Developing a just society based on equity and equal opportunities for all with respect for diversity.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

☮ Make Fufu not War! ✌

A group reflection session has been designed to help volunteers discuss about an issue and how it relates to and is experienced in the community they are living in. It can also serve as a platform for learning and sharing information with other members of the team. The key to group reflection is learning how to take perspective on one’s own actions and experience—in other words, to examine that experience rather than just living it. By developing the ability to explore and be curious about our own experience and actions, we suddenly open up the possibilities of purposeful learning—derived not from books or experts, but from our work and our lives.

Last week’s group reflection was facilitated by Justice and Titus and was on the topic ‘peace and conflicts’. We were all asked to give our ideas of what peace is. Key words like co-existence, harmony, freedom, friendship, unity were mentioned. 

Nobel Peace prize winner 2004
My idea of peace is co-existence between people and freedom from the fear of violence. Wangari Maathai made the following statement about peace during an interview after she won the Nobel Peace prize; ‘’For us to enjoy peace, we need to manage our resources more responsibly. We need to share our resources more equitably, both globally and nationally, and we can only do that in a democratic space. If we don’t have space to discuss, to dialogue, to listen to each other, to respect each other’s opinions, we’re going to use our power to control our resources at the expense of those who don’t have them’’. 

This I strongly believe in. If individuals are trying to shove their beliefs or ideas down other people’s throats, there is bound to be conflicts. This can be seen in major parts of the world today, where people are constantly judging each other hence leading to misunderstanding and conflicts. The United Nations has introduced the concept of peacebuilding which was defined by Boutros Boutros-Ghali as actions to identify and support structures that would strengthen and solidify peace so as to avoid a relapse into conflict. 

During the discussion, we were asked this pertinent question- if we could select the Nobel peace prize winner, who would be our choice and why? Members of the group mentioned one or two people and gave reasons as to why they have picked that individual. I particularly found it difficult to pick just one person because for someone to be awarded the Nobel Peace, a lot of qualities need to be taken into consideration. How the person converses with the public also plays an important role in selecting a winner. Winners are well versed in their field, with some individuals even taking the additional step of explaining their work to the general audience. 

CND Peace sign
Majority of the winners don’t usually strive to be winners, rather they are so immersed in their fields and passionate about making a difference in the world. Wangari Maathai for example, was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace. She has supported the planting of about 40 million trees through her Green Belt movement which also supports women’s rights, good governance, democratic change as well as the protection of the environment.

The Dove peace sign
From the discussion, it turns out there are many symbols and images that are used today to represent peace around the world. I was only familiar with the Olympic rings, the V-sign and the dove symbol.The other symbols mentioned were the Pinwheels for Peace, Japanese folded-paper cranes and The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. 

In the absence of peace, there is conflict. When we think of conflict, key words like wars, violence and destruction comes to mind but conflict is often part of day to day personal life. Conflict can be personal, local, national and international. Conflict happens when two or more people or a group of people have contradictory goals. Conflict and violence act as a major player in underdevelopment. Apart from claiming lives, it directly or indirectly impedes the efforts of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) hence affecting international development. 

Evidence of the effect of conflict on the MDGs indicators:

·      Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger: In 2011, the World Bank estimated that 60% of the world’s undernourished live in countries affected by conflicts.

·      Achieve universal basic education: About 77% of children in countries affected by conflict are not in primary school and 59% are not in secondary schools.

·       Promote gender equality and women empowerment: There is an increase in the incidence of gender based violence and recruitment of teenagers into militia and gangs. The UN women reported that in the repercussion of the Cambodian war, about 75% of women experienced domestic violence.

·       Reduce child mortality: Countries affected by conflicts account for 71% of deaths among children under 5 and 70% of infant deaths.

The MDG's
·       Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases: Reports show that countries affected by conflicts have about 43% of the world's population living with HIV/AIDS.

·       Ensure environmental stability: Conflict leads to the increase in rural and urban migration hence leading to the development of slums. They can also lead to uncontrollable resource exploitation hence leading to environmental degradation.

·       Improve maternal health: Reports shows that conflicts can lead to diversion of revenues from health care, destruction of infrastructure and displacement of women, all of which affects efforts to improve maternal health care.

It is clear that conflict has a negative impact on international development and conversely there is evidence that peace strengthens a countries’ development. Not only is peace good for a country’s’ economic development and social cohesion but it has also been documented that a country with a high level of peacefulness tends to more irrepressible to any form external problems be it economic or political. 

So let’s strive to be at peace firstly with ourselves and live in peace with other people regardless of their religion, ethnicity and social status.

By Raqeebah Agberemi