the crux of these problems, the threat posed by armed groups is not likely to go away.

Government and donors should be working to launch relevant plans and policies that will encourage peace, development, and youth centred programming. We need to ensure that young people involved in armed groups receive effective rehabilitative support, are given pathways to employment, and are given opportunities for constructive social interaction to ensure their inclusion in post-conflict Nepal.

For more about armed groups in Nepal, please read “The Missing Middle: Examining the Armed Group Phenomenon in Nepal” (PDF)

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Malala and the missing Nigerian girls http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/08/malala-missing-girls/ http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/08/malala-missing-girls/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 08:42:10 +0000 http://www.insightonconflict.org/?p=38309 Fr. Justine John Dyikuk asks if Malala Yousafzai's visit to Nigeria will make any difference to the search for the 300 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.

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Image credit: Statsministerens Kontor

The Boko Haram sect currently operating in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria has destroyed property worth millions and left scores killed, injured, or bereaved. They have carried out a series of abductions of government officials, politicians, security agents, expatriates and others. However, they appeared to have bitten more than they could chew when members of the sect abducted close to 300 female students of Government Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State from their dormitories on the night of 14 April 2014.

For Nigerians and the international community, this brazen act focused attention on the activities of the Islamist group. Since then, Nigerians at home, in the diaspora, and across the globe have been united in condemning the act as well as urging government to ensure that the girls come back home safely.

The condemnation and outrage of the populace was further fuelled by the #BringBackOurGirls advocacy group. The #BringBackOurGirls hashtag, said to have been initiated by a South African activist on social media brought the movement to the fore. Whoever is the brain behind it or wherever it comes from, the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag seems a bitter pill for the Jonathan led-administration.

The crème de la crème of society not only supported the cause but also made it viral on social media. From far away in the USA, the First Lady, Michele Obama and US 24th District of Florida Congresswoman, Federica Wilson have blazed the trail.

‘‘My birthday wish this year is to speak up for the Nigerian girls and to see my sisters return back to their homes.’’
On the home front, our own duo of Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, Nigeria’s former minister of education and the #BringBackOurGirls coordinator, Hadiza Bala Usman have been passionate about the cause of the Chibok girls. It appears that for Ezekwesili, a fiercely passionate believer in public good, and Hadiza, the campaign-coordinator, the principles of the campaign runs in their DNA.

In an article, “To understand #BringBackOurGirls, look to history”, Brian McNeil rightfully observes that ‘‘while the efficacy of this sort of hashtag activism, or slacktivism, has been questioned by scholars—and openly mocked by some—there can be little question that more people are aware of the plight of the captured Nigerian girls than before.’’

The passion and conviction of the #BringBackOurGirls team resonates with that of Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year old Pakistani education campaigner who was in Abuja recently to support the #BringBackOurGirls campaign and also meet with families of the missing girls.

In 2012, Yousafzai was shot on the head by a Taliban gunmen on her way back from school. She was shot at a time the teen was writing a blog about the challenges of daring to undertake western education under a Taliban regime in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. Having survived the attack and gotten medical treatment in the United Kingdom where she currently resides, Malala carved a niche for herself by being the first teenager to win international acclaim for her role in championing the cause of education for all youth and women.

For Malala, choosing to visit Nigeria on her 17th birthday is a pleasant sacrifice. She told an audience in Abuja on July 14 that: ‘‘my birthday wish this year is to speak up for the Nigerian girls and to see my sisters return back to their homes.’’ Incidentally, ‘‘July 14 is Malala Day, a day which the United Nations has chosen for children to raise their voices and stand up to demand education for all’’ a media report said. The day equally marked the end of the third month since the kidnap of the Chibok girls.

Upon her meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan, the young activist announced that, ‘‘He promised me that the girls will be returned as soon as possible.’’ Concerning those who escaped, she said: ‘‘The president promised me that he will do something for these girls’’ and also meet with the parents of the abducted girls.

Speaking on the impact of Malala’s visit, Yinka Makinde, a member of the campaign bared his mind thus: ‘‘So many people have spoken but nothing has been done yet. But I think if a child could come all the way, maybe he would listen. If he does not listen to the child then I don’t think President Goodluck Jonathan will listen to anybody.’’

Where lies the hope of the return of these girls amidst continued abductions and fierce fighting by the insurgents in the North-Eastern part of the country? With the turn of events namely the obscurity of the whereabouts of the abductees, their parents and indeed some Nigerians are smelling a rat.

Government must make concerted efforts to bring our girls home and be sincere too; the girls who escaped must be properly rehabilitated and their parents listened to (parents of the missing ones should be kept in the know of unfolding events); the media must be in the vanguard of this campaign; the nobility of the #BringBackOurGirls must never be compromised; the safety of school children and all Nigerians must rank first before any political goal; security agents must continue their doggedness in saving lives and protecting the integrity of this great nation; dialogue should equally not be dismissed.

Again, McNeil surmises that, ‘‘public awareness is no doubt a good thing, but that alone won’t bring the Nigerian girls back home.’’ Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai must be a happy man as the teen has hit the global spotlight in crusading for girl’s education. The dividing line between Malala’s father and parents of the Chibok girls is, they have tears for their bread. Shall President Jonathan keep alive his promise to Malala and bring back her missing sisters?

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Israel and Palestine: challenging conventional peace and conflict paradigms http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/08/israel-palestine-challenging-paradigms/ http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/08/israel-palestine-challenging-paradigms/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 09:32:32 +0000 http://www.insightonconflict.org/?p=38290 Adan E. Suazo argues that conventional peace wisdom needs to be revisited and challenged to adjust to the ever-changing realities in both Israel and Palestine.

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Image source: Justin McIntosh

In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there are three key policy angles that are currently not being touched upon by decision-makers: military disproportionality, religion and inclusion patterns. By not prioritizing these key policy concerns, it is hard to envision that peace will ever be brokered in this conflict, given its history and its strong polarizing potential.

Unlike many accounts, violent behaviour is not one-sided. This however is not to say that the parties’ military capabilities are equal. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Israel spent $16 billion on its military in 2013. In contrast, it was reported that the Palestinian Authority’s entire budget for 2013 amounted to $3.9 billion. Despite the clear military disproportionality evident in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is wrong to argue that aggressive behaviour is one-sided, or that there is only one victimized group, for both sides have engaged in military action, albeit commensurate with their armies’ capacity.

There is much attention given to Egypt’s proposed ceasefire, but given the heavy military unevenness featured in this conflict, there needs to be a stronger focus on matters such as demobilization. While a ceasefire would help to facilitate a temporary period of reflection and provision of humanitarian aid, it may also allow the warring parties to regroup and rearm. In other words, a ceasefire would not affect the parties’ overall capacity to wage war. This is particularly true if each party perceives that a military victory is attainable. By focusing on demobilization, one affects the direct costs of waging war, increasing the expenses connected with regrouping and remobilizing, which may in turn make war recurrence less likely.

In terms of how the conflict has been explained in policy circles, the two-state solution advocated by many actors, including the US, is predicated on the belief that Israeli-Palestinian hostilities are based solely on claims over territory. While this remains true in conventional academic and policy terms, there is a problem with approaching this issue on territorial considerations alone.

Religion plays a key role both in the development of war rationale, and on the structural make-up of Israel and Palestine’s social and political infrastructure. At the core of this conflict, legal claims over territory are tightly intertwined with religious history. Any peace plan that tries to bridge these territorial claims with a two-state solution must take into account the religious component imbedded in each actors’ collective mindset. As Landau argues (p.2), religious traditions are paramount for the identity-building process of both Israel and Palestine, deeming them inseparable from most aspects of everyday life. To adopt a secularized, western conception of a peace solution would risk overlooking the important connections that exist between religion and both parties’ claims over territory.

Conventional views of inclusion pervade the currently proposed solutions for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, inclusion patterns were designed based on the premise that two negotiating parties were enough to ensure the legitimacy and representativeness of the subsequent peace deliberations. By initially bringing together individuals close to Israeli and Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) decision-makers, a veritable peace process was allowed to transition towards a formal peace agreement. The dyadic nature of the conflict at that time liberated the entire process from having to enact exclusivity.

The current state of the conflict is substantially different from that of the 1980s-1990s, as there are more stakeholders on both sides of the conflict. Since the rise to power of Hamas in 2007, the political insurgency of Fatah, and a proliferation of civil society groups in Palestine, the PLO no longer presents itself as the only proponent of Palestinian interests. Similar patterns can be discerned on the Israeli side, whereby Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government is comprised of a mosaic of different political groups, some of which oppose peace talks with Palestine. To craft conflict resolution schemes without addressing the plurality of groups with vested interests in peace would be unwise, and would lead to continued stalls in the process.

Given the disproportionate nature of the military capabilities of Israel and Palestine, the currently overlooked religious aspect of the conflict, and an inclusion pattern that needs substantial adjustments, one can make the following observations.

Firstly, a revisionist mindset needs to be adopted when thinking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whereby conventional western paradigms of peace need to be replaced by locally based solutions. In terms of its relationship with the conflict itself, religion is a severely misunderstood and understudied variable that does not cease to be an omnipresent actor in the region. In this context, religion must be perceived as a central component in any peace initiative, the study of which needs to be initiated locally by groups and individuals better acquainted with religious discourse and its influence on political and social institutions.

Secondly, any peace initiative must also include non-combatant groups. This is done for two reasons, first of which is the dilution of the warring groups’ veto-wielding potential. Given their direct role in war decision-making, military and political classes have traditionally been the obvious actors to include in a peace process, but they have also been the ones with the highest likelihood of renouncing the peace agenda. By expanding this paradigm to include non-combatant groups such as community leaders, non-governmental organizations and foreign governments, one may succeed in decentralizing decision-making power, therefore decreasing the chances of disruption.

And secondly, including non-combatant parties would reflect a yet-to-be recognized reality of war: combatant groups are not the only stakeholders in conflict zones. Wars, in the Middle East and elsewhere, are not confined to their warring parties; they also affect non-combatant groups and individuals, effectively making them legitimate stakeholders of war. To a great extent, peace processes seek overarching social and political changes, which need to be agreed-upon by individuals and groups other than warring parties, for they will also be affected by such changes.

In closing, space for dialogue still remains in this conflict, but conventional peace wisdom needs to be revisited and challenged to adjust to the ever-changing realities in both Israel and Palestine.

 

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Interview with Rosa Emilia Salamanca http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/08/interview-rosa-emilia-salamanca/ http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/08/interview-rosa-emilia-salamanca/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 11:58:01 +0000 http://www.insightonconflict.org/?p=37835 Insight on Conflict's Heather McLoughlin interviews Rosa Emilia Salamanca, Director of Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económia (CIASE), a Colombian peacebuilding organisation with a particular focus on women’s rights and strengthening public policy.

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Rosa Emilia Salamanca speaking at the panel event organised by Conciliation Resources in cooperation with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade, and ABColombia and entitled 'Women in peace negotiations', as part of the Global Summit, June 2014. Image credit: (c) Conciliation Resources/Sarah Bradford

Rosa Emilia Salamanca speaking at the panel event organised by Conciliation Resources in cooperation with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade, and ABColombia and entitled ‘Women in peace negotiations’, as part of the Global Summit, June 2014. Image credit: (c) Conciliation Resources/Sarah Bradford

Insight on Conflict’s Heather McLoughlin interviews Rosa Emilia Salamanca, Director of Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económia (CIASE), Colombia. CIASE is a Colombian peacebuilding organisation with a particular focus on women’s rights and strengthening public policy. Ms Salamanca is one of the founders of Colombian National Women’s Network and coordinates the Women Peace and Security Collective. She is currently engaging with the two newly appointed women on the Colombian government’s peace negotiating panel.

This interview was conducted in partnership with Conciliation Resources.

What inspired you to start working in conflict resolution?

Many things inspired me, I come from a family where we were taught that justice is very important and I was influenced by my parents to fight for justice. It has never been more important than now to work in building peace for the Colombian conflict. When you see that the country is in such a complicated situation and you see so much suffering and sorrow and hate, you know that you have to do something. Also, I have worked with indigenous people and with women.  I am a feminist and I know that we have to change the way that many things are done and the way that society to behave for peace to be achieved.  It is also inspiring to build peace from new perspectives; we cannot just take the middle population of the country we just leave them, we have to find other ways to live together.

What areas have you focused in on your career? Women, children etc.

We have been working very hard with indigenous people for a long time and encouraging advocacy for everyone.  We have also been working very hard in human and women’s right and in peace conflict. Another programme we work ins economy for life as poverty and low social-economic means a root for many conflicts so  this is a long term project.

What key lessons do you feel that you’ve learnt from working in conflict resolution?

We are a group that tries to have the differences between people as the main point. I think that one of things that people must learn is that you can have some kind of shared principles even with people who think different politically. , Recognising these shared principles allows people to still have some way to talk to each other over points that you can both agree on and move forward to resolves. What are those few key points that you can work together? One of the key things I’ve learnt people have a lot of prejudgements of each other and you have to really meet other people to tackle the prejudices.

Would you say that local peacebuilders are more successful than track 1 actors?

Well we have something which is called change of advocacy and lobby. I think that actors are important at all levels, but of course the distance between the high level and the people suffering is very great and is such a gap. I don’t think it’s more effective, you have to act because if you don’t you don’t survive. You have to answer to situations, to move and have resilience. Women in the local places and in the national levels both have resilience and they begin to act on behalf of the society. And sometimes in the high levels you see people thinking but taking a long time to act.

What about the women in the Havana peace talks?

They are there as the government, they are not from the fields. But they can also do good work. They must be there because the kind of negotiations that we are having does not permit civil society participation in the top level. But now that the fourth point (tackling victim support) is being negotiated means that the government are now going to directly hear from the victims of the conflict. We like the model of the negotiations but civil societies and local peacebuilders must be involved in discussions of the bigger issues, not just what is being discussed at Havana.

What then do you think are the bigger obstacles for local peacebuilders civil society, especially with their increased involvement in the peace talks?

Well for local peacebuilders we have this incredible challenge on Sunday [The elections took place on 15/6/2014 and incumbent president Juan Manual Santos was re-elected] with the elections. It is weird to see that such a huge and prolonged conflict is going to be so important factor in the elections. We are a strange country with democracy but also a conflict. The vote on Sunday is extremely important because if the extreme right wing wins then peace will dissolve and the human rights defenders and the victims will all be affected. But then we have other challenges if the peace side wins on Sunday. If that happens then we’ll have the challenges of the 3rd phase of the negotiations. The 4-6th stages of the agreement are going to talk about the victims in relation to DDR. Once these victims are recognised and heard from then we can move forward. I think that it is quite important that these challenges are recognised and that we tackle how we’re going to support civil society and move forward.

Can you please give an example of successful peace building.

Now! I think introducing the two women  to the negotiating table is an example of success. Women are so successful in peace because they support societies during the conflict. Everyday women are trying to build peace by trying to rebuild their society from what it is destroyed.  Our symbol is the salamanders because they do not burn from fire and their tails regrow after a fight and they have a small sound which is constant. I think women are so successful because they support society in the worse scenarios you can imagine.

What would you say is the impact of international attention (especially the United States) on the conflict in Colombia?

I think that at this moment we’re on the same side and if the 3rd point of the negotiations is maintained it is because America has agreed to it.

What is your next peacebuilding project?

I’m going to do a campaign for the elections on Sunday. And if the negotiation side wins then we’re going to carry on representing civil society in the negotiations.

 

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Security, religion and gender in Al-Anbar Province, Iraq http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/08/security-religion-gender-al-anbar-province-iraq/ http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/08/security-religion-gender-al-anbar-province-iraq/#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2014 09:25:37 +0000 http://www.insightonconflict.org/?p=38222 Ala Ali conducted a focus-group based conflict analysis of al-Anbar province, Iraq. The findings provide important insights into recent developments in Iraq, and the advancement of ISIS.

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image credit: United States Forces Iraq

image credit: United States Forces Iraq

Almost eleven years have passed since the US toppled Saddam Hussain’s regime, and Iraq still continues to struggle. In December 2013, Iraq national security forces stormed the private residence of the Iraqi Finance Minister, arresting several of his staff for supporting terrorism. This incident served as a trigger for sectarian violence throughout the Sunni triangle in southern Iraq – Al-Anbar Province. It was one of the areas that led peaceful demonstrations on February 2011, but subsequently witnessed the highest amount of sectarian violence, including government security force attacks on civilians.

The recent advancement of Islamic State of in Iraq and Syria (ISIS or Daesh) forces in Mosul and other areas in Iraq has caused great concern about the prospects of peace. Policymakers are scrambling to figure out an appropriate strategy to limit further advancement and prevent further security breakdown. Amidst this uncertainty, one thing is clear: preventing the further breakdown of the Iraqi state and the growth of violent extremism is a goal of international and regional actors, as well as Iraqi authorities. But ISIS’ advancement in Mosul is not a new phenomenon. ISIS has managed to gain strength in other areas within Syria and Iraq before. Studying patterns in these areas may help in identifying strategies on how to move forward to build a lasting peace in Iraq and in the region.

About Al-Anbar Province, Iraq

Geography: Western province one third the size of Iraq.

Economy: Agriculture, construction, manufacturing; 12.5% under the poverty line (2011) – higher than the national average.

Population: 1.5 million; majority Arab Sunna; minority Christian.

Politics: “The political crises in Anbar are due to a conflict of interests and needs between the biggest Sunni political groups in Anbar (Almutahidun) and Shiaa Blocs (Maliki Government)” (per an interview with an independent political analyst). Sunni accuse Maliki of following an Iranian government agenda and, conversely, Maliki and his followers accuse the Sunni Blocs of following a Saudi Arabian and Qatari agenda. Religion, ethnicity, nationalism, and tribalism are each used as a political tools favoring or mobilizing one group over another. Primary political parties are the Iraqi Islamic political party, Al-Sahwa, and The National Reform and Development Movement (Al-Hal). Until now, the Ba’ath Party has enjoyed wide public support in Anbar in addition to regional support from Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and from the Kurdistan Region, but the party is illegal and unregistered.

Security: The security situation continues to worsen. Protests demanding an end to Sunni marginalization maintained a low profile until December, 2013 when sectarian violence began in Ramadi and Faluja. Anbar’s location is a transit point for Al-Qaeda and ISIS. It is strategic to both Al-Qaeda and Sunni groups, as it is the birthplace of both Abu Bakr Albaghdadi and influential Sunna clerics. Sunni families have moved to Anbar due to sectarian violence, and about 51,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are from Anbar, Faluja and Ramadi provinces.

The following is a summary of a study of the conflict in Al-Anbar province . The findings may provide insight into the recent developments in Iraq, including explanations for the advancement of ISIS. Several key issues contributing to and sustaining conflict were identified through this research, as were points of entry for peacebuilding which can be capitalized on to reduce tensions. Key themes are outlined below.

Political and sectarian tensions

Identity is the main driving factor for individuals and groups in shaping attitudes and behaviours in conflict, strongly influencing conflict, including individual’s willingness to die under the name of their group – ethnicity, religion, clan, or nation. This research concluded that political and sectarian considerations play a large role in exacerbating conflict where residents tend to possess a strong political-sectarian orientation and religious doctrine – Arab Sunni, in the case of Anbar.

The politicization of religious identities and institutions is a cause of tension among religious leaders and sects. Some research interviewees count religious leaders and clerics as a moderate group supportive of peace process and capable of mending broken community relations. However, research confirms that most belong to another group –clerics who are fuelling conflict by affiliating with terrorists, and provoking youth and men toward violent actions, justified through Islamic and anti-Shi’a Wahhabi principles. The Sunni religious group follows clerics blindly in many Sunni regions.  For example, Harith AlThari, a prominent Sunni Arab cleric from Anbar and chairman of the Association of Muslim Scholar, issues extreme messages encouraging Sunnis to fight against American intervention and the National Army.

It is crucial to highlight the critical role of Ba’ath Party and their alliances inside and outside the province. Many Anbar residents view the role of Ba’ath party positively – in Anbar specifically and in Sunni areas – due in part to the shared Sunni heritage and the Ba’ath party’s previous constructive policies. Says one resident, “I personally can understand [Ba’ath Party members’ and supporters’] perspective, even though I’m a Kurdish women from a nation that has long suffered from Ba’ath policies, [and] although their experience seems to be totally different than my own or that of the Kurds”.

Sense of citizenship

It is crucial that those in situations of armed conflict seek security by identifying a sense of belonging which they have control over. In Anbar, rather than national citizenship, there is a sense of local citizenship as a Sunni province and, in general, as the Sunni triangle of Iraq. This tendency contributed to the breakdown of centralized authority and in the long-term will contribute to increased distrust, fear, and a lack of patriotism, leading to lack of trust between citizens and government officials. The Shia Government of Baghdad is not welcomed by Arab Sunni of Anbar because of sectarian discrimination. Prime Minister Malaki’s bias against Sunnis fuels sectarian tensions.

Furthermore, Anbar community perspectives toward the National Army differ. Some consider the National Army as belonging to Iran and serving Shia interests under the lead of the Maliki Government. Others, mainly women, support the existence of the National Army as they are the only means to protect the civilian population from clan militias and terrorists. On the other hand, the Maliki Government accuses some in Anbar of hosting terrorists and providing logistical support to ISIS.

Culture of dialogue

The lack of any culture of dialogue among different ethnic and religious groups – the results of decades of dictatorships – in Iraq is a big issue, and not only in Anbar. One focus group participant suggested, “If we call for building peace, we have to rebuild relations with the active involvement of youth and women – especially women – as they are currently more active in creating opportunities for peace” . A focus on local participation in the peace process ensures a feeling of ownership in the process – a crucial condition for Anbar society. According to participants in one focus group sessions, youth have to actively participate in the process jointly with the moderate community leaders, intellectuals, writers, and local NGOs, in addition to a limited number of trusted politicians.”

Local civil society organizations

Civil society organizations are not that active, but they have significant peace initiatives, including a statement on human rights violations in Anbar in March 2011. However, activists are not sufficiently protected; NGOs strongly denounced the assassination of a few activists in April 2013. Local NGOs also mediated between demonstrators and the Baghdad Government after visiting sit-ins in Ramadi and Faluja (Feb 2013). NGOs wrote a solidarity letter addressed to Baghdad outlining the legitimate and reasonable demands of the protesters. As a result, a delegation from the Political Department of the United Nations Assistant Mission of Iraq (UNAMI) visited the sit-ins, met with clerics and tribal leaders, and declared that the demonstrations are peaceful. But the local NGOs in Anbar were not invited by the UNAMI delegation to join them and there was no coordination or consultation.

International community

Neighbouring countries have a role in driving conflict by providing financial and logistical support to armed groups, including Al-Qaeda and ISIS. As one interviewee put it “interventions of third parties… in Anbar province fuel the conflict and fabricate crises.” According to focus groups in Anbar, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are the two most influential Sunni forces and Iran is the biggest supporter and influencer on the Baghdad government. Sentiments from several focus groups and interviews suggest that Maliki is not Iraqi, but actually a representative of Iranian government.

UNAMI interventions were limited to humanitarian and material aids. At the same time, UNAMI has no long term plan for assistance to Anbar, and insists that that demands for technical support in Anbar have to be put for by the Baghdad government. Through their official press releases and publications, UNAMI has pushed Sunni leaders to start peace talks with the Baghdad Government, but their strategy has yet to be realized. According to several interviews with the UN Political Mission representative to Anbar, the UN did respond positively to the government’s decision to close sit-ins because the threat to national security was justified, despite the peaceful nature of the demonstrations.

Rule of law & structural violence

Structural violence includes lack of services and infrastructure; lack of proper education, especially in rural areas where education is almost non-existent; unemployment of youth and women; poverty due to corruption and unjust wealth distribution; discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities; random detention; and limited freedom of expression. Citizens perceive that the government uses these tactics, making decisions in favour of alliances with certain tribal leaders.

According to many research participants, rule of law can be promoted by strengthening executive power. However, they disagreed on whether rule of law was a tool to solve conflict, as the only way to solve problems in a tribal society is through negotiations between tribal elders; application of law and force is a last resort. Many concerns were raised about Iraq’s laws, specifically the 2005 anti-terrorism law, as well as the government’s biased use of the law against Sunni groups – for example, arresting protesters on charges of terrorism, despite UNAMI’s confirmation that demonstrations were peaceful.

Armed groups

There are divergent views towards Al-Qaeda and ISIS, with no clear rejection or acceptance of Al-Qaeda. According to one activist, 10-15% of Anbar society supports Al-Qaeda, who changed their hostile policies to gain public support but still lacks women’s trust due to a fear of strict interpretations of Sharia law. There are also diverging views toward armed militias, some saying that they defend civilians against Shi’a violations, including the National Army. On the other hand, some – especially academics and women – accuse the tribal militias of being terrorists who never consider community interests and risk the possibility of an Iraqi civil war. However, the majority in Anbar mistrusts the national army and sees it as closely aligned with the interests of Shi’a populations and Iran, as opposed to the national interests and specifically interests of Sunni populations. Numerous participants felt that the national army was the main cause of the conflict.

Youth

Lost opportunities for education and work and after eleven years of insecurity has created a lost a generation. Youth of Anbar have limited interest in politics, as one young interviewee explained “only 10-20% of youth are actively involved. [Instead, they] care more to improve [their] daily lives and career opportunities.” However, the University of Anbar encouraged political awareness and open expression among its students who organized the sit-ins which served as cultural centres and forums for peaceful expression. Women and girls were not allowed to participate but were active in local campaigns promoting human rights.

Gender & Rights

Women have been always among the first to feel the impact of conflict. A high percentage of widows and forced/early marriage are some of the biggest problems, in addition to divorce, unequal job opportunities, and limited involvement in politics. Armed groups limit freedoms in women’s daily lives, restricting dress, education and employment. For example, wearing of the hijab only started after Al-Qaeda extended operations in Anbar in 2005-6. Thus, women typically prefer the protection of the national army instead of armed groups, whereas men argue that it is religious groups that limit women’s freedoms. However, one activist pointed out that it is in fact the militia groups that limit women’s access to public space rather than religious groups: “There are no statements by Sunni religious leaders or… clerics intent on provoking honour killings… until now we had not received any cases of honour killing in Anbar under religious justification, even though it is a Muslim community.”

Women’s movements are weak, unorganized and not united in Anbar due norms and culture –unrelated to religious doctrine – that restrict freedom of movement for women. Women, other than a limited number belonging to sectarian groups, rarely participate in international or national events. According to one activist, these women also avoid interacting with Shi’a women’s groups. Women are not active in the provincial council, and are not even permitted in public demonstrations. Another critical issue is forced or coerced marriage to Al-Qaeda members, which cannot be legally registered in the courts since the men are considered terrorists. As a consequence, both women and children are deprived of their rights, leading children without other options to be recruited by terrorists.

The sense of dignity among men is a more public issue that involves the entire community; for women, dignity is linked to personal freedom. Research also showed that women are more focused on peace and freedom, whereas men have difficulty seeing beyond sectarian divisions. Such deeply entrenched sentiments greatly impact the way they engage in peace processes and in many cases, men in Anbar suffer indignity due to discriminatory policies. As a male interviewee put it: “We don’t want Shi’a security men protecting our Sunni society. It is preferable for us that Al-Qaida does it because they are Sunna and we don’t feel offended.” These words reinforce the idea that manhood and masculinity is linked to security.

Recommendations

To the government of Iraq:

  • Develop the legal framework to protect human rights and minority rights, including a mechanism to fight corruption and discrimination.
  • Develop a clear vision for an end to the conflict, including involvement of extremist tribe leaders and clerics and Ba’ath party members, in coordination with local NGOs and UNAMI.
  • Implement economic development programs in cooperation with the private sector, specifically to create opportunities for youth and women.
  • Increase border and internal security; include Anbar and Sunni youth in national security forces.
  • Implement rehabilitation programs for victims of the violence, particularly women and children.
  • Initiate partnerships with local NGOs and community leaders to build trust
  • Provide security for peace activists, particular women’s rights and human right’s defenders.
  • Seek the technical expertise and capacity building support of UNAMI, particularly in regards to dialogue, peace education, crisis management and conflict transformation.
  • End de-Ba’athification, which damages national cohesion.
  • Dissolve all militias; maintain a national army that includes all categories of society.

To Iraqi NGOs & civil society:

  • Conduct research on conflict analysis/prevention to promote a national peacebuilding strategy.
  • Support the Iraqi government to start the transitional justice process.
  • Strengthen relationships with tribal leaders and clerics; engage them with peacebuilding programs.
  • Provide opportunities for women and youth to participate in and lead peacebuilding activities.

To the international community:

  • Work with the government and civil society to ensure effective rule of law, including reporting and accountability mechanisms.
  • Engage all groups in peace dialogues, including extreme clerics and Ba’ath party members.
  • Commit ongoing support to monitoring and reporting crimes against civilians in Anbar.

To the Anbar local authorities:

  • Build capacity of local officials to engage in conflict management and conflict transformation.
  • Establish secure means for women to travel and participate in public spaces, including politics.
  • Raise awareness of peace processes amongst activists, tribal leaders, clerics, schools and media.

To Anbar community leaders:

  • Act independently to serve community interests and needs with no discrimination.
  • Promote individual responsibility, active citizenship, and patriotism.
  • Urge all armed groups, political parties and the national army to refrain from attacking schools, infrastructure, healthcare centres and households.
  • Call on a dialogue between extremists and use act as moderates between actors.
  • Cooperate with the national government to dissolve all militias.

This is a version of an article originally published by the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN). ICAN work for women’s rights, peace and security.

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PEACEapp is now open for submissions http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/08/peaceapp-now-open-submissions/ http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/08/peaceapp-now-open-submissions/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 11:28:23 +0000 http://www.insightonconflict.org/?p=38262 Developers, technologists and peacebuilders around the world are invited to submit digital games & gamified apps facilitating dialogue, preventing violence.

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PEACEapp-harnessing

The United Nations Alliance of Civilisations, the United Nations Development Programme and Build Up have launched PEACEapp, a global competition to promote digital games and gamified apps as venues for cultural dialogue and conflict management.

PEACEapp is intended to give developers, technologists and peacebuilders the chance to showcase their work – new, existing or in progress – and engage with questions that are central to building peace. How can we create new spaces for dialogue and shared action aimed at preventing violence? Can providing opportunities for contact among individuals and sharing stories also encourage mutual respect for cultural and religious values? Or is it about offering people tools to question and reframe their identities? Of all the technological tools increasingly available to peacebuilders, digital games and gamified apps present opportunities that are particularly relevant to fostering dialogue that prevents violence.

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How it works

The competition is open to three kinds of entries at all stages of development – from prototypes to fully developed:

  • digital games & gamified apps developed purposefully for this competition;
  • already existing digital games, and
  • creative re-purposing of existing digital games to meet the aim of PEACEapp.

PEACEapp’s international jury will select five winning entries: three that are fully functioning and two that are in development. The three fully functioning games or apps will receive an award of USD$5,000 each. The two in development will receive mentorship from expert partners. In addition, one member of each award-winning team (completed or in development) will be invited to the Build Peace conference in April 2015 in Cyprus to share their product with conference participants. The deadline for applications is October 15, 2014. Winners will be announce by November 30, 2014.

For more information, visit www.unaoc.org/peaceapp, follow PEACEapp on Facebook, Twitter or contact PEACEapp@unaoc.org.

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2015 Election: A genuine threat to Nigeria’s stability? http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/08/2015-election-genuine-threat-nigerias-stability/ http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/08/2015-election-genuine-threat-nigerias-stability/#comments Fri, 15 Aug 2014 11:25:42 +0000 http://www.insightonconflict.org/?p=38069 Chinwe Ogochukwu Ikpeama highlights the potential risks facing Nigeria during the 2015 presidential election campaign.

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A woman votes in the 2011 Nigerian elections. Image credit: The Commonwealth

A woman votes in the 2011 Nigerian elections. Image credit: The Commonwealth

Insecurity, unlimited to ethno-religious factors, is mounting and concerns will persist about government’s inability to deliver a peaceful environment and ensure human security.
With Nigeria’s vast ethnic and religious diversity, creating “national unity” in Nigeria is a challenge, especially between its “Muslim north” and “Christian south”. The country‘s major political issues have strong regional implications, especially the activities of Boko Haram. With the 2015 national elections, political activities are in full swing, and grassroots pressures are growing in the far north, including from extremist groups like Boko Haram and Ansaru and also different agitations from the different parts of the country. As the debate on the eligibility of President Goodluck Jonathan to contest the 2015 presidential election continues to heat up the polity, two northern leaders (Aliyu Babaginda and Buhari) have warned that crisis might emerge of huge proportions capable of breaking up the country if President Jonathan continues on his campaign to be re – elected in 2015.

The 2015 Presidential election is approaching, but Nigeria is at war with itself. Insecurity, unlimited to ethno-religious factors, is mounting and concerns will persist about government’s inability to deliver a peaceful environment and ensure human security. The fact is that the prevailing violence presents an operational hurdle for peacebuilding which also could undermine Nigeria’s growth and development. As the deteriorating security situation continues, concerns will persist about the government’s ability to deliver a climate that would make some regions less dangerous before the 2015 Presidential election gathers steam. The rising tide of domestic extremism, kidnapping and militancy are a threat to the nation. The factual assertion is that the prevailing violence will hinder large public rallies during campaign due to security concerns. The country’s leaders need to take stock of the conflict resolution mechanisms in place to deal with the political divide between north and south, Muslim and Christian, and to prevent electoral violence in 2015. Additionally, perceptions of fair play, regional balance and power share will all determine future national stability.

Identity politics have been utilised in differentiating ethno-religious groups. In Nigeria, religion provides a basis for identity and commitment; conflicts exist between communities in a bid to promote their religious or cultural values. A person can only be voted for, if he is a Muslim or Christian, Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba. It is no longer a quest of who is the best candidate but which tribe or religion one is attached to. There have been multiple reasons attributed to these clashes but predominantly religious and ethnic intolerance.

Religious identity is another commonly defined form of recognition. In Nigeria it is grouped under Islam, Christian and Traditional. These religious groups often clash mostly between the Christians and Muslims. The resultant effect of these sectarian clashes, is the emergence of ethnic militant and religious groups notably, Boko Haram. According to Reynal (2002), “there are two basic reasons why religious differences can generate more violence than other social cleavages. Exclusively of religion, you can speak multiple languages but you can have only one religion”. It is an identity marker that forms the major differences in social relationship and people’s concept of the world. Religion transcends national boundaries, hence Al-Qaeda’s link with Boko Haram of Nigeria. In religion there is usually the concept of an “us versus them” which most religious fundamentalist tend to use.

The recent exploits of Boko Haram and the kidnapping of over 200 school girls has drawn the attention of United States and other international communities to Nigeria. Human security is called into question with these entire crises because the citizens are left vulnerable. Conflicts has led to mutual distrust, that threatens the security of the country, the people, property, environment and has led to the high rate of emigration within and outside the country. The state has the responsibility to safeguard its citizen’s lives, property, human rights etc. and should employ policies that will clamp down on any form of perceived threat against its citizens. Nigeria being a focal point in West Africa should not downplay the consequences of these conflicts, hence the need to face the challenges squarely by implementing policies geared towards conflict management.

The country‘s political dynamics also affects sustainable development and growth. Political instability and civil unrest tend to take their toll on economic growth and cause severe human rights abuse. At present, the political system still struggles with state coherence, improving government institutional efficiency, internal security, democratic representation and attitudes, enforcement of the rule of law and economic reforms. The country’s rather uncertain overall political situation underscores the assessment that Nigeria’s transformation is far from over. Nigeria is a society intensely divided due to the institutional efficiency of the government system, the country’s pattern of democratic representation and attitudes toward the rule of law are still weak leaving.

Structural constraints should not be neglected in any analysis of Nigeria; the way forward is to develop a special model for conflict resolution solely for Nigeria. Policies should be geared towards strengthening democracy, human rights development, the market economy, infrastructure development, provision of employment, conflict management and prevention on the local level, particularly in the country’s hotspot areas, to ensure long lasting calm and to further stabilize the still fragile, three-tier federal system.

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Paving the way for women’s inclusion in Palestinian and Israeli peacebuilding http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/08/women-inclusion-palestine-israel-peacebuilding/ http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/08/women-inclusion-palestine-israel-peacebuilding/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 07:05:08 +0000 http://www.insightonconflict.org/?p=38211 Vanessa Thevathasan share the work of Creativity for Peace - a unique organisation that is giving young Israel and Palestinian women the knowledge to play an active role in building peace.

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Creativity for Peace is a unique grassroots organisation that teaches young Palestinian and Israeli women the tools for community-based peace and reconciliation intervention programmes.
The latest breakdown in Palestinian–Israeli negotiations marks an opportune time to open up conciliation processes to recognise and account for women’s contribution.    Previously, the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks have lacked inclusivity and transparency for women. Yet, women have a unique insight and skill to transform the cultures of conflict into one of solidarity capable of envisioning post-conflict realities. Women have taken the initiative to move forward in peace dialogue when their elected representatives have failed to broker agreement. Creativity for Peace is such an organisation, working to open up the channels for trust and the hope for sustainable peace in Palestine and Israel.

Creativity for Peace is a unique grassroots organisation that teaches young Palestinian and Israeli women the tools for community-based peace and reconciliation intervention programmes. It is one of the few organisations that have emerged during the Palestinian – Israeli conflict to completely focus on peacebuilding for women, and is believed to be the only organisation of its kind based in the United States.

Participant’s initiation into the organisation is with a three-week summer camping trip near Santa Fe, New Mexico. The camp is a positive way to introduce and facilitate interaction between either side through the arts and dialogue.  During this time, they are taught compassionate dialogue for reconciliation so that they can build the confidence and communication skills to encourage social inclusion for women in their communities.

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So far 207 young women have participated in Creativity for Peace since 2003. Out of this, forty Young Leaders are actively engaged in promoting their work as presenters, public speakers, meeting organisers in schools, university, the army, community and international conferences. The work of Creativity for Peace clearly shows that by spreading its message for peace, the participation of women as valuable stakeholders in their communities can be encouraged and recognised.

Women involved in its programmes are able to confront the asymmetrical power dynamics that have been formed from historical and socio-political imbalance.  For Palestinian women, the national liberation movement is part of their empowerment in daily life, whereas Israel’s institutionalised nationalism underscores their reality for security.

“My thoughts changed, the way I see people has changed, how I see other people – I became a new person.”
These parallel struggles have been influenced by their respective opposing ethno-nationalistic popular identities. Women often come to Creativity for Peace with preconceived notions of holding an occupied-occupier position. By encountering each other’s personal experiences, fears, animosity and struggles, they gradually deconstruct the artificial barriers built on the very stereotypes that keep them apart. Nahida, a Palestinian member of Creativity for Peace since 2008, epitomises this transformation:

My thoughts changed, the way I see people has changed, how I see other people – I became a new person. A part of me was touched that had never been touched before. I was full of anger, hatred, thoughts of rage. I feel much stronger, even with the new challenges.

Transparency is crucial for this to work, and by effectively providing a safe haven for these young women to express themselves, a permanent psychosocial switch is made that helps lay the foundation for trust between these divided communities and encourage greater efforts towards reconciliation.

At a time when hostilities have escalated to one of the worst in recent memory, with women and children bearing the brunt of the devastating consequences of the conflict, the work of Creativity for Peace must be pushed forward. Since its creation, women involved in Creativity for Peace have played a critical role in promoting social recognition for the inclusion of women and their ability to positively change the dynamics of conflict.  The women of Creativity of Peace have shown that they can be facilitators in cross-conflict communal talks, one that can successfully cultivate greater public engagement and long-term investment in negotiations.  Offering counter-narratives to the status quo encourages wider civil society input into communal peacebuilding activities.

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By returning to their communities to revitalise local peacebuilding activities they help to initiate genuine dialogue towards sustainable peace.
Additionally, these women represent a critical mass capable of exposing the gendered dimensions of conflict. Their participation means that the issue of gender equality, women’s perceptive and experiences are incorporated into conciliation strategies.  By returning to their communities to revitalise local peacebuilding activities they help to initiate genuine dialogue towards sustainable peace.

The women of Creativity for Peace are leading to the ultimate end game of opening up official political negotiations that can rectify long-standing asymmetries and address all aspects of reconciliation, including the protection and of women in conflict. By unifying and mobilising around their shared marginalisation, women are forming collective partnerships capable providing a platform for women to become genuine stakeholders in their communities.

Creativity for Peace is paving the way for more meaningful implementation of Resolution 1325, which has been approved by both the Palestinian Authority and the Israel Knesset, that calls for the inclusion of women in official Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. This will give genuine ownership in the process and the future of their nations

Women have a unique insight when included in negotiations, often raising key issues that would otherwise be eluded by male negotiators, particularly the human rights protection of women during and after conflict.   As US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has asserted on the issue of inclusivity: “so-called women’s issues are stability issues, security issues, equity issues.” Creativity for Peace is re-envisioning the nature of peace talks to ensure its transformative effect for all society but especially for women. This will breed more optimism and support to pave the way for more viable and sustainable solutions to the ongoing conflict.  Women peacebuilders on both sides of the conflict are crucial assets in this struggle to bring peace and stability to both nations.

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Whose peace are we building? http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/08/whos-peace-building/ http://www.insightonconflict.org/2014/08/whos-peace-building/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 08:21:15 +0000 http://www.insightonconflict.org/?p=38169 Kirthi Jayakumar examines at the dangers inherent in outside intervention, and why peace must come from within a society.

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Image credit: US Army

In general, intervention of any kind interferes with the inherent right to sovereignty and integrity that a state has, simply by virtue of being a state. From diplomatic coercion to sanctions, from full-fledged embargoes to outright military intervention, the use of pressure and force to coerce an end to conflict into place is both unsustainable and wrong. This is both, an established principle in foreign policy and international law – but ironically observed in its breach. Intervention to restore peace inflicts more damage, and the impact it seeks to attain is not sustainable. I would like to make the case for sustainable and collaborative on-ground approaches as opposed to thrusting solutions onto a community, as the right means to arrive at a state of sustainable peace.

Intervention on any other account to restore peace is not logical if it does not factor into account the needs of the people in the community in which such an intervention made. Think of an abscess on your hand. One way to handle it is to puncture it with a needle. Another way is to cut it open and drain it: both of which will ensure that it’s gone for now, but there to stay later. A third way is to look at the reason that’s causing the abscess: perhaps it is a bacterial infection that needs attention. Medication might just result in a sustainable cure: and you might find yourself well on the way to unhindered recovery.

Zoom out of this and look at the big picture. A country is embroiled in a civil war after its social and political fabric disintegrates along fault-lines created by years of defining undercurrents of antagonism: ethnic tensions, historical issues, economic burdens, religious differences or oppression. It doesn’t augur well if, out of nowhere, a whole community outside the country decide that the country needs peace, but instead of attempting to understand the country, they decide to pounce on the nation with force to impose peace.

Take any example and it will only prove this fact. Tunisia during the Arab Spring established its transition from dictatorship to democracy on its own. Egypt did, too, but the multiple incidents that took place in the aftermath remain a can of worms best left for another day’s analysis. However, look at Libya, Afghanistan and even Iraq. The withdrawal of troops following interventions left behind societies that were splintered, struggling to find a route to a solution that would get them out of war once and for all. In many ways, all three countries are still looking for those elusive solutions: and because they have already been torn by war, they flounder under the challenge of having to keep together to find a solution.

There is a reason why military and foreign intervention doesn’t work. These interventions thrust “solutions” onto the people of the country intervened in. These “solutions” are the intervening power’s idea of what the ideal is, and are not necessarily the ideal for the people with whose country the intervention occurs. These people do not own these “solutions”, and have no stake-holding in the process of arriving at such a “solution”.  The imposed solution is neither an owned nor a shared vision – and no one that it is forced upon wants to see it through, simply because it is not theirs to begin with. This only leads to more fractures in society, and varying degrees of instability that ranges from unsustainable peace to outright conflict.

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