The Economic Value of PeaceThe Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) recently published its annual report, “The Economic Value of Peace,” demonstrating the economic consequences of violence throughout the world. The findings show that violence directly impacts the economy and countries’ macroeconomic performance. Countries that improve on peace average a 1.4% higher gross domestic product (GDP) per capita growth. Therefore, a decrease in violence corresponds to an increase in economic activity.

The Poverty-Violence Cycle

Without proper intervention, countries engrossed in conflict often fail to break from the perpetual cycle of violence-to-poverty. Such conflicts may directly damage essential infrastructure, institutions and even fundamental interpersonal relationships within a society. The effects are both short and long-term. The short-term cost directly affects the victim and the perpetrator while the long-term cost has ripple effects through lost productivity and undermining of societal structures. The consequences eventually translate to a loss in education, widespread food insecurity and high mortality rates.

The Economic Cost of Violence

According to the IEP, “the economic cost of violence for the 10 most-affected countries ranges from 23.5 to 59.1% of their GDP.” In 2019 alone, the global cost of violence came out to approximately $14.4 trillion — 10.5% of the world’s GDP or roughly $1,900 per person. Moreover, if the world decreased its violence containment spending by 15%, $1.4 trillion could be redirected to other economic activities that would lead to long-term growth. Democratic governments demonstrated significantly less economic costs compared to their authoritarian counterparts. The average authoritarian government had a cost that equated to 11% of its GDP while democracies averaged about 4%.

In countries such as Syria and Afghanistan, the cost of violence exceeds more than 50% of their GDP. Both countries face extremely high poverty rates. This amounts to roughly 80% and 50% of populations that live below the poverty line respectively, reinforcing the direct connection between violence and poverty. In 2018, the United Nations estimated that the conflict in Syria resulted in nearly $120 billion in infrastructural damage. By 2017, 50% of Syria’s infrastructure was considered non-operational and it is estimated that Syria experienced $226 billion GDP losses between 2011 and 2016.

How Peace and Growth Connect

The IEP Economic Value of Peace report confirms the direct link between violence and poverty. Violence both stunts the positive benefits of peace and has a direct, empirical effect on the economy. Nevertheless, there are global signs of improvement. As a result of an overall decrease in violent conflict, from 2018 to 2019, the global economic impact of violence has decreased by $64 billion. Fully democratic countries reduced their economic impact of violence by roughly 16% in 2020.

These signs of recovery demonstrate that development and peace go hand-in-hand as there is an undeniable relationship between violence and poverty. Without stable and secure institutions, a fundamental basis for a prospering economy is lacking. Violence creates insecurity and a poverty trap for a country’s marginalized people, causing them to undermine their governance. Nevertheless, consistent data shows that this can be reversed through peacemaking efforts.

Alessandra Parker
Photo: Flickr

American Peacekeeping
The role of United Nations peacekeeping forces – impartial troops that the U.N. deployed to ensure the promotion of human rights and democratic ideals – has been in question for years, especially due to concerns over their efficacy in situations where decisive military action is necessary. It is partly due to these concerns, as well as general opposition to international organizations from the Trump Administration, that American contributions to peacekeeping efforts have waned over the last five years. However, recent evidence shows that American peacekeeping not only plays an important role in the stability of many fragile democracies but that it often serves American interests more efficiently than U.S. military action could.

Controversy Over American Peacekeeping

U.N. peacekeeping efforts have long been the subject of controversy over their efficacy in conflict zones. Peacekeepers bind themselves to neutrality and may intervene only when the country in question invites them and use force exclusively in self-defense.

Traditional peacekeeping operations had the intention of maintaining demilitarized zones between warring parties in order to prevent either party from taking advantage of the other through abuse of cease-fires. An example of this includes the U.N. peacekeeping operation based in Jerusalem to prevent violence between Palestine and Israel. Peacekeeping’s detractors often point to this example as proof of the endless and ineffective nature of peacekeeping, given the failure of the Jerusalem mission to produce a peaceful regional agreement despite being implemented over 70 years ago. A better-known example of inefficacy in peacekeeping is the Rwandan genocide, where U.N. blue helmets – rendered powerless due to orders forbidding them to intervene – became witnesses to the slaughter of over 800,000 people.

Given the failure of the Rwandan peacekeeping mission and the fact that the kind of territorial conflicts the peacekeeping program intended to prevent are becoming less common, many believe that peacekeeping has no future in an era that ideological conflict and extremism define. This perspective, however, ignores blue-helmet successes and peacekeeping’s cost-efficiency in comparison to military interventions.

The Success of Peacekeeping

Blue helmet successes in East Timor and Sierra Leone point towards a new kind of peacekeeping that includes the mandate of military force where necessary in combination with the promotion of locally-led sustainable development initiatives. In East Timor, a country that integration with Indonesia and a desire for independence once tore apart, pro-integration militias began a bloody campaign which resulted in the deaths of thousands and the displacement of many more. After successfully registering hundreds of thousands of citizens to vote in a poll that demonstrated overwhelming support for independence, the U.N. provided peacekeepers with a mandate to restore stability to the region and assist in creating a local government. The multinational forces were successful in their use of force to quell violence in East Timor, and worked with local leaders to implement a new government that the Timorese designed rather than having Western nations force one upon them.

One can also see the efficacy of peacekeeping in the example of Sierra Leone, where a bloody civil war raged over the last decade of the 20th century. In the wake of a conflict that human atrocities characterized, U.N. peacekeeping operations (though initially modest) eventually brought nearly 18,000 troops into the region with the intention of restoring peace and disarming the country’s warring parties. In 2000, the U.N. negotiated a cease-fire under the Abuja Agreement, at which point peacekeeping operations shifted to prioritize the facilitation of fair elections and the rebuilding of the country’s infrastructure. Peacekeepers remained in the region until 2005 to ensure stability, and later surveys found that over 80% of Sierra Leoneans approved of the U.N.’s response to the conflict.

American Support for Peacekeeping

Under the Trump Administration, American contributions to the program have decreased from 29% of the American peacekeeping budget to under 25% over the last five years. Despite being the only organization for effective “burden-sharing” in the international effort for security, the Trump budget cuts stemmed from the belief that American contribution to the U.N. was unfairly large. The U.S. is currently the largest contributor to peacekeeping operations. Each country’s participation, however, depends on its size, wealth and veto power.

Despite claims that peacekeeping does not benefit American interests, recent studies show that it can be more efficient than American military intervention. A study by the Government Accountability Office found that, though U.N. peacekeeping operations cost roughly $2.4 billion (USD) over three years in the Central African Republic, a hypothetical American military operation with similar objectives would cost more than twice as much. When one factors this cost-analysis into the benefits to the U.S. from the global security gained by peacekeeping operations, it becomes clear that continued contribution to peacekeeping is in the best interest of American security.

Kieran Hadley
Photo: United Nations

Tegla LoroupeAt the 1994 New York City Marathon, Tegla Loroupe of Kenya made history as the first African woman to win a major marathon title. For years, African men had great success over the distance and now a female compatriot could share in the glory. Loroupe has won several major world marathons and broken world records. Loroupe has since retired from professional running and has involved herself in supporting peace, prosperity and economic advancement in Kenya and across Africa.

The Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation

Loroupe says that she grew up surrounded by conflict. All around her, she saw violence at the hands of warring tribes in Kenya, Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia. In these regions, many tribes depend upon livestock farming to stay afloat. However, resources like food and water can be scarce. This leads to violence among the tribes and what people know as rustling: the stealing of cattle. Many tribes resort to the use of force as they otherwise risk falling into severe poverty.

In 2003, Loroupe founded the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation (TLPF). She wanted an end to the conflict between the tribes and sought peace through sports. Loroupe based the foundation on three pillars: peacebuilding, education and supporting refugee athletes.

Tegla Loroupe Peace Race

A hallmark of the TLPF is the Tegla Loroupe Peace Race, a 10-kilometer run that hosts runners from warring tribes. They put their weapons down to compete in this race and build stronger relations with the goal of ultimately preventing further violence.

Loroupe says that the Peace Race had strong effects within just a few years. Deaths from fighting between tribes drastically reduced and people have reached a better understanding of one another. Further, many warriors surrendered their weapons for the sake of peace.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, professional soccer player, Lucky Mkosana of Zimbabwe, agreed that “sports definitely contribute a significant amount to world peace.” He highlighted how athletic competition creates positive exposure to other cultures and fosters “an environment where people can learn” about those from outside groups.

Growing up in Zimbabwe, Mkosana understands well that children having outlets like sports can open them up to opportunities. He is a founder of the BYS Academy, a soccer school for vulnerable youth in his hometown of Plumtree, Zimbabwe.

The Importance of Education

Another arm of the TLPF is the Tegla Loroupe Education and Peace School (TLE&PC). Here, children receive the opportunity to learn after experiencing displacement due to conflict. The school also acts as an orphanage for its students, giving them a safe place to call home.

As of early 2020, the school had 460 students and Loroupe hopes to eventually increase enrollment to 1,000 students. Recognizing the importance of a good education, Loroupe wants to ensure that all students have access to a good learning environment. Mkosana said that “talent is spread evenly but resources are not.” Loroupe’s academy makes an effort to provide resources to all.

Loroupe also says that improved access to learning can help reduce violence. Education creates opportunity, and without one, people do what they feel they must do in order to survive. With schooling, this need not be the case. People can create livelihoods for themselves and live without violence.

Heading the Refugee Olympic Team

More recently, Loroupe once again became the leader of the Refugee Olympic Team for the Tokyo Olympics. The Refugee Olympic Team first appeared in the 2016 Rio Olympics, which Loroupe also led.

Loroupe had experience working with refugee athletes at the TLPF so she was a clear choice to head the refugee team at the Olympics. The 2016 team comprised of 10 athletes, who Loroupe says, “reminded the world of the sufferings and perseverance of millions of refugees around the world.”

It was also important for refugees to see that these athletes were able to find success. There was hope for them and they can achieve their dreams just as the members of the Refugee Olympic Team had.

Looking Forward

Loroupe’s promotion of peace through sport through the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation has changed much in Kenya since its inception. Warriors are laying down their arms and children are obtaining educational opportunities. The story of the TLPF is a developing one, but from what it has accomplished so far, peace in Kenya is extending further than ever before.

Evan Driscoll
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Israeli-UAE Peace AgreementIn recent decades, viewers have been bombarded by news of violence and dysfunction in the Middle East; however, on August 13, 2020, a different sort of headline broke. Instead of another bombing or raid, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reached a peace agreement brokered by the United States. Although fighting over this area is nothing new, the Israel-UAE peace agreement may be a positive step in the right direction. In light of this momentous occasion, here are the top four things to know about the deal.

5 Facts About the Israel-UAE Peace Agreement

  1. What is the Israel-UAE Peace Agreement? In August 2020, the leader of Israel, the UAE and the United States met to discuss and break ground on initiatives to achieve stability in the Middle East region for the sake of each nation’s citizens and those of neighboring countries. The grit of this deal lies in its ability to prevent Israel’s annexation of the West Bank region, which the nation announced its intention to do earlier in the summer of 2020.
  2. What is the West Bank and why is it home to so much conflict. Tension in the region dates back to the early 20th century after Britain took control of the region. During this time, both Jewish and Palestinian groups were claiming the region as their home. After world war II, many Jewish people began flooding the region to escape from persecution in Europe. This influx would only increase the amount of violence between the two groups as well as British control. The British government continually attempted to draw a plan to please all sides of the conflict but were ultimately unable to do so. This led to the British authorities pulling out of the area in 1948, which then allowed Jewish leaders to declare the state of Israel. Following the creation of the new state, wars broke out. Jerusalem was divided between the area known as the West Bank, which was held by Palestinian forces, and Israeli forces to the East. No peace agreements were drawn up until recently, so the conflict has remained steady regardless of shifting forces.
  3. What implications could this have on the larger area? According to NPR, the only two nations in the Middle East with a diplomatic relationship with Israel are Jordan and Egypt. Given the lack of diplomatic connections holding the region together, violence has been a lasting component of the region. Though this agreement is between the UAE and Israel, Saudi Arabia is directly implicated in the deal as well. Altogether, this deal will draw at least three nations into a deal with one another that will hopefully de-escalate tensions and incentivize cooperation from other nations as well.
  4. What have organizations been doing? The Latet organization has been working in Israel to help mitigate the effects of poverty. According to a study the National Insurance Institute conducted in 2018, about 21.1% of the Israeli population lived below the poverty line. Moreover, almost 30% of those people are children. However, those in impoverished conditions reported to previously have been in the middle class. This indicates that previous socio-economic status has little to do with current placement. The amount of violence occurring between the two sides of this fight is destabilizing the region from a security standpoint. In the midst of this chaos, the Latet organization works to distribute food and other supplies in order to counteract the effects of poverty on individuals. It partners with different groups in order to distribute approximately $25-30 million worth of food to individuals throughout Israel.

The Middle East has been home to a lot of conflicts. However, the new Israel-UAE Peace Agreement gives many a reason to hope for a more peaceful future. The deal itself is only the first step in the right direction, which should help to promote a more peaceful world.

Allison Moss
Photo: Flickr

Women PeacemakersSince the beginning of the Sudanese civil war in 1983 that split the north from the south, the conflict in South Sudan has cost thousands of civilian lives and fractured the society in the region. The fallout from the civil war led to tribal conflict that is still ongoing and oftentimes the victims of these “total wars” are women. For this reason, women peacemakers in South Sudan are very important.

Feminist Movements in South Sudan

Prior to the civil war, feminists movements were gaining ground in South Sudan, so much so that South Sudan was seen as the center of African feminism during the 60’s and 70’s. These activists secured legal equality for all women across the country, though, with a change of leadership in the late 70’s, women saw their positions in society diminish. With the beginning of the civil war, South Sudanese feminists began to pursue outside avenues to affect policy.

One such group was a collective of female South Sudanese refugees who fled to Nairobi, Kenya. There they drafted a document that outlined how women were essential to the peacemaking and governing process. These women called for the government to acknowledge that “It is first and foremost women who suffer during wars or conflicts. Because of this, they are best placed to act as agents for a conclusive peace process and to spread a culture of peace in the country.” This was the first declaration of its kind, and its message has continued to be influential in how South Sudanese women advocate for increased involvement of women.

Feminist Organizations

Throughout the war period, multiple feminist organizations emerged that called for peace and women’s rights, such as Nuba Women for Peace, Women Empowerment for Peace and Development Network and the National Democratic Alliance. At the turn of the century, many women who had previously participated in these groups came together to form the Sudanese Women Empowerment for Peace (SuWEP), which is an organization with branches in North and South Sudan that collaborate to empower women in the region and promote the role of women peacemakers in South Sudan.

Sudanese Women Empowerment for Peace (SuWEP)

SuWEP’s main goals are to promote the inclusion of women from all layers of society, train women in conflict resolution and mediation, raise awareness, write position papers on its work to be presented to international bodies and advocate for and publicizing its message of gender equality. Due to these efforts, peace centers have now been established throughout both North and South Sudan, food aid has been able to reach the most vulnerable populations throughout the region and the legislature of South Sudan met its quota of 25% of its seats belonging to women.

UN Women Africa

U.N. Women Africa has also been one of the larger advocates for gender equality in South Sudan, with its focus primarily being on increasing female involvement in democracy, increasing literacy and protecting women and girls from gender-based violence. The organization has come before the Security Council to demand greater protections for women because it believes women are essential to the peacemaking process as they have been the greatest advocates of peace since the inception of the conflict. In addition, in a report to the Security Council, it was brought up that the women of these warring tribal and ethnic factions have been able to cooperate and make change together, meaning they can help the rest of the country do so.

Moving into the future, many women peacemakers in South Sudanese see the Revitalized Agreement as the best option for lasting peace because it would require that women hold 35% of government seats and the country would transition towards an expanded democracy. With more women in positions of power, feminists believe there would be an increased focus on women’s issues as well as a greater emphasis on diplomacy and peace.

– Mary Buffaloe
Photo: Flickr

2020 Nobel Peace PrizeIn October 2020, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) accepted the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. The award came during a challenging period. COVID-19 is putting strain on world hunger, global health and peace processes. For instance, in Ethiopia, the politicization of national COVID-19 responses amplified tensions during elections. In Libya, the pandemic affected the process of conflict resolution and exacerbated the existing humanitarian crisis. In India, the pandemic intensified pre-existing frictions between ethnic groups creating scapegoats and marginalizing migrants. The WFP’s 2020 Nobel Peace Prize brings new hope for world hunger and conflict resolutions during the global pandemic. According to Claude Jibidar, the WFP country director in Chad, the award given to the WFP is a wake-up call. Jibidar says, “Our success or our failure today will determine the future that we leave to our children tomorrow. We want them to live in peace and in a world with zero hunger.”

The UN World Food Programme

The World Food Programme is a leading humanitarian organization that has been fighting world hunger and poverty for more than 50 years. The organization works with communities and local authorities to deliver food assistance and improve nutrition. In 2019, the WFP provided meals to more than 17.3 million pupils, of which 50% were girls. The WFP’s actions are crucial on a global scale to meet the 2030 zero hunger goal set up by the international community in 2015 as part of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. The zero hunger goal aims to completely end world hunger, improve global nutrition and achieve food security and agricultural sustainability. Since the establishment of the goal, the WFP has made zero hunger its priority.

WFP Programs

To achieve this goal, the WFP uses educational and nutritional programs. Not only does the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize laureate bring food to countries in need but it also develops programs to educate local populations and authorities. In 2016, the WFP partnered with the government of Cameroon for a prevention-oriented program to address the rising numbers of malnutrition cases in children and pregnant or lactating women. The prevention-based program was a success. By 2017, the number of children reached had doubled in comparison to a treatment program in 2015. Additionally, the cases of acute malnutrition drastically fell. The proportion of children having a mid-upper arm circumference of fewer than 125 millimeters went from 17% in May 2014 to 2% in November 2017.

The WFP’s largest operation started in 2015 in Yemen and is still in progress. In 2021, after more than five years of conflict, more than 20 million people are still food insecure and facing hunger in Yemen. To address the food emergency and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, the WFP continues to provide food assistance in Yemen. However, the ongoing conflict and growing tensions, amplified by hunger and food insecurity, make it challenging for the WFP to assist Yemeni people. In fact, one of the main issues the WFP faced was that rebels in the area were diverting food from people in need. The WFP engaged in negotiations with rebels in order to ensure food assistance would go where it is needed.

Hunger and Peace Interlinked

As said by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, “the link between hunger and armed conflict is a vicious circle.” To fight world hunger and conflicts, the international community needs to address these two issues conjointly. Treating hunger and food insecurity can prevent the rise of tensions leading to violence. Furthermore, addressing violent conflicts can also improve local food security. The 2020 Nobel Peace Prize acknowledges the WFP’s efforts of combining humanitarian aid endeavors with peacekeeping efforts.

However, to define food security as the main instrument of world peace, international cooperation remains essential. The 2020 Nobel Peace Prize reminds the world that food insecurity and peace are interlinked while recognizing the substantial contributions of the World Food Programme in combating hunger and achieving peace.

Soizic Lecocq
Photo: Flickr

10 Nelson Mandela Quotes on LeadershipThe Oxford dictionary defines leadership as the action of leading a group of people or an organization, typically towards a common goal. Leadership can take many different shapes and is unique to every individual. Nelson Mandela is one individual who is often considered as one of recent history’s greatest leaders. Nelson Mandela was a revolutionary philanthropist. He was also the first black president of South Africa, serving in the role from 1994 to 1999. However, his efforts extended beyond his presidency. He devoted most of his life to leading the fight against the institutionalized racism in South Africa. Here are 10 Nelson Mandela quotes on leadership that capture his ideologies and political works.

10 Nelson Mandela Quotes on Leadership

  1. “Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.” – Chief Albert Luthuli Centenary Celebrations, April 25, 1998, South Africa
  2. “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.” – “Long Walk to Freedom, The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela” written by Nelson Mandela in 1994
  3. “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – “Long Walk to Freedom, The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela” written by Nelson Mandela in 1994
  4. “A leader…is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.” – “Long Walk to Freedom, The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela” written by Nelson Mandela in 1994
  5. “If you want the cooperation of humans around you, you must make them feel they are important – and you do that by being genuine and humble.” – An interview with Oprah for O Magazine, April 2001
  6. “It is so easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build.” – Address at Kliptown, Soweto, South Africa, July 12, 2008
  7. “A real leader uses every issue, no matter how serious and sensitive, to ensure that at the end of the debate we should emerge stronger and more united than ever before.” – Nelson Mandela’s personal notebook, January 16, 2000
  8. “Difficulties break some men but make others. No ax is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.” – A letter to Winnie Mandela, written on Robben Island, February 1, 1975
  9. “A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.” – Address at Kliptown, Soweto, South Africa, July 12, 2008
  10. “A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial and uninformed.” – An interview with Oprah for O Magazine, April 2001

Nelson Mandela’s quotes of leadership and wisdom remind us that there are many qualities of a great leader. To be a great leader, one must never give up, try to bring people together and be selfless. Leadership is about working with and for others to achieve a common goal that benefits everyone. Nelson Mandela dedicated his life to the people of South Africa and to undoing the harmful, institutionalized racism in the country. As part of his great legacy, these 10 Nelson Mandela quotes on leadership continue to inspire millions around the world. Further, his accomplishments show us that positive change is attainable.

Emily Young
Photo: Flickr

Peace in Africa
Political unrest, ethnic tensions and legacies of colonial exploitation beget chaos and violence in many parts of Africa. Wars, border disputes and ethnic violence cause destruction, divide families and disrupt economies, consequences which create and perpetuate poverty. Fortunately, some nonprofits are partnering with local communities, leaders and intellectuals to work toward conflict resolution, and ultimately, peace in Africa.

About ACCORD

The African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) is a nonprofit civil society organization and think tank that specializes in conflict management, analysis and prevention. Vasu Gounden, who believes that innovative solutions to conflict in Africa must come from the minds of African citizens, established it in 1992 in Durban, South Africa. ACCORD works closely with international organizations like the U.N. and the African Union (AU) to facilitate negotiations, train mediators and encourage healthy relationships among African leaders. The organization also conducts extensive research through analysis and experience-sharing events and Pennsylvania University’s prestigious ranking process has ranked it as one of the top 100 think tanks worldwide.

Strategies for Peace

ACCORD’s six pillars for peace illustrate the organization’s strategy for establishing peace in Africa through activism and dialogue. ACCORD recognizes the importance of listening to key stakeholders like women and youth, who peace processes often underrepresent, by working to elevate their roles in mediation and post-conflict reconstruction. The organization also works with Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to develop peacebuilding strategies like mediation training, dialogue frameworks and reconciliation strategies. The regional dimensions of most security challenges in Africa (border disputes, multinational ethnic group tensions, ideological extremism and cross-border displacement) put RECs in a unique position to prevent and troubleshoot conflicts. This relationship is at the forefront of ACCORD’s strategy; the first pillar for peace is “to reinforce the institutional capacity of the AU and RECs to prevent and peacefully resolve conflicts.”

Troubleshooting, Brainstorming and Problem Solving

ACCORD regularly organizes and hosts high-level retreats and roundtable events with the AU, U.N., RECs and civil society organizations (CSOs) to address such issues as civil wars, sexual and gender-based violence and socio-economic impediments to peace and development. These roundtables build networks linking African peace workers and mediators across the continent. Scholars agree that CSOs link social, geographic and economic groups in society and play a critical role in providing domestic oversight and upholding institutions. ACCORD’s retreats and workshops, like its Lessons Learned from Inclusive National Peacebuilding Processes workshop, connect CSOs in order to foment peace in Africa. Discussions at roundtable events troubleshoot peacekeeping mechanisms like early warning systems (which analyze and predict conflict) and encourage peer-to-peer collaboration on women’s rights, mediation strategy, education, economic development and other issues.

ACCORD has also been working to combat the sexual violence that often accompanies conflict. In February 2019, the organization participated in a Training of Trainers course to inform African peacekeeping institutions about how to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping operations. In light of a recent scandal wherein, more than 43 U.N. peacekeepers received accusations of sexual exploitation or abuse, training like this is crucial in preventing future incidences of sexual violence.

Training and Mediating

ACCORD has intervened in 34 countries across Africa, employing peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding strategies to mediate and contain conflict, developing capacities for peace. The organization has been running a peace program in Burundi, one of the poorest countries in the world, since 1995. Throughout the Burundi civil war, ACCORD trained community leaders, civil society, political actors and other key stakeholders in conflict prevention, management and transformation.

Additionally, ACCORD has launched a peace initiative in the Central African Republic (CAR), and in November 2018, hosted a dialogue for members of the CAR’s negotiating team. Themes during the dialogue included negotiation techniques, classical and nonverbal communication, the concept of strategic compromise and ways of dealing with armed groups.

Peace and Poverty Relief

Conflict monitoring, analysis, prevention and resolution are integral in establishing foundations for peace in Africa. Many recognize the connection between conflict and poverty, and how it can be detrimental to communities. Only when conflict-ridden communities establish peace, economic prosperity and collective well-being can become reality. ACCORD works with community leaders, civil society organizations, individuals and other stakeholders across Africa to establish foundations for peace and conflict management.

– Nicollet Laframboise
Photo: Flickr

Play Soccer Make PeacePlay Soccer Make Peace (PSMP), is an initiative to unite war-torn communities through soccer. The coordination, teamwork and communication that is needed in order to play soccer is a great way to bring people together who are usually divided by social and political factors. In order to participate, players must follow rules, codes of conduct and keep emotions in check. The goal is ultimately to win a tournament so that it will distract the community from its political conflict. The PSMP initiative originally began as a project by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) and the World Association of NGOs (WANGO) as an effort to bring down borders in conflict-strewn areas. In July 2004, Nigeria hosted the first Play Soccer Make Peace tournament.

‘Play Soccer Make Peace’ in Nigeria

Nigeria has a long history of ethnic conflict deeply embedded in its colonization by Britain. Nigeria has roughly 250 ethnic groups, which has made it difficult for the country to be socially and politically unified. The PSMP tournament offered the opportunity for individuals of different backgrounds to put behind their differences for the sake of sportsmanship and teamwork.

‘Pilot Programs’

UPF and WANGO also ran pilot programs in Gaza, Israel and Jordan in 2007. The Palestinian Football Association and Ministry of Sports and Culture took part in selecting teams and players to participate in the pilot tournament. The tournament was the largest tournament in Gaza and hosted teams from both Fatah and Hamas at a time when the two were in conflict with each other.

The initiative is quickly growing and has even brought together Arab and Jewish youth in northern Israel. Arabs and Jews do not have the chance to meet very often but the tournament gives them the opportunity to work together. Soccer in war-torn communities is laying the groundwork for social reconciliation, which is an important aspect of community healing from conflict and violence.

Expansion of Sport as a Unifying Force

Other nonprofits are quickly taking up the concept of sport as a unifying force. The nonprofit, Ultimate Peace aims to build trust, friendship and leadership in conflict areas through frisbee. The organization does not aim to bring peace to the Middle East, as that would require deeper political and governmental cooperation. They are mainly focused on healing and bringing communities together that have endured heavy political and social divisions.

The nonprofit Soccer for Peace was created from the PSMP initiative. The organization has camps where they build soccer skills and foster communication and trust in Israel between Arab and Jewish youth. The nonprofit has been successful thus far at bringing together an unlikely group of young people and making them cooperate with each other.

The United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognizes that sports can be used to promote peace, as it gives the opportunity for conflicting sides to push aside geographical borders, social class and political division. Play Soccer Make Peace has become a massive movement and has inspired the creation of many other organizations with the same principals and goals.

– Laura Phillips-Alvarez
Photo: Flickr

Yemen Peace Talks
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is cause for despair; however, the recent Yemen peace talks in Sweden and outreach programs providing humanitarian aid are offering new hope to those suffering from the conflict. Through the Yemen peace talks, the United Nations was able to negotiate a ceasefire agreement on December 18, putting at least a pause on the war until countries can reach a further agreement. This finally opens the door to providing humanitarian aid.

Opposed to War in Yemen

Despite President Trump’s wishes, the Senate ended all aid in military assistance to Saudi Arabia following the peace talks. Thanks to Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont for writing the agreement, the War Powers Act was used to assert Congress’ role in military power, overriding the White House. According to the New York Times, Trump was against the end of military assistance in fear that it would cost America “billions” of dollars in arms sales, putting the fear of losing money in front of regard for human life (a reference to the Saudi Prince having allegedly killed American journalist Jamal Khashoggi).

The humanitarian crisis currently taking place in Yemen was caused by war, and the only way to stop it is to end the war and promote peace. Humanitarian organizations such as Save the Children and CARE, along with several other organizations, wrote a letter to the U.S. government to use their influence to end the war. Providing more military support will only perpetuate the problem; whereas, peace will resolve it. Lise Grande, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, stated that the priority must be to increase access to currency and ensure that Yemenis are able to access shipments of food.

Humanitarian Aid

With the ceasefire in play, the focus can be shifted to the humanitarian crisis and helping the suffering people in Yemen. About half of Yemen’s population is subject to starvation and is in dire need of aid as a result of the war. “The big countries say they are fighting each other in Yemen, but it feels to us like they are fighting the poor people,” said Mr. Hajaji to the New York Times. Hajaji is a father who has already lost one child to starvation and is afraid of losing his second, who is struggling to stay alive.

According to Save the Children’s fact sheet, about 85,000 children are estimated to have died from starvation and disease since the beginning of the war in Yemen. Despite the high numbers of people who have died or are suffering from starvation, organizations like Save the Children are making a difference and increasing the number of survivors. This organization has treated nearly 100,000 children suffering from malnutrition and is operating mobile health clinics in the hardest-to-reach areas.

Ways to Help

People from the U.S. can help alleviate this issue in numerous ways. One such method is by contacting Senators and U.S. representatives through the United States Senate website and urge them to give aid and resources to Yemen. Since Yemen’s famine is income based, the best thing the people can do to aid is to donate money to those in need to survive. Organizations like Save the Children are also distributing cash and vouchers for food to families as well as education and safe spaces for children to keep getting an education despite the harsh circumstances and ongoing recovery from war trauma.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is providing outreach through healthcare, nutrition, water/sanitation services and by providing financial assistance to those struggling survive. Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is providing education, food security, shelter and water outreach to many Yemenis. Volunteer and/or donating to these organizations will help their work reach more people.

The resolution of the Yemen peace talks to enact a cease-fire and the U.S. halting its military assistance to Saudi Arabia serve as a positive catalyst for change in the right direction. The ongoing battle is now the aid for Yemenis in an attempt to end their critical condition of poverty. Organizations such as Save the Children, IRC, NRC and UNICEF are providing outreach and saving people’s lives, making significant progress in the work to end Yemen’s humanitarian crisis.

– Anna Power

Photo: Flickr