By Rebecca Crall, Area of Focus Manager, Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution
Building sustainable peace projects requires holistic thinking and a community-driven approach. Rotarians are uniquely positioned to foster healthy, resilient and more peaceful communities.
Violent conflict can devastate a country’s society, economy and political governance. Coordinating projects that prevent or resolve conflict requires a tailored, sensitive approach. Rotarians can play a vital role in the peace building process by galvanizing members of their communities to identify and address the underlying causes of conflict. While the types of projects Rotarians develop vary greatly, the following examples may help your club or district identify action-oriented approaches to building and sustaining peace:
As business and community leaders, the Rotary family can create initiatives designed with particular attention to fostering social capital, cooperating across conflict lines, and serving as the foundation for reintegration and reconciliation in divided communities. Some examples may include:
- Creating business associations across former conflict lines
- Job skills training for youth
- Job skills training for refugees in destination countries
Rotarians have ample experience in programs for young leaders. Imbuing existing programs, such as after-school programs, youth camps and sports activities with non-violent curriculum can have a powerful impact, including:
- Enhancing the peace-building knowledge and skills of young people
- Creating a safe space for youth to express their opinions
- Building trust between youth and authority figures or governments
- Promoting intergenerational exchange
- Supporting youth who are positively contributing to their communities
Media, communication and civic education
There are many community-based media and communication outlets that can help advance peace building efforts. For example, radio stations and other forms of media, broadcasted in multiple languages, seek to promote dialogue and debate on key issues. Theatre productions and puppet shows, designed and conducted by communities, have also been used for outreach education such as teaching human rights norms and values and strategies for peacefully resolving disputes. Civic education on human rights and justice can be powerful tools for integrating marginalized communities.
In any project aiming to prevent conflict and foster peace, consider:
Conflict sensitivity: Understanding conflict in the context in which it exists and being sensitive to the tensions and issues causing a dispute maximizes positive outcomes by considering local dynamics.
Community-based approaches: All community members, and especially traditionally marginalized groups, should be involved in community-level discussions and decision-making. The entire community should have access to information on the specific program or project, on decisions and selected priorities, and on the use of funds. This type of inclusivity fosters fairness, transparency and accountability, which is particularly important in conflict-affected and fragile contexts where levels of trust are low.
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