Call for applications: Effective Advising in Peacebuilding Contexts

Countries that emerge from periods of violence or are undergoing complex and profound governance changes often need to rebuild or reform their public sector institutions and the governance relationship between state authorities and citizens. National and international experts/ advisers seek to support these public authorities and other actors, on policy formulation and implementation. Yet reviews of decades of technical assistance show that the expertise provided is not always producing the desired results.

This course seeks to better equip advisers by honing essential interactional and advisory skills, and by offering frameworks and guidance on how to understand and navigate the broader institutional environment and change processes they find themselves in. It creates a space for exchange and learning on the practice of advising from resource people and between participants.

Peacebuilding will not be taught during this course. Rather, it is the participants' expertise, the case studies and exercises that will reflect the real-life challenges of peacebuilding work.

Who is this course for?

This course is relevant if you:

Main topics of the course:

At the end of this course participants will be able to:


The course is geared towards adult learning and uses participatory approaches. It provides a number of carefully selected frameworks and methodologies that advisers can apply to a variety of case studies and realities, in order to better understand and handle the challenges they are confronted with. Next to content inputs, the course works with the participants' own real-life challenges and experience. In addition, they will take part in various exercises which will deepen self-awareness and skill development, complemented by groupwork and exercises.

Application, process and costs

There will be a maximum of twenty participants. Interested individuals are requested to apply, using the application form that can be downloaded from or requested from the course coordinator. Selection will be based on the general participant criteria outlined above, the personal case study found in the application form and so as to have a balance between men and women and uniformed and civilian participants.

There is no course fee and residential expenses of food and accomodation are covered. Participants are responsible for their travel to and from the course venue and possible visa application fees. Health insurance that covers Switzerland is strongly advised.

The course is in English. Translation cannot be provided.

When and where?

The course starts at midday on Monday 22 August, and finishes at midday on Tuesday 30 August. Saturday 27 August will be a day off.

The course takes place at the Chateau de Bossey, some 20km east of Geneva, Switzerland.

Download the application form here.

For more information contact:


Resilience and peacebuilding: Analytical frameworks for assessing resilience in Guatemala

A multi-sectoral discussion was organized by the Frameworks for Assessing Resilience in Guatemala programme. Given the context of Guatemala, the participation of multiple sectors of society and industry is unique. The programme lasted 22 months and ended with a public presentation of the book “Resilience and peacebuilding.”

The book concerns Guatemalan’s perspective on the ways in which people face up to conflict situations in their society. The findings are based on a consultation involving around 150 key actors of society in 11 departments of the country (Guatemala, Quiché, Totonicapán, San Marcos, Huehuetenango, Jalapa, Zacapa, Izabal, Alta Verapaz, Petén and Escuintla). The consultation included women, indigenous people, youth, politicians and representatives of social organizations. In this context, Interpeace implemented the Frameworks for Assessing Resilience in Guatemala programme in order to identify and promote resilience capabilities existing in Guatemalan society to transform conflict in a non-violent way.

Additionally, a survey, with the support of the Humanitarian Initiative of Harvard University, was conducted in 22 departments with around 4,000 people were interviewed. The results served as the basis for a multi-sectoral dialogue involving various sectors of society. Politicians, representatives of civil society, businessmen and experts all participated. These groups were key to defining the situations to which society is resilience. These groups were primarily resilient to insecurity and violence, socio-environmental conflicts and the issue of political corruption.

Representatives of various sectors of society with political and social influence in Guatemala attended the public release of the book. Each took a moment to express the view of their sector, as well as their experience of the dialogue process.

Norman Martínez, sub-secretary for conflict resolution of Land Affairs Secretary, highlighted that the state sector has already held talks with the private sector. He said each party expressed a willingness to work together and suggested there is awareness of the need to change the habit of each sector working in isolation. Martínez pointed out the need to join efforts to reach agreements that transcend and transform conflicts of the Guatemalan population.

Meanwhile Eduardo Aguirre, manager of inter-institutional relations at Cementos Progreso, lauded the scientific and investigative value of the research. One of the greatest achievements of this process, he said, was its success in involving multiple sectors of society.

Aguirre also expressed that the private sector needs to change and learn to apologize when necessary, but it also needs to redesign its policy on investment by returning to the practice of seeking permission before launching projects.

While Helmer Velásquez, Director of the Executive Coordination of NGOs and Cooperatives of Guatemala (CONGCOOP), stressed that it is necessary to break the narrow view that major conflicts will result in less investment.

Rokael Cardona, the Commissioner of Dialogue and Decentralization, attended on behalf of the Vice-President of the Republic, Jafeth Cabrera. He said that the government is currently creating different spaces for dialogue. However, he also stressed that patience is needed as it is important to know how to listen to stakeholders.

Resilience capabilities within society

Ana Glenda Tager, Regional Director for Interpeace Latin America, explained that the process was implemented in three countries simultaneously: East Timor, Liberia and Guatemala. The project was generously supported by the Swedish International cooperation agency.

Mariel Aguilar, Country Coordinator of the Interpeace Guatemala programme and Director of the resilience process, explained the different phases of the programme; scan, query, participatory action research, surveys and quantitative analysis and advocacy dialogue with stakeholders representing sectors of Guatemalan society.

In combination, these phases explore the resilience mechanisms that allow individuals, groups, communities and the general public to confront situations that are harmful to their quality of life, or situations that arise as a result of conflict.

This process is important in encouraging participants to reflect, analyze and debate the possibilities posed by the perspective of resilience in the transformation of conflicts by non-violent means. Interpeace provides spaces for dialogue between the participants to facilitate this.

Otto Argueta, Learning and Policy Officer at Interpeace, presented the most important findings of the Interpeace and Harvard University poll. The survey demonstrated the characteristics of Guatemalan society and its resilience while encapsulating the regional differences and variations in age, gender, ethnicity and income.

Argueta stressed that, in the case of Guatemala, trust between public institutions and the community depends on the proximity of the state with people. In addition, social participation varies in relationship of formality or informality depending on the forms of participation.

"I believe that the contribution that this group has made, through excellent methodology, mediation and team work, has generated an excellent result represented in part by this book,” Argueta said. “What I hope for rests not only on an analysis of theoretical national reality and problems which we live, but on a proposal that is echoed in the public and private institutions".

The closing remarks were made by Ivanova Ancheta, the former Vice Minister of energy and mines and an independent consultant, and Undersecretary of international cooperation in Segeplan Víctor Ayala.

Ancheta emphasized that the study of this book provides a perspective on Guatemalan’s resilience, their actions, aspirations and priorities.

Víctor Ayala recalled that Guatemalan culture has violence as part of its historical heritage and "must deconstruct the image that we have of the other, thinking that he is our enemy because he doesn't think like us." All of us have a right to dissent and to think differently, but this does not imply that we are enemies, he concluded.

Filomena Mascarenhas: History of an experience

Filmomena Mascarenhas, a deeply committed peacebuilder, has worked with Voz di Paz since 2007. Prior to this she worked within the Ministry of National Defence in Guinea-Bissau, an experience which left her with a deeper understanding of the inner workings of the military. Here she recounts her experience, the prejudices she encountered and shares how this shaped her own views.

In my life the most memorable experience was the appointment to the post of Minister of National Defense (April 2003 to May 2004). The appointment did not inspire me as it didn’t align with my personal interests, I never saw myself working in the defense sector. Consequently, I decided not to accept the position and refrained from taking office.

Following this, many friends, and not only mine, urged me to accept the challenge given the difficult situation which our country faced. Out of respect I ended up saying yes.

My first day as Minister of National Defense was tough because it coincided with a meeting convened by the then Chief of the armed forces. The meeting ran from 9:00 to 20:00 and was attended by all the heads of branches, military inspectors, senior officers and commanders of military zones.

During the meeting, the military spoke of the difficult situation which existed in the barracks and asked me to bring their concerns to the President of the Republic Dr. Kumba Yala. This meeting was a shock that opened my eyes. It awakened me to the prejudices I, as a civilian, held towards the military and it gave me a glimpse of the great challenges which this institution had to face.

However, after a few months it seemed that I had always worked in the Ministry. The relationship with the military was the most outspoken I had. For example, during a work meeting, the then Chief of the Armed Forces, in the presence of the Inspector of the Armed Forces, told me the following:

"Miss Minister, you have to know that upon your appointment we were concerned. This also applied to the Inspector  who came to me saying that the President did not respect the military, so he appointed a woman, even worse a little girl. Now, you are the one who brings me the Inspector when I ask for him! They tell me, ‘he is at the Ministry with the lady Minister.’” He continued, “One day I told him, ‘Inspector! It seems that you are very fond of our Minister?’ The inspector responded to me, ‘a lot...she is like my niece...the President took time to send her here. If she had been here much earlier, today this institution would be different.”

Many treated me with respect and showed a willingness to collaborate during my stay at the Ministry of National Defense, and this continued even after I had left. As an example, the most profound diagnosis of the causes of conflict in Guinea-Bissau, conducted by Voz di Paz, continues with the participation of military personnel of different rank and office.

Voz di Paz has benefited from this confidence. The connection has made the organization of meetings with the military easier, ensured the availability of their installations for the purpose of work, and resulted in their participation and openness in discussions.

Honestly, from the Ministry, I keep good memories of a frank and honest relationship with the armed forces.

From this experience I learned that you should never give a promise which you cannot keep to a person in the military, and if you want to have authority,then you should never use anything that is intended for your own benefit.

I conclude with this advice to all women: "It is good that you never lack courage and self-esteem. There is no one who has more courage than a woman, proof of this being the act of bringing a human being into the world."


Filomena Mascarenhas

You can read the original article in Portuguese here.


Filomena Mascarenhas: História de uma experiência

Filomena Mascarenhas, uma construtora de paz dedicada, trabalha desde 2007 com Voz di Paz. Anteriormente, Filomena trabalhou no Ministério da Defesa Nacional da Guiné-Bissau, uma experiência que lhe deu  um conhecimento profundo do funcionamento do círculo militar. Aqui nos conta a sua experiência, os preconceitos encontrados, os quais contribuíram a alterar o seu ponto de vista.

A experiência mais marcante da minha vida foi a minha nomeação para o cargo de Ministra da Defesa Nacional (de Abril de 2003 a Maio de 2004).

Esta nomeação estava fora de qualquer interesse meu, porque não me imaginava num cargo ligado à defesa. Em consequência, decidi não aceitar o cargo.

Seguindo isto, muitos amigos e conhecimentos foram ter comigo, aconselhando-me aceitar o desafio, sobretudo no momento em que se vivia no país. Por respeito acabei por aceitar.

O meu primeiro dia como ministra da Defesa Nacional foi muito atormentado. Coincidiu com uma reunião convocada pelo então chefe de Estado Maior General Veríssimo C. Seabra. No encontro que durou das 9:00 as 20:00, estavam presentes todos os chefes de ramos, inspetores militares, oficiais superiores e comandantes de zonas militares.

Durante o encontro, os militares falaram da difícil situação que se vive nas casernas e pediram-me para fazer chegar as suas preocupações ao Presidente da República Dr. Kumba Yala. Esta reunião foi a terapia de choque que me abriu os olhos. Primeiramente sobre os preconceitos que eu tinha como civil em relação aos militares, e em seguida permitiu-me conhecer os grandes desafios que tinha que enfrentar naquela instituição.

Passados poucos meses, parecia-me que sempre tinha trabalhado naquela instituição. O relacionamento com os militares foi dos mais francos que eu tive. Por exemplo, durante uma reunião de trabalho, o então chefe de Estado Maior General das Forças Armadas (FA), General Veríssimo Correia Seabra, na presença do Inspetor da FA Tagme na Waie disse-me: “Senhora Ministra, sabe que aquando da sua nomeação ficamos preocupados. O Inspetor Tagme veio ter comigo dizendo que o Presidente da República não tinha respeito pelos militares, e por isso nomeou uma mulher ao posto de Ministra. Ainda pior, falou duma menininha. Agora, você levou-me o Inspetor! Quando peço por ele, respondem-me que está no ministério com a senhora Ministra.” Ele continuou: “Um dia destes eu disse-lhe: ‘Inspetor, parece que está a gostar muito da nossa Ministra?’ O Inspetor respondeu-me ‘muito, … ela é minha sobrinha … o Presidente demorou para manda-la cá. Se estivesse cá à muito mais tempo, a esta hora esta instituição seria outra’”.

Muitas foram as provas de colaboração e respeito durante a minha estada no Ministério da Defesa Nacional. Mas também depois da minha partida.

A título de exemplo, o diagnóstico mais profundo das causas do conflito na Guiné- Bissau realizado por Voz di Paz, contou com a participação dos militares de diferentes categorias. Voz di Paz tem colhido frutos desta confiança, a começar pela facilidade de planificação de encontros diversos, a disponibilidade de instalações militares para efeitos de trabalho, e o nível de participação e franqueza nos debates.

Até hoje e com sinceridade, guardo boas lembranças daquela instituição e de relacionamentos francos e honestos.

Aprendi que era melhor não fazer promessas que não podem ser cumpridas a um militar. Também aprendi que se alguém quer ter autoridade, não pode usar nada que seja destinado para o seu proveito.

Termino com este conselho a todas as mulheres: “É bom que nunca lhes falte coragem e auto estima. Não há ninguém no mundo que tenha mais coragem do que uma mulher. A prova disto é o ato de dar à luz ”.



Filomena Mascarenhas

A tribute to Dr. Naasson Munyandamutsa

A dear colleague, friend and extraordinary mentor

On the morning of 1 March 2016, the Interpeace family woke up to the sad news that Dr. Naasson Munyandamutsa, a man dearly loved and respected, had lost his long battle against cancer.

Naasson left a lasting mark on everybody who had the privilege to meet him. His dedication to healing and reconciliation, his humble personality and his disarming smile embodied the core values of peacebuilding. It is this unshakeable dedication that led Naasson to leave his promising career as a psychiatrist in Switzerland following the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi to return home to Rwanda. Despite having lost almost his entire family, he chose to dedicate his life to rebuilding his country, putting his personality and his profession to the service of those suffering from trauma.

When Naasson returned to Rwanda, he found himself the only psychiatrist in the entire country. He led the effort of reconstructing the only existing psychiatric hospital in Rwanda, established the National Trauma Recovery Centre, and passed his knowledge and experience on to future generations of psychiatrists at the National University of Rwanda. Naasson’s transition into peacebuilding was a natural continuation of his post-genocide reconstruction work. He played a vital role in founding the non-profit Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP), where he served as Deputy Director until 2014. For the final two years of his life, he built up a programme focused on healing and governance with Never Again Rwanda, for which he served as Country Director. A mentor to so many in the Interpeace family, Naasson influenced Interpeace’s approach across the world, and most significantly in the wider Great Lakes Region.

Naasson understood, in a way few others can, the intrinsic connection between individual and societal healing. A true peacebuilder, he did not shy away from using his sharp intellect to contribute to critical analysis on issues he deemed important for holistic reconciliation and to help nurture future peaceful generations in Rwanda.

Many international institutions lauded Naasson as ‘the father of mental health in post-genocide Rwanda.’ He received several awards, most recently the ‘Geneva Foundation Prize for Human Rights in Psychiatry Award’ and the ‘Barbara Chester Award’ in recognition for his outstanding role in treating victims of trauma.

As countless people from Rwanda and abroad accompanied Naasson to his final resting place, surrounded by the hills of Kigali, it was not so much his awards or intellectual accomplishments that occupied the minds of the mourners. Rather, they all said goodbye to a friend. Family, friends and colleagues from around the world testified to his deep sense of empathy for others, his unshakeable sense of purpose, and, most importantly, his warmth of spirit and his big smile.  Saddened by his passing, colleagues from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda mourned the loss of Naasson, a man who “incarnated in the human form, the abstract norms and values we aspire to” and who “managed to explain things others could not.” As one colleague said, “As soon as you met Naasson, it felt like he has always been with you.”

Naasson will always be with us. Our hearts go out to Naasson’s wife Dona and their four children. The Interpeace family will dearly miss ‘Notre cher ami Naasson’, but his legacy and his commitment to peace will forever remain an inspiration to us all.

Five cities in 16 days: Using mobile cinema to nurture youth peacebuilders in Puntland

“The youth in Rako were able to transform the situation from one of conflict to a peaceful one. This is what we are capable of doing as youth, if given a chance. Maybe it would be good for all the elders to watch this film in order to understand the importance of youth becoming more involved in peace processes.”

These were the words of Abdillahi Mohamed Yusuf, a secondary school student from Qardo in Puntland, Somalia. Abdillahi was speaking at a public screening organized by the Mobile Audio Visual Unit (MAVU) of the Puntland Development and Research Center (PDRC) to disseminate the story of a youth–led process that led to the resolution of a five-year conflict between two communities in the Rako district of Puntland. PDRC is Interpeace’s partner organization in Puntland.


Students at one of the film screenings on the successful Rako reconciliation in Puntland. Photo credit: PDRC

MAVU is an outreach approach that provides awareness through film forums and facilitated discussions. It is also used as a peacebuilding tool to facilitate dialogue between rival communities through the use of film, and to amplify the voices of marginalized groups such as women, youth and minority communities. The Rako reconciliation process is an example of a peacebuilding process facilitated by MAVU.

Spread over a period of 16 days in January and February 2016, the film screenings initially targeted secondary school students from Garowe, Qardo, Galkayo, Bossaso and Badhan in Puntland. It ended up reaching a total of 2,500 people across the five cities as non-schooling youth and adult men and women joined in to watch the film and take part in the discussions.


Youth enjoy a game of basketball ahead of an evening film screening. MAVU integrates sports in its youth outreach. Photo credit: PDRC

The MAVU team noticed that the youth grew increasingly interested in the film as they watched their age mates from Rako successfully driving the peace process, culminating in the signing of a peace agreement between the two communities after half a decade of conflict. There was a palpable sense of inspiration during the dialogue forums facilitated by the MAVU team after the screenings.

If Abdillahi’s words are anything to go by, it is apparent that the success of the Rako reconciliation struck a positive chord among many of the youth from the five cities. Such positive sentiments give the indication that MAVU’s engagement with the youth can contribute towards nurturing a generation of young agents of peace in Puntland and beyond.