By Landry Ninteretse
In every conflict or post-conflict context there are people who, despite all kinds of difficulties, are struggling to restore dialogue, trust, harmony and peace for a better life for everyone. Those people are unknown for the most part – they appear rarely in media, and struggle to get funds to support their work, even while local peacebuilding initiatives are more and more recognized for their postive impacts.
Peace Direct, a British charity is working to support and boost the work of local peacebuilders. This week, the organization gathered together 20 such peacebuilders from different countries and backgrounds in Lukenya Gateway, near Nairobi, Kenya for a three-day meeting to share knowledge and experiences of their work on the ground. Local peacebuilders got the opportunity to share with their peers their work, the challenges they face, the hopes that make them committed to what they are doing, and their plans for the future. In this meeting, four main areas of work have emerged to be common for most of the participants: youth and women empowerment; developing local leadership; peace education; and the DDR (disarmament, demobilization and reintegration) process.
Participants also analysed the work of international NGOs in peacebuilding and the relationships they have established with them. They have agreed upon the fact that it is important to redefine the partnership with such organizations in order to give more power, capacity and voice to local peacebuilders.
As a member of Amahoro Youth Club, a youth-organisation actively involved in peacebuilding and sustainable development in Burundi, I felt very uplifted by this meeting. First of all, to be invited to share the experience of AYC is a sign that our work, that to some people might seem small-scale, is recognized and appreciated. Secondly, it was very helpful and inspiring to meet local peacebuilders involved in similar programmes like ours; namely, youth empowerment and peace education. For AYC, initiating exchange and collaboration with organizations like Truce 2020 in London and Envision in Zimbabwe and being connected to such people is fundamental and ensures us moral support, sharing of experiences/knowledge and improvement of quality of our work.
Even though it may sometimes seem that our work is too little in the midst of all kind of difficulties, misunderstanding and tragedies, the touching stories we heard from Sri Lanka, Sudan, England, Yemen, East Timor, Kashmir, DR Congo, Pakistan and Zimbabwe proved that we are slowly but surely having an impact at the grassroots level and it’s the addition of the ‘little’ work here and there that can make a difference and bring a lasting peace to the world.