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A creative path to peace: Creating solutions in the midst of conflict

A creative path to peace: Creating solutions in the midst of conflict

Photo: The Peace Education program using the five strategies of art, psychosocial support, research, critical thinking, and gamification as creative paths in designing and developing curricula and facilitating dialogue and activities.

One of my favorite memories of MPI’s 2019 Annual Peacebuilding Training was the late-night gatherings in the restaurant by the sea with participants from all over the world. We would try to explain the geographic location of Syria as a country and share the stories of the civilization and culture that were hidden behind the horrifying events captured by the media of the 10 years of conflict. It was then that I realized that we as activists should share more about the context in which we work, our practices, and the challenges we face in order to create a broader and more inclusive perspective of peace and conflict. I look at it as if we have a chance to play an authentic role in telling the stories that reflect what really happens when we roll up our sleeves and work for peace and justice.

COVID-19 Challenges to Peacebuilding in Cameroon

COVID-19 Challenges to Peacebuilding in Cameroon

Overview of civic space

Since the 1990s, a plethora of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) has registered in Cameroon. At first, it was to help in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Later, the focus was on women’s rights and the environment. In recent years, more and more CSOs, Associations, or Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have been created to combat the degrading socio-political context. So, now we have many organizations for peace and human rights.

Despite this growth of CSOs, the civic space in Cameroon has largely remained constrained. CSOs can operate, but only under strict, at times self-imposed, limitations. They understand that if they step out of line and act in a manner that is perceived by the state as oppositional, they risk unwelcome attention and potential repression from state authorities, and in the last four years, from non-state armed groups as well. A common constraint on the civic space in Cameroon is the harassment, intimidation, and attacks on CSO activists and human rights defenders by actors from both the state and the non-state. Added to this is the suspicion and discord amongst CSOs themselves. There is constant division over funding, partners, and sometimes personal gain or recognition. This division is exploited by actors from all sides of our conflicts.

Youth opinion on the denunciation of the word LUMAD

Youth opinion on the denunciation of the word LUMAD

For several years, Indigenous Peoples (IPs) have experienced discrimination and marginalization due to the perception that they are inferior and incapable of defending their rights. As youth members of the Manobo tribe, we are very concerned about the resolution passed by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to no longer use the term Lumad because it is allegedly used by leftist groups.

Since childhood, this is what we are used to calling all tribes here in Mindanao, and it was suddenly removed by the NCIP simply because they said it was a word used by leftist groups. Even though there is not enough and clear evidence that this word (Lumad) is from the leftist groups, they insist that it should no longer be used.

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Self-Censorship and Peacebuilding: A Personal Dilemma

Self-Censorship and Peacebuilding: A Personal Dilemma

I first discovered that I had very “uncensored thoughts” while wandering around a market in Casablanca, the city where I was born but never lived. When a procession of shops exposing dozens of glorifying portraits of Morocco’s king, Mohammed VI, appeared in front of me, I became enraged. I initiated an animated discussion about the reason behind selling the images of one who seemed to me to be a despot, who was not only impoverishing his people while enriching his court but was also imprisoning and torturing West Sahrawian people in the name of national security.

The family member who happened to be with me stopped me as soon as he understood what I was ranting about. Looking around for listening ears and scared to his bones, he ended the conversation with only two sentences: “He is a very good and democratic man.” and “If you don’t stop one of us will disappear.”

Young Mediator from Timor-Leste

Young Mediator from Timor-Leste

I feel very sad when reflecting on the past when women fought for independence. They were involved on the front lines with weapons and with their expertise in carrying food and medicine. They provided ideas during the negotiation and reconciliation process. They were part of civilian teams at base camps and in the clandestine front.

During and after the armed conflict (1974 - 1999), many women and girls experienced their own forms of suffering and violence, including starvation, imprisonment, rape, and sexual slavery.  Yet, their roles in conflicts are not highlighted, and their long involvement in mediation and peace processes is barely discussed in the literature.

Women have the capacity to feel the needs of those in the communities who trust women to lead the mediation and dialogue processes. I want to underline that East Timorese women participated fully in both the peace process and the negotiations. Their expertise in the conflict resolution process is durable and recognized and trusted by the conflicting parties. Women have played important roles during the invasion and post-independence.

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