This report has been produced by PCi’s partner organisation in Georgia, IDP Women’s Association Consent. The report summarises quantitative and qualitative research carried out by Consent and their partners in isolated communities in three regions of Georgia on the way they were impacted by the first and second waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Peacemakers’ Network – Libya, has launched a campaign to counter hate speech on social media “Our difference does not separate us”. It is based on workshops that were held in 12 Libyan cities between February 27 and March 5 2021, with support from Peaceful Change initiative. The target audience included media professionals, activists and social media activists in the regions. A webinar was convened on 10 March (in Arabic with English translation) to support the connection of target audiences and to introduce the campaign and motivate the audience to be a part of it. For more visit Campaign Facebook Page and/or The Peacemakers’ Network, Libya Facebook Page
The Peacemakers’ Network – Libya, gives Libyans from both sides of the conflict divide a vehicle to work together in an institutional way, to seek funding autonomously, and to amplify the voice of its diverse membership and is registered with the authorities.
Peaceful Change initiative, through the Social Peace and Local Development Programme has launched ‘Bader’, a social media youth campaign to strengthen the role of young Libyans as peace actors. Through amplifying the voices and experiences of young peacebuilders and civil society activists, Bader aims to inspire young people to take action and engage in peace, social cohesion, gender equality and social inclusion initiatives in their own communities.
The campaign will use social media to connect young peace leaders from across the country and facilitate knowledge and learning exchanges. This will support the strengthening of existing youth networks, as well as building new relationships among peace leaders with diverse experiences and backgrounds, challenging divisive narratives through meaningful interactions around peace and youth issues. The young leaders are being encouraged to tell their peace initiative stories and through the campaign, three of the participants will be awarded a grant to fund a new initiative. Please visit https://www.facebook.com/bader.libya.pci
After 7 years of civil war, Syrians on different sides of the conflict are deeply mistrustful of each other and can be afraid to meet. Peaceful Change initiative worked to bridge this trust gap by convening a group of 12 young people from politically diverse areas at a dialogue forum outside Beirut, Lebanon. It provided the opportunity to build bridges and share perspectives, whilst developing a genuine respect for ‘the other’. Trust and confidence was slowly built.
Nadia is a 27 year old graduate in Civil Engineering from Aleppo. She said: ‘The different realities I heard during the dialogue forum helped me to break down the stereotypes I had formed about people during the war because I lacked access to information. I listened to how it was for other young people to exist during the war and it has been helpful for me to know about their lives.’
The dialogue forum also provided an opportunity for the young people to learn about peacebuilding and concepts such as human rights, conflict and violence. The facilitators led a guided discussion on economic and social violence (visible and invisible) that need to be addressed in order to bring conflict to an end.
Khalid is a 19 year old student from Homs, the third largest city in Syria, who implemented civil society activities in his locality. He said: ‘It was helpful to learn about peacebuilding concepts as they underpin my work as a civil society activist. I want to empower myself and understand actions that respect human rights and non-violence.’
The development of a new Constitution is a central pillar of a peaceful political transition in Libya. While the Peacemakers’ Network recognised the importance of the Constitution during the transition process, they had concerns that few communities across the country had access to credible information about the draft Constitution text, or measured debate about what the purpose of a Constitution is. Joint analysis by the Peacemakers’ Network members indicated an urgent need to foster constructive public debate about the Constitution to overcome citizen apathy and disengagement from a key part of the country’s transition process. Peacemakers’ Network member Ms Khadija Elboashi, Lecturer in Law at Tripoli University, said: “What was disappearing from the debate is any understanding of what a Constitution is and what role it plays in the life of a nation.”
To this end, two members of the Peacemakers’ Network, from different parts of Libya, took the lead in developing a campaign on public engagement with the Constitution drafting process. Due to the highly polarised nature of traditional media and social media in Libya, the Peacemakers’ Network opted for an approach of direct, face-to-face engagement with local leaders and influencers. The Peacemakers’ Network subsequently developed a set of tools and materials for facilitating workshops, town hall meetings and similar events focusing on the Constitution; trained Peacemakers’ Network members in how to use these materials; and embarked on an ambitious project to hold public engagement meetings in all parts of Libya. The Peacemakers’ Network engaged with the Constitutional Drafting Assembly throughout.
PCi supported by the Institute for Peace and Common Ground, trained 12 dialogue facilitators in 4 communities of Kherson region. A Dialogue Initiative Group was established in Beryslav where two community members and a representative from the local authority were trained as dialogue facilitators. The Dialogue Initiative Group sought to explore the ways in which dialogue could be more firmly embedded as a formal approach to resolving differences, as well as enabling and promoting more participatory decision-making.
In Beryslav, controversy had arisen from the Decommunisation Law that was passed by the Ukrainian Parliament in 2015, with some statues requiring removal, due to their connections with the Soviet past. Residents of Beryslav held different perspectives on Soviet history and there were varying attitudes towards the symbols. In June 2015, a monument to Lenin was destroyed by local activists, which increased tension and division in the community.
In order to reduce tensions around a remaining statue, the Beryslav Dialogue Initiative Group conducted a dialogue with individuals representing a range of opinions on: “How to improve a memorable place taking into account the current legislation of Ukraine and the different views of the city’s residents?” Common ground was found on the way forward with citizens representing different perspectives agreeing to work together on a project for the reconstruction of the remaining statue, that would fulfil the law of Ukraine but also take into account all historical periods of the city and opinions of its residents. The work of the Dialogue Initiative Group helped to improve understanding between the parties in the community and contributed to the removal of tension around the remaining statue, it also improved the interaction between groups with differing opinions in the city.
Muzykivka village is located in the Southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, which borders the Crimean peninsula. When the government of Ukraine began to reform the system of territorial administration Muzykivka was an early adopter, uniting with four other villages to form a new amalgamated community in 2016. The reforms led to more decision making and budgetary power at the local level; this change required “creativity and responsibility” in the words of the community head.
The lack of power that local authorities had experienced in the past led to a situation where decision making was not responsive and this impacted services, but also resulted in a form of public disengagement whereby problems were not aired and discussed but rather remained pent up.
The Institute for Peace and Common Ground began working in Muzykivka in the summer of 2018, building up a Dialogue Initiative Group with facilitators trained to identify conflict issues, analyse them and design a process by which they could be addressed. People in the community also built the skills to engage people to take part in these dialogues: “All participants really like this approach”, said one of the trainees. “Some of them started to use dialogue principles in their work and everyday life. For example, a local government representative started to use the tools he acquired for communicating with people bound for military service and he has noted how relations have become better.”
Rabha is a member of the Alsahel Social Peace Partnership and an important role model for women in her community. With support from Peaceful Change initiative, Rabha implemented a successful women’s literacy project, teaching local women to read and write for the first time. The Department of Education decided to fully fund the school and to expand the initiative to neighbouring towns.
Tulmaitha is a quiet town situated along the east coast of Libya, often overlooked by development projects. It has suffered conflict, as well as political, economic and social upheaval. Rabha explains that the lack of opportunities for women in the town have led to their marginalisation and women struggle on many levels. She said: “I had the opportunity to finish my university studies at Benghazi University in Al-Marj and this has enriched my life but I always thought about those women who have not had the same opportunities.”
This women’s literacy project highlights that in a context where conservative social norms are an obstacle to women’s participation in decision-making processes and broader inclusion in public spheres, women’s meaningful participation is possible.
In towns and cities across Libya, the youth are extremely vulnerable as it is difficult for them to find meaningful employment, leaving them with a lot of free time. In Libya’s fragile and challenging context, this precarious situation can further fuel the flames of conflict, as the youth seek alternative opportunities, which can include joining a militia or becoming involved in criminal activities.
The Social Peace and Local Development grants support and encourage citizens and particularly youth, to be actively engaged and participate in their local community affairs. The grants are distributed through the Social Peace Partnerships in Libya, with support from Peaceful Change initiative. The grants have the potential to develop and mature, with some of the projects succeeding in independently securing funding and support.
Tulmaitha is a village situated in eastern Libya, over 100 kilometres east of Benghazi and forms a part of the Al Sahel Municipality, known for its beautiful and expansive beaches. An important part of Libyan culture is going to the beach to socialise with friends and swimming lessons are included in the school curriculum.
Prior to 2017, the Alsahel Municipality was unable to provide a life guard service, while sea rescue centres in the area were neglected. This created tensions, due to a large number of drowning incidents and children were particularly vulnerable because of strong undercurrents.
Hamad is 31 years old and born in Tulmaitha. He is a former combatant and after 2011 returned to his hometown but could not find work. When the Alsahel Social Peace Partnership opened up a Youth Grant opportunity in 2017, Hamad and his brother submitted a proposal to establish a volunteer Sea Rescue Centre. This was approved by the Alsahel Social Peace Partnership and Hamad was responsible for training 20 young people from the area to be life guards, as well as managing the use of a fully equipped boat, new diving suits and first aid equipment. During their first season between June and September 2017, the volunteer Sea Rescue Centre saved over 50 lives.
As a grant winner Hamad was invited to join the Alsahel Social Peace Partnership, he said: “Upon becoming a member of the Alsahel Social Peace Partnership, I felt a sense of belonging to my community; being able to help people on a daily basis has made me a new person.”
The presence of the volunteer Sea Rescue Centre encouraged more people to visit the beach, as they felt safer – which was also good for local business. Over several months, the service provided by the volunteer Sea Rescue Centre became popular with residents and especially families, as well as the Municipality.
As the youth grant came to an end, Hamad and his team felt inspired and encouraged by their work. In late 2017, they produced a short video to raise more funds to ensure the volunteer Sea Rescue Centre was able to operate during the next beach season. In early 2018 the Alsahel Municipal Council officially accredited the Centre and listed it as an official partner, with the Municipality providing technical and financial support.
Official launch of volunteer Sea Rescue Centre with Municipal Council Representatives
Zahia Ali grew up in a small family where her father was an advocate for women’s inclusion; she was involved in family decision making and she developed a strong character. In 2011, following the outbreak of war, she set up a civil society organisation called ‘Why Me for Women’s Rights’ and increasingly became engaged in peacebuilding efforts, working alongside municipal councils, youth groups, women and even ex-soldiers and fighters.
Historically, Libyan society has relied on problem-solving processes that are led by different tribes, so many communities have limited experience of peacebuilding and community cohesion activities. Peaceful Change initiative is working to strengthen Libyan peace capital (over last six years) by investing in a national resource of 22 Trainer Mentors, 40 per cent are women. Trainer Mentors provide regular mentoring to the Social Peace Partnerships, as well as providing context-appropriate technical skills in conflict analysis, conflict sensitivity, mediation and negotiation, inclusive peacebuilding, gender sensitivity and transformational leadership.
Zahia benefitted from this peacebuilding training, she said: “I see myself as an Ambassador of Peace. The people we work with look to us for hope and to help them address the issues they face in their communities. For me, it is important that peace does not just become an empty slogan but that we convince people through the work we do.”
Zahia was able to use her newly acquired peacebuilding skills to apply for a United Nations Development Programme grant to train young people on conflict resolution and reconciliation, in the towns of Zintan, Mashashiya and Kikla. Conflict in Libya is often seen as a national issue but it has also sparked a number of smaller conflicts, rooted in decades-old grievances and tensions, leading to outbreaks of violence and displacement.
Zahia explains: “No person has been working with the people in these towns, I felt it was important to target them. While a peace deal was signed between all three towns, it was just ink on paper. I wanted to activate this deal in order to achieve results on the ground and see the people standing together, side by side.”
Zahia travelled to each town regularly and spent time with the people to build rapport and trust. She said: “I had to gain the trust of the youth by showing them that I was working for their interests and not my own. I did this by allowing them to get to know me and I was transparent with them. I learned about their vision for the future and what I could contribute to it. I was also alert to each context, and what works in each community”
Zahia managed to bring the youth from the three towns together for a peacebuilding conference. She said: “They all wanted the conference in their area but I felt that it would be best to conduct it in a neutral place to avoid tensions. For this reason, we held the conference in the town of Jadu.”
Inspired through her work with Peaceful Change initiative, Zahia expanded her women’s rights activism beyond the larger cities, to rural areas, where women are noticeably excluded from political life. Zahia said: “Libyan women are connected across the country by common things we share in our society. They are able to work in local communities and I want them to plant the seeds of change in every place they live, even if they are not around to see the seed grow.”
While the scale and impact of Zahia’s work is often not visible to the human eye, her dedication and commitment seeps into the heart of the communities where she works; Zahia is a catalyst for positive change.
Peaceful Change initiative works in support of UNSCR 1325 which promotes women’s equal and full participation as active agents in peace and security. Please click here for more