Interpeace’s Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

The tragic death of George Floyd in the United States has affected all Interpeace staff worldwide in a profound way. It is an affront to human dignity and human rights, and thus to Interpeace’s values and principles.

L' Black Lives Matter protests are a global clarion call for a long overdue reckoning with systemic racism against black communities and people of colour.

Interpeace unequivocally condemns racism and is committed to using its resources to address racism in all its manifestations. We affirm our full support to those seeking to change peacefully the patterns of racial injustice that have led to the perpetuation of physical, structural, and cultural violence around the world.

The corrosive legacy of colonialism, anti-black racism and xenophobia continues to have an influence and impact on peacebuilding work today and cannot be ignored. If the world is to achieve meaningful and sustainable peace, there must be recognition of the inter-generational traumas - past and present - caused by centuries of bias, privilege, inequality, and injustice and of how these factors determine life outcomes today.

Racism comes not only in open and direct forms, but in everyday experiences of unconscious bias and discriminatory behaviour. We must therefore be equally vigilant in addressing overt and covert or casual forms of racism and prejudice in our societies.

When the social contract is repeatedly violated, especially by security forces, then public protest and dissent are an understandable and almost inevitable response. Often, such demonstrations are the only way that society is able to shine light on its own patterns, behaviours and institutions of exclusion. In this way, social protest movements become an essential part of the process of restoring trust and building a better future.

 

Photo credit: Interpeace.

As an international organization for peacebuilding, Interpeace recognizes its responsibility to advance equality and eliminate all forms of discrimination within its structures as a pre-requisite to supporting and enabling local communities to transform their own conflict dynamics. This has led us to consult internally on the need to establish a process of self-examination and reflection to ensure that no form of discrimination, intolerance, or exclusion on racial or other grounds can take place within our own organization.

To advance this commitment, Interpeace is establishing a representative Diversity and Inclusion Working Group that will independently consult with all staff, and will support management to (1) foster a constructive and inclusive discussion in the organization about diversity and inclusion; (2) identify ways, where required, to eliminate any structural, systemic or casual forms of racial and other discrimination and exclusion within our organization and networks; (3) review and offer recommendations on ways to enhance our peacebuilding work positively and meaningfully in support of greater diversity and inclusion; and, (4) strategize how to scale up Interpeace’s practical support for peacebuilding, including in Europe and the U.S., that addresses exclusion, racism, and marginalization.

Interpeace will also join other peacebuilding organizations wherever possible to create greater collective effort and progress in advancing and upholding diversity and inclusion in the worldwide peacebuilding community.

Interpeace takes these steps to build a stronger and more diverse and inclusive organization that is better able to address structural and systemic patterns of exclusion wherever they may be present.

 

Scott M. Weber

Président

Interpeace

 

 

NGO Consortium members vote Interpeace to chair Somalia peacebuilding group

Members of national and international civil society organizations operating in Somalia have voted Interpeace as the chair of a multi-agency peacebuilding working group. The Somalia NGO Consortium made the announcement on 27 January 2020.

Somalia NGO Consortium (SNC) is a voluntary coordination mechanism of national and international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) working in Somalia and operates in Somaliland. The Consortium was established in 1999.

Interpeace will lead the Peacebuilding Working Group for a period of one year, together with Saferworld as co-chair. The peacebuilding group is one of 6 thematic working groups established by the Consortium to effectively coordinate and conduct development and humanitarian support in Somalia.

NGO Consortium members in session. Photo credit: NGO Consortium.

Our team in Somalia and Somaliland has welcomed the news with delight and expressed their commitment to work closely with many other organizations to improve social cohesion, community safety interventions and effectively build sustainable peace in Somalia.

“We are indeed excited and pleased to be coordinating and working in a cohesive way with our peer organisations,” said Ahmed Abdullahi, Interpeace’s Somalia Country Coordinator.

“This platform gives us the opportunity to shape and advance innovative approaches to address the root causes of violence and work on restoring trust between communities,” said Mr Abdullahi.

We can only build a more peaceful future through collaboration. Working together as a group within the consortium strengthens our work as a peacebuilding community to effectively contribute to Somalia’s vision for change.

The Somalia Peacebuilding Working Group is an opportunity to consolidate partnerships, build a stronger peacebuilding community in Somalia and demonstrate to the world that we are more efficient when we work together.

NGO Consortium members in session. Photo credit: NGO Consortium.

Including women’s voices in Constitution-Making

Every year approximately 20 countries go through the process of writing or revising a constitution and a further 20 envisage doing so. At a recent event, “More Inclusive Ways to Peace: The Role of Women in Constitution-making processes”, experts and advocates in the field of constitution-making gathered to discuss how this process could be made more inclusive, ensuring that women’s voices are heard.

Scott Weber, Director-General of Interpeace, opened the discussion by stressing the potential that each constitution-making process represents for peacebuilding. He said they present a chance “for those countries to embrace more inclusive political practices by ensuring women participate fully at every stage and every level of the constitution-making process.”

Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto, Permanent Representative of the United States in Geneva, acknowledged that steps forward have been made in many countries due to the advocacy of women’s groups and civil society. Progressive and inclusive constitutions are important, she said, but warned that this is not enough.

Ambassador_Pamela_Hamamoto_displays_a_copy_of_the_US_constitution_during_her_opening_remarks.

Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto displays a copy of the US constitution during her opening remarks. Photo credit: François Wavre/ Lundi13 for Interpeace

“Equality on paper does not necessarily translate to equality on the ground.” She said. “There is no doubt that this form of equality will require more women in leadership positions on all fronts, in all sectors.”

This theme was continued by Fatima Outaleb, the founder of Union de l’Action Féminine in Morocco, who discussed the difficulties faced in achieving a truly representative constitution. In part, she said, the problem is one of political will, but civil society has also been responsible. “We as civil society have not done much to include the people we are speaking on behalf of,” she pointed out.

Ensuring gender equality in the constitution-making process is essential to building a sustainable peace, that's according to Farooq Wardaq, the former Minister of Education for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, who held key government roles in the revision of his country’s constitution and in ensuring women’s equal participation in elections.

A key to their success, as Wardaq pointed out, has been countrywide civic education that put a priority on reaching out to women. “Up until that time people thought the constitution was a book on a government shelf that meant nothing for their lives. This we had to change.”

Fatima_Outaleb_discusses_the_challenges_of_fostering_inclusivity_in_Morocco.

Fatima Outleb discusses the challenge of fostering inclusivity in Morocco. Photo credit: François Wavre/Lundi13 for Interpeace

As a consequence of the constitution, he said, women now participate in 40% of national decision-making overall, and hold 29% of the seats in the upper house, 22% of the lower house and 22% of the provincial councils.

In order to advance women’s role in constitution-making and nationbuilding processes, Interpeace’s Women’s Constitutional Voices Programme provides a space for women to have their voices heard and to share their experiences and expertise.

“Our aim is to provide a platform for women – and for men who are fighting for gender justice – to share what works,” Scott Weber concluded. “It is up to all of us, men and women, to work together for find more inclusive ways to peace.”

Great Lakes film festival: Building peace through cinema

Tolerance, identity and peace. Those were the main themes at the Great Lakes Film Festival held earlier this year by our partners Never Again Rwanda et Pole Institute. People traveled from across Rwanda, DR Congo and Burundi to attend the two-day event in the Rubavu district of Rwanda.

The Great Lakes region has long struggled with internal conflict and all too often violence flares up due to disputes over power and land use. To build bridges of trust between communities across the region the organizers encouraged debate on what is at the heart of violence.

The two films screened at the festival, “Identity based manipulations; Issues and Challenges for peace in the Great Lakes Region” and “Hands off my land”, challenged underlying stereotypes that are driving conflict and fostered discussion on how everyone can play a part in bringing peace to a region that has for too long known the struggle of conflict.

great_lakes_film_festival

Photo credit: NAR/ Pole Institute

At the event, youth from across the Great Lakes region talked about how the construction of negative stereotypes and the manipulation of identity was a formidable barrier to peace. They shared their thoughts and ideas on how to move forward and begin to deconstruct these negative social perceptions, and how they could unite in their quest for peace in the Great Lakes.

The organizers believed that the messages they wished to share through film would resonate better than merely talking. “Film is a catalyzer of thought,” according to Professor Nasson Munyundamatsu, the country director of Never Again Rwanda, who spoke at the event. “It facilitates interaction. The images seen in film have the power of transferring important messages to the people, messages that last, messages that words sometimes miss.”

“Apart from bringing people together, this film festival has a great importance because films have the capacity to transfer a more profound message than verbal communication alone,” Munyundamatsu continued.

The event forms part of Interpeace’s Great Lakes Cross-border Dialogue for Peace Programme that seeks to build trust and deconstruct the negative stereotypes that exist between the Great Lakes communities who have grown up through conflict. It is hoped that the messages of the film will be long lasting, laying another foundation for peace throughout the Great Lakes region.

From rivals to running mates: Seeking peace in Eastern Congo

This is a story about two rival communities whose members went from a history of violence against each other to supporting a joint candidacy for a seat in the provincial parliament. Two years of dialogue and engagement between community leaders, facilitated by Interpeace and our partner, RIO, has helped to make this powerful transformation possible.

The Ruzizi Plain is a vast area of fertile land stretching from the Ruzizi River in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Situated in South Kivu Province, along the DRC’s border with Burundi, the Plain is mostly inhabited by the Bafuliro and Barundi communities.

The Bafuliro and the Barundi have for many decades lived in competition over land and economic opportunities. One of the main areas of contention has been the customary chieftaincy, which plays an important role in local governance. The chieftaincy offers control of the natural resources in the Ruzizi Plain, key among them the arable lands along the Ruzizi River. It also runs tax collection in the local marketplaces and cross-border movement. This by extension includes control over the lucrative cross-border export of minerals and trafficking of narcotics.

A History of Identity-based Tension

The crux of the rivalry is that the Bafuliro consider themselves indigenous Congolese and perceive the Barundi as foreigners of Burundian origin. On their part, the Barundi claim to be the rightful traditional rulers of the Ruzizi Plain, having administered it since the colonial era. The Bafuliro refuse to recognize leadership of the Barundi, and the rivalry between these two communities has periodically fuelled open violence. This identity-based tension is embedded in a nationwide dynamic of animosity in the DR Congo, manifesting itself between communities who consider themselves as “indigenous” versus those perceived as “foreign”. It is essentially a long-running feud between communities that settled earlier within the country’s territorial borders as currently defined and those who arrived decades, centuries or years later. Coupled with political manipulation, these tensions often lead to gruesome violence.

A Crisis of Violence

In 2012, the murder of a traditional Barundi chief touched off a deadly spate of violence between the Bafuliro and the Barundi. The worst incident in the conflict involved a massacre of an estimated 30 people in the village of Mutarule. The Bafuliro seized the opportunity presented by the crisis to reject the continued governance of the traditional chieftaincy, in its place suggesting the broadening of their administrative area from a chefferie (traditional chiefdom) into a sector. This was a tactical move, because according to the country’s constitution, the leader of a sector must be an elected official, a factor that favours the Bafuliro because they hold the majority in the Ruzizi Plain and are thus much better placed to win in any local elections. The Barundi challenged this alternative, terming their right to lead the chiefdom legitimate and non-negotiable.

The Congolese government and the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) made efforts to mediate the conflict but were unable to fully restore the peace. Not even the deployment of security forces could completely end the conflict between the two communities. An analysis by the International Crisis Group of previous, top-down peace initiatives in the Ruzizi Plain found them to have been ineffective and recommended a local peacebuilding approach anchored on impartial dialogue and mediation.

A Dialogue Begins

In 2014, Interpeace and RIO, its DRC partner organization in South Kivu, began meeting with members of the two communities while carrying out a research on land, identity, power and the movement of populations in the region, as part of Interpeace’s Cross-border Dialogue for Peace in the Great Lakes Region Programme. In the beginning, the two communities were unwilling to meet each other. The memory of the Mutarale massacre and other violent acts was still fresh. When researchers met the two communities separately, each side made demands that they wanted fulfilled before they could begin to consider a reconciliation with the other side. This animosity was particularly dangerous, considering that Burundi is currently in a delicate political situation following recent controversial elections, while the DRC has elections scheduled for 2016.

Out of the research emerged a dialogue process that consisted of permanent dialogue groups comprising members of the two communities. Soon it came to the notice of the researchers that a small number of Bafuliro and Barundi leaders were quietly making attempts to reconcile their communities, urging them to find a mutually agreeable way to coexist in peace and amicably share the contentious resources. Two of these leaders were Professor Muhinduka Di-Kuruba of the Bafuliro and Claude Mirindi of the Barundi.

Voices Emerge for Peace

As it turns out, Claude Mirundi had actively participated in every single dialogue session of the focus group discussions and the permanent dialogue groups facilitated by the Interpeace and RIO peacebuilding programme, as a representative of the Barundi community. On the Bafuliro side, Professor Muhinduka, a well-regarded traditional and intellectual leader in his community, had increasingly expressed his support for the dialogue process, consistently seeking information about the outcomes of the dialogue meetings and actively encouraging his fellow Bafuliro to participate in the peacebuilding programme.

A Joint Campaign for Parliament

A fundamental sign of progress towards transformative change came recently when Professor Muhinduka announced his candidacy for a position in the provincial parliament, with Claude Mirundi as his running mate. Such a joint candidacy between a Bafuliro and Barundi candidate would have been unthinkable just a few months ago, yet the two men are already campaigning together, mobilizing votes from both their communities to maximize their chances of winning.

The example set by these two leaders offers a strong example of how an inclusive dialogue process can indeed change people, and communities. Their courage to walk together symbolizes the possibility of healing, trust building and sustainable peace between these two long-feuding communities. Their example resonates with Interpeace’s conviction that peace is possible at the community level, as well as in the entire province and across the entire Great Lakes region.

Stockholm Peace Talks

On Thursday 29 January 2015 the Stockholm Peace Talks were co-organized by the Sveriges Riksdag and Interpeace. In this video, the speakers explore what peace means to them and how everyone can contribute to peace, be it at home or in a far-away conflict zone.