Peace Labs (The Lebanese Group for Transforming Conflicts) is an non-partisan peacebuilding organization established and officially registered in 2012 and working under the motto "facilitating difficult conversations" to overcome the many fault lines separating Lebanese.
It aims at empowering Lebanese communities to address conflicts nonviolently and creatively and prevent conflicts. It works closely with individuals, Community Based Organizations (CBOs), local Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), local actors such as municipalities, in addition to donor agencies and ministries.
Peace is not an end result, rather it is a daily strife and a conscious effort to work for, and promote a world that can provide the institutions, the culture and the people who believe in the peaceful transformation of conflicts, with the preservation of the human life and dignity.
The name itself, Peace Labs, came as a direct realization that the field of peace and conflict is still at its early stages and there are no ready-made solutions for conflicts, especially in Lebanon and similar diverse post conflict societies hosting communities of refugees. Rather, there is a need for a Lab, or a space for conducting work, for learning together and for constantly improving the quality of peace practice within the society while generating knowledge for others to benefit from.
The focuses on projects related to peacebuilding and conflict resolution engaging directly with the target communities at a grassroots level is the best approach to peacebuilding. In 2014 it established new projects in North Lebanon with Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian communities.
Overall the aims and objectives of Peace Labs can be summarized as follows: Empowering Lebanese communities to address conflicts non-violently and creatively; Preventing violence among Lebanese and with refugees.
To that end, the organisation’s mission is not only to advocate mediation but also to put it actively into practice. This is especially important given both Lebanese communities and refugees, and the need for advocacy in the field lack awareness of the meaning of mediation in practice.
Peace Labs works to fill this gap with the provision of alternative solutions such as skilled peacebuilders, the possibility of intra-group discussions and dialogues, and many more.
Its work has the following 3 main pillars:
- Capacity Building: assisting and training individuals and communities on understanding, analysing, and addressing conflicts; it is paramount to start with an understanding of what constitutes ‘conflict’.
- Mediation and Conflict Facilitation: intervention upon request, in interpersonal, intra-communal and inter-communal conflicts as conflict facilitators or mediators. Peace Labs also produces material on mediation to be used and implemented by the communities needing them.
- Reflection, documentation, evaluation and learning: reflection exercises, both internally and with its partners, with the purpose of extracting knowledge, lessons learned that feeds into frameworks and models for peace. The idea is to assess projects undertaken in order to maintain good practices and reduce pitfalls for future projects.
Furthermore, Peace Labs considers itself a bridge. It aims to connect academia and practice in the field. This reflects the goal of providing peacebuilding courses at universities, and focusing on lessons learned within the field and Lebanese communities.
It also notes the lack of communication between international donors and Lebanese NGOs, and aim to helps them communicate with one another. It strives to adjust the thinking and ideas on both sides as well as to challenge some of their approaches. Whilst youth is one of Peace Labs target groups, it does not work with youth exclusively but rather follow a holistic approach of working with younger and older generations simultaneously. This is a result of the realisation that youth education for peace is essential to prevent history repeating itself. It is not normally part of Lebanese culture for young people to challenge their parents and seniors, so engaging older generations on the issues is also important.
Every two weeks, Peace Labs team members spend a full day on a group meeting. The agenda of these gatherings are constantly changing, ranging from discussing new ideas or future plans, as a means of internal capacity building.
Peace Labs Capacity Building. One of Peace Lab's past projects has been a capacity-building training for NGOs in the area of Tripoli (North Lebanon). This had the purpose of strengthening the capacity of local NGOs in Tripoli and surrounding neighborhoods on youth involvement and volunteer management on the topic of conflict and diversity.
Peace Labs approaches projects with the aim of spending as much time as possible ahead of project implementation within the target community in order to get a sense of the target community’s lives, problems, thinking and mentality. It believes this is a pre-condition for a project’s success, as it allows the project to be marketed correctly, and find true acceptance, trust and respect among target communities. With this in mind, Peace Labs decided to have an outreach office in Northern Lebanon, with the main focus of creating visibility with their target groups, and demonstrating the impact of the work they undertake.
With the influx of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Peace Labs introduced a series of sessions on mediation and conflict resolution techniques that involved both Lebanese from hosting communities and Syrian as well Palestinians refugees in Northern Lebanon.