At Peace Direct, we believe that in any conflict, there will always be groups of ordinary people, working to prevent violence or build peace. We want to support peacebuilding that will really have an impact and can transform communities. How can we know that we are continuing to find the best new groups around the world?
We decided the simplest and fairest way to ensure we continue to find the best emerging peacebuilders, wherever they might be, was through a global competition, designed to support groups at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’, the sorts of groups usually ignored by large donors. So in June we launched the competition ‘Tomorrow’s Peacebuilders’, open to community based groups anywhere in the world with an annual income of $40,000 or less.
There will be four winners of the competition, and we have put together a jury of peacebuilding experts to make the final choice. The winners of the competition will each receive $4000 funding, plus the opportunity to do attend an international peacebuilding event or learning visit.
The competition is now closed for entry, but we have had an overwhelming response – 244 applications in total. Today we are pleased to announce the shortlist of organisations that the jury will select from.
Even 5 years ago, such a competition would have been very difficult to run in a way that was truly accessible to community based organisations in conflict-affected countries. However, thanks to the spread of internet access, and using our many contacts and friends in the peacebuilding world, we were able to get word out to groups around the world. The proof of this was in the response – applications came from 54 countries, from Azerbaijan to Zambia, with all continents except Australia and Antarctica represented. The scale and quality of the applications exceeded our expectations, and during the application phase it was a pleasure every day to check our emails and see where the latest applications came from.
Each group that applied to the competition is unique, with their own strengths and approaches. Looking at the applications as whole however, two things stood out. Firstly, the vast majority of applicants are working with young people as a key part of their programme. The groups we spoke with all emphasised the key role they see young people playing in building peace; again and again, they talked about working with young people to counter propaganda, prejudice and giving them opportunities to prevent them being drawn into violence. Examples ranged from the work of CNSJ to rehabilitate former LRA child soldiers in Northern Uganda to the long-term inter-ethnic youth volunteering programmes of Kapamagogopa in the Philippines.
Secondly, the country that contributed the greatest number of applications was Kenya. That might be surprising to many people who don’t think of Kenya as a conflict affected country, but in fact the 2007/08 elections saw horrific violence that cost up to 1500 lives, and there were real fears that the elections earlier this year could result in full-scale civil war. That such a scenario was avoided was in no small part due to the many brave peacebuilding organisations active there, and many of these groups were represented in applications to the competition, including Yaya Education Trust and the Lari Memorial Peace Museum on the final shortlist.
I have had the opportunity to speak to all the groups on the shortlist, and it was fascinating to learn of the many different approaches that are being used to build peace. It was also humbling to learn of the risks and sacrifices the people in these organisations make every day in pursuit of a better future for their communities. Though only 4 will finally win the competition, the shortlist as whole demonstrate the sort of tremendous impact local peacebuilders can have, even on the most limited resources.
We would like to thank The Rockwool Foundation, the Blandford Lake Trust, the Serve All Trust and the Trusthouse Charitable Foundation for the generous funding for the competition. We would also like to thank International Bridges to Justice, who have offered invaluable technical advice.
The initiative PerMondo and its volunteers, Kristin Dale, Marine Beldjerba and Jenny Burton, have helped to translate some of our application forms into English. Other volunteer translators were: Hannah Sloss, Nikky Houlihan, Carlos Mario, and Iler Rivera-Chicas.