June Highlights

“I want to remind you that no matter how tough things seem, or how difficult our task appears to be, we are not alone. Across the world there are people like ourselves, thinking carefully, analytically, planning creatively and acting with shared purpose and common intent, to bring about the changes that are so desperately required.” These were among the concluding words given in a keynote address by ASC steering committee member Richard Smith at the Global Peace Workshop in Turkey. As much as we may be consumed by the work before us, on our doorsteps, it is through the strength of our human connections to one another in our teams, in our communities, and across the world that the potential for transformation lies. With this in mind, we call upon you, our global comrades, to also share your stories with us as we strive to stay connected to each other’s efforts to transform the world in which we live. For more news, read on, or to share your own stories for publication in this newsletter, email info@asc.org.za.

Conflict transformation and conflict analysis are key components of the training that the ASC offers to help people at all levels to learn and implement effective and non-violent ways of dealing with conflicts. Conflict transformation holds to the idea that conflict in and of itself is not negative; rather it can be an opportunity for all parties to learn from one another and for both to emerge with a greater depth of understanding than before. Conflict can be the energy that drives deeper transformation processes. The ASC set up a partnership consortium that won the bid to deliver this form of training in Juba, South Sudan, caught up in protracted violent conflict following the independence that ended the initial war with the north. Reports indicated that this training was very well received, and highly valued in a county struggling to find a transformative way forward in the face of ongoing tensions.

 In Johannesburg, South Africa, training that focuses specifically on conflict analysis tools was given to a number of the Local Peace Committees that the ASC works with. These included the ABC triangle and the Conflict Tree. The ABC triangle looks at the relationship between Attitude, Behaviour and Context for conflicting parties, and the Conflict tree is a visual tool used to better understand the roots, core problem and impacts of conflict. The Local Peace Committees told us that the tools helped them to get a clearer handle on the dynamics of the conflicts, which would help inform a relevant response.

 Most of the ASC Local Peace Committees are based in Johannesburg, but in June ASC members started establishing connections with partners and communities in Durban, to explore the idea of supporting local structures to become Local Peace Committees in Durban, too. They attended a Durban conference addressing the question of violence against migrants and the labels of xenophobia. Speakers emphasized the importance of our inter-connectedness, and the African philosophy of Ubuntu, which can be translated as “I am because you are”, as the lens through which we should view our fellow humans. The ASC presented on the work that Local Peace Committees do in Johannesburg, and what their role had been in preventing the spread of violence in their city.

 After the conference the ASC contingent talked to some of the local communities about what had happened there, and visited a migrant shelter on the verge of being closed down, where migrants shared about the challenges they are facing. While integration could be a positive move for both the migrants and the communities, many were concerned about how they would find jobs and pay for housing and basic life necessities. We recently received news that this shelter, known as Chatsworth shelter, had been formally shut down, but a number of those living there refused to leave, despite the relocation packages on offer. They were not able to come to an agreement on other options suggested by the government and NGOs, resulting in their arrest, and all children being handed over to the Department of Social Development. We are still awaiting news on the outcome of this situation.

 While these communities are tackling questions of migrant integration at the grassroots level, attendees of the high level AU parallel meetings were busy discussing responsibilities relating to the management of migration, especially relating to South Africa, which has seen a large influx of migrants and refugees over the years, and several outbreaks considered xenophobic. It was agreed that there is a government responsibility to support migration while acting to prevent xenophobia, that regional bodies such as the AU also have a role managing the movement of people, and, finally, that civil society organisations and every individual has a responsibility to help build inclusive societies.

 AU Agenda 2063 also continues to be discussed, with individuals and organisations on all levels in Africa engaging in its contents, which will form an important part of the development trajectory in Africa for the next 50 years. One such meeting focussed specifically on the provisions made for women’s empowerment by the agenda. It was highlighted that women still do not enjoy equal influence in formal peace negotiations, despite the massive role that they play at the grassroots level. This needs to be addressed. However, it was also emphasized that women need to create and embrace their own opportunities. One speaker pointed out that to many women the term “AU Agenda 2063” means nothing, and what they need at the end of the day is “to go to sleep knowing they have food in their garden, regardless of whatever revolution is going on.”

 Making sure that there is interaction and communication between the grassroots and policy makers is essential for the success of any agenda. Policies need to be informed by the input of the grassroots communities, to be relevant and ensure buy-in. This point was discussed in a meeting about the Post-2015 agenda and building people-to-people solidarity in Africa. The obstacles to this process were discussed and potential solutions put forward. With the post-2015 agenda close to being finalised, discussions are underway everywhere to try and ensure that it will be an effective successor to the MDGs. Apart from a greater level of civil society involvement in its development, the post-2015 agenda also has additional goals and targets not covered by the MDGs. One of these is the peace and security goal, which was discussed in a SALO meeting about the responses to the zero draft of the new agenda. Peace and security has been one of the more controversial inclusions, and those who believe in the importance of peace and security for successful development are putting significant effort into making sure that it is preserved in the final agenda.

 In the same way that we need to bridge the gap between the grassroots level and national level, it is also important to be connected with others outside of our local context, remembering that all of our struggles are connected to one another, and that ultimately we should be working together towards a common goal. This concept was well articulated by steering committee member Richard Smith in his keynote address at a workshop in Turkey on the theme of “Organised Social Formations and Catalysts for Peace” The keynote presentation can be viewed here.

 We have seen this principle in practice as we work together with others around the world. ASC partners in Burundi recently held an Africa Day celebration, which was part of the African Solidarity Caravan campaign initiated in South Africa, with countries all over the continent taking part. In the climate of hostility in Burundi, our partners reported that people were uncertain whether such an event could be held. But they held the event nonetheless, discussing ways to work towards peace in Burundi. Inspired by their example, other organisations have since followed suit, organising peace events of their own.

 Finally, we wish to share our condolences on the passing of Local Peace Committee member Nwabisa Langfoot. Our thoughts are with her family and community.