The inaugural Global Peacebuilding Summit was held in Germany, with representatives from 30 different countries. Image credit: Eric Vazzoler/Zeitenspiegel 

Peacebuilding organisations and human rights groups working in conflict areas are in constant danger
Last month, the first Global Peacebuilder Summit took place in Germany. The summit gave an opportunity to peace activists from 30 countries including Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Kenya, Mali, Iraq and Nigeria to share their experiences and discuss the role of civil society in peace processes.

All the participants were outstanding and experienced practitioners, including such peacebuilders as Pastor Dr James Movel Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa from the Interfaith Mediation Center, Nigeria. These religious leaders work together on conflict resolution and the use of media to encourage peace. Similarly Fatuma Abdulkadir Adan, founder of Horn of Africa Development Initiative, from Kenya works to promote peace and women’s rights. As a creative approach to peace encouragement Fatuma organises football matches between the youth of competing tribes in Borana, Gabbra and Rendile.

The first three days of the Global Peacebuilder Summit were held at Paretz, a beautiful rural site close to Berlin. Inspiration came from each other, and communicating shared experiences. The environment helped many activists from conflict areas focus on mutual training, discussing peace and human rights work and identifying new challenges and their solutions to be promoted both locally and globally.

Every participant brought a symbol of peace, highlighting its importance for them and their organisation. For some, such symbols were flowers, trees, rocks, milk or feathers. For others, their families, children, or images of their activity with a deep meaning.

Challenges and opportunities

Activists say that it is difficult to implement ideas with no support from the international community
Peacebuilding organisations and human rights groups working in conflict areas are in constant danger.

Their first challenge is the threat from opposing forces, regime pressure, misunderstanding of peace activities in local society, as well as the negative role of media in spreading hate messages. All of these restrain the activities of peacebuilders. Participants concurred that a joint body should be established to protect the rights of organisations and activists that face danger.

The second threat is the lack of resources for small peacebuilding groups. Many lack support to their activities and have restricted access to financing. Discussing the impact of organisations on peace processes, some participants emphasised these challenges. Mariam B. Barandia, founder of Filipino group Kapamagogopa Incorporated, said that small groups face difficulties in their activities in crisis zones and often have to work as volunteers. There are also serious consequences for women in conflict zones, as well as the alienation of and divisions between ethnic and religious groups during crises.

Common opportunities were highlighted by the teamwork in training sessions including “Dialogue as a trio”. Divided into teams, participants spent time identifying key challenges and developing strategies to create joint peacemaking projects.

Events in crisis and post-conflict regions often change rapidly and dramatically. Therefore, it is important to share experiences with those working on peace processes at a local level. Many peacebuilders noted that a wave of asylum seekers and migrants in recent years demonstrated the strong impact of violence and war on all countries.

The solution to refugee issues depends on the successful peacebuilding efforts of governments and civil society. But activists at the Summit say that it is difficult to implement ideas with no support from the international community.

The peacebuilders later met German legislators, politicians and representatives of civil society at the Bundestag and German Foreign Ministry. They discussed these issues and the role of the German government in strengthening the efforts of local activists, their communities and countries.

Where next?

The Peacebuilder Summit should become a professional platform for development cooperation
Since my participation in the summit, I have spent time thinking about the need for further action.

First, the Peacebuilder Summit should become a professional platform for development cooperation between peacebuilding organisations around the world.

It is necessary for peacebuilders to be in constant contact, to share experiences and create and implement team projects. This will help us better understand why some countries and regions are more stable than others. How are some able to mitigate the tension without breaking down? By working together we can learn each other's practices and identify the tools that support sustainable peace.

Such an approach would complement existing strategies of conflict prevention available to policymakers, as well as helping to create new prevention mechanisms.

Cooperation on a common platform would also motivate the peacebuilding community to take further progressive steps.

For example, we have to review the balance between the study of peace and the study of violence and to disseminate this experience.

This would improve the comprehension of international donors and organisations of how to support peace work and build interaction between NGOs in different regions in the world. This would be beneficial to all of us trying to build a more peaceful world.

The Global Peacebuilder Summit was organized by the Culture Counts Foundation with the support of the Foreign Ministry of Germany.