Thursday, August 14, 2014

‘We are partners, we should work together.'

    We look for personal transformation that will lead us to a higher level. We try to find people who have the same view, we bring groups together that don’t want to talk together.

- Diane Hendrick, Quaker United Nations Office

In the field of peacekeeping, there are often two trains of thought. There are those who believe that ‘We change the world one person at a time’, and those who believe ‘You need to change policies’. Here, at the first International Peace-Builders’ Forum, a joint initiative led by CAUX-Initiatives of Change and the Institute for Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding (ICP), both sides of this debate have come together.

With the support of the Caux Scholars Program, the aim of the forum was to increase inter-agency and inter-sector coordination within the peacebuilding sector, and to enhance peacebuilders' resilience. As was demonstrated during the conference, peacebuilding encompasses all areas of our society, from a personal to a policy level, and everyone’s input is vital in order to give peace a chance.

Diplomats and teenagers, professional peace keepers and academics, were all gathered together in one room to discuss peace building. What could these people possibly share with each other? Lots, as it turns out.

Over the course of two days, participants shared their experiences through interactive sessions, exhibitions and workshops. While some people shared their experiences from their work in NGOs, such as Michelle Breslauer from the Institute of Economics and Peace, others shared their experiences on a community level. Instruments of Peace, for example, spoke about their project in Gorey Community School, Ireland, where they are incorporating peace studies into their work in the classroom.

As Barry Hart, from the Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice & Peacebuilding (CJP), explained:

Peacebuilding is many things. Multi-levels are necessary. If people are brought together… from all sectors of community and society, and are trained to tell their stories and name the… people that have dramatically changed their lives, then they become participants in their own healing and actors in their society, preventing future violence and destruction.

The workshops offered were tailored with this aim. While story-sharing played a large role in the workshops, some of the workshops were focused on the more practical struggles facing peacebuilders. One such workshop, lead by Barry Hart and Dr Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, focused on methods for peace-builders to overcome compassion fatigue and burnout. Other workshops, such as the one led by the Institute for ICP, focused on applying theoretical approaches to help overcome conflict in society.

Daphrose Ntarataze, recipient of the city of Geneva’s 'Femme exilée, femme engagée' award encouraged the participants by saying ‘We are partners, we should work together. We are partners together in humanity.’ This forum has hopefully set the wheels in motion for better understanding between different sectors of society, and society will no doubt benefit from what the participants have learned here in both their work and communities.