The ACTION Support Centre hosted an Applied Conflict Transformation Course from the 24th of November to the 28th of November 2014. 18 participants attended the course from more that 12 countries in Africa and around the world to share experiences and build a conflict transformation inspired vision of an African culture of peace and people-to-people solidarity. Some of the countries represented include, Botswana, Somalia, Mozambique, Syria, Denmark, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Lesotho, Swaziland, Cameroon and Burundi amongst others. It was a learning process for everyone as individuals shared their experiences and deepened their understanding of conflict transformation. For may participants the ACT course is life-changing, shifting perspectives and approaches to working with conflict forever. For others the ACT space allows for rejuvenation, inspiration and a moment to reflect and renew commitment.
The five day workshop was a journey for all, with participants being introduced to multiple aspects of conflict transformation including issues of culture, identity, systems thinking, perspectives on violence, tools for analysing conflict and participatory approaches to building a vision for Africa.
Inputs from specialist resource people (guest speakers), case study analysis, conceptual frameworks, field visits and participatory exercises formed part of the learning approach throughout the course. The workshop aim was to utilise local experiences in shaping more sustainable approaches to long-term initiatives and to highlight the relationship between local initiatives and the wider context. Practitioners also contributed to the outcome of the course as they brought forward detailed case studies that brought meaning to the concepts of the workshop. The workshop established a common language, shared understandings of key concepts and reflections on conflict analysis, strategy and planning.
Country focused case studies were also prepared and presented by participants. The countries analysed include Syria, Swaziland, Somalia and Mozambique. Tools of analysis such as the balance of forces and the ABC triangle helped participants unpack the drivers of conflict, identifying the core problem as well as some of the positive and negative forces involved. The group presentations using the tools broadened participants’ approaches to analyzing conflict.
Field visits to the Apartheid Museum and Constitutional Hill were a touching experience, providing participants with an understanding of where South came from, and the way our history is always part of the present, informing the future.
The importance of a culture of community/solidarity is very important amongst individuals in order to have effective conflict transformation. Hence a change of lens from time to time is important – allow yourself to see things differently to get a better understanding of the situation at hand.
From the exercises carried out, taking from their experiences in their different countries participants came up with key recommendations and suggestions for their countries going forward. Participants also put forward what they wanted to see in their communities given the prevalence of conflict, poverty, inequality and instability in the countries they come from.
The workshop was a success and many thanked the ASC for the opportunity. The course was an empowering experience for many who felt they now had a role to play in their communities. The workshop created a platform for people to share their experiences and learn about conflict transformation in an environment that was relaxing and welcoming and open to debate.