International Day of Peace 2013: Community-Driven Education

21 Sept. 2013: ACORD promotes Community-Driven Education for Peace

ACORD has been working in and on conflict for more than 30 years in Africa and has put education and locally-owned peace building processes and conflict prevention mechanisms at the heart of its peace work. One of the most fundamental findings of our researches, grassroots consultations, policy analysis, and peace projects reports, has been the importance of building sustainable peace at community level and ensuring that divided communities understand the root causes of their conflicts and decide to address them together with a view to committing to a win-win peaceful coexistence. The majority of armed conflicts around the world are internal or "intra-national" wars, in which groups in conflict live close to each other.

The real or perceived enemy is often located in the same region, city, village, neighbourhood or even household. In such a situation, persons live as neighbours while being locked in long-standing cycles of negative interaction. These conflicts are characterised by an animosity and deeply rooted fear and stereotypes. For conflicts which have affected identity and shaped the lives of the population through several generations it is important to find new approaches to conflict transformation; an approach that allows people to process their experiences, challenge their stereotypes and prejudices, and to take leadership in the search for solutions accessible in the community towards achieving peaceful coexistence and recovery.

The Community Social Peace and Recovery Model

A multi-awarded peace building methodology was developed by ACORD to achieve the above: the Community Social Peace and Recovery (CSPR) Model. This methodology is a process of community-driven dialogue aimed at analysing root causes of conflict, to begin healing of emotional wounds/trauma and undertaking negotiations to secure formal commitments for durable peaceful cohabitation and community-based recovery. While peace agreements are often negotiated at national level, the aim of the CSPR Model is to extend peace processes to the local (community) level. While their success is dependent upon the support of the population, national/political peace agreements - although creating an improved political environment - do not necessarily respond to the realities on the ground at local level. This is despite the fact that it is the grassroots communities which are most affected by conflict and suffer from the challenges emerging from such, such as forced recruitment, abduction, loss of life, loss of their livelihoods or land, displacement, rape, diseases, etc. To make matters worse, countries at times forget about the conflict and tensions remaining at grassroots level, once a national level political peace deal has been attained. Similarly, judicial systems are often unable to ensure accountability after conflict, either because they are deemed partial or simply because of the scale of atrocities and human right violation that require jurisprudence. There is a challenge for justice, accountability and reparation to apply in such a context of massive violation of human rights, marked with political and ethnically negative solidarities and manipulation, unless, social peace is recovered locally. Hence, the purpose of the Community Social Peace and Recovery Model is to ensure that peace agreements reflect the local needs and realities and generate a grassroots momentum for national peace. The model supports the divided and affected communities to take leadership to dialogue and negotiate social peace and come up with agreed social contracts for sustainable peace and recovery. This is achieved through community dialogue.

Education, in its formative and guiding sense, is at the heart of all the steps of this methodology:

1. Community dialogue and negotiation
The communities are guided to share how the conflict has affected them as a means of "emotional healing" and creating understanding between the conflicting parties. They then jointly take the responsibility to identify the root causes and effects of the conflict as well as the role individuals and groups have played in contributing to the conflict. Subsequently the communities take the lead in proposing community- based solutions and reparations for the issues identified.

2. Social contracts for peace 
In order to formally commit to peaceful coexistence, communities are assisted to negotiate "social contracts". These are morally binding contracts which commit all parties in the conflict to contribute to a culture of peace and refrain from negative behaviour identified during the community dialogue sessions. These social contracts are signed by representatives from the rivalling parties.

3. Jointly designed and executed peace/recovery projects
Peace/recovery projects are designed together between the rivalling parties. The priorities are jointly identified and delivered by the affected communities themselves to support their recovery, consolidate peace, and "cement" their negotiated social contracts.

4. Community watchdogs
Community watchdogs are subsequently set up by the communities themselves in each of their locations, to oversee the implementation of the community social peace contracts and continue to encourage individuals to maintain their commitments to peaceful cohabitation.

This process has proven to form a strong foundation for sustainable peace and recovery and create conducive environment for locally owned justice and accountability which contributes to the stability of a nation as a whole.

ACORD also implements a number of other tools and methodologies to support its peace building work, such as the Stepping Stones methodology that is a training and education process that involves working with people over a period of 12 to 18 weeks during which time they undergo a process of group self-exploration and develop the ability to look critically at the societal norms and values influencing their own attitudes and behaviours. As the process moves on, they identify ways in which these attitudes and behaviours may need to be changed in order to prevent/build peace and, to bring about life changes and improvements, such as improved communication with partners and children, more understanding and caring for others and increased self-respect.
Other conflict and social analysis tools are used to build peace at community level, such as: the social exclusion analysis tool and the Human Right Based approach framework to help identify rights abuses and their contributing factors; the problem tree analysis; power relations analysis; gender relations analysis; the conflict timeline tool; the scale of reflection or derivative scale particularly useful for analysis with community and identifying differing perceptions; 4-Quadrant tool for identifying the progression of the conflict and possible solutions; and the Do No Harm framework useful as a tool of context analysis as well as response planning.

ACORD has been working in conflict areas such as Angola, Burundi, Chad, Congo (DRC), Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea Conakry, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. A small snap-shot of some our work towards sustainable peace in Africa:
• In Rwanda houses and access to land and property have been secured for orphaned/separated minors following the 1994 genocide.
• In Guinea (Conakry) ACORD has been assisting in the integration of refugees from Sierra Leone unable to return to their country.
• In Central African Republic, ACORD enhances peace building and socio-economic reintegration of young men and women who have been part of armed rebel groups or involved in armed conflict. The action plan revolves around two main approaches: livelihoods and leadership, as well as capacity development in areas of negotiations among different social sectors.
• In Mali it has sought to redress the impacts of the Touareg rebellion among local communities.
• In Angola, ACORD has contributed to the sustainable reintegration of ex-combatants in the civil war between the MPLA and UNITA.
• Negotiated for peaceful relations between communities affected by conflict over natural resources such as in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad 
and Cameroon.
• At the same time it has been contributing to peaceful relations in eastern Sudan, while playing its 
role in supporting the implementation of peace agreements such as the Abuja and Comprehensive 
Peace Agreements through its recovery, peace building and advocacy efforts.
• In Uganda it helped generate dialogue between the Government and Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) with a view to securing peace in Uganda, but also to curb the conflict's influence on 
security in Sudan, the DRC, the Central African Republic and beyond. 

ACORD has conducted valuable research into the causes, effects and coping mechanisms related to conflict which feeds into its practical and advocacy work.

  • conflict and peacebuilding
  • peace