Amid a global pandemic, rising global violence, and a national and worldwide reckoning over systemic injustice and racism, #PeaceCon2020 brought together experts and practitioners to consider the interplay of justice and peacebuilding, and strategies to elevate and integrate peacebuilding in our collective effort to shape a more just, secure and peaceful future in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our goal is #ShapingWhatComesNext.
“Working with local communities in partnership helps the peace and health outcomes in communities.” ~ Lilian Kiapi
Over the last 10 years, this international conference has grown to become the largest global gathering of peacebuilders held worldwide. But it is also a dynamic platform for peacebuilders to engage the global affairs community. The conference brought together and connected leaders from government, multilateral organizations, international and local NGOs, philanthropy, the private sector, academia, and youth constituencies to share best practices and innovation in the field and build partnerships.
“I believe that building relationships, engaging in constructive conversation and working together to achieve shared goals across geographic, political, racial and other divides is a vehicle for addressing injustice and promoting positive peace.” ~ Joe Bubman
Recognizing the unique challenges posed by COVID-19 and the critical need for collaboration, knowledge building, and community connection, they pivoted to an all-digital PeaceCon and reimagined the event. Indeed, Covid-19 can be considered as an opportunity. As explained by Precious during the Conference, for us at Galaxy for Peace and Integrity Initiative, COVID-19 provided us the platform to translate our physical peace education class in Nigerian schools to digital lesson modules for parents to use at home to teach children peace values such as tolerance, empathy, problem-solving skills and so much more.
“As peacebuilders, we should be focused on manifestations of violence in our country, not just the risks of future violent conflicts.” ~ Joe Bubman
Lessons on conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, effective dialogue were also captured in this digital tool. We strongly believe that early teaching of peace education in children will enable us to shape the kind of society we want to see next. In this regard, among the numerous interesting conferences, one, in particular, impressed me, Making Peace in a Polarized Nation.
“Every one of us can be a peacebuilders in our communities. Let’s try and move from the narrow identity of religion and ethnicity. Let’s look at others as ontological siblings.” ~ Reverend Canice Enyiaka
Undoubtedly, our world is increasingly divided. Deepening political polarization, all around the world, poses a profound threat to democracy. As polarization becomes toxic, it deteriorates trust in institutions and among fellow citizens, gives rise to political violence, and impedes collaboration across political lines.
“One of the biggest barriers that youth have faced over the last few years is making sure that the information surrounding the involvement and role of youth in the peacebuilding movement and peace and security agendas are not written or shared with the audience of youth in mind.” ~ Safiyah Marhnouj
Toxic polarization implies implicit and unconscious polarised psychology, you vs I becomes conceived as us versus them. A winner must be proclaimed by force. And it can’t be them.
“We have lost a lot of our ability to send soft power around the world and that has impacted our ability to do peacebuilding.” ~ Jesse Morton
Indeed, social identity can influence polarisation. And the media play an incredible role. This session aimed to elucidate the psychological factors that contribute to identity-based polarization, offered insights into what makes such polarization toxic, and identified ways to reduce toxic polarization and bridge partisan divides.
Panelists are drawn from their diverse areas of expertise in cognitive and behavioral science, conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and media to discuss how we can come together, across sectors, to reduce partisan division. Although the presented research focused on polarization in the United States, special attention was also given to how research findings can be applied to understand and address division in global contexts. By the way, it was the intervention of Mr. Ebrahim Rasool, Former South African Ambassador to the United State, that kindled the fire of hope within each of us, young peacebuilders from all over the world.
“Funding and support for local actors has to be done differently. Giving support to those in the communities is necessary for achieving sustainable peace in war torn countries. People don’t abuse the money, they use it to bring about peace.” ~ Nomfundo Walaza
His extensive political commitment to justice and coexistence included leadership in the United Democratic Front and the African National Congress. Through this commitment, he has had to make sacrifices like spending time in prison, where he met Nelson Mandela for the first time and being under house arrest. More recently, he was South Africa’s Ambassador to the United States of America.
Other political contributions include being a Member of Parliament in the National Assembly, Special Advisor to the State President of the Republic of South Africa, and Premier of the Western Cape Province. His speech was very powerful. Since we have arrived at the end of December, before the start of a new year, I want to share with you his words, which are a good omen.
A sort of list of good intentions for the coming year:
1. The other is here to stay, the other cannot disappear. We must not be afraid of the other, of what we do not know. Because life is also made up of this, of discoveries, knowledge, relationships, and comparison. And above all, we are not alone in the world.
2. For this reason, ask yourself a question, “What is your vision?” The country belongs to all living in it. And this also an act of generosity. Those who were exploited are still allowing the executioners to remain on the same hearth.
3. You don’t destroy what you want to inherit, don’t you? That’s why you cannot use violence to claim your rights.
4. In the contact of struggle, no polarisation can disappear. Polarization can be positive, to some extent. What you should do is to isolate the extreme positions and work hard to posit the commonalities among different views.
5. The encounters happen on the middle ground. And through the human lens, no dehumanization is needed. That’s what distinguishes the popularity of Nelson Mandela from the populism of Donald Trump. It’s not us vs them. It’s just the US.
6. There is no easy redemption. You have to struggle for achieving the truth.
7. Truth is the point of arrival, but also the pillar that supports the whole system. There is a limit to rainbows if there is no truthtelling.
8. Intersection between justice and peace is reconciliation. Stop the spread of polarised narratives, and engage in thoughtful interactions.
In conclusion, these points represent a guide to change our world for the better. I believe that #PeaceCon2020 was an incredible opportunity for young people to develop and strengthen their knowledge, values, and capacity to build a peaceful world at all levels and dimensions in life. An empowered peacebuilder can make things change for the better!
“The volunteering of free labor by youth has to be addressed in the design and the ethics of our relationship with young peacebuilders who often also face burdens in providing for their families.” ~ Mike Mccabe
What are you waiting for? May be our actions be louder than our words.
Happy new year to you all, dear readers! – by Giulia Chiapperini