The agenda was as follows:

Day 1: What do we mean by peacebuilding? An introduction to the meaning of peacebuilding in general and on the African continent in particular.

Day 2: The example of South Sudan (with a film on the Alternatives to Violence Project)

Day 3: Comparison: state-managed peacebuilding on the example of Kosovo and Bosnia-Hercegovina

Day 4: Lessons, issues and discussions

Discussion and results:

Peacebuilding in Africa: There are many actors working on peacebuilding in Africa. In the heart of these organizations are social and peace movements affiliated to WRI, IFOR, COPA (Coalition for Peace in Africa) and other regional movements. The African Centre for Constructive Resolution of Dispute “ACCORD” is based in Durban with offices in other countries, and there are women-focused groups including Women Action Network for Peace (WANEP) and Women Peacemakers Program (WPP). Newer research into peacebuilding strategies and effects teaches us that while civil society has an important role to play in peacebuilding, state actors (with their much greater to resources) cannot be neglected, and peacebuilding works best where the various actors manage to cooperate. Hence, the role of regional and sub-bodies, such as the African Union (AU), Intergovernmental Authority on Development(IGAD), Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) and Southern African Development Community (SADC), is important. Although sub-regional bodies were originally established to promote socioeconomic welfare of the region, they ended up playing greater roles in peacemaking as an entry point to economic development.

Peacebuilding projects are more effective when designed and adapted to the socio-cultural, economic and political context and needs of the local people. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to African problems. This is because every context in Africa is unique and finding “African solutions to African problems” requires analysis and understanding of indigenous complex African culture, values, norms and traditions. Even within a given African country there are diverse cultural differences: what works in community “A” may not work in community “B”. There is a need to carry out regular research and conduct experience sharing and trainings in order to widen our understanding of local culture for building a culturally sensitive and coherent peacebuilding approach. It was emphasized that international solidarity groups and movements such as WRI and IFOR should invest into capacity development of local actors or members through support for peace research, regular exchanges for learning, networking and other peacebuilding interventions.

However, peace education, working from the grass-roots, concepts that start with the individual and her/his attitude to violence have however proven successful in several contexts, especially the Quakers’ Alternative to Violence Programme which, having been developed originally for trainings with prison inmates in the Global North, has been tried out in such diverse contexts as Sudan / South Sudan, Nepal and Colombia.

Participants debated on whether peacebuilding is an end by itself or is a means to an end? The conclusion was that, it’s both. However, it was recommended that peacebuilding should take the needs and aspirations of the people into account by recognizing that peace includes delivery of social services without which, peace will be meaningless.

If peacebuilding becomes a programme of international governments (in post-war contexts, often when there was before a military intervention), then often very standardized approaches and recepies are being applied (‘state-building’, security sector reform, democratization through setting up national elections, support of civil society). These have been criticized as widely neo-colonial approaches trying to enforce models of the intervenors on the recipients of such programs (the “liberal peace” paradigm).

Such international intervention often has led to the dis-empowerment rather than the empowerment of civil society. An example is Kosovo where the existing organisations and actors who had been mounting a very successful nonviolent resistance campaign in the decade before the war of 1998/99, were side-lined or considered even hostile. It was therefore, recommended that coordination between peace stakeholders is important. This includes coordination with the governments, Regional and Sub Regional Bodies, international organizations and United Nations. The coordination should be guided with a philosophy of working with and not working for people in any given context.



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