Salina Sanou Speech at Peace Beyond Borders Round Table

Salina Sanou, Head of Policy and Advocacy, ACORD

5 issues worth underscoring based on the discussions we’ve been having over the past two days:

1. Firstly, the Peace Beyond Borders is calling upon us all to “think regionally and act locally”.  We see a growing need to better understand the interrelatedness between the regional, the local, and also the global to address conflict transformation and peace building through perspectives and approaches that are informed.  This is particularly important at such a time as this when we are looking forward to a new post-2015 global development framework. Lessons learned from the Millennium Development Goals that local and global peace and security issues have to be addressed in order to achieve local and global development peace and security.  We believe that the Secretary General’s report this September will retain the specific articulation of a goal on peace – currently goal #16 of the SDGs.  Once we get to the stage of domesticating the new framework, we need to ensure that the lessons we’re learning from years of peace building work feature in respective national action plans.

2.  Secondly, in thinking globally or regionally and acting locally, we need to be conscious of the reality that most conflict affected communities are well able to articulate their concerns and the solutions thereof.  From the design of the Peace Beyond Programme, it is clear that this concern is well understood and addressed – right from the Participatory Action Research and the central role of artisan de paix in the programme.  We need to conitue strengthening such methodologies which create space for citizens to reflect on the challenges they face, and their ideas for how they want to see change take place.  In 2014, we conducted close to 50 citizen-driven workshops in 13 different countries across the continent. The idea was to harness the power of the African citizen – to privilege their position as agents in their own development. The workshops triggered debate and discussion in some of the most remote and marginalised communities in Africa today. We found that at the heart of many of the experiences of African citizens is that current trends in development and governance on the continent are indicative of a broken bond between citizens and state, in which states are not accountable or responsive to the needs and rights of their citizens. As such, sustainable peace building initiatives must have strong capacity for monitoring, analysis, and advocacy
3. From our discussions a recurrent issue that came up during the past two days is that there is a need for coordinated engagement between civil society and intergovernmental organizations. I am glad that Celine has spoke to Oxfam’s role in ensuring leadership is provided in this key aspect of the Peace Beyond Borders programme.  We must advocate for policy change at all levels.  In order to do so, there is a critical need for civil society organizations to acquire effective advocacy skills. These skills range from knowing how to gain access, getting and retaining attention with a compelling message, being equipped with information and knowing how to effectively communicate to policy makers, knowing how to build and retain relationships with policy makers, and being able to maintain organizational independence while effectively engaging with official organizations.  Again, I’m glad that as Celine has pointed out, there exists training opportunities for civil society organizations working on peace and security issues to strengthen their advocacy capabilities.

4.  The fourth issue I would like to underscore is the growing emphasis on comprehensive transitional justice and reconciliation processes.  Even from the vision statement we discussed this morning, it is clear that the overlap between the fields of human rights protection, peace building and conflict transformation is becoming larger. There is an increasing call for a “holistic approach” to peace building – as exemplified by the objectives of.  Practically speaking, I am aware that there are contexts where debates on which should come first between “peace” and “justice” are still an issue.  But, the Peace Beyond Border’s programme offers us an opportunity to move past this dichotomy and focus instead on pursuing “peace with justice” and by justice, I mean all forms of justice, including socio-economic justice for post-conflict communities. 

At ACORD, we’re conscious that at the grassroots level, the authority restructures whose impact is immediately felt by local level, are those of local government and traditional governance mechanisms.  The fact that existing norms and practices within these grassoot level structures are mainly geared towards fostering social relations means they are for the most part incapable of delivering justice for victims and least for women and children because of their strong patriarchal nature.  We are in the process of finalising a study in Uganda whose aim is to generate knowledge on how customary/traditional justice and legal systems can be strengthened to enable them become more effective instruments of peace, transitional justice, and women and young people’s rights.  We hope to scale up this research to various African contexts in the near future.  Its outputs will strengthen our Community Social Peace and Reconciliation model which we’re presently applying in varied contexts in East, Central and West Africa.

5.  My fifth and final point is more of a question for us to reflect on as we move forward.  How do civil society organizations such as those represented here sustain their peace building work by institutionalizing it and at the same time break out of institutional (and bureaucratic) limits to connect with broader civic agencies and with each other for peace and social justice? A veritable peace movement would be a solid anchor not only in relation to countering the internal factors and dynamics that feed conflict in the Great Lakes region, but would also be an effective response to the external factors and global forces that feed the conflicts.   I will leave you with this question:  How can we work sustainably and yet fluidly enough to effectively build civic agency with each other and others not present here in order to achieve our vision?

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