Theme: Civil society and peacebuilding

Armenia: Youth as advocates for peacebuilding

Peaceful Change initiative worked with an Armenian NGO, Youth Cooperation Centre of Dilijan (YCCD), to promote youth participation in decision making related to peace and governance issues. This supports UNSCR 2250, which urges governments to include youth participation in local, national, and international institutions, in efforts to end conflict.

15 young activists from Yerevan, Tavush, Shirak, Lori, Kotayk and Ararat regions participated in the six-day training held in Dilijan in August 2019. They were equipped with the skills to become ‘trainers’ and take their skills back into their communities, to work with other young people to engage them in peace and governance issues.

The training was structured around a Training Manual that had been developed with support from PCi. It sought to improve understanding, among the youth, of peace and peacebuilding in Armenia, and explained the basics of conflict transformation.

Arman, a 28-yearold civil society activist, said: “It was useful to know that peace is not just a general term and that it can be used in both a positive and negative way.” It also sought to develop communication skills that support non-violent dialogue and outlined approaches and tools that support the development of action plans for youth engagement in governance in Armenia.

Following the training, Marika, a 26-year-old teacher, said: “Now I am ready to go back to school and to work with the new materials, the Training Manual will be very helpful!”

Download the training manual in Armenian here

First Media Consultation Dialogue tackles portrayal of ‘the other’ in Serbia and Kosovo

Peaceful Change initiative held the first of a series of Media Consultation Dialogue, conducted as part of the project: Amplifying Local Voices for Equitable Development. Media Consultation Dialogues look to engage media experts and professionals from a range of backgrounds and who hold different perspectives, to assess different elements of the media scene and propose new approaches to tackling conflict-generating narratives.

The first Dialogue took place over two separate online sessions on 17 November and 1 December 2020. It reflected on findings of a recent study on divisive narratives in the media in Kosovo and Serbia and discussed critical factors that enable unhealthy portrayals of Kosovo and Serbia in one another’s informational space. The discussions proposed:

  • Finding ways to give media outlets more and more diverse information about their neighbouring country, to help journalists move past worn-out narratives that dominate the present media space.
  • Finding ways to incentivise journalists and media outlets to research, produce and publish different types of stories.
  • Pooling resources, so that media representatives receive more information about one another’s societies on a more regular basis.

A summary of the discussions can be found here

Building a Lasting Peace in Bosnia

Peaceful Change initiative’s Programme Lead on the Western Balkans Programme, Ian Bancroft, participated in the Foreign Policy Centre  Webinar  on “Building a lasting peace? Power sharing and sectarian identities in Bosnia” on 9 February 2021. The panel discussion was focused on the complex relationship between peace building, power sharing and sectarian identities in Bosnia; it also examined the real challenges of improving public trust and reforming institutions in ways that enhance and protect peacebuilding in Bosnia.

To listen, please click here

The panel

Dr Allison McCulloch, Associate Professor at Brandon University

Anne Kirstine Rønn, PhD student at Aarhus University and attached to SEPAD

Ian Bancroft, Writer, diplomat and Programme Manager at the Peaceful Change Initiative

Baroness Helic, Board Member of the International Criminal Court Trust Fund for Victims

Chair: Fleur Anderson MP, Vice Chair of APPG for Bosnia and Herzegovina

Libya: Nalut Social Peace Partnership supports migrant workers seeking to return home following COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 has impacted the Libyan economy, exacerbating the negative effects of years of conflict and instability; it has also impacted vulnerable groups such as migrant workers, at risk of poverty and less resilient to economic shocks.

The first lockdown led to a number of non-essential businesses temporarily closing in March 2020, leaving migrant workers without a job and wanting to return home.  

A subsequent international travel ban affected the border town of Wazen, situated between Tunisia and Libya, where 70 Algerian and 150 Tunisian migrant workers became stuck. They were mostly daily wage workers and quickly ran out of money.

The migrant workers were living in abandoned buildings and sleeping outside. There was a lack of hygienic facilities and social distancing was challenging, increasing the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission. Wazen had limited medical facilities which led security officers at the border and local community networks to highlight their concerns.

Nalut Social Peace Partnership was already implementing a COVID-19 public awareness campaign, focused on encouraging people to stay at home to protect their health. When they heard about the migrant workers at the border, they wanted to work with the community to resolve the situation. They collaborated with the Head of the Displaced Persons Office in Nalut, the Red Crescent and the local branch of the Boy Scouts to source donations. The Nalut Municipality and the Libyan COVID-19 Response Committee also provided funding.

A volunteer explained: “The situation was very bad. We felt it was our responsibility to help because the migrant workers do not have any other form of social support, and with the ongoing pandemic we were worried that the virus would spread among them. We were able to provide humanitarian assistance until they could cross the border into Tunisia and continue their journey home.”

The Nalut Social Peace Partnership provided the migrant workers with masks, hand sanitiser, gloves, food and materials to build shelters. They also worked alongside the local health authority, who sent medical staff to disinfect the shelters and the crossing point facilities. They also provided training to migrant workers and security officers on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the area.

One member of the Nalut Social Peace Partnership said: “Supporting the migrant workers felt like a logical step in our campaign, to protect everyone from COVID-19 by helping the most vulnerable. It was a significant project because of the coordination with both the local authorities and civil society. We also worked with the media office of the border crossing to ensure that information and updates were clearly shared.”

Members of a Social Peace Partnership include senior representatives from the local authority and leaders from civil society, community/elders, business, individuals/groups responsible for providing security, local radio, social media influencers and local residents. One of the functions of a Social Peace Partnership is to engage with different community groups, helping to bolster relationships and strengthen the social fabric of the community. 

For more on Social Peace Partnerships in Libya click here

Libya: ‘Peacemakers Network – Libya’ hosts ‘Peacemakers Awards’ in Benghazi

PCi’s partner, the Libyan Peacebuilders Network, organised and hosted the ‘Peacemakers Awards’ in Benghazi on 8 February 2019. The event was planned to bring attention to the work being done by Libyans throughout the country to manage conflict in their communities and promote peace for Libya. The event recognised the work of a number of groups and individuals including the elders from the Tebu and Zawiya tribes in Kufra, elders of the western Mountain tribes, the Social Council of the Werfalla tribe and the elders of Cyrenaica. A special award was presented to Aisha Aizadma from Harawa for her role in addressing the conflict between the Al-Gedaddfa and Awlad Sulaiman tribes in Sebha.

Armenia: Improving youth participation in Armenia by learning from Scotland’s experience

Peaceful Change initiative accompanied leaders of youth organisations, government representatives and members of the Armenian National Assembly on a visit to Scotland from 18-22 November 2019. The delegation met with Scottish youth leaders, government officials, business leaders and academics, gaining insight into how they might strengthen the ability of young people to participate in decision making at different levels on their return to Armenia. Highlights included meetings with Members of the Scottish Parliament (Edinburgh), the Scottish Youth Parliament (Dundee) and youth working alongside police officers at the ‘Community Safety Hub’ in Dundee.

Artur Ghazaryan from the Youth Cooperation Centre of Dilijan, and PCi’s Armenian project partner, said: “This has been a great experience … young people [in Scotland] are involved in different channels, such as the Youth Parliament, the local council and other informal initiatives and are educated to be civic-minded so they can contribute to political and economic affairs and other areas of life. This is a great example and when we return to Armenia we can seek to try and adopt and improve youth representation in different sectors of life as well.”

Libya: PCi’s snapshot on COVID-19 response

PCi conducted a Rapid Assessment in 14 communities to gain insight into the COVID-19 response, implemented through the Social Peace Partnerships, with three individuals from each Partnership interviewed over the phone (March 2020) in the context of the government working-from-home order.

The findings include the most common source of information on COVID-19 across the 14 communities is social media (Facebook), with half of the communities indicating they use social media (Facebook) for information as opposed to official sources.

Municipalities are demonstrating varying degrees of engagement in a COVID-19 response, with responsive municipalities establishing an emergency crisis committee, collaborating with relevant agencies (for example, health), and mobilising local awareness campaigns. However, some municipalities appear to be largely absent from any COVID-19 prevention, management and/or response planning.

Local civil society organisations (CSOs) are implementing awareness activities in some municipalities. However, a lack of resources will make it hard for CSOs to scale up their response. PCi’s Social Peace Partnerships are engaged in a response in six municipalities.

Understanding divisive narratives in Serbia and Kosovo

Peaceful Change initiative is pleased to present research undertaken by Ipsos in order to understand how divisive narratives are generated and disseminated in mainstream media in Serbia and Kosovo. The research is available here: Understanding divisive narratives qualitative research – online focus groups

The findings and recommendations of this research Understanding divisive narratives – media analysis will be used to guide a number of Media Consultation Dialogues (MCD), which will engage media professionals from a variety of backgrounds in order to discuss ways and means of ensuring that divisive narratives become less prominent in mainstream discourse.

This research has been commissioned in the framework of a two and a half year project ‘Amplifying Local Voices for Equitable Development’; funded from the UK Government’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF).

PCi supports civic responses in Kosovo to support the mitigation of COVID-19

In Kosovo, the measures taken by governing authorities to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 has mirrored other governments across Europe. However, ensuring such measures don’t negatively impact Kosovo’s non-majority communities has further tested the government’s capacity.

Peaceful Change initiative’s project ‘Amplifying Local Voices for Equitable Development’ (supported by the UK Government’s Conflict, Security and Stability Fund) has worked through their partner NGO Aktiv, working in Kosovo and Serbia, to establish a Rapid Civic Response Group.

The Group is made up of  22 civil and community activists from across Kosovo representing the Serbian, Albanian, and Gorani communities. It is creating vital channels for the real-time flow of information, thereby facilitating the identification of problems which may otherwise have remained ignored. They include:

  • Poor information dissemination in non-majority languages
  • Poor and/or lack of translation in non-majority languages
  • An increase in security incidents in Serbian communities
  • Challenges accessing economic-aid
  • Inadequate and/or lack of institutional response

Aktiv and the Rapid Civic Response Group have taken steps to lobby the Kosovo government and other relevant actors for urgent steps to address these problems. Their approach includes:

  1. Request to improve communication with non-majority communities addressed to the Government of Kosovo
  2. Op-ed calling for better cooperation between Belgrade and Pristina
  3. Press release on translation challenges, highlighting non-compliance with the Law on the Use of Languages
  4. Open letter to the Ministry of Health and the Ombudsperson regarding the problems faced in accessing institutions
  5. Publication on Covid-19 institutional challenges and proposed solutions
  6. Public statements requesting the broadcasting of RTV MIR and to address non-majority communities’ security concerns.
  7. Public statement on non-majority community challenges accessing the Pandemic Economic Aid package and on the lack of translation to non-majority community languages
  8. Infographics on ‘COVID19 Crisis – Active Citizens Response’and ‘Rapid Response Civic Group – Incidents
  9. A video-cast informing greater audiences on the findings of the RRCG through social media

PCi supports isolated communities in Georgia, Abkhazia to mitigate COVID-19 impact

COVID-19 is highlighting vulnerabilities among marginalised communities around the world.  In Georgia, Abkhazia remote communities, situated far away from urban centres have learned to cope with their isolation, even though they face additional challenges when situated adjacent to conflict-affected areas. The introduction of measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 have stretched livelihoods and coping mechanisms to breaking point. For example, travel restrictions have led to a shortage of essential goods and the lack of water supply has made it difficult to maintain good hand hygiene; in addition, the distance from decision making is challenging the effectiveness of public health mechanisms. Peaceful Change initiative and their partners have been supporting schools in isolated communities in this region to deal with these challenges, filling gaps in COVID-preparedness and supporting local groups to organise and meet the challenges of the pandemic.