Learning Forum 2010
The much awaited Learning Forum for 2010 took place in an institutional, social and political context which has witnessed many changes. It was mainly characterised by the completion of the process of ACORD organisational change. The forum focused on the role of civil society organisations and the challenges of peace and security and consolidating peace in Africa, in the contexts of community-based, national and regional conflicts.
Scorecard on Conflicts and Peace-Building in Africa
The forum presented an opportunity for different actors in peace-building to initiate a debate on the issue of conflict in Africa, the experiences developed, and to draw useful lessons for future prospects. Even if the topics are intimately related, conflict has had a specific influence on the other themes.
The African continent is seen by some essayists in a status of "extreme urgency for peace". This statement explains the situation of the various crises which have been facing the continent since independence. These intra- and interstate conflicts with varied causes, have resulted in tens of millions of persons killed, wounded, displaced, women raped, and have undermined the efforts to ensure long term stability, prosperity and peace.
To address these challenges, the forum brought together policy makers, technocrats, leaders from women's movements, and human rights activists, as well as workers from social development, research, educational, the corporate sector and a cross-section of actors from diverse fields of expertise.
Response to conflicts in Africa needs to evolve from addressing the aftermaths to building community capacities to resolve issues at the grassroots as they emerge. This is because the nature of conflicts in Africa has transformed into a complex form with different competing forces taking up room including politics, struggle over resources, ethnic flare-ups and other factors.
The Community Social Contract Model has been developed in Burundi to facilitate the transformation of ethnic and socio-political conflicts that existed, and later used in Kenya in the management of the post-election crisis. Discussions on the social contract brought in the issues of its effectiveness in dealing with conflicts at community level. In addition, its suitability within political spheres, audience emerging at regional level and documentation of the process served as key areas of focus.
Cycles of Violence and African Challenges
Issues of funding, challenges of transitional justice and reconciliation systems, the youth as well as sexual and gender based violence featured highly during focus groups sessions. These sessions generated a lot of debate and new ideas that hopefully will in future provide better response to the regional and global challenges of conflict. Led by the Institute for Security Studies and Gorée Institute, a plenary session on the geopolitical angle in African conflict brought issues of internal displacement, the refugee situation and regional cooperation onto the spotlight. To take the debate onto a higher level, the forum focused on the role of civil society organisations in consolidating peace in Africa.
What are the challenges of peace and security in the contexts of community-based, national and regional conflicts? Furthermore, what is the role of the African intergovernmental organisations in peace-building? What do we mean by the regionalisation of peace operations in Africa (by the African Union and the International Conference of Great Lakes Region?) These and other points at issue featured strongly during debates.
As revealed through ACORD`s work on Peace-Building, decisive action is necessary to forestall potential conflicts in Africa. Indicators need to be measured and strategies formulated to address emerging conflicts effectively without which all the cries for help from different pockets of the continent will go unheard.