Farewell Sulega Dahir Hussein, Welcome Fatuma Hassan
The ACTION Support Centre would like to bid farewell to our dear friend Sulega Dahir Hussein who is now relocating to the United States. We have had the honour of working with Sulega on numerous programmes, one of them including the South African Somali Women’s Network (SASOWNET). Sulega also gave a rousing input to the African Solidarity Caravan launch in Yeoville as part of our Africa Week programme, working in partnership with the African Diaspora Forum and the Africa Week committee. The SASOWNET Johannesburg group will meet soon to discuss the way forward. In the meantime we would like to introduce Fatuma “Cheche” Hassan as the SASOWNET Johannesburg co-ordinator in the interim. We wish Sulega all the best and hope to keep our connection strong.
Applied Conflict Transformation Course
ASC hosted the Applied Conflict Transformation (ACT) course form the 5th – 9th May 2014 in Johannesburg. The course seeks to engage practitioners, policy-makers, governments, institutions and members of its global networks in a weeklong learning exchange. During the course ASC welcomed 17 participants from different countries around the African continent, including: South Sudan, Lesotho, Malawi, Gabon, Zimbabwe, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada, Swaziland, Namibia, Somalia, Kenya and Lesotho. 10 participants were women and 7 were men, with youth activists, human rights advocates, governance professionals and senior academics sitting side by side, sharing their stories and learning together.
The course aims to promote people-centered approaches to transforming conflicts through a process of learning, sharing and working together at all levels and to do this in a way that builds trust and creates a culture of peace. The course uses a variety of approaches to learning, including facilitation, group discussions, case study presentations from various specialist resource persons and field visits. Conflict is seen as a source of energy, with the potential to bring the change we need. We learn how to understand it, how to use it, and how to use the relationships we form to manage it, to harness it, and to transform it. We focus on individuals, and organisations. Most essentially, we work to build relationships. These include relationships between individuals, organisations, movements and policymakers.
The ACT course is a highly participatory learning exchange between participants, benefitting from a rich range of resource professionals and visits to places of historical and contemporary significance in South Africa. The course outline is tailored in response to needs identified by the participants themselves, through the application process.
A transformative approach to social conflict requires strong collaborative partnerships between individuals, organisations, institutions and the systems within which they exist. In line with this approach, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the ACTION Support Centre (ASC) have nurtured a cooperative and collaborative partnership, which recently led to their co-hosting a stimulating afternoon of dialogue and debate. A panel of speakers was invited to discuss various issues, which contributed enormously to the learning process. Discussions following the various presentations pointed to the necessity of strengthening Africa’s regional bodies and restoring Africa’s agency through African action. There was a call for African solutions to African problems.
Furthermore, the well researched and challenging presentations delivered by each of the four panelists highlighted the multiple connections and perspectives needing to be factored into analysis of social, economic, political and environmental conflict. A strong need for cooperation and collaboration between civil society, organisations, institutions and governments emerged from the discussion, with a need to improve access to education and consider our common humanity and humility at the core of this change. ACT course participants and the audience as a whole had an opportunity to strengthen their individual and mutual networks and consider how best to put the lessons learned into practice.
During the course, the team of facilitators shared their collective experiences working in conflict transformation within Southern Africa, across the continent, throughout the Middle East and North African regions and globally; drawing on powerful examples of social transformation in action around the world and the importance of strong networks.
In addition, field visits to the Apartheid Museum and Constitutional Hill highlighted the South African history and experience as a case study for all of the participants. Both guided visits provided powerful visual images of South Africa’s journey through struggle towards democracy, and consideration of this case study further strengthened the application of our analyses.
ASC recognises a deep need to develop long-term strategies to transform society and promote appreciation and respect of cultural diversity at all levels of society. The intention of all 17 participants to “be the change they want to see in the world”, and to apply the lessons learned throughout the 5-day course to themselves as individuals, and to the contexts in which they originate, is truly powerful. Participants managed to come up with a vision for Africa, the Africa they would want to see in the future. The result is the strengthening of a network of conflict transformation practitioners and a collective with a focus on the belief that a world free from inequality, violence and oppression is possible, and that each of us accepts a responsibility to contribute to that change.
These workshops created an open platform for people to share their experiences and learn about conflict transformation in an environment that was respectful and welcoming of debate. Feedback from all participants spoke to a valuable learning experience and many thanked ASC for the opportunity, describing their journey as life changing, empowering and inspiring.
Celebrating 10 Years of AU Peace and Security Council
The African Union Commission (AUC) at a consultative meeting of civil society organisations (CSOs) and research institutes held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 16 April 2014 designated ACCORD, ISS, OXFAM and WANEP to organise regional consultations of non-state actors as a platform for developing concrete recommendations on how to enhance the relationship between stakeholders and the AU in the promotion of peace and security on the continent in the next decade.
In line with Article 20 of the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU), the PSC has taken steps to ‘… encourage non-governmental organizations to participate actively in the efforts aimed at promoting peace, security and stability in Africa’. It is against this backdrop that the 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration, the Tripoli Declaration, the Tripoli Plan of Action, the Maseru Conclusions and the Livingstone Formula are instructive.
In view of interactions with the PSC and the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) over the past 10 years, the regional consultations provided an avenue for non-state actors to share their perceptions and perspectives of the PSC and AU in an all-inclusive process. It was specifically to give a voice to non-state AU stakeholders, create awareness and understanding of the work of the PSC/APSA and enable CSOs to contribute to and review the mechanisms and normative frameworks of the Commission.
The consultative meeting that took place from the 21st to the 22nd of May was aimed at compiling the regional outcomes into a report that was going to be presented to the AUC and at the Peace and Security Council’s 10th year anniversary and the celebrations of the Africa day held in Addis Ababa on the 25th of May. The report included an analysis of the Peace and Security Council’s operations since its establishment, the context of peace and security on the continent, and challenges and recommendations that CSO’s gathered from the regional consultation meetings.
The key objectives of these consultations were to assess the PSC in its first 10 years of operation, and to establish how the relationship between the PSC and non-state actors can be enhanced in order to promote peace, security and stability in Africa. The report also reflected on the Peace and Security Council 10 years ago and whether it has managed to fulfill its obligations. Although everyone acknowledged what the PSC has managed to do on the continent to preserve peace, its operations have been marred by a number of challenges. Some of the challenges identified include funding constraints, inadequate logistical support for peace support operations, weak coordination between relevant stakeholders and insufficient communication and accessibility around the work of the PSC amongst others.
However, in light of these challenges, non-state actors identified some key recommendations to improve the work of the PSC. Some of the recommendations made were that with regard to funding constraints, there is need for African ownership of African peace and security initiatives, and hence peace and security should be prioritised for funding. In this regard, pressure needs to be put on member states to make greater financial contributions to the Peace Fund. However, sanctions should be considered for countries that are not contributing. With regard to weak coordination, complementarity and subsidiarity should be practised with the view of avoiding duplication and overlap of efforts and fostering efficient task –sharing between the UN and the AUC/PSC on the one hand and the RECs/RMs and the AUC/PSC on the other. This would in turn allow coordination between the different organs and allow for CSOs to observe and monitor their (non-) compliance.
However, non-state actors also made some commitments to the PSC and AUC. Given the lack of knowledge of the breadth of CSOs on the continent, and hence limited interaction with the PSC, non-state actors pledge to contribute to the mapping of authentic and active CSOs working across the continent as per the Maseru conclusions and in line with Article 20 of the PSC Protocol. This report will be submitted to the AUC for inclusion in their databases.
Consultations revealed that non-state actors had limited knowledge on some of the issues and thus had the opportunity to learn about and appreciate the width and breadth of PSC interventions. Going forward, non-state actors commit to educate themselves on the work, structures and procedures of the PSC and to engage more and also contribute to the dissemination of evidence-based research, as well as outreach and capacity building initiatives to African citizens and their formations on AU peace and security related issues. A first specific commitment has been made to host a training workshop in Tunisia on addressing the knowledge gap.
The report was presented to the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU) on the 25th of May where it marked and celebrated its Tenth Anniversary of its launching, with the participation of all AU Member States, AU Organs, Representatives of the Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs), bilateral and multilateral partners, African Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), think tanks and academic institutions.The celebration provided an excellent opportunity for the Council to take stock of the achievements made and the challenges encountered over the past decade in the promotion and maintenance of peace, security and stability in Africa with a view to achieving the fundamental objective of creating a conflict-free Africa, in line with the letter and spirit of the Solemn Declaration adopted by the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government on 26 May 2013.
Participants appreciated the opportunity given by the AUC to non-state actors to input into the strategic planning of the PSC. To build on the momentum created by this process, participants encourage an annual review and coordination between the AUC, and PSC in particular, and non-state actors.
Human Rights Paradigms and the Global South
ACTION Support Centre attended a meeting at CIVICUS organised by Camila Asano and Laura Waisbich from CONECTAS, an International Human Rights NGO based in Brazil.
CONECTAS is actively involved in advocacy, strategic litigation, and use of human rights mechanisms, production and dissemination of knowledge, capacity building of human rights defenders, as well as linking global South GOs/CSOs and other parties committed in the fight for rights.
The meeting highlighted the role of CONECTAS in the Foreign Policy of Brazil. The two representatives encouraged other CSOs of developing countries to initiate open discussions on their role in influencing decision-making on their countries’ foreign policy with regards to human rights. Their work started in 2005, though they faced challenges from the beginning to have access to Brazil’s foreign policy document and legislations, but at later stage their efforts paid off, as they can claim that they are able to influence Brazil’s foreign policy. They shared the following tips as part their strategy:
1. Information on Brazil voting behavior at the UN
2. To build a strong network (in Brazil and elsewhere) like with CIVICUS and others
3. Media (press) inviting them to activities
4. To position themselves for check and balance
They argued that scholars from developing countries should discuss, publish and share reports about human rights amongst those in the global South, as well as sharing experiences of how to engage government to enhance records on human rights. There is no doubt that the South suffers from the North’s Foreign Policy. Therefore, South–South cooperation between CSOs must deepen, as it is happening at state level, with regards to IBSA, given their influences in the global economy.
ACTION is of the view that a major paradigm shift is required in the way rights and rights violations are understood. The dominant view on what constitutes a rights violation suggests that the global South has more human rights violations that any other part of the world. This view argues that countries such as North Korea, Iran, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, and China amongst others; are the key areas where oppression and repression happen regularly against journalists, civic groups, activists, and opposition leaders as well as against people demonstrating or expressing their freedoms or rights. While of course there is much truth in this narrative there are other places where rights have been and continue to be consistently violated, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and even against minority groups within the borders of established democracies, like the U.S.A., Europe and Australia. These violations draw far less attention, but are equally cause for major concern. Declaring war and the armed invasion of territories in violation of international law is surely also the most critical abuse of power that needs to be addressed. Care needs to be taken not to allow a manipulative western agenda to co-opt the rights agenda for purposes that are often not driven by the need for universal respect of all rights, including cultural and socio-economic rights, and the right to safety and human security.
In conclusion, there is common acknowledgement that CSOs and NGOs must work for the advancement of democracy and human rights, and provisions must be made to align domestic with international law, and also deal with the issue of the interpretation and implementation of international law, as well as the necessity for sharing experiences between developing countries with regards to the promotion of human rights. This domestic approach should also be bolstered with the building of a solidarity movement that can shift the paradigm on human and people’s rights, and challenge all rights violations wherever they occur.
Making All Voice Count Conference
ICT and Conflict Transformation Technology in early Warning and early Response Initiatives
Making All Voices Count (MAVC) recently hosted a learning and inspiration event that took place from May 26th to May 28th in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The ACTION Support Centre had the honour of being part of the event, as it will be starting a project aimed at assessing the effectiveness of the use of ICT and conflict transformation technology in conflict early warning and early response initiatives.
The project “From Early Warning to Response in Preventing Violence: Transforming Conflict through Citizen Engagement” engages three contexts through partnerships with the Zanzibar Interfaith Centre, People’s Voice for Peace in Gulu (Northern Uganda), and with Local Peace Committees in South Africa’s Gauteng Province. The Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies (CPRS) at Coventry University joins the ACTION Support Centre in eighteen months of engagement and investigation with our three partners as we seek ways to examine the communication gaps between citizens and institutions in contexts of conflict. Together we will explore the effectiveness of systems aimed at narrowing these gaps and we intend to establish systems that enable a more effective, collaborative partnership between local level stakeholders.
The Learning and Inspiration Event brought together a wide range of participants, including Making All Voices Count partners, potential partners, and experts in transparency, voice, accountability, and technology, to focus on: bridging different life-worlds and evidence into practice. The event provided a platform for the participants to share knowledge and experience, develop new relationships with others working on these issues, and offer space for reflection on the evidence that exists as they embark on the new initiatives Making All Voices Count is supporting.
The Learning and Inspiration Event also provided the participants with an opportunity to visit some of the villages in Dar es Salaam. The field visits allowed the participants to engage with the locals and leaders of the villages and find out more about how they engaged with their government. Some on the field visits argued that the prevailing conditions indicated that much needed to be done by the government in terms of providing basic free services. However, most locals felt the government was doing the best it can do, and there were many examples of people playing an instrumental role in their own development.
The event provided an opportunity for reflection, learning and information sharing and we as the ACTION Support Centre are ready to work together with the respective partners in support of preventing and eradicating violence in all its forms.
African Solidarity Caravan Public Dialogue
Why we protect the very borders that divide us, the Individual as the starting point for transformation, and other discussions
On May 22nd, the Africa Week events kicked off with a full day public dialogue, in which activists, leaders and individuals from across the continent discussed and reflected on African socio-economic and political issues. This also involved considering strategies to address Africa’s numerous challenges and finding practical ways of tapping into the potential for the re-awakening of Africa.
Several speakers offered insights on topics ranging from democracy to the role of African women in a transformative agenda.
Bishop Paul Verryn emphasized the importance of social cohesion and equality as mechanisms that need to be implemented to build an Africa that is free of social injustices, such as xenophobia. He also highlighted the fact that each and every individual has or must be given an opportunity to find within themselves whether he or she has something to contribute to the betterment of the society. In this he showed the participants that all of us have a role to play in building our respective communities.
Gino Govender spoke about the concept of democracy, reflecting on the 20 years of democracy in South Africa, and locating this in the much longer history of human existence and interaction on the African continent. He posed the question, “where do we come from and how did we get here?”, and pointed out that migration has always been a part of our history. He challenged Africans, as a people, to think beyond borders, explaining that once we understand how the borders came about, we will reject them, rather than protecting the very colonial borders that shaped discrimination and equality in African society. He asked how our education has facilitated that school of thought, and suggested that the way to a truly democratic state lies with state and community co-operation. It is therefore important that we empower grassroots initiatives of development.
Isabella Matambanadzo discussed the challenges facing African women, and the tragedy that in Africa women are still exploited and disempowered. She made a call to bring back the 200 Nigerian girls, saying that women should have a right to education. Participants agreed that the empowerment of women is central to the empowerment of Africa as a whole, and men and women alike must be part of the solution.
Mzi Sibeko led the final session, and facilitated an open discussion, responding to the topics raised. He invited participants to speak in whichever language they felt most comfortable with, which encouraged the flow of input from the floor. Some of the thoughts and reflections are as follows:
- Society needs to be empowered by basic education, to help smooth transitions into a democracy.
- Africa needs to eliminate the politics of class in its systems.
- Africanism happens when we begin to travel across Africa without being asked for our passports.
- Unity will take Africa forward even when other strategies fail.
- The “second best” mentality must die; and Africans must embrace their full potential.
- Great leadership does not come from a vacuum, but is a reflection of the people you lead; there cannot be great leaders without great people.
- We need to find ways to unlock the potential of women. We need to find a consensus between men and women in regards to cohesion in leadership.
- A television show might be necessary for the sending of the solidarity message.
- Collaboration among organizations is necessary for the practicality of our objective.
- Self-reflection is an essential component of change; we must be the change we want to see in the world
In conclusion, the day provided a space to discuss in depth the challenges facing Africa, and share in motivating and inspiring one another to take action. Action that starts within ourselves, and our communities, and through our collective efforts can contribute to the Africa we envision.
African Solidarity Caravan Launch
The African Solidarity Caravan, a collaborative initiative catalyzed by the ACTION Support Centre, was launched on Friday 23 May, in Yeoville. The Caravan is a call to action for Africans across the continent and the world to join forces behind the vision of a united Africa, collectively building a vibrant future for the continent. It is a future in which rights and justice prevail, where our shared heritage is celebrated, and our shared humanity cuts across all boundaries, transcending the differences that threaten to divide us. The Caravan will seek to spearhead a movement across the continent to translate this vision into practical action, through a series of events hosted by local networks, such as festivals, dialogues, workshops and campaigns. It was in this spirit that the Caravan was launched, to the sound of music, laughter and dancing, and a march of solidarity for detained activists in Swaziland, victims of violence in the DRC and Central African Republic, and survivors of war, repression and structural violence across Africa and around the world. The 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram was repeatedly raised as an area of major concern, demanding of a strong solidarity response.
The ACTION team began the day by taking the vision into the streets of Yeoville, inviting the local community to join the event. The hall was colourfully decorated with banners and posters, and crowds streamed in to kick the day off with singing and dancing. A large contingent of school children attended, from Ithemba Study Institute and Velamfundo Independent School – schools that cater for migrant and refugee students, assisting them with integratation into South African society.
Remembering the distress of our Nigerian brothers and sisters over the abduction of more than 200 of their schoolgirls, and with the vision of a united Africa in mind, a march was organized to call for their immediate return. The march was lead by the schoolgirls, holding up a banner with the ‘bringbackourgirls’ hashtag. The procession marched through the streets, chanting “bring back our girls!”, and drawing much interest from onlookers. The media soon arrived on the scene, with cameras and notebooks in hand. When asked what the march was about, one schoolboy threw his arms into the air, shouting “we want our girls back!”.
Back inside the hall, people continued to dance for a while before settling down for the press statement to be read. A panel of speakers offered their insights on the significance of the caravan, and delivered messages of solidarity for fellow Africans engaged in struggles elsewhere on the continent.
Isabella Matambanadzo spoke of the uniting purpose of the Caravan, saying that, “no African should struggle on a continent that is full of other people”. She thanked those South Africans who were leading by example, helping and opening their homes to those from other parts of Africa. The Caravan, she said, is to spread this kind of ethic to all parts of Africa, going wherever there are people in trouble, offering a helping hand and declaring “We understand what you are going through”. She pointed out that it is often much easier to send money, drugs or guns across our borders than people. She called upon Africans to dream of an Africa where it is much easier to cross borders – borders that we did not create – and to learn that wherever we come from, we can stand side by side.
A representative of the South African Somali Women’s Network (SASOWNET), Sulega Dahir Hussein, shared her own story of moving to South Africa because of war in Somalia. She described the difficulty she faced integrating into South African society, being victimized by those who misunderstood her reasons for living in South Africa, and the formation of SASOWNET to help with the integration process. She challenged people to seek an understanding of why foreigners have come here, and to welcome them, because “we are one”.
Mzi Sibeko began his talk pointing out our rights to have a home, parents, peace, love and security. However, he asked how far we have come in building a greater, stronger, and more secure Africa, that no longer carries the begging role throughout the world, and an education that brings us closer to ourselves and awakens the giant within. The Caravan, he said, offers an opportunity to look into the future and define what we want as a people, with a just and peaceful society at the forefront of this dream.
Reflecting on the day, a clear precedent was set for the African Solidarity Caravan, to keep the momentum going, and to pave the way for a solidarity movement to spill across the borders of our continent and bring the dream of a renewed Africa to life.
Over the next few months ACTION will be supporting its members and partners across the continent to initiate collaborative events that take the momentum of the caravan forward. If you would like to find out more, or submit an event proposal, please contact email@example.com.
Africa Day Festival
Colour, Culture and Africa’s Bright Future
ACTION Support Centre (ASC) as part of its commitment to African people solidarity held its annual cultural festival to celebrate Africa Day. The event sought to bring together the diverse and vibrant African communities living in Johannesburg. The aim of the event was to celebrate and promote a culture of African unity and people-to-people solidarity between and among Africans living in South Africa and across the continent.
The day started off with a beautiful parade organised by ASC in partnership with the African Diaspora Forum (ADF) and members of the Africa Week organising committee. It sought to represent as many African countries as possible. The parade – full of people dressed in traditional attire, flags from different African countries, children’s dance groups and different marching bands – attracted a lot of attention from the local communities. Many local children joined the parade and people waved and took pictures from their gardens, windows and balconies. Spirits were high and the parade created a sense of togetherness and unity amongst those joining in.
After winding through the streets of Yeoville, the parade march came to an end at the open field, where ACTION had organised a stage. A number of artists, including poets, inspirational speakers, musicians, and dancers, performed to entertain the crowd and to celebrate Africa. Although the event was designed to create a happy and festive atmosphere, it was important to shed some light on some of the issues facing the continent. Activists and poets from different parts of Africa took the stage to speak on the challenges and the struggles the continent continues to face.
ACTION took the opportunity to highlight current pressing issues affecting the continent. ASC demanded the return of the abducted Nigeria girls and the immediate release of the political activists in Swaziland. The various activists motivated the crowd through solidarity and unity messages. They reminded the African people that unity and solidarity with one and another was necessary for Africa to move towards a better future. The media was present at the event and captured the momentum.
The day proceeded with dance and music performances by artists from all over the continent. People were very engaged and danced and sang alongside the artists, making the day a great success.
The Africa Day celebration marked the end of a series of events designed to celebrate Africa Week. The events included the successful launch of the Africa Solidarity Caravan. The ACTION team is pleased that the objectives of the events were successfully met and that the vision of a unified Africa has gathered real momentum. It is now important to consolidate this energy and ensure that the African Solidarity Caravan treks on through Africa to the Human Peace and Security festival in Addis Ababa.
ASC Visits Soweto LPC
Local Peace Committee reports discontent in community over prepaid meters and the abuse of pensioners through illegitimate eviction orders
On the 30th of April ACTION Support Centre visited Soweto Local Peace Committee, which is chaired by Ms. Thandi Sangwani. The Chairperson and her committee welcomed ACTION Support Centre.
The aim of the visit was to follow up and strengthen the relationship between ACTION and Soweto LPC, one of several LPCs in Gauteng.
Ms. Thandi shared some concerns over her communities to ACTION’s representatives. She reported that the Sowerto Local Peace Committee faces various challenges in the community of Soweto. The first issue was about the pre-paid water and electricity meters. The failure of Johannesburg Water and Eskom to consult before installing pre-paid meters has sparked widespread discontentment amongst the community. Another issue discussed was the abuse of pensioners by the corrupted bank officials and police officers who intimidate and evict older people from their houses, claiming to have bought these houses. As a result they are planning a march in June 2014 to the Department of housing and Johannesburg water and Eskom.
ACTION re-affirmed its commitment to support the Soweto Local Peace Committee, and also praised them for their dedication to serving their community. With regards to the issues raised, ACTION has promised to assist them in engaging with relevant authorities in order to bring clarity on these matters.
Delegation of Mobaderoon Peace Activists from Syria visit ACTION
As part of its mission of building a culture of people to people solidarity and a global network of individuals, as well as the commitment to positive action to transform conflict, ACTION hosted delegates of the Mobaderoon Network in South Africa for a series of meetings.
Mobaderoon is a Syrian based network of activists working in organizations and associations (Civil society, Private and public sector) contributing to building local social initiatives connected on a national level, sharing their resources and experiences on an interactive platform.
Mobaderoon met the Institute for the Healing of Memories in Cape Town, where they shared experiences and discussed possible co-operation between them on how to support the healing journeys of Syrians affected directly and indirectly by the violence. While in Cape Town, the Mobaderoon Delegation visited the Delft community on the Cape Flats and spent time with at the home of Sakhe Siswe and District Six Museum. They also had a brief conversation with Dr. Imam Rashied Omar who is also the present Chairperson of the Western Cape Religious Forum.
As part of their caravan visit, the Mobaderoon delegation met the ACTION Support Centre team in Johannesburg, where they shared their activities and had the opportunities to get a sense of ACTION’s work. They met with Afro-Middle East Centre, and Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, as well as members of the Concerned Africans Group, and an official of DIRCO. It is important to highlight that these meetings were fruitful and inspiring for the Mobaderoon work in Syria. They also visited the Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill Visit.
ACTION supports Mobaderoon’s work and their engagement in peacebuilding and national cohesion initiatives, and has confidence that their work will be constructive in transforming the Syrian conflict.
ACTION works with Mobaderoon to provide training for Syrian Peace Activists
ACTION facilitated a workshop for the Forum of Development Culture and Dialogue in Lebanon. The workshop brought together a diverse group of youth from across Syria, working in both Government and Opposition controlled areas, and with a wide range of religious and political affiliations.
The aim of the workshop was to provide skills and strategies that would support youth to initiate projects in support of dialogue, tolerance, and an end to violence in the various contexts in which they are located.
The workshop was intense and inspiring, using the ASC conflict transformation approach to create innovative spaces for dialogue, discussion and experience sharing, based on the starting point that the most important resource for learning lies within the existing knowledge of the participants who formed part of the event.
This is the second workshop ACTION has facilitated for FDCD. Several participants who had started initiatives arising out of the first workshop in 2013 were able to attend this event, sharing the work they had been able to undertake, as well as the insights and lessons learned in overcoming the tremendous challenges involved in trying to do this kind of peacebuilding work in the midst of war.
Many examples of activities in which Syrian people are working together to keep hope alive, to acknowledge and strengthen the connections between diverse groups of people and to bring the shared Mobaderoon and ACTION value of UBUNTU to life were shared. These examples remind us of how important it is to keep the relational element of our work strongly in focus as we seek also to engage with policy debates and influence decision makers, and of how important local level peacebuilding is, even when high level formal discussions do not appear to be moving forward.
Coming as it did on the eve of the Syrian election the time in Beirut also allowed for ACTION to consolidate and strengthen its existing partnership with Mobaderoon, a network movement of over 4000 activists working across the country. Several side meetings were held aimed at establishing a way forward that will deepen the institutional connections between ACTION and Mobaderoon. In addition, discussions were held aimed at exploring how the partnership might support efforts to link the peacebuilding work on the ground to the higher-level peace dialogue process. These discussions and the ideas generated will be taken forward over the next few months
Thabo Mbeki Foundation
5th Africa Day Lecture
ASC members attended the 5th Thabo Mbeki Foundation Africa Day Lecture. Hosted by the University of South Africa and the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute, the evening event was built around the topic of “Defining a leadership paradigm for a new Africa”.
With a welcome from Professor Mandla Makhanya, Vice Chancellor of UNISA, introductory remarks from former President Mbeki and a key note address from His Excellency Salim Ahmed Salim, the event offered a real opportunity to hear and share in the wisdom of seasoned diplomats and international relations expertise.
As the former Prime Minister of Tanzania, Ambassador and High Commissioner to China, India, Egypt and Cuba, to mention only a few, and the President of the International Conference on Sanctions against South Africa, Salim Salim is probably better placed than most to share insights on the topic at hand.
The input was inspiring, informative and absolutely pertinent, addressing and acknowledging the problems faced by our continent and its leaders, but seeking always to look to the future and the best possible ways for us to move forward collectively. The final text of the input is available here. (http://www.thabombekifoundation.org.za/Pages/PRESENTATION-BY-DR-SALIM-AHMED-SALIM,.aspx)
In addition to the formal speech, the Ambassador shared personal stories, including the efforts to have representatives of the apartheid South African government physically removed from the UN General Assembly after they had officially been suspended, back in 1974.
With reference to the Freedom Generation of African leaders, including Nkrumah, Nasser, Lumumba, Balewa, Keita, Mondlane and others, the Ambassador reminded us that Africa had demonstrated its ability to produce great leadership. He referred specifically to the people-centered nature of this leadership, leaders that saw their role as serving the people and who had a strong sense of Vision, Mission and the values of commitment and selflessness.
Gaborone Consultation Process
Civil Society and the Peace and Security Council
The ACTION Support Centre was represented at the Southern Africa Consultation on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the Peace and Security Council held in Gaborone from the 14th to the 15th of May.
In her opening remarks the newly appointed SADC Executive Secretary, H.E. Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax called on participants to use the consultation to reflect on the contribution of civil society in shaping the work of the Peace and Security Council and to make recommendations that could have “profound implications for the future of the PSC in general and SADC’s peace and security agenda in particular.”
Civil society organizations from 12 SADC member states attended the consultation. The hosts of the consultation, ACCORD, acknowledged that the meeting could not claim to be fully representative of civil society views from across the region, however under the time constraints faced, it was clear that some effort had been made to bring a diverse group of relevant organizations together.
The consultation included a set of useful inputs and some discussion amongst participants that resulted in a set of recommendations that were taken forward to the Addis Ababa meeting with the African Union Commission and the AU Peace and Security Council.
The overall process of this continental consultation, and the discussions within the meeting, raise a number of important questions for all civil society groupings, and for governance institutions that seek to involve civil society in contributing to the African Peace and Security Architecture.
Efforts to build consensus or a framework for collaboration between civil society groupings need to pay close attention to issues of mandate and legitimacy. Collaborative efforts that genuinely seek to identify areas of commonality in analysis and approach across diverse civil society actors require careful leadership that finds a balance between arriving at an outcome and ensuring there is a sense of ownership amongst those involved.
Time needs to be given for documentation that emerges out of discussions to be subjected to review, and there must be space for additions and amendments if the document claims to represent the views of all involved. It would be a lost opportunity, and an exacerbation of existing relationship challenges if civil society groups are co-opted into processes that are dominated by one group who then speak on behalf of people from whom they have not really obtained a mandate.
Establishing internal forms of democratic decision-making will add to the legitimacy and accountability of civic voices. Practicing these forms of collaboration in action will demonstrate that as civil society we are able to offer a real alternative to the current status quo in which so many people feel removed from how decisions are made.
Questions around how to build and strengthen existing forms of organization, and to take care not to drown out or marginalize local capacities for peace are also critical within any consultation process. That these processes were hosted by ACCORD in Southern Africa, the Institute for Peace and Security Studies in East and Central Africa, and by Oxfam International in North Africa, does not on the surface appear to constitute a fair or meaningful arrangement that will empower existing national or regional groups.
The ASC will continue to engage in these consultations, based on the belief that the opportunities to extend our web of networks outweigh the concerns raised by the flaws in the process. Engaging with the process, looking for opportunities to assist in strengthening the approach, and to influence the process as it unfolds are still useful intentions.
As this process moved to Addis Ababa the ASC was still involved. Initially it appeared as though a tiered structure of participation, with some relegated to observer status was proposed, though this was withdrawn as the discussions proceeded.
The proceedings and outcomes of the Addis meeting are recorded separately in this newsletter.
University of Edinburgh Interns
ASC Welcomes Anisa and Suzanne
During the months of May and June the ACTION Support Centre is hosting two postgraduate students from the University of Edinburgh, who are joining their team for this period. Anisa Omar and Suzanne Tossings, both studying the MSc Africa and International Development, are interning at ACTION to gain insight into the workings of a peacebuilding organization, and to do research for their final dissertations, which will also contribute to the work of ACTION.
Suzanne will be researching the conflict dynamics and state-citizen relationship in Alexandra. Her main focus will be on how the Local Peace Committee in Alex can collaborate with different stakeholders involved in Alexandra, in order to improve the situation and make the work that is being done more effective. She has been talking to different people from the Local Peace Committee in Alex and will continue to meet different people and attend public meetings in the township.
Anisa will be conducting research on the Somali diaspora in South Africa. Anisa’s research will investigate how a culture of solidarity contributes to a perception of safety and human security. In particular, the research will focus on the forms of protection and income generation activities devised by Somali women in exile in South Africa, as part of ACTION’s commitment to the Bridging the Gaps and forging Partnerships program. Anisa hopes that the successful completion of this work will further assist the organization in supporting Somali women, and strengthening their partnership with the South African Somali Women’s Network (SASOWNET).
Besides their research, both Anisa and Suzanne have been attending various events organized by ACTION, such as the Applied Conflict Transformation course and the various events organized in Africa Week.
Trip to Constitution Hill
The ASC has just completed another one of our Applied Conflict Transformation courses. Full details will be shared in the next newsletter. This course included an opportunity to connect participants in to South Africa’s election day, beginning with a visit to Constitution Hill. The Constitution is the foundation of the South African Constitutional Democracy providing a useful starting point for a conversation on democracy, transformation and public participation.
Course participants included conflict transformation practitioners, peacebuilders, academics and development workers from Syria, Somaliland and Somalia, Kenya, South Sudan, Gabon, Zimbabwe, Malawi and South Africa, with a rich additional range of countries from which the group had direct experience. The trip provided them with the opportunity to remember and reflect upon the historic struggle that birthed the democracy that South Africans now enjoy, and consider the lessons learned from South Africa’s past.
Constitution Hill houses a long history of South African conflict, and embodies the struggles fought to free it. In his book, A long walk to Freedom, Mandela said “No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails.” The exhibition leads one through this experience, reconstructing the cells used to house prisoners opposed to the oppressive apartheid regime. Various displays show the laws used to justify the criminalization of blacks, and the practices that dehumanized them. In disbelief one participant asked the question many have asked all over the world – why has something as superficial as skin colour been the source of so much division and oppression?
Indeed, the harsh racial dynamics presented at Constitution Hill stood in stark contrast to the diversity of the ACT group, now seeking to build peace in their communities and world. With this experience fresh in mind, the group made their way to the voting stations that now support South Africa’s democracy. The day included visits to a polling station in Soweto, and an opportunity to feel first hand the mood of the elections, as well as a chance to observe the process and technicalities of the democratic process.
Letter of Condolence on the Passing of Caritas Mukankusi
We write with sorrow in our hearts to share the tragic news of the passing of our dear friend Caritas Mukankusi. Caritas touched many of us during her life as a committed, inspired and inspiring peacebuilder. Many of us will remember her deep felt retelling of her own experiences as a principled and courageous human being during the tragedy of the Rwandan genocide.
Caritas passed away in the first few days of April, and the circumstances surrounding exactly what happened are still not clear. Perhaps other members of our network will be able to share more details as we seek to absorb the regret and sadness that comes with the loss of those we hold close to us.
African Insider Mediators Platform participants will recall the role she played in support of our collective efforts during her facilitation of our consultation meeting at Liliesleaf in Johannesburg in September last year. Indeed Caritas is a longstanding champion of the efforts to build the Coalition for Peace in Africa and the ACTION for Conflict Transformation network movement and spent many weeks and months of her life strengthening the African and Global movements for peace. Her role as an activist and her understanding of the importance of recognising and valuing the different contributions of women and men helped many of us to feel valuable in our own efforts to end all forms of discrimination and to unleash the full potential of every human being.
In response to the funeral and events surrounding the death of the late Nelson Mandela in December last year Caritas shared the sadness she was feeling, in a piece of writing. We share this with all of you now in the hopes that in reading her words we remember also the spirit with which she lived her life, and the call she made to all of us to emulate and remember the legacy of Madiba, and to find the ways in which each of us can make our contribution to the other world that Caritas was helping to dream, to live and to make possible.
Our deepest condolences to her friends and family.
Hamba Kahle Caritas, go well!
ACTION Support Centre Visit to Orange Farm
On the 23/04/2014 ACTION Support Centre visited Orange Farm Local Peace Committee (LPC). Thirteen executive members of Orange Farm LPC welcomed ACTION Support Centre. The aim of the visit was to strengthen the relationship between the ACTION and Orange Farm LPC, and to follow up and assist Orange Farm LPC’s activities. Part of this includes connecting LPCs to local government officials and stakeholders, and other policy makers with regards to their programmes and challenges.
The Chairperson of Orange Farm LPC, informed ACTION that they appreciated a local business community’s offer to provide bakery skills training to the women of to his community. This opportunity will in turn help the women of Orange Farm Community to start a bakery business, which will be a source of income, as well as will contributing to financing other activities.
As many projects were launched in the community, it was highlighted that the youth remains a strategic and instrumental pillar for not only the community, but also the country at large. Orange Farm LPC is busy trying to find scholarship to help further the studies of some young matriculates, as they believe that education is an important tool to fight poverty, unemployment and crime, as well as a key instrument for social transformation.
The committee also raised concerns about the water crisis, as they were afraid that it might cause conflict between Orange Farm residents and the municipality. The Orange Farm LPC was working on a strategy to prevent the situation from getting out of hand.
Another issue was raised regarding an incident between a foreign shop owner and a South African. It was reported the foreign shop owner did not give the South African correct change. This issue was brought to the attention of the Orange Farm LPC, and they have promised to update us on the matter, to avoid any escalation.
ACTION Support Centre reaffirmed its commitment to assist the Orange Farm LPC’s activities and Programmes, and has commended Orange Farm LPC for its efforts and leadership role in preserving peace and cohesion between its community members.
Close-Door Briefing on Somali
On the 14 April 2014, Action Support Centre attended a close-door briefing by the Norwegian Special Envoy for Somalia, Mr Jens Mjaugedal, at the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) Pretoria Office in South Africa.
Mr Mjaugedal returned from Somalia, where he met with various actors and stakeholders of Somailia’s crisis. He observed that Somalia still faces various challenges, including federalism and the growing threat of Al-Shabaab in Somalia.
The Norwegian Special Envoy insisted on a more co-ordinated approach by the African Union (AU) and international actors in the Somali conflict. He argued that the regional economic community must play an active role in the resolution of this conflict. While he acknowledged that some progress has been made, he believes that the Somalia federal government needs more support from the European Union (EU), United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU). However, he said the international community approach to the Somali conflict is not adapted to the reality on the ground, due to its complexity. He questioned the will of the international community on ending the Somali conflict, as he stated that US$ 50 billion was spent on fighting piracy, and much was also invested in the social and economic development of Somalia, as well as the strengthening of the administrative and security apparatus.
From his analysis, all actors in the conflict must be involved in the peace process, including Al-Shabaab, other civil society organisations and armed groups. For some groups and individuals the federal government lacks national legitimacy, and it is only the international community that recognises the federal government. Therefore, the Somali federal government’s authority is challenged.
Some prerequisites such as security, state institutions, inclusion, national consensus and capacity-building, as well as civic service are to be met before Somalia becomes more stable. He raised concerns on the weakness and failures of the federal government with regards to the issues of constitution, elections in 2016, tribes, citizenship, Somaliland, Jubaland and political discrimination and security. Also, the Norwegian Special Envoy raised the issue of Somali’s Oil. He emphasised that, without being pessimistic, the current challenges that Somalia experiences, it is to be expected that oil will be more a curse than a blessing for Somalia.
Moreover, he mentioned that African countries must be aware that the threat of Al-Shabaab is borderless, and that this matter should be handled with a more diplomatic approach. Instead of isolating Al-Shabaab, it would be more instrumental to stability and state-building in Somalia and the region, to invite this organisation to the negotiation tables.
Mr Mjaugedal said that people and other actors should not see Norwegian support to Somalia as way to dictate to the Somali federal government what to do, but as a contribution to the stabilisation of the country.
After 20 years of political disintegration, Somalia still struggles to rebuild itself. This deliberately calls on policy and decision makers to revisit the strategies for conflict resolution in Somali. Involving Somali people more will be crucial to ending the lasting conflict, the spill over of which is felt in Kenya and elsewhere in the region. For the stability, development and integration of the continent, the African Union should develop a more people-driven resolution to end this conflict. Ignoring people’s voice on the ground would further disintegrate this country that has the potential to economically move Africa forward. Therefore, a national dialogue must be initiated in favour of peace and national cohesion.
Chris Hani Memorial
ACTION members attended the 20th anniversary commemorations of the murder of Chris Hani on 10th April 1993. The assassination of Comrade Hanna was a turning point in the dialogue process that was underway in South Africa during that time. Riots followed the announcement of his death, and for a while it looked as though the entire country would be engulfed in violence. For the first time since his release, Nelson Mandela addressed the people of South Africa on national television and made a heart rending call for calm and discipline:
“Tonight I am reaching out to every single South African, black and white, from the very depths of my being. A white man, full of prejudice and hate, came to our country and committed a deed so foul that our whole nation now teeters on the brink of disaster. A white woman, of Afrikaner origin, risked her life so that we may know, and bring to justice, this assassin. The cold-blooded murder of Chris Hani has sent shock waves throughout the country and the world. … Now is the time for all South Africans to stand together against those who, from any quarter, wish to destroy what Chris Hani gave his life for – the freedom of all of us.”
While the commemoration focused primarily on providing the South African Communist Party, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the African National Congress with a platform to talk about the upcoming elections on the 7th of May, it was also a poignant moment to remember how far our country has come since the uncertainty and turbulence of the early 1990’s.
The leadership provided by Nelson Mandela at the time, filling the vacuum of uncertainty that was created by the assassination, was a major landmark of his presidential legacy that would leave a profound impact on South African and global politics.
Concerned Africans Group Discussion on ICC
ASC members participated in the Concerned Africans Group discussion on the International Criminal Court led by Professor Alexander Mezyaev, Head of the Department of International Law at the University of Management TISBI, Kazan, Russia. Professor Mezyaev worked as an Assistant to Counsel at the International Criminal Court and provided a fascinating set of insights into the current modus operandi of the ICC.
At a time when there are clear tensions between the ICC and Africa, and within the context of the current ICC cases against African leaders and alleged perpetrators of violence, the discussion was particularly pertinent.
Professor Mezyaev presented a compelling set of arguments that suggest that the ICC is being used to subvert the notion of international justice into an instrument that is being used to entrench the ability of more powerful nations to interfere in the domestic affairs of African countries in particular. His argument that Africa is being used as a testing ground for the application of this distorted justice framework has significant implications for the peacebuilding and human rights sectors of civil society, especially in terms of how we respond to the critiques and concerns of African governments.
The challenge for all of us is how to ensure that what appear to be legitimate concerns regarding the ICC do not become the pretext for a complete dismissal of the overwhelming need for a global governance and justice system that can hold leaders accountable for actions that deny citizens the human and peoples rights afforded them under the Universal Declaration, international treaties and agreements, and our own African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. The ACTION Support Centre will remain engaged on these issues as the debate continues.
The Post-2015 Development Agenda
The ACTION Support Centre has been involved in a series of events as part of our ongoing engagement with the discussions that are informing the global process to negotiate and agree on a set of developmental targets that will replace the Millennium Development Goals.
Readers will recall the updates in our previous newsletter that spoke of our involvement in an African delegation visit to Shanghai, China, hosted by the Shanghai Institute for International Studies. The discussions in Shanghai centered on the upcoming 6th Forum on China Africa Cooperation and the Post-2015 Development Agenda, and included officials from the African Union and various civil society formations and academic institutions.
ACTION is also involved in the Beyond 2015 Peace and Security Task force, a collaborative effort between 33 civil society groups from within the peace sector which aim to tap into and influence policy discussions at the UN level. As part of this collaboration, ACTION contributed to and endorsed an Open Letter to the UN General Assembly Open Working group discussion on Sustainable Development Goals. The Open Working Group letter is available here.
UNPGA Thematic Debate on Ensuring Peaceful and Stable Societies
On the back of this involvement, ACTION was invited to address the United Nations President of the General Assembly at the ‘Thematic debate on peaceful and stable societies’, held in New York on the 24th and 25th of April. Speaking as a discussant to the first panel, exploring the nexus between peace and development, ASC Steering Committee representative Richard Smith spoke about the critical role of relationships in understanding how important the inclusion of peace indicators are to the effectiveness of a global development framework. A video of his speech can be found here, and more information on the debate is available here.http://www.un.org/en/ga/president/68/settingthestage/6esps.shtml
In considering the importance of relationships, the focus must primarily be on the nature of the relationship between the state and its citizens, but also the relationship between social groups within a society, especially those that are marginalised or that feel excluded. This includes the relationship between men and women, and the relationship between those in positions of privilege and those that seek greater access to opportunities.
The relative health of these relationships is central to understanding how peace is not only about the absence of violence but also the presence of indicators that speak to the commitment, ability and capacity of a society to respond to the inevitable tensions that accompany countries that are undergoing processes of transition. Moving from an unequal and repressive past towards a more equitable, more sustainable future that seeks to meet the socio-economic human security needs of all of its citizens will inevitably contain tensions and conflicts that can easily spiral out of control if left unmanaged, but that also hold the key to sustainable forms of change if approached from a conflict transformation perspective.
The clear point was made that the inclusion of peace and security indicators in a Post-2015 Development Framework is about the humanisation of security and not the securitisation of development. At the UN PGA debate ambassadors from several member states expressed a range of concerns regarding the inclusion of peace and security indicators in a Development Agenda. These were focused on issues of conditionality, centered on the worry that peace would be used as a pre-requisite for the disbursement of development aid, on universality regarding whether peace could be defined in a way that was not culturally or contextually specific, and on sovereignty, concerned that peace and security might be used as an opportunity for major powers to interfere in the domestic affairs of sovereign countries. Other nations were also concerned that the Sustainable Development Goals emerging from the Rio plus 20 negotiations were being subverted by the inclusion of additional focus areas that had not formed a central part of the Rio discussions. These concerns and differences of opinion will all be thoroughly discussed in the coming weeks and months as the international negotiation process unfolds.
ACTION also presented a set of reflections to a civil society event following the debate initiated by New York based Global Action to Prevent War and Armed Conflict. Participating in this event has enabled ACTION to significantly extend its international network and will hopefully feed into several opportunities moving forward. Our intention is to deepen our engagement in the Post-2015 Development debate, including efforts to popularize and raise awareness around the Common African Position on Post-2015. The Common African position is available here.
SASOWNET National Launch
On April the 19th and 20th the ACTION Support Centre had the honor of hosting the South African Somali Women’s Network (SASOWNET) National Launch. The launch follows a series of workshops that were held in different parts of South Africa to empower Somali women. On the 19th and 20th these women from Cape Town, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth came together and initiated a dialogue which would promote a process through which the Network could be recognised nationally. The national launch event aimed to identify the needs and priorities of the provincial components of the Network, namely, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Johannesburg, and also provide an opportunity for Somali women to build relationships, establish linkages, share experiences, learn from each other and develop a common transformative agenda in an attempt to harness a culture of people-to-people solidarity, and to find solutions to the common challenges that they face across the country.
By the end of the launch the Somali women had drafted their own constitution that enshrines the mission, values, objectives and commitments of the Network, to mark and legitimise its work. Furthermore, the launch provided a platform in which SASOWNET members collectively nominated and elected the national leadership of the Network that will coordinate the initiatives of SASOWNET throughout South Africa and the region. Finally, the launch also presented the women with the opportunity to draw up a programme of action for the next three years. The ACTION Support Centre looks forward to playing a supporting role in the initiatives and programmes of SASOWNET and seeing the Network flourish and grow beyond measure.
Build Peace Conference
The ACTION Support Centre was part of the Build Peace Conference that brought together conflict transformation practitioners, peace activists and technologists from around the world to share experience and ideas on using technology for peacebuilding and conflict transformation.
The conference acknowledged that technology is altering how we engage with the world, and is offering new avenues for social change. The conference explored how information and communications technologies, games, networking platforms and other tools can enhance the impact of a broad range of peacebuilding, social cohesion and peace advocacy initiatives.
Noting that most ICT4Peace discussions focus on early warning and crisis response, the Build Peace Conference emphasised the use of technology for attitude and behavioral change, collaboration, dialogue, and or policy advocacy, including complementing existing forums by expanding the discussions to encompass other key areas of peacebuilding and conflict transformation work.
The conference also featured keynote speakers, 5-minute ignite talks, a technology fair and various working sessions on themes related to the potential of technology in contributing to peacebuilding practice.
Peace and Security in the Post-2015 Development Agenda
The ACTION Support Centre, in collaboration with Saferworld, hosted a one-day seminar on the 26th of February at the University of the Witwatersrand to discuss peace and security issues in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The seminar brought together a number of prominent people that have worked in the development field, civil society organisations, women’s organisations and academics. Speakers included Robert Parker, the Director of Policy and Communications from Saferworld, Adane Ghebremeskel from SADC Council of NGO’s and Richard Smith from the ACTION Support Centre. An introduction to peace and security and the Post-2015 development agenda was given, followed by discussions of key issues. Some of these included the peace, security and development nexus in Africa and its connection to the Post -2015 Development Agenda, as well as the role of South Africa and regional organisations in promoting peace and security issues in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Challenges and opportunities were a focal point of the seminar, and group discussions focussed on developing strategies and identifying opportunities for promoting peace and security issues in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
From the discussion it emerged that communities are not always aware of their rights, in terms of what the government should be providing for them, as well as the fact that all citizens, including minority groups such as migrants and refugees, should share the same rights, and be treated as equals. There is much work to be done in this area. For example, in South Africa, a greater understanding of why there is an influx of migrants may have helped prevent violent xenophobic attacks that were carried out against migrants when they were perceived to be responsible for the lack of services that should, in fact, have been provided by the government.
Securing equal political representation for disenfranchised populations is key to ensuring they can participate in key decisions and enjoy the same levels of development at the national and the local level. If communities are involved in decision-making processes and they are equally represented, this creates spaces for engagement where their grievances and needs can be addressed. Furthermore, governments in Africa should be equipped with effective national and grassroots mechanisms to build social cohesion and prevent conflict.
Social protection, for instance through public works, school-feeding programs or insurance schemes can play a key role in ensuring that poor and marginalized groups can recover from crises and recover from poverty. For example, social pension initiatives in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia have been successful in that regard.
Inequalities and lack of access to resources in Africa can have debilitating effects on human development and economic growth. Making sure people from all backgrounds in Africa can lead equally long, healthy and productive lives is not only a human right but a smart economic and development measure. Working to redress these imbalances can have considerable impact in helping Africa to achieve the transition from economic growth to sustainable and inclusive human development. If there is reduction in the number of service delivery protests that become violent, then we can say progress has been made.
SALO Policy Dialogue on LGBTI
On the 25th of March 2014, ACTION members attended the Southern African Liaison Office hosted a Human Rights Day Policy Dialogue focusing on Gender and Human Security in Africa, particularly violence and discrimination against LGBTI individuals. SALO is a key partner of the ACTION Support Centre. The workshop brought together a diverse group of people of whom some are directly involved in policy and decision-making processes and activists who shared interesting pieces on the issues at hand. Speakers included, Hon John Jeffrey (MP) Deputy Minister, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Deprose Muchena, Director, Amnesty International Southern Africa Regional Office and Ian Southey- Swartz LGBTI Program Coordinator, Open Initiatives for Southern Africa (OSISA). The presentations were followed by an open discussion and inputs from the floor that prompted a robust discussion on gender and human security.
It was argued that although gender and women’s empowerment issues are gaining prominence within the Post-2015 African agenda, as can be observed in the Agenda 2063 and the ongoing discussions on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, minority rights, in particular those relating to LGBTI communities, are still regarded as taboo, too sensitive and emotive to warrant attention by the African Union. Some African leaders and anti-gay groups dismiss the LGBTI rights agenda as Western-driven, and accuse Western governments and aid agencies of pushing forward gay rights and the legalisation of homosexuality.
It was noted that dealing with the challenges of discriminations remains chimerical but people must keep on fighting for equal rights for all. The South African government, in its most recent public pronouncement on the situation pertaining to gay rights in the world, issued a “carefully worded” statement in the Mail and Guardian newspaper, which reaffirmed the country’s commitment to human rights including those of LGBTIs. It was argued that the statement shied away from the sharp rebuke that has characterized Western responses to rising homophobia in Africa. SA’s statement, which can be interpreted as bold and unprecedented (the first by an African government) but cautious, is perhaps indicative of the sensitiveness that has characterised this issue in Africa.
Same sex relationships are illegal in many African countries and in other cases are punishable by death, which is why violence against LGBTI individuals needs urgent attention as a threat to African development, peace and human security. The recent LGBTI laws in Uganda against LGBTI persons that are echoed in many African countries, including Zimbabwe resonates with the above.
It is within this context that SALO stimulated discussion on Gender and Human rights in Africa, with a particular focus on the recent spate of anti-gay laws and rising homophobia in Africa. The discussion sought to consider the African Union’s position or lack thereof on the matter. While acknowledging the sensitivities, the discussion explored how South Africa, guided by its strong human rights ethos, and position of influence within the continent, can provide leadership for this kind of discussion.
Given the prevalence of violence and discrimination against LGTBI persons in Africa there is need for intervention, and South Africa should play a leading role in championing this intervention given its position on LGBTI persons. Existing platforms (civil society) should be used to carry out advocacy work in order to raise awareness in the region and Africa as a whole. Workshops have been held but have not achieved the desired results to change the homophobic behavior of communities, governments and individual against LGBTI persons. More should be done to curb these behaviours, hence more needs to be done in terms of understanding local violence dynamics against LGBTI’s, and improving communication amongst stakeholders and civil society should play a leading role. There is need for a public participation process so that people would understand that LGBTI’s rights are human rights hence discrimination is not tolerated. There is also need to start human rights education in schools so that this becomes part of the civic education to shift the mindset of people. It’s time to hold political leaders accountable so that South Africa plays a more active role in the process.
Forum on Chinese Africa Cooperation and the Common African Position on the Post-2015 Agenda
ACTION participated in an African delegation visit to Shanghai, China, hosted by the Shanghai Institute for International Studies. The discussions in Shanghai centred around the upcoming 6th Forum on China Africa Cooperation and the Post-2015 Development Agenda and included officials from the African Union and various civil society formations and academic institutions.
ACTION delivered a presentation exploring the opportunities and challenges for China and Africa in developing a collaborative agenda on the inclusion of peace and security indicators in Post-2015. The presentation highlighted the shared importance to China and Africa of structural transformation and the possibilities that are contained within the pursuit of a universal human security agenda.
A strong call was made for China support for the Common African Position, including the need for greater recognition and understanding of why the peace and security components of a Post-2015 Agenda are so prominently articulated by African leaders.
Knowing that the 6th FOCAC will be held in South Africa in 2015 provides an essential opportunity for China and Africa to build stronger ties, mutual understanding, and longer-term complementary agendas in addressing some of the ongoing challenges regarding Chinese and African trade, investment and development cooperation.
With the Common African Position of the African Union adopting peace and security as its fifth pillar, the African continent has now added its voice to the growing consensus that in order to achieve sustainable and inclusive development that truly leaves no-one behind, the post-2015 development agenda should give special attention to the 1.5 billion people living in states experiencing or recovering from high levels of violence.
The Common African Position provides essential guidance for those working for the inclusion of peace within the post-2015 development agenda. This clear and common articulation of what African member states want from the post-2015 agenda will be welcomed by traditional OECD donors and by emerging powers like Brazil, China and India.
Raising awareness among civil society groups of what the CAP contains will be critical to building ownership and understanding of what has been adopted. Efforts to identify and develop an African ‘people’s position’ on post-2015 that can feed into, strengthen and critique the official AU position will also be important. Bringing the declaration of the AU and the voices of Africa’s citizens into harmony will strengthen African efforts to shape the priorities of the global debate on the post-2015 development agenda.
ACTION is also involved in the Beyond 2015 Peace and Security Task force, a collaboration between 33 civil society groups from within the peace sector aiming to tap into and influence policy discussions at the UN level. As part of this collaboration ACTION contributed to and endorsed an Open Letter to the UN General Assembly Open Working group discussion on Sustainable Development Goals.
These opportunities, namely to influence and engage on China Africa Cooperation, to work in support of and in collaboration with the African Union Peace and Security Department, and to participate in a global collaboration with Beyond 2015 and the Peace and Security Task Force have opened the way for ACTION and its members and supporters to gain access to key policy discussions. In combination this will enable us to have a real influence in ensuring that the needs and views of communities affected by ongoing conflict are heard, and that peace and human security concerns are placed centre stage in addressing future development needs.
OSISA Brown Bag: State of the African Union Meeting
On March 17 2014, the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISA) hosted a meeting on the state of the African Union, which was attended by ACTION Support Centre staff members. The panel of the meeting included Jeggan Grey-Johnson, communications and Advocacy officer at AfriMAP and Carnita Ernest who is the Executive Director of the Centre for Citizen’s Participation at the African Union. The panel highlighted the recent developments of the African Union while elaborating on the shortcomings of the continental body. It was signaled that African member states contribute around 35% of the African Union (AU) budget, while international donors contribute a significant 65%. This hampers the effectiveness of the African Union in asserting an independent African Agenda. Moreover, while efforts are being made by the AU to address growing political, social, economic challenges; and conflicts on the continent, the AU needs to strengthen its institutions and agencies, and be thoughtful to resolve the issue of resource capacity.
With regard to the relations with African civil society organisations (CSOs), the participants expressed their disappointment over the pending of membership applications at the Economic Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC). While OSISA acknowledged the opening for engagement within the Pan African Parliament and the African Development Bank, they also noted that international non-governmental organsations (NGOs) are more involved in African affairs than regional (African) NGOs. In this regard, the panel and participants called upon the AU to promote the technical capacity of African NGOs, as well as to create platforms that allow African NGOs for advocacy work. They insist that the AU need to do an introspective assessment on previous agendas before focusing on the Post-2015 Development Agenda as the programmes and initiatives on agriculture, science and technology have been ignored or simply forgotten.
However, participants from various NGOs remind themselves of the importance to take ownership of the African Agenda and Renaissance. They elaborated on peacekeeping missions in Central African Republic, Mali and Cote d’Ivoire. Once again, the issue of financial resources was raised as the missions mostly relied on the participation of France and other international partners and actors.
Members of NGOs present at this meeting were asked to be more proactive, and to be aligned within the African Agenda. Moreover, NGOs underlined the challenges they face when engaging on continent. They highlighted that NGOs/CSOs lack legislative authority to deliver on some complex issues, and that sometimes they face stiff resistance from government officials. Furthermore, it was mentioned that corporates undermine the efforts made by NGOs/CSOs in bringing about governance and transparency to the fore, as they are driven by their interest in natural resources. Corporates see NGOs/CSOs as a threat to their stability and activities within the government. Therefore, CSOs/NGOs were asked to be linked at national, sub-regional and regional level to instill a bigger impact on the continent.
OSISA and other activists question how genuine, credible and transparent the African Peer Review Mechanism Report is. They noticed there were basically no follow ups to the implementation process of the plan of action. Another missing link that was noticed in the Post-2015 development agenda was the Green Economy.
There is real concern that the Afro-pessimist thinking expressed by many participants at the OSISA event is gaining traction. The ASC believes strongly that the concerns and criticisms regarding the African Union and civil society engagement can be redirected. Through a strong call for assertive and focused African leadership at all levels of society and a collaborative mutually reinforcing approach complementarity between the contributions of civil society and government in reasserting a global African Agenda is both possible and essential.
Sri Lanka Book Launch
The ACTION Support Centre was invited to participate in the launch of a new book exploring violence in Sri Lanka. The event was co-hosted by the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa and the African Centre for Migration and Society. The launch allowed participants to hear more from author Rebecca Walker on the intensive research process that enabled her to write Enduring Violence – Everyday life and conflict in eastern Sri Lanka.
Respondents included Adele Kirsten from Gun Free South Africa and ASC representative Richard Smith, who lived in Sri Lanka between 2000 and 2001. In addition to fascinating narratives of Sri Lankans affected by the violence from all sides that formed part of their daily existence the book contains a number of interesting conceptual ideas about the spaces within which people are able to maintain and build the human connections between people, even in the face of relentless violence.
The book includes an account of a small organization that worked with war affected communities to provide opportunities that reminded people of the common humanity that keeps life going in the midst of war. Coincidentally ACTION members in Sri Lanka formed part of the support groups that contributed to these actions, making the inclusion of the ASC in a response to the book all the more meaningful.
ACTION contributed to the design and conceptualization and assisted in the facilitation of the Conflict Resolution module of the Synergy Global training process on community relations. This training brought together participants from government, business and civil society in an effort to understand more deeply the dynamics of communities affected by the extractive industry and to strategize together on ways of strengthening relations and responding more effectively to their needs.
The module was well received and opened up a range of potential future opportunities. This is in line with the ASC efforts to explore more effective ways of building inclusive multi-stakeholder dialogue processes that involve civil society and the communities they are connected to, the governments that make decisions that affect them and the industries that have interests and an impact on the lives of people in these communities.
Ahmed Kathrada Foundation-Free Marwan Bargouthi Palestinian Solidarity Launch
The ASC attended the launch of the Free Marwan Bargouthi Campiagn in Lenasia, as well as the follow-up event co-organised with the Foundation for Human Rights that took place at the Women’s Gaol at Constitution Hill.
Organised with the support of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation the Campaign intends to raise awareness of political prisoners in Israel, and aims to apply additional pressure on the Israeli government to withdraw from the occupied territories and apply itself to finding dialogue based solutions to the ongoing tensions, injustices and violence that has characterized relations between Israel and Palestine.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Ahmed Kathrada have voiced their support for the campaign, which was launched on Robben Island by a group of Palestinian diplomats including Fadwa Bargouthi, married to Marwan.
University of Edinburgh
The ASC is in discussions with the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh regarding the placement of an intern from within their programme at the ASC in 2014.
This forms part of a long-term partnership between Edinburgh University and ACTION. The inclusion of interns within the ASC forms part of the Masters programme for the students involved, and complements the in-house internship programme organised directly by ACTION.
The ASC will be advertising a call for applications for our in-house internship programme early in 2014. These year-long internships will work alongside the University interns and form part of the ASC team.
Heal Zimbabwe Trust
The ASC provided input into the strategic planning process of the Heal Zimbabwe Trust as it sought to revisit and realign its programming in the light of the new challenges posed by the post-election Zimbabwean context.
The ASC input was focused on building forms of community organisation that would be able to provide protection to community members from localised forms of violence and to become a powerful force for increasing the influence of marginalized communities in decisions making processes that affect them.
The input was used to inform and stimulate discussions between the HZT and its partners, and was reportedly well received by participants in the strategic planning process.
War Resisters International Planning Meeting
On the 20th of November Action Support Centre had a meeting with representatives of War Resisters International (WRI) at the Ceasefire Campaign offices in Braamfontein. The meeting included local civil society groups supportive of the Ceasefire Campaign demilitarisation agenda, willing to work alongside Ceasefire as it co-hosts the global gathering planned for 2014.
Howard Clark a long-time peacebuilder and anti-war activist represented WRI. Howard sadly passed away just a few days after the meeting. The news of Howards passing came as a deep shock, and ACTION joins others around the world in commemorating the contribution he has made to the anti-war movement and expressing our condolences to his family and friends. His sudden passing makes our efforts towards making the conference success all the more important.
The aim of the meeting was to brief members on the Conference next year entitled “Small Actions Big Movements – the Continuum of Nonviolence” which will be hosted by the War Resisters International in Cape Town from the 4th – 8th of June 2014. Howard explained that WRI is a group of people who are opposed to war and violence.
Ceasefire Campaign in Johannesburg and Embrace Dignity in Cape Town are assisting with the planning and organising of the conference. The ACTION Support Centre and Right2Know Campaign are also offering their support in making the conference a success.
This international conference will have an African focus and people from all over the continent who share the same values and ideas are invited to participate in the conference.
There will be a range of workshops either self–organised, specialist or group presentations. Confirmed speakers include Jenny Williams form Women of Zimbabwe Arise and Desmond Tutu. Those who are interested in participating in the conference should visit the War Resisters website, www.wri.irg.org for more information.
In their statement on the passing of Howard Clark War Resisters’ International talk about losing a good friend, a tireless and committed peace worker, a lifelong activist with a sharp mind and organiser, and a man with an institutional memory reaching back many decades.
ACTION AID Roundtable Discussion on Women’s Rights
Two ASC representatives attended a round-table discussion hosted by ActionAid on the 21st of November 2013, at the Wits Origins Centre regarding the issue of women involving men in order to attain their rights and freedoms.
The roundtable discussion was attended by various organisations that are committed in advocating for gender rights. Organisations present included Brothers and Sisters Forever, Sonke Gender Justice and other civil society organisations.
ActionAid is committed in supporting social movements of women, children, and other marginalized groups. The discussions were based on how and why should men be included in the freedoms and rights of women, why should they be considered when addressing women’s rights.
Keynote speakers were invited to share their knowledge in their field of advocating for gender rights and the challenges regarding this. Amongst these involved Everjoice Win a feminist activist who’s worked in various African countries and Mbuyiselo Botha of Sonke Gender Justice.
Activists echoed the same sentiments suggesting that men should contribute on the issues of women’s rights. Men have to be invited to spaces that address oppression, regardless of the gender concerned. Women should set the agendas and men must approach the space they are invited in with humility. Women movements are being burdened with having to be responsible for involving men in the advocacy of women’s rights. Strategic choices need to be made in raising the awareness and empowerment of women.
There are women who are still being oppressed in their lives and don’t relate to any identity. The values and norms of women need to be challenged as they contribute to the oppression of women. It was also highlighted that people need to acknowledge that the patriarchal systems that are in place are not only bad for women but also bad for men and boys. Families should take the lead in teaching their male children the importance of women and their rights.
The discussion served as an insight on how organisations should approach gender related issues and how to get men involved. It was a very informative and useful discussion as the ASC runs programmes, such as the South African Somali Women’s Network, which is gender-sensitive. ASC will continue to advocate for the rights of women and further integrate the outcomes of the discussion within its gender-related programmes.
World Social Forum on Migration
The ACTION Support Centre was approached by the African Diaspora Forum to participate in the World Social Forum on Migration (WSFM) 2014. The bid was won by ADF to host the Forum which will be held in Johannesburg. ASC was requested to be part of the Local Organising Committee in the Forum and is in preparation to assist in this regard. The WSFM is one of the thematic processes of the World Social Forum (WSF). The WSF is a global process of, and by, social movements, mass organizations, civil society, activists and advocates.
The World Social Forum on Migration seeks to address issues regarding migration between the borders of Africa. This forum will be 21 – 24 September 2014 at the University of Johannesburg.
As part of the Local Organising Committee, ASC will facilitate the representation of migrant movements from the African continent, assist with resource mobilization & funding and assist with liaising with the civil society organisations/movements in South Africa and African continent to participate to the forum. ASC has worked on various projects with ADF such as the local peace committees and Africa Day 2013 to name a few. The successes drawn from the previous activities ensures us that the partnership with ADF in the WSFM 2014 will result in another success. More updates will be communicated in the course of 2014.
Local Peace Committees
ASC’s local peace structures have been steadily strengthening themselves. ASC has been approached by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to document the activities taking place in Tembisa regarding the integration of migrants into local communities and ultimately the fight against xenophobia.
The report by the SABC will cover the story starting with a reflection of the xenophobic attacks that occurred in 2008 in various areas in Gauteng, and what processes of integration has taken place since then. The report will seek to share the idea that organisations have taken the task to unite all Africans living in South Africa and create a culture of understanding amongst each other.
ASC supports active local peace structures in Orange Farm, Alexandra, Soweto and the newly formed one in Tembisa. We look forward to strengthening the work of the LPC’s and setting up model peace structures in areas that are experiencing or prone to communal conflicts, e.g. service delivery protests, xenophobic attacks, etc. ASC would like to pay tribute to the committees for being ever-committed in their work into transforming conflict within their respective communities. For more information on local peace committees or to participate in their activities, email Refilwe on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cape Town-Johannesburg Youth Exchange
From the 1st – 7th December 2013, the Institute for the Healing of Memories in collaboration with the District Six Museum and the ACTION Support Centre – organised a youth exchange trip to Cape Town. The youth exchange trip brought together youth groups from Johannesburg and Cape Town. The youth exchange sought to educate the youth on the importance of humanity, memorialisation and the learning journey experience.
The youth group learnt that the process of learning is a journey through which an individual experiences learning in different ways, and over long periods of time. This part of each persons learning journey took the youth group to various historical sites through which they learned more about the history of South Africa, and in particular, the emergence of Cape Town as a city. Some of the significant historical sites that were visited include: The Slave Tree, Green Market Square, The Parade, Bo-Kaap, the District Six Museum, and Robben Island.
The journey consisted of three key concepts that made up the framework of the journey and these include: humanity, memorialization and the learning journey. In the first week of the exchange in Johannesburg the youth group visited numerous sites that held strong significance to South Africa’s history as well as the human race, such as the Cradle of Humankind. In the visiting of each and every site was a story and lessons to be drawn upon that the youth could reflect on and see how they can be restored for years to come.
Although the Cape Town part of the journey followed the same methodology in uncovering the three concepts, the different sites visited in Cape Town had a different story that still had a very important message each of the participants could hold onto. At the end of the two-week journey the whole team had built strong relationships and reflected on the importance of humanity and reconciliation while gaining some insights and knowledge which they could take back home to empower themselves and communities while preserving South Africa’s history for a better future.
The journey does not end here as the youth have dedicated themselves to going further in releasing a publication as well as having an exhibition that will portray the learning’s extracted from the journey, from the eyes of a younger generation.
Regional Learning Exchange Meeting on the DRC
On the 26th – 27th November 2013, the ACTION Support Centre held the Regional Learning Exchange Meeting on the DRC in Johannesburg, South Africa. The learning exchange meeting sought to facilitate interaction and collaboration, and where possible promote joint action between regional civil society organisations for initiatives aimed at strengthening solidarity with the people of the DRC. The meeting created a platform through which individuals, as well as civil society organisations could share their experiences, lessons drawn from the experiences and knowledge sharing to bolster a more consolidated approach to amplifying the voices of regional civil society movements, in an attempt to promote peace, democracy and the protection of human and people’s rights in the DRC and the region.
The meeting brought together civil society organization from the DRC, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and South Africa, as well as solidarity activists. The discussions started off with unpacking the DRC crisis, and the delegates from the DRC presented on the underlying causes of the crisis; the geopolitical significance of the DRC in the Great Lakes region; the state of democracy in the DRC; and the impact of the DRC crisis on the youth, children and women.
With an overview of the DRC crisis and the causes and effects thereof, it was realised by the delegation present at the meeting that there is a need to assess and strategise the role of regional solidarity movements in mobilising for change in the DRC. Contributions were also made by delegates from Swaziland and Zimbabwe and South Africa mainly on the basis that the struggle for civil society and regional solidarity movements needs to be rooted within communities in order for the struggle to be sustainable. Moreover, it was also highlighted during the discussions that the people of the DRC need to set defined goals and objectives so that solidarity movements may be able to align their struggles and support to that of the people in the DRC. The delegation agreed that in order for solidarity initiatives to be effective in the DRC, they should harness mass participation.
The outcome of the meeting was the development of practical strategies for deepening solidarity, and also a declaration. An action plan was initiated from the discussions where it was outlined that a DRC focused solidarity campaign that aims to raise awareness on the DRC crisis will be initiated. Further, a task team to coordinate the efforts of the solidarity movement was established. In addition, it was agreed that the ACTION Support Centre would deploy an observation mission for the 2016 DRC elections.
The ACTION Support Centre extends its deepest appreciation and thanks to the delegation that joined us from the DRC, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and South Africa.
For more information on the outcomes of the Regional Learning Exchange Meeting on the DRC, please send a request to: email@example.com
Civicus, Old Struggles, New Movements
On the 12th November 2013, the ACTION Support Centre participated in the CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation dialogue forum title “Old Struggles, New Movements” in Johannesburg, South Africa, as part of its initiatives for the Global Civil Society Week. The dialogue forum sought to address issues relevant to disconnect in actual politics, and how this has divided the struggle within civil society organisations.
The main objective of the dialogue forum was to create a space through which individuals as well as civil society organisations could engage on the changing dynamics in politics, and how best to have civil society play a more participatory role to influence policies, and also ensure that the concerns of citizens are heard at the institutional level.
The discussions highlighted the fact that in principle, civil society can be understood as a space for building local ownership and leadership through organising and mobilising with a shared goal or vision. Within this context, it was emphasised that there is a need for introspection within civil society. Further, it is imperative that alliances are merged within civil society at the global and national levels in order to address the divisions that exist within civil society. These alliances should be forged on the basis of engaging the corporate sector as well as the youth, and avoiding dependency on aid as this has also weaken the operation of civil society organisations.
Lastly, it was emphasized during the discussions that the struggle needs to be vigilant. Youth groups have also been marginalised from participating in political processes by labeling them under negatively connoted terms such as unemployment, ignorance, criminal, and poverty. However, it should not go unnoticed that the youth have an important role to play in political processes as they are agents of change – which can be viewed as the turning point of any society.
Public Dialogue Spaces Drama Workshop
On Saturday 23 November, the ACTION Support Centre held the Public Dialogue Spaces Drama workshop the P.O.P Art Theatre, Maboneng Precinct. This workshop was an extension of one of the many informative sessions held during the Extended Learning Programme. The Public Dialogue Spaces Drama Workshop included a mixture of individuals from various organizations the ACTION Support Centre has worked with as well as some members of the Extended Learning Programme.
The workshop was aimed at setting the foundation of the Public Dialogue Spaces, which is one of the key programmes the ACTION Support Centre will be focused on in the year 2014. This programme is intended at getting the public to engage in dialogue on pressing issues, such as: racial inequality in South Africa post the Apartheid era, existing gender differences within the society, reconciliation in South Africa and mob justice within communities amongst many other subject matters. These dialogues will happen in the form of theatre within public spaces as they aspire to get the people talking.
To obtain more information or get involved in the Public Dialogue Spaces, email Lerato on firstname.lastname@example.org or view our Facebook page onhttps://www.facebook.com/ActionSupportCentre.
The ASC was invited to attend The United Nations Department of Field Support (UN DFS) Outreach Unit and the African Civilian Response Capacity for Peace Support Operations (AFDEM) workshop, from the 4 – 6 November 2013.
The workshop, titled “1st Inter-regional Outreach Workshop for Africa: Reaching out and attracting civilian talent within Africa, for United Nations Peace Operations worldwide”was aimed at raising the profile of jobs and recruitment within the United Nations network and to foster relations between the UN Department of Field Support who populate and manage civilian rosters for all political, peace and security operations worldwide, and key regional organisations, civil society organisations, research centres, think tanks, etc, TCC/PCC contributing member states.
The workshop will sought to develop knowledge based linkages and initiatives in terms of what political, peace and security field operations are looking for in their future workforce and how the UN Department of Field Support can target highly skilled African Nationals for their field rosters from which they recruit. The workshop aimed to foster closer working relationships with key stakeholders on the continent to allow for future collaboration on how to target and attract highly talented and skilled African civilian personnel into field mission rosters, potentially creating a new wave of African workforce amongst the civilian field family. In particular, there will be specialized discussions on how to target and attract African women for leadership roles.
Representatives from varying organisations were present and suggestions were made on how the UN could reach out to other organisations to use improve on their rostering systems. Outcomes of the workshop were yet to be communicated.
On the 5th of December 2013 the South African Liaison office hosted a round table discussion on the Sudan, South and the African Union mediation process. The discussion was aimed at building a deeper understanding of the context of Sudan, the current progress of the dialogue process and the challenges and opportunities for the International Community in supporting the African Union High Level Implementation Panel process. The discussions were championed by a delegation of civil society representatives from South Kordofan and Blue Nile who shared information on the current situation in Sudan. Policy makers, civil society organisations, students and lecturers attended the meeting.
The discussion included input from the visiting delegation and the participants from various stakeholders who collectively laid out the historical context out of which the current crisis in Sudan has emerged. These historical factors combine with a set of economic, political and geographical dynamics that have created an ongoing serious crisis in the regions of Sudan that border South Sudan.
This extends all the way from the Central African Republic in the West and Ethiopia in the East, but has a particular affect on Abyei, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, areas in which the broader dynamics are compounded by the demands for self-governance of the groups that have historically inhabited these areas and by the presence of oil reserves, the sale of oil concessions to international interests and the oil-pipeline that runs north through Khartoum to Port Sudan. This pipeline is currently the only means by which South Sudan is able to transport the oil that falls within its borders.
The complexity of the context has created a dire humanitarian crisis for people living in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile. Daily aerial bombardments and intensive fighting between armed groups, as well as the politically motivated denial of access to humanitarian agencies, have led to intensive food insecurity and an outbreak of diseases that have regional implications. No vaccinations against preventable diseases are taking place and there is severe malnutrition and little access to food and other basic needs, including health, clean water and education. Polio in particular threatens not only the Sudanese, but also neighbouring countries, as displacement and forced migration extends the risk of communicable diseases spreading over the borders.
The meeting concluded with a strong call for an urgent humanitarian response that allows for immediate access to the population living in the Two Areas, for the international community and South Africa to strengthen and extend the mandate of the AUHIP, including the need to better resource and expand the capacity of the panel, and for civil society to work together to raise awareness of the ongoing crisis in the region and increase the political costs of not responding to the calls for humanitarian intervention and longer term deeper political and social solutions. These longer-term solutions must include plans for the democratisation and social transformation of Sudan and South Sudan.
Dynamical Systems Theory Innovation Laboratories
8-12 July 2013
The ACTION Support Centre was invited to participate in the Dynamical Systems Theory Innovation Laboratories that took place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States. The event was a cooperative initiative organized by the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation Conflict and Complexity (AC4), the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (ICCCR) at Columbia University, The Institute of World Affairs (IWA) at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) at George Mason University.
Thirty-two scholars and practitioners form around the world attended the laboratories and ACTION included a presentation on the conflict transformation approach used by many of us around the world, including a number of key elements that appear to apply dynamical systems theory to practical conflict transformation, such as Bringing the Future into the Present, Imaging Complexity using Graphics and Symbols, Nurturing Insight Driven Cultures of Reflective Learning, Understanding Interventions as Interconnected, Linking Multiple Levels in Multiple Directions, Find Yourself Know Yourself Be Yourself.
International Human Rights Exchange Workshop
11 July 2013
The ACTION Support Centre has worked in partnership with the University of the Witwatersrand’s International Human Rights Exchange (IHRE) programme for four years running and is currently hosting three interns from the programme.
As part of the IHRE induction week, ASC delivered a workshop for all of the IHRE students (twenty-five participants from ten different countries) on the 11th of July. Under the theme of Right to Education, ASC colleagues facilitated a dynamic workshop, which explored education as a tool to transform conflict and structural violence within our society.
Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum Regional Update Seminar
17 July 2013
The seminar was held two weeks before the presidential elections in Zimbabwe and had the attendance of around one hundred people, including South African labour representatives, women, youth, faith organisations, individuals, researchers and the media.
The aim was to discuss the prospects of fair and credible elections in the country and possible post-election scenarios. The seminar also sought to explore the existing obstructions that would impact on Zimbabwe’s ability to conduct credible elections, which include enormous power imbalances, state controlled and influenced media, a politicised security force, and recently increased oppression against civil society and political activists.
In conclusion, the Update Seminar made a call to local and regional movements to continue to extend the hand of solidarity to the people of Zimbabwe in their time of struggle. One of the outcomes of the seminar was the organization of a mission aiming at observing the Zimbabwean elections.
ACTION Support Centre Mandela Day Event
18 July 2013
The year of 2013 marked Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday and the ASC team spent their International Mandela Day at St. Huberts Old Age Home in Alexandra, east of Johannesburg. The overarching objective of Mandela Day is to inspire individuals to take action in changing the world for the better, in small but consistent ways.
St. Huberts Old Age Home houses 40 elderly men and women. ASC also donated bags of groceries and toiletries to the home, gifts that were greatly appreciated by the residents and nurses. Lancet Laboratories donated medical supplies and wheelchairs, whilst Alex FM provided us with some airtime to talk about the work we do at ASC.
Israeli Embassy Picket
27 July 2013
The aim of this event was to protest against NIKUV International Projects, an Israeli based company that has been accused repeatedly of supporting election rigging in Zimbabwe and across the region through tampering with the voters roll. The Israeli Embassy in Pretoria was, therefore, chosen as a symbolic target.
Despite being chased away from the Embassy by officials because of procedural issues, the picket was able to regroup at Church Square where they managed to further spread their message concerning the Zimbabwean elections and the NIKUV Company through South African and even Israeli media coverage.
Zimbabwe Regional Election Observer Mission
31 July 2013
The ACTION Support Centre, in collaboration with the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, and under the banner of the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum (ZSF), supported a regional team to travel to Zimbabwe to observe the elections on the 31st of July. Eleven members participated on the mission, drawn from Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Notwithstanding the outcomes of the elections, a number of important lessons were learnt from the observer mission that will help political parties, electoral bodies across the SADC region, including in Zimbabwe, as well as civil society organisations and all local and foreign observer missions during future elections.
OSISA/Africa University Public Policy Course
9th to 19th of June 2013
One ASC staff member addressed the Africa University Public Policy Course organised by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and Institute for Peace Leadership and Governance. The event was held from the 9th to the 29th of June 2013, and had more than 50 participants from 10 different African countries.
The session theme was Transformative Leadership. The participants were taken through a basic understanding of a transformation approach to leadership and were stimulated into finding interconnections between personal, relational, institutional and cultural transformation processes.
The multitude of participants and contexts is, in itself, one of the underlying principles and values that are at the core of effective transformational leaders.
Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum Roundtable
ASC’s initiative Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum (ZSF), in partnership with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), hosted a roundtable meeting on Zimbabwe on the 13th June 2013 at COSATU House. The aim of the event was to give an update on present political developments in Zimbabwe and to revive the ZSF task team.
The key outcomes of the roundtable was the general feeling that there is need for further consultation with organisations within Zimbabwe, the need to encourage Zimbabwean citizens who are able to go back to their country and vote to do so and the need to establish a permanent election solidarity network in the region that can be called up at any time to monitor elections.
Discussion: Community Responses to Conflict and Tension
The ACTION Support Centre hosted a discussion on the theme “Community Responses to Tensions and Conflict – Analysis and potential strategies”, on June 13th in Johannesburg. Twenty-four participants from the most varied backgrounds participated in the discussion: there were members of the African Diaspora Forum, from the Ogaden Youth and Student Union of South Africa, from the Sizanani Home Trust, from Gauteng Concerned Citizens, form the South African Police Service and individuals from local peace committees from Orange Farm and Alexandra.
The aim of the event was to build, empower, strengthen and consolidate capacity building in the grassroots level through this experiences and discussion. Recent tensions in communities in the Gauteng region were also addressed during the discussions, giving participants a opportunity to exchange views and develop mutual understanding on these topics. The ACTION Support Centre also had a chance to further explore in which areas it could offer support in strengthening the work of local peace committees.
Applied Conflict Transformation Course
June 18th to 22nd
In the month of June, from the 18th to the 22nd, the ACTION Support Centre held its fifth Applied Conflict Transformation Course. The event was facilitated by Fatima Swartz and Richard Smith and stimulated discussions concerning African political economy, poverty, inequality, land and natural resource management as drivers of conflict in Africa, solidarity and the African Renaissance.
The debates deepened the group understanding of common challenges faced in different communities. Case examples from Syria, Somalia and Zimbabwe were explored and strategies and action were developed for implementation in each of these unique contexts. The course had participants from 12 different countries and they all had the chance to pay a visit to Constitution Hill, in Johannesburg.
In addition, ASC co-hosted a panel debate with the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and benefited from a dynamic presentation by Professor Chris Landsberg, SARChi Chair of African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at UJ.
Somali Solidarity Evening
As part of the Applied Conflict Transformation Course, the ASC hosted a Somali Solidarity Evening on June 20th. The aim of the event was to discuss the challenges brought up by the Africa Diaspora in South Africa and to develop the transformative agenda committed to building a people-to-people culture of peace, justice and human security.
The evening was chaired by Fatima Swartz and sharing was also given Councillor Mohamed Ali Mire, Somali Embassy, Adan Haji Yussuf, Transition Initiatives for Stabilisation, Isabella Matambanadzo, Zimbabwean Feminist Activist, and Nimo Mohamed from SASOWNET.
The event was organized to deepen the long-term process of the Somali Solidarity Campaign (SCC) and supported the South African Somali’s Women’s Network (SASOWNET), established in Johannesburg on January 2013.
NEHAWU 10th National Congress
June 26th to 29th
The Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum has been invited to attend the 10th NEHAWU National Congress, which was held in Boksburg, from the 26th to the 19th of June. The Congress revolved around the theme “Building Workplace Organisation, Class Consciousness and Internationalism” and its outcomes play an important role in shaping the socio-economical relationships of its members and sister unions in the region.
The Congress offered an opportunity for open discussion and debate on key South Africa policy issues as well as issues of International Working Class Solidarity, Political and Ideological work, socio-economic priorities and resolutions on international solidarity campaigns.
OSISA/Building Regional and International Consensus Workshop
The Southern African Liaison Office (SALO) organised the Building Regional and International Consensus Workshop, which took place in Pretoria on the 27th of June. The event focused on Natural Resources, Conflict and the Kimberley Process and provided a useful opportunity to provide input on the African Peace and Security Architecture and initiatives aimed at building African infrastructures for peace.
The ACTION Support Centre used the opportunity to address the forum and call for a new form of collaborative partnership between government, civil society and the private sector.
Women Can Do it Workshop
The Women Can Do It Workshop took place in Cape Town and it was hosted by ASC’s partner, the Norwegian’s People Aid (NPA). The workshop is a training tool developed by the Women’s Labour Party of Norway and it aims to mobilise women to participate in their organisations and in society at large.
The workshop provided two of ASC staff members with an opportunity to engage with various meaningful tools for confidence building, empowerment and personal development.
OSISA/AU Commission Meeting
The ACTION Support Centre was invited to participate in a United Nations Development Programme Bureau for Conflict Prevention and Recovery consultation process in Addis Ababa, where it presented an outline of the African Insiders Mediator Platform, an initiative that the ASC has been supporting since 2011.
Aiming to link local level actors to those operating at continental, regional and national levels, the organisers hope to establish a lasting Peace and Security Architecture, which resonates well with the AIMP long-term vision.
Africa Day Celebration 25 May 2013
Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance in Action
The ACTION Support Centre (ASC) and the Proudly African Campaign, in collaboration with a range of civil society organisations, hosted a stage at the Africa Week Street Festival in Yeoville, Bellevue on Saturday May 25th.
The Africa Week Street Festival celebrated 50 years of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union (AU), and acknowledged the fifth anniversary of the xenophobic attacks that devastated South African communities in 2008. The event gave an opportunity to all of us Africans, from South Africa and across the continent, to engage with one another in the collective sharing of music, song, dance, craft, clothing, food, film and art in an open vibrant community space.
ASC and Proudly African Campaign hosted one of five stages at Corner Kenmere and Hunter Streets along Rocky-Raleigh Street in Yeoville. Between 12:00 and 17:00 and filled the stage with a number of African solidarity-focused performances and addresses, in the spirit of celebrating our cultural diversity, promoting social cohesion and championing human and people’s rights.
Africa Day marks the day in 1963 of the formation of the Organisation for African Union (OAU), established as a vehicle for economic and political cooperation. In 2002 the OAU became the current body, now called the African Union (AU). South Africa began celebrating Africa Day upon liberation from the Apartheid regime in 1994. We acknowledge the important contribution of Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma who acts as Chairperson of the African Union Commission.
In addition to a celebration of 50 years of the AU, South Africans and members of the African Diaspora, remembered 5 years since xenophobic attacks claimed the lives of over 60 migrants and South African nationals in May 2008. 5 years on, South Africans are still trying to understand the motivation for such violence.
A wide number of civil society activists and organisations, including the ACTION Support Centre, dedicate their time and energy to promoting peace, tolerance and solidarity within communities around the country, with a view to preventing such attacks in future and shifting the attitudes underlying such behaviours.
Johannesburg: Transforming Conflict in Communities; Exploring Conflict vs. Structural Violence: 8-11 April 2013
The ACTION Support Centre (ASC) invited activists connected to different organisations and movements to be part of a locally organised Conflict Transformation workshop. Participants travelled from within Johannesburg and surrounding areas.
The 4-day workshop entittled-Transforming Conflict in Communities; Exploring Conflict and Structural Violence took place at the Stay City Hotel in Berea from Monday, April 8th to Thursday, April 11th. All of the participants committed themselves to attending all 4 days of the workshop, which included a field trip to the Apartheid Museum on Wednesday afternoon.
This unique workshop was part of ASCs longer extended learning programme, which will be built upon with additional activities throught the year. The course further strengthened relationships between an already rich and diverse group of volunteers and activists; whilst creating space to share experiences and some of the challenges being faced by local communities, South Africa and the continent more broadly.
ASC looks forward to collaborating with the participants to take the recommendations emerging from this workshop forward! it’s
Syria: Towards a Network of Peace Ambassadors: 24-29 February 2013
From the 24th to the 29th of February, ASC staff were invited by Mobaderoon, a network movement from Syria, to facilitate a 5 day workshop for active citizens who are intent on establishing themselves as a network of Peace Ambassadors keen to find a new way of organising in a context that is marked by devastating forms of violence and rapidly increasing polarisation between the regime and the Free Syrian Army.
The workshop was held in Beirut, Lebanon in order to ensure that participants were able to express themselves more freely and to give people space to breathe away from a context in which arbitrary arrests and extra-judicial killings have become commonplace.
In an emotional encounter participants from across the political spectrum spent their time analysing the context, sharing information that assisted in shifting perceptions and clarifying the dynamics of the context, and strategising amongst themselves as to what an effective contribution to peace might constitute in an environment where there is very little space to organise.
The depth of the polarisation between Syrian citizens deeply affected the dynamics of the workshop, and it took several days before sufficient trust had been built to allow participants to recognise the strength in their diversity and begin working together instead of against each other.
Despite the very real difficulties that will be encountered, this courageous and dedicated group will now seek out opportunities for creating bridges, encouraging new forms of dialogue and building a movement that is principled and opposed to violence in all its forms.
SADC Human Rights Defenders Steering Committee Meeting: 22 February 2013
ACTION also took part in the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Trust meeting on the 22ndFebruary 2013 as a part of the organisations that have been selected to sit on the task team. The Trust was set up in 2009 as a small unit within OSISA, primarily with a regional focus. To date it has given support to human rights defenders from Zimbabwe, DRC and Malawi.
The Southern Africa region currently has several NGOs attending the biannual sessions of the African Commission. Most of the SADC NGOs make statements during the African Commission’s public session and participate at the NGO Forum sessions. The purpose of this meeting was to ensure the establishment of a SADC Human Rights Defenders Network at this Commission. It is envisaged that the Network will receive support from the Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network, once it has been established. The SADC HRD Network’s mandate will be to give humanitarian aid to HRD’s; advocate for the amendment of policy at local and regional level; capacity building and training; protection and security (human and material); connection of HRD’s to organisations who have the capacity to deal with the specific sensitive issues; research; information sharing; coordination; and networking.
The ASC will continue its role as part of the task team under the leadership of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights as the host organisation, the International Commission of Jurists-Africa as interim chair and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre as deputy interim chair for the network.
The African Hip-hop Symposium:
An Educational Exploration of Hip-hop Culture: 20 February 2013
As part of the ASC’s ongoing support for the arts and its belief that artist expression has a critical role to play in the creation of a free and democratic societies across the SADC region (with acknowledgement of the role played by the arts in the realisation of South Africa’s freedom), the ASC supported the second leg of The Afrikan Hip-hop Symposium on the 20th of February.
This Symposium forms part of the Afrikan Hip-hop Caravan; an initiative of various grassroots African arts and culture collectives that transcends borders and explores the impact of Hip-hop on youth culture in six cities. The Caravan starts in Cape Town on February 11th 2013 and moves across the continent, presenting a week of educational events and performances. Other cities include Johannesburg, Harare, Nairobi and Dakar, finally ending in Tunis for the World Social Forum (WSF) at the end of March.
The ASC co-sponsored this event as it provides a unique space for scholars and artists to interface and discuss the current state of Africa and African Hip-hop. The Symposium discussions included the exploration the relevance of Hip-hop to socio-political processes and community development; the interaction between Hip-hop and the state; the impact of Hip-hop on urban youth culture and identity; the role of women in African Hip-hop; the linguistic, literary and poetic contributions of African Hip-hop to language, arts and culture; and the dichotomy between ‘Mainstream’ and ‘Underground’ Hip-hop in Africa.
South African Somali Women’s Network Launch: 19-20 February 2013
Over the 19th and 20th of February, we held the first gathering of the South African Somali Women’s Network (SASOWNET) in Cape Town, South Africa. The concept of SASOWNET was born out of a perceived lack of wide scale Somali women’s participation within various decision-making and consultative arenas’.
In our previous newsletter we detailed the ASC’s attendance at the Somali Diaspora in South Africa Conference hosted by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) in Cape Town last year as well as the subsequent Somali Diaspora Consultation meeting hosted by the ACTION Support Centre in Johannesburg. One of the issues that emerged out of these two forums was the lack of participation of the Somali women within the political arena. This was attributed to a feeling of marginalization and a lack of confidence to enter a traditionally male-dominated decision-making space.
As a part of the ASC’s ongoing commitment to add a capacity building component to the Somali Solidarity Campaign launched in late 2011, the ASC together with members of the Somali community in South Africa began to develop a programme that would address the challenges to participation identified. The result has been the initiation of a South African Somali Women’s Network (SASOWNET) as a platform through which to support Somali women in Somalia, across the Somali region and within the Diaspora, in their efforts to ensure that gender issues are addressed and that women’s representation and participation is assured in this critical transition phase.
The ASC has undertaken to spearhead an initial 6-month process focused on networking, organisation building and empowerment. This initial meeting in Cape Town was the first step towards the establishment of a national network, with similar meetings planned for Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth. The meeting was a great success with more than 20 women in attendance. There was an optimism and excitement at the prospect of a platform through which to air the grievances and challenges experienced by the women of the Somali Diaspora and a shared commitment to making this network a success.
For updated information on the Somali Solidarity Campaign and the South African Somali Women’s Network, please ‘like’ the Somali Solidarity Campaign Facebook page.
Mynmar Activists Training Programme
During the first week of February, the ASC participated in delivering the first of a three-module training programme to activists from Myanmar, as part of a broader programme designed by our partner organisation, the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, in support of the peace process.
Module 1, an introduction to Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation, brought together a range of activists from the ’88 Generation, Generation Wave, the Community Response Group and several student unions, as well as those from armed conflict affected ethnic areas and community representatives affected by the extractive industry.
Many of these activists have spent considerable time in prison as a result of their support to the opposition efforts to challenge the military elite who ruled Myanmar with an iron fist from 1962 to 2011. With the recent shifts in the political context, including the lifting of restrictions on Aung San Suu Kyi, the beginning of peace talks with armed ethic groups and the opening up of social and political space to organise, many active civil society groups have been scrambling to reposition themselves and define a new strategic role in a rapidly changing context.
These modular courses are aimed at supporting groups as they think through how best they can contribute to the peace processes, while at the same time ensuring the needs of communities and the voices of those who demand transformation remain at the forefront of the civic agenda.
There are remarkable parallels in the contexts of Myanmar and Zimbabwe, and the extent to which the resource driven extractive industry is negatively impacting communities across the country.
The ASC will continue to participate in Modules 2 and 3 and is also exploring other ways in which exchange visits and facilitated forms of learning can be strengthened between Myanmar and the African continent.
COSATU International Department Special Strategic Planning Workshop: 4-6 February
From the 4th until the 6th of February, both the ASC and ZSF attended the COSATU Special Strategic Planning Workshop held at the Elijah Barayi Memorial Training Centre, in Midrand, Johannesburg. The overall aim of the workshop was to determine COSATU’s key priorities for 2013 and to establish the most effective method of implementation together with affiliates and affected parties.
Discussions prioritised efforts to ensure that the international work of Affiliates and the Federation are complementary; maximisation of the involvement of COSATU members in international solidarity work through interaction with key role players, including international solidarity campaigns; and the development a clear plan of action for 2013 that relates to Affiliates and the Federation and that can be presented to the COSATU Central Executive Committee later in the year.
The platform created by COSATU offered an opportunity for open discussion and debate on key South Africa policy issues and, equally important, a chance to reiterate the resolutions made at the COSATU’s 11th Congress on issues of xenophobia, criminal violence, local government challenges and, above all, resolutions on international solidarity campaigns focusing mostly on Burma, Palestine, Swaziland, Western Sahara and Zimbabwe.
The ASC and ZSF’s participation in this workshop was a contribution to our continued relationship strengthening with the labour movement of South Africa as led by COSATU and including important structures of the South African Tripartite Alliance, ANC and SACP.
Civil Society, Academics and Experts meet in Bulawayo: 01 February 2013
ASC travelled to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe for a civil society meeting on the 1st of February. This think tank process was organised with the intention of preparing a civil society response to and interventions in the upcoming referendum and following election with the aid of expert analysis and recommendations. In attendance were academics and experts from various fields such as governance, political economy, constitutional law and elections. The lead panelists were both from Zimbabwe and the greater Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region.
Among the topics for discussion was the likely outcome of the Zimbabwean transition as well as the role of SADC and the African Union (AU) in ensuring the fulfillment of the Global Political Agreement (GPA).
International Crisis Group (ICG) Senior Analyst for Southern Africa, Trevor Maisiri, said that the GPA principals are delaying the announcement of an election date. This has a bearing on the organization and arrival of election observer teams in Zimbabwe before the election. He argued that the delay would eventually lead to late observation, which will have an impact on the legitimacy of the forthcoming elections.
Dr Ibbo Mandaza of the SAPES Trust argued there had been an over-exaggeration of the impact of the military factor in the democratisation agenda. He was not in agreement that the threats by the military would upset the constitutional order should someone who did not take part in the armed liberation war win the next election.
The think tank meeting was expected to leverage the efforts of pro-democracy forces ahead of the election expected in 2013.
Sierra Leone – Conflict Analysis Process: 8-18 January 2013
The ASC will be working closely with Mobaderoon to explore additional ways of connecting and forging a stronger partnership that nurtures the solidarity connection between South Africa and Syria.
The dynamic context of Sierra Leone became the focus of an intense process of conflict analysis undertaken by Partners in Conflict Transformation (PICOT), (a partnership led by Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD) and the Methodist Church of Sierra Leone (MCSL)), with the support of the ACTION Support Centre.
During a series of site visits between the 8th and 18th of January 2013 participatory conflict analysis processes were undertaken with a range of PICOT staff, community members directly involved in the PICOT programmes, community stakeholders interested in the process and its outcomes, and civil society partners and government officials active at District and National levels.
A conflict transformation approach, which centred on the full involvement of all participants in the process, and which was guided by principles that sought to ensure the analysis was helpful to all involved, was utilised. Strong focus was placed on empowering communities, with particular emphasis on the inclusion of women and youth. This was achieved through a range of rights-based training and advocacy and awareness raising activities, which encouraged communities to engage with decision makers and leaders at local, district and national levels.
The understanding of conflict that underlies the analytical approach, as part of an interconnected system of conflict dynamics, is key when it comes to designing programme strategies. Community members in Sierra Leone are particularly badly affected by the actions of mining companies and multi-nationals who are growing bio-fuels on land that has been expropriated through collusion between national government, local chiefs and the companies that are intent on putting profits before people.
The shift in land use, which is the key driving factor in government efforts to stimulate economic growth, has a detrimental effect on communities who have traditionally relied on subsistence farming to ensure their own food security. Other key fault lines for violence that emerged depict an increasingly predatory government and political manipulation of the justice system that allows a system of patronage to flourish.
The detailed analysis included over 175 participants from 60 Villages, in 6 Chiefdoms and 2 Districts. The outcomes of these analysis sessions included the production of a detailed report on conflict analysis in Sierra Leone and a practical manual for practitioners interested in understanding and adopting a conflict transformation approach within their unique contexts. These productions will be used by PICOT to guide its programme work over the next few years. A civil society communiqué has been released that uses the analysis that emerged as a foundation for a series of recommendations to government, civil society and its international partners.
The partnership between the ASC and NMJD is part of an ongoing engagement since 2002, and has included learning exchanges, process facilitation and contributions to the Peace and Development Platform Drums of Change publication. The ASC and PICOT will be exploring ways of deepening the partnership and realising practical forms of people-to-people solidarity over the next few months
PICOT’s work, until early 2005 was documented in detail by the ACTION Support Centre in the publication, “Transforming Conflict, Transforming Lives,” which you can find on our website (www.asc.org.za). The report and manual will be shared on our website in the near future so watch this space!
ACTION Support Centre (ASC) and COSATU’s 11th National Congress – the Workers’ Parliament: 17-20 September 2012
ACTION Support Centre (ASC) and the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum (ZSF) was part of the COSATU 11th National Congress held at Gallagher Estate, Midrand from the 17th – 20thSeptember. The theme for this Congress was, “A Call to Action, Workers Parliament”. The participation of the ASC and ZSF in COSATU led congresses and conferences is significant, as the outcomes of these play an important role in shaping the socio-economic and political lives of the working class in South Africa and the region. The South African labour movement recognises that solidarity movements play a strategic role in not only influencing South African policy matters but in giving direction and impetus to solidarity campaigns in South Africa. ASC and ZSF continue to build strong relationship with the labour movement of South Africa led by COSATU including important structures of the South African Tripartite Alliance, ANC and SACP.
The 11th Congress offered an opportunity for open discussion and debate on key South Africa policy issues and equally important for discussions and subsequent resolutions on issues of xenophobia, criminal violence, local government challenges, and above all resolutions on international solidarity campaigns focusing primarily on Burma, Palestine, Swaziland, Western Sahara and Zimbabwe. ASC and ZSF played a significant role in the lobbying of affiliates to support a resolution on Zimbabwe and Swaziland. This resolution called for support for the people of both countries who are calling for a genuine process towards free and fair elections. This resolution has subsequently been submitted to the COSATU CEC for adoption.
ASC and the Reflective Report for the International Alliance of Natural Resources in Africa (IANRA)
The ACTION Support Centre took part in a reflective report identifying the achievements and challenges faced by the International Alliance on Natural Resources in Africa (IANRA) over the past few years. The fieldwork team travelled to Zimbabwe, Zambia and Kenya conducting interviews with a combination of National Grouping representatives and local community members. These filmed interviews showcased the work IANRA has been able to support through local organisations dealing with national resource extraction and the often-dire consequences for the local communities and their land. Kate and Sipho travelled with cameraman, Jacque, to Harare, Zimbabwe where they conducted interviews with people from Women and Land in Zimbabwe, Zimbabwean Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA) ,and the various community members that have benefited from the support and training they have received from these IANRA sponsored organisations. Following this, Allie and Jacque took off for Kenya where they conducted interviews in the coastal towns of Mombasa and Malindi. These interviews included 3 of the 9 members of KeNRA (Kenya Natural Resource Alliance) including ActionAid, Coastal Rights Forum and Malindi Rights Forum. Through the KeNRA network alliance Community Based Organisations and other network members have made great inroads engaging with government and policy makers. Voices from the community are being heard at the local, national and regional levels. Lastly, Philani accompanied Jacque to Lusaka, Zambia where they met with IANRA members from Caritas, ActionAid, the World Bank, and the Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC), in addition to members of Zambia’ s National Groupings. Zambian National Groupings shared stories of the benefits they’ve acquired through cross-border learning exchange initiatives with Malawi and Congo, which focused on the mining of Uranium and through the mobilising of communities. There is a need to identify an increasing number of community-based organisations to help strengthen the alliance but the national grouping is feeling hopeful and motivated for the future.
Building and Strengthening International People to People Solidarity
Over the month of September 2012, ASC participated in partners’ events in Uganda and Cambodia, in the spirit of people to people solidarity. His trip to Uganda was inline with the ASC’s ongoing efforts to build relationships with key activists and practitioners working across the Somali region (in support of the Somali Solidarity Campaign) and as part of our efforts to support conflict transformation efforts in the region. The visit also provided an opportunity to meet with board members of the Uganda Peace Foundation (UPF). The meeting created a strong foundation for a partnership between the UPF and the ASC in attaining our objectives of promoting global peace and security. The ASC is exploring the possibility of an ongoing partnership, including finding ways of supporting the proposed conference to be hosted by UPF in April 2013, in addition to expanding long term opportunities for joint programming.
In Cambodia, ASC worked with the ACTION affiliated Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in their efforts to incorporate and provide support to all civil society groupings that have been excluded from the national peace talks. Utilizing Conflict Transformation strategies to help groups understand their place in the process, the Centre for Peace and Conflict studies is working towards taking a more hands on supportive approach within the peace process. Members of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies will be joining the ASC and others at the International African Solidarity Festival this November.
ASC and Global Week of Action on Swaziland: 3-7 September 2012
The 3rd to the 7th of September marked the Global Week of Action for Democracy in Swaziland (GWoAS), co-ordinated by the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC). Various members of the ACTION Support Centre team supported a range of activities held during the GWoAS. The most notable event was the picket held on the 5th of September. This picket took place at the Swazi Consulate in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. It was attended by many allies and sister organisations supporting the democracy movement in Swaziland. There were many profound, moving and inspiring speeches given at the picket, which was followed by a signed memorandum of understanding being presented to the High Commissioner, Mr. Solomon Dlamini, at the Swazi Consulate. The gathering made clear that the bravery and courage of the Swazi people is inspiring and worth all the support we can amass, even if there were attempts by the state to divide the progressive movement and divert attention from the real and burning issues as raised by the people of Swaziland. The GWoAS was a success. One of the notable achievements was the birth of the Peoples Charter, which was, for the first time in the history of Swaziland, adopted at the Peoples Summit on the 6th of September 2012 in Manzini. The SDC will build on these successes and intensify its campaign for democracy in Swaziland. The ASC remains committed to mobilising and giving people to people solidarity to the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) in Swaziland.
ASC and Kikambala Cultural Peace Concert
On the first of September 2013 the Kikambala Arts Experts Youth Group put into action their plans to appreciate diverse cultures and advance peace by putting on a Cultural Beach Peace Concert. The ASC was delighted to be in a position to provide support to this festival under the banner of its Solidarity and Transformation Agenda. The concert was staged to bring people together from different faiths, cultures and races to encourage co-existence. Though the concert opened under a light drizzle, this did not dampen the spirits of the 500 concertgoers. Opening with the national anthem and continuing with a 1km peace procession, the concert started on a high note. As the day wore on there were traditional dances and drumming, a play on land rights, and speeches from various figures in the community. Overall the concert was a rousing success as it fulfilled its mandate of promoting peace, cohesion and appreciation of each other’s uniqueness and culture through dance and art.
Coalition for a Free Palestine: Launch: 28 September 2012
The ASC was part of the launch of the Coalition for a Free Palestine held at COSATU House on the 28 September 2012. In an official report commissioned by the South African government in 2009, the Human Sciences Research Council confirmed that Israel, by its policies and practices, is guilty of the crime of apartheid. Israel is not only in contravention of the crime of apartheid as defined by the United Nations Convention Against Apartheid but also shares similarities with the former apartheid regime that the South African people fought against. The establishment of the Coalition is inspired by the international solidarity South Africans received during their own struggle for a free and democratic society. It is now time to repay the same solidarity to the Palestinian people. The Coalition intends to send out clear signals of resistance to all those who are set to maintain the oppression of the Palestinian people both in South Africa and around the world. The ASC and the ZSF support this initiative
ASC and the Somalia Diaspora in South Africa:
Supporting Peace and Reconstruction in Somalia
The ASC took part in the Somali Diaspora in South Africa Conference held at the African Pride Crystal Towers Hotel in Cape Town. The Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO), the Somali Council for Research and Development (SOMCORD) and ACCORD, hosted this two-day conference. The conference was well attended with presentations by a variety of stakeholders within academia, civil society and government. Presentations focused on work happening on the ground in Somalia and South Africa, as well as possible opportunities for future engagement including added involvement in the South African Somali Business Association (SASBA). This was a great networking opportunity, and ACTION was able to build connections with various Somali government officials, academics and civil society members, as well as strengthen relationships with DIRCO and ACCORD. The conference saw the launch of a South African Somali Diaspora Forum.
Video Dialogue Series
The last half of 2012 saw ASC organising a series of 10 community video dialogues debates. The sessions were held bi-monthly in the Melville community in Johannesburg and welcomed a diverse group of interested students, civil society members, peace builders and other professionals. The series sought to share social, economic, political and environmental issues challenging our global society through the screening of short video clips, which were then discussed and debated throughout the evening. Reflections from our regular group of dedicated participants celebrated the series for the unique and safe environment the sessions created, where people felt willing and able to share their ideas, debate and develop plans for action to take to their own communities or work environments. People learned about issues they felt they otherwise would not have and equally, met and developed new connections within the community.
Applied Conflict Transformation Course 2011
By all accounts the course appears to have been highly successful. The learning environment ACTION was able to create was intense and useful and the evaluative comments we received in the forms filled out spoke strongly of the personal and professional transformation processes participants went through. A large part of this was the result of the diverse and experienced group of participants that took part in the process.
The ACTION Support Centre will be following up with all of the participants in 3 months and again after a year to get a better sense of the longer term impact the course has had.
In the meantime the belief that ACTION has a process that speaks powerfully to people has led us to plan two additional similar courses in 2012 – one in February March, and another in October. ACTION will be sharing details of these workshops in due course.
Evaluative comments from participants:
|I feel a new sense of passion to continue contributing to the transformation of conflict. The networks made between the group are exciting as well – there is so much potential for positive change and I want to become more involved.
This course has had a significant impact in shaping my approach to conflict related issues. It has challenged my traditional approach and view in a positive way.
The course is generally powerful. It needs 2 weeks – so could be done in phases maybe. The choice of presenters was excellent – made the course relevant, raised the necessary anger and excitement to provoke learning and rich debate.
The course is quite relevant and it was really helpful.
This was a well-organised workshop and thanks to the facilitators, and organisers as well. Keep it up ACTION you are wonderful.
Thank you ACTION and a good job done by all your staffers and in particular the facilitators.
I just want to thank the organisers for taking us on a journey of self-exploration. I don’t think I have ever expressed my views, attitudes and assumptions quite as much as I have over the past five days. I came here to learn a set of skills and strategies instead I will leave with a deeper understanding of my passions and where I can make my contribution in this world.
Each morning and afternoon was so well thought through and adapted to the holistic needs of the group. Your facilitation and reflective listening skills are in, and of, themselves hugely valuable learning tools (to which I aspire to). It has been a truly unique experience – learning and challenging each other to consider different lenses! Using colour, music, imagery, academia and groupwork to explore conflict and processes for moving beyond it. Clare, Rindai and Pontsho were really helpful, organised and professional as well. I feel hopeful. PS The lunches were delicious!
What people learned the most from:
|Interactive discussions. Creative tasks – stimulated discussions. Resource people – additional perspectives
The course overall was excellent. The trip to the Apartheid Museum made this a journey of self-discovery. I was overwhelmed by the way to make a contribution to end human suffering. I made a promise to myself to honour the legacy of our forbearers through my work and the way I choose to live my life.
I took a lot of value from relating each of the different lectures / topics back to a conflict transformational analysis and structure – practically. Prof Landsberg was incredibly knowledgeable – really enjoyed and Deprose Muchena as well. Need a page to talk about all of the parts I enjoyed the most! The visit to the Apartheid museum was hugely emotional and impacting. It lent much to my understanding.
Tools analysis was the most exciting topic given that it helped me situate the Malawian protest and dialogue into critical analysis.
Everything about the course was absolutely enjoyable – but if I had to choose the one hour I enjoyed the most it was the talk by Chris Landsberg. Loved the participative activities and, and, and …
What I enjoyed the most was the group work because it enabled me to broaden my views and helped also to acquire skills in dialogue and discussion. Games were fantastic.
Conflict analysis techniques. Approaches for analysis within my context and globally is especially important for action and transformation.
The most important part for me has been the analysis of context on land issues in Africa. As we discussed these issues are at the heart of many conflicts in Africa. I really enjoyed the presentations.
The way the course was very participatory and how it fostered a sense of community among us. Being given the opportunity to work with others who had the same aspirations as me.
I enjoyed the course immensely there was a good mix of techniques to aid the learning process.
The Regional Capacitybuilding Project (RCB) 2011
ASC organised two Learning Exchange Worshops in Swaziland and Mozambique respectively.
Regional delegates drawn from Soweto Concerned Residence (SCR)-South Africa, Swaziland Coalition (SCCCO)-Swaziland, Swaziland Young Women’s Network (SYWN)-Swaziland, Youth Initiative for Democracy in Zimbabwe (YIDEZ)-Zimbabwe, PROPAZ-Mozambique, and Forum Mulher-Mozambique attended the workshops.
The aim of the RCB is to build capacity on common areas of need such as mobilising for socio-economic and political change, and strengthening internal and external organisational communication in the region.
It also focuses on strengthening people to people solidarity through learning, sharing skills and exchanging information. Learning Exchange Workshops are seen as critical in the implementation of this project.
Cultural Diversity Project 2011
Two cultural diversity workshops have been organised and successfully carried out in Alexandra Township. These are two of eight activities under this project which is themed “Ubuntu Has No Borders.”
The purpose of this project is to build and strengthen communities of diversity and peace. Local community members attend the workshops in an effort to address the conflicts arising out of cultural intolerance.
Topics covered in the course are Understanding Conflict, Early Detection of Conflict, Conflict Analysis, Intervention Strategies and then the participants look at options for Longer Term Transformation and Prevention.
Human Rights and Refugee Rights Workshop-Building communities of mutual understanding and cultural diversity
As a build-up to the Anti-Xenophobia Indaba which took place in Soweto last year, ASC has organised follow up workshops on Human Rights, Refugee Rights and Xenophobia in Orange Farm-Johannesburg.
The next workshop is scheduled to take place in Soweto.
Insider Mediators Platform – Africa
26th-27th July 2011
The 2nd Working Group meeting of the Insider Mediators Platform was held in Mombasa, Kenya from the 26th to the 27th of July 2011. The objectives of the meeting centred on reflection, learning and planning the most effective way forward for the platform.
The meeting was well attended with 20 participants from 16 different countries representing a range of practitioners and institutional representatives working on conflict contexts at all levels. The range of participants constituted the forms of collaborative partnership envisaged as being key to the development of an insider mediator driven process.
Evaluative comments highlighted the dynamic nature of the group, the high quality of participants and the fluidity of the process as being key to the successful outcome of the meeting. A full summary of these comments is included as an appendix to this report.
The meeting began with an update of AIMP activities and a process of sharing experiences amongst participants. This was followed by an analysis of the external environment to identify key challenges, opportunities and trends likely to impact on the work of insider mediators.
The analysis was strengthened with the presentation of several case studies that highlighted the potential role of the platform. The session then moved into a strategic planning process that identified key focus areas and the critical next steps for the platform.
The initial outcomes of the meeting, contained within this report, will be used to draft an Action Plan that will form the basis for the development of a full proposal that will be used as a resource mobilisation tool to take the work of the platform forward.
- The ability of the platform to initiate and strengthen mediative processes aimed at crisis prevention and in support of conflict transformation was seen as the critical added value that informs its establishment.
- The proposed Action Plan will endorse the conceptualisation of the platform as a capacity multiplier that will use innovative forms of learning and experience sharing to enhance national level mediation capacity in support of a collaborative inclusive partnership approach to mediative processes.
- The Action Plan will be focused on tapping into learning opportunities through the development of in-depth case studies, analysis of key geographical areas of concern, consolidating the relationship building and networking capacities of the platform and establishing a directory of insider mediators and institutional resources.
- The meeting agreed to rename the initiative as the Insider Mediators Platform – Africa, or IMP-AF. This would reflect the longer-term potential of replicating the IMP initiative in other parts of the world.
- It was also agreed that the interim coordinator would work towards establishing a lean full time secretariat that would work to promote the platform as a resource for learning and information.
- The platform will embark on a programme of needs driven support to insider mediators aimed at enhancing national mediation capacity, and focused particularly on crisis prevention and longer-term mediative processes.
- The immediate mobilisation of resources in support of these intentions is a key priority.
African Insider’s Mediators Platform
A participatory analysis and strategy development workshop was held in November 2010 to better understand the contribution of insider mediators to the resolution of conflict across Africa. Insider mediators play a significant strategic role in providing continuity between short-term peacemaking responses to periods of crisis, as well as long‐term peacebuilding processes. Supported by the Peace Nexus Foundation, the workshop aimed to enhance internal national mediation capacity and contribute to local ownership of mediation outcomes.
The research identified a key group of insider mediators working at multiple levels across a wide range of conflict contexts. Essentially, these mediators require greater support in their efforts to provide critical linkages between senior–‐level mediation processes, and the mediation of residual conflicts affecting people at community level. Looking to the future, AIMP aims to establish supportive partnerships with which to agree an action plan and allocate responsibilities in its implementation.
Confidence Building Electoral Process Sudan/ UNMIS
ACTION staff worked with local partners in Khartoum and the United Nations Mission in Sudan to develop and implement a confidence building process between political parties in the run up to the election in 2010.
The event itself took place on the 11th February and included about 175 representatives from approximately 35 of the registered political parties, as well as representatives of the National Elections Commission, the PPAC, UNMIS and the UNDP. With a reported 80% of the delegates being candidates contesting the election, the event had real significance and potential to impact the election.
Combining small focused group discussions and larger break-away groups that required a process of summarising, synthesizing and agreeing on a shared report-back, the workshop created an essential space for dialogue between political party representatives and key stakeholders.
Developing organic leadership roles within the groups facilitated and guided the group discussions, and highlighted an important process through which dispute resolution processes have the potential to identify a form and type of leader that is able to overcome any ideological differences and divisive contestations for power.
In addition to demonstrating the potential for parties to work together beyond their differences, the need for extensive contact and relationship building between party representatives was illustrated. This relationship building aspect alone will make a significant difference in laying the foundation for non-violent dispute resolution processes in the longer term.
Conflict transformation training
Conflict transformation workshops form an integral part of ACTION’s work. In November 2010 ACTION preformed a peacebuilding workshop for PACT partners in Zimbabwe. ACTION adopted a highly participatory and elicitive approach which took participants through a series of incremental steps, building knowledge through the introduction of new ideas and tools, and tapping into the collective experience of the group.
The workshop established a common language, shared understandings of key concepts and reflected on conflict analysis, strategy and planning. The workshop aimed to utilize local experiences in shaping more sustainable and long-term initiatives, highlighting the relationship between local initiatives and the wider context. Participants’ evaluations of the workshop revealed its positive reception as well as important practical considerations for the future. The workshop revealed additional challenges regarding resources that constrain peacebuilding efforts, these important insights will inform the planning and implementation of initiatives in the future.
Support to networks and learning workshop – Netherlands
ACTION, with the support of the Netherlands based PSO, engaged in a collaborative learning process aimed at understanding in more detail what drives networks and assists them in becoming more effective.
In an engagement with several peacebuilding networks from across the world a number of insights and lessons on networking were derived that will be fed back into organisations in an effort to add value to the networking efforts of practitioners. The criteria for establishing a vibrant network, which allows members to mutually thrive from a palpably energetic collaboration, was examined. The history of the network as well as factors underpinning fluctuations in the network’s vibrancy were explored, agency of the participants was highlighted as a crucial factor. The potential of collective action, and the strength that can be derived from network membership becomes more real as this upward recognition grows.
Yeoville Community Engagement
ACTION enjoys a sustained relationship with the Yeoville Community. Recognised as a key organisation in the community ACTION has appeared in their publication ‘Yeovue news bulletin’. ACTION acts as a platform and opportunity to share information and interact with Diaspora and South African communities. Approaches include utilising strategic meetings, dialogue forums and imbizos. ACTION is influential in contributing to municipal law and policy regarding Yeoville and offers insight into areas such as informal trade, crime, criminal violence, gender abuse, refugee issues and environmental issues.
Schools’ Anti-Xenophobia Project
Building on the success of previous Gauteng schools’ project, ACTION’s Schools Anti-Xenophobia project was extended to Limpopo Province for the month February and March 2011. The project’s events included Conflict Transformation workshop and a debate and impromptu speeches day.
These two projects created space for learners, facilitators, educators and members of the community to critically engagement with subject issues that relate to xenophobia in Gauteng and Limpopo respectively. The ‘Sports and Indigenous Games Day’ celebrates cultural diversity through sports; the Cultural Day highlights the richness of African cultures through regalia, poetry, music, dance, drama and food. The ‘Conflict Transformation Workshop’ and the ‘Debate and Impromptu Speeches Competition’ in particular provided an opportunity for in-depth discussions and critical analysis on xenophobia-its trends, impacts and possible solutions.
World Social Forum
ACTION Support Centre attended the 11th edition of the World Social Forum in Dakar Senegal. Other organisations that graced the event include COSATU came with 20 delegates, 10 came from Climate and Environmental movements, TCOE, Ecumenical and women’s movement, and many other movements.
Apart from debating contemporary issues and challenges in areas of economics and trade, politics, health, education and environment a profound public march was organised. More than 60 000 people participated in the march.
Swaziland Democracy Campaign Anniversary
The Swaziland Democracy Campaign had its first anniversary celebrations in February 2011. We joined the Campaign in celebrating a year of successful and sterling campaigning for democracy in Swaziland.
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Philani Ndebele at email@example.com
Regional Capacity Building Project: December 2010 (3 year project)
Regional delegates drawn from Soweto Concerned Residence (SCR)-South Africa, Swaziland Coalition (SCCCO)-Swaziland, Swaziland Young Women’s Network (SYWN)-Swaziland, Youth Initiative for Democracy in Zimbabwe (YIDEZ)-Zimbabwe, PROPAZ-Mozambique, and Forum Mulher-Mozambique gathered for a three day regional capacity building workshop in Conflict Transformation at Willow Park Hotel in Johannesburg South Africa. Fourteen participants engaged effectively in this capacity building workshop.
The project has twenty four organisations across the region participating in it. The aim of this project is to building capacity on common areas of need such as mobilising for socio-economic and political change, and strengthening internal and external organizational communication in the region. It also focuses on strengthening people to people solidarity through learning, sharing skills and information with each other particularly face to face exchange of information where possible, including exploiting communication mechanism that are at our disposal. Exchange visits are seen as critical in the implementation of this project. Therefore, strategic learning platforms and workshops will be organized.
ACTION Support Centre (ASC) is implementing an anti-xenophobia project in schools that are in the Limpopo region. These schools are drawn from the Vhembe District. A trainer of trainers’ workshop took place in Louis Trichardt in December 2010 following by a teachers planning meeting. A learners Conflict Transformation work and a debate competition. Dates for these events will be released as soon as possible
The African Insider Mediators Platform
In November 2010 a workshop supported by the Peace Nexus Foundation brought together 14 key insider mediation stakeholders. The workshop explored existing support initiatives and collaboration, and used the insights into existing gaps and challenges in these areas as the starting point of a strategic discussion on focusing and enhancing efforts to support and strengthen the contribution of insider mediators on the continent.
To establish a support base for African mediators working on conflict systems at multiple levels that enhances internal national mediation capacity and contributes to local ownership of mediation outcomes.
- To forge and maintain linkages between mediators across existing networks and organisations
- To expand learning opportunities for sharing insights, exchanging experience, and mediation systems training, that builds a community of excellent practice
- To document and disseminate examples of good practice that enhances the credibility and legitimacy of the long-term contribution of African mediators to building peace and preventing violence
- To promote the inclusion of mediators that connect mediation efforts at different levels with senior-level mediation processes
- To provide a pool of skilled resource people that can accompany complex mediation initiatives and respond to requests for technical mediation support
Swaziland Democracy Campaign Picket at the Swazi Consulate in Braamfontein
SDC organised a lunch hour picket that turned into a big march as an unexpected number of workers pour in from different workplaces to express their disgust and outrage at the Swazi regime’s continued persecution of the struggling masses of Swaziland.
The whole Braampak area was littered with red t-shirts of workers from different COSATU affiliates, most notably SAMWU, as well as broader civil society organisations to express their unwavering support to the cause of Swazi workers. About 500 workers participated in the picket, admittedly the biggest lunch hour picket we have so far organised; except for marches and blockades whose numbers are way above that.
21 March 2010
After just more than a year, xenophobia swept across many South African communities and seems to be returning to haunt South Africa again. History has it that more than 150 000 people were displaced, about 62 killed, hundreds wounded, scores raped and property destroyed. It is important to highlight that while the worst and most visible attacks occurred in Alexandra and many other parts of South Africa over such periods, they date back years before and still continue today.
Communities still experience violence against non-South Africans and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), community based organisations (CBOs) and research organisations working with migrants are sounding the alarm that nothing stands in the way of a new wave of violence.
On another note, research and analysis sight different causes of xenophobia, and xenophobia is even understood differently at different places, times and peoples. Basic service delivery issues like housing, running water, electricity, jobs, proper roads and schools continue to be a bitter point of contention as people battle for scarce resources. Some argue that local business people lead campaigns against non-South Africans, where hatred and ultimately violence is fuelled by commercial rivalry, while some refer to issues such as criminal activities by non-South Africans as a cause to xenophobia. All these reasons one way or the other contribute to xenophobia.
Response to xenophobia was and still remains mediocre. There has been a failure to learn lessons from the violence especially from the South African government. Many responses were poorly coordinated and short term in nature. Therefore, successes remain isolated. A new migrant desk was set up in Johannesburg, visa requirements for the people of Zimbabwe were scraped and a solution for those already in South Africa is underway, and some communities have welcomed back displaced non-South Africans and have managed to hold peace.
As a result, taking steps in the right direction is imperative. Opportunities exist for communities, organisations, provincial and national governments to find common purpose and deal with xenophobia. Time for expressing horror and shock is over. Effective dialogue, analysis, studies and literature on the subject must feed into long term response to xenophobia. Community intelligence must be established, isolation of those bent on campaigns of violence should be encouraged. Above all, engagement with important sectors of communities especially schools, to share ways of embracing our cultural diversity including tolerance must be promoted.
This is not the first ASC is involved in a campaign against xenophobia. Through formal and informal research, ASC has organized a youth seminar and a schools’ debate competition that dealt with issues of xenophobia.
However, challenges are being experienced too. New and good ideas to respond to xenophobia continue to emerge but, however lacks of resources remain a huge challenges. With the FIFA world Cup coming, incessant service delivery protests, and the rising costs of basics food, petrol and electricity a lot needs to be done.
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