Mandela Day is celebrated nationally every year, with individuals, organisations, schools and corporations organising to donate at least 67 minutes of their time to an activity that serves others. The ASC chose to spend this time organising and cleaning equipment for an NPO that serves underprivileged children with Cerebral Palsy. This yearly activity is a reminder that although we might be busy with our own efforts, our struggles are inter-connected, so we should not remain isolated, but always look for ways to work together for the common good of human kind.
This principle was at the heart of a discussion attended by the ASC on the route towards a participatory foreign policy. There has been a shift in approach that emphasizes international co-operation, underpinned by a pan-African philosophy and south-south collaboration. With this idea of collaboration and participatory processes in mind, opportunities are being opened up for greater civil society engagement in government affairs and international policy development. While there are still challenges in making these kinds of partnerships effective, the positive potential of collaborative processes are worth pursuing.
The opportunities and obstacles to a pan-African collaborative approach are continuously being discussed, as stakeholders seek to realise this ideal. Presentations and discussions during an event on the theme of “Africa Rising” interrogated some of these. Among the challenges to overcome was a point made about the presidency third term phenomena, which the speaker viewed as grappling expansion of the democratic space and as a source of instability and insecurity in Africa. Burundi is a case in point, where violence and has continued following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s election into a third term of office. Although the International community (West, USA,) has condemned such horrific attacks, and are threatening to implement sanctions in the form of travel bans and visa issuances against those responsible for such violations, Mr Sylvere Nsengiyumva of the African Insider Mediators Platform (AIMP) notions toward a more localized mediation effort.
At the Africa Rising discussion, speakers urged that it is imperative that Africa inculcates its own ideological position and charts its own development trajectory; African countries need to realize their interconnectedness, and establishment of shared principles, which are important for long-term commitment to sustain the integration. A critical issue is the opening up of free trade zones, which will help to better improve integration and the rise of Africa. It is also important for Africans to start trading amongst themselves as currently Africans trade only 10% amongst each other and 90% with Europeans.
In support of efforts towards Pan-Africanism, the African Solidarity Caravan is continuing to mobilise events across the continent that promote continental solidarity. Amongst the ones held so far this year are Kenya, Burundi, Zambia, Rwanda and South Africa, who have brought Africans together through soccer matches, multicultural peace dialogues, festivals, and solidarity walks.
These kinds of efforts need to exist not just across continents and countries, but also within each nation, where international relationships exist on the micro level, in the form of relationships between immigrants and nationals. This was a point of discussion during a workshop with members of an immigrant community in Johannesburg, the group discussed some of their perspectives on the experience of being an immigrant. Some called on the spirit of Ubuntu to underpin a more inclusive outlook in South Africa, while others reminded the group that xenophobia is not just a South African phenomenon. Participants also shared the difficulty that it is assumed they know local languages, like Zulu, because they are black, and they may be treated differently once people know they are foreign. Participants were encouraged to take part in the Local Peace Committee structures, but some expressed concern over forming a Local Peace Committee based mainly of migrants, fearing that they could not be effective in promoting for positive change. However, through the discussion they came to see that being part of the LPC will give migrants a voice to speak and communicate with other South Africans, to share their stories, to become connected with policy makers and share in the shaping of matters that can positively influence their communities.
As much as buy-in to the concepts of collaboration and solidarity are important, practical tools and approaches are also needed to realize these ideals, which is a key purpose of the Applied Conflict Transformation Course (ACT), held by the ASC twice a year. The ACT Course that took place in July was attended by about 20 participants from different parts of the world. It was a chance to learn about different conflict contexts in the world, to reflect on the self and how our own outlooks and relationships effect the bigger picture. Experts helped equip participants with tools that they can apply in their own contexts, and the group left feeling a shared sense of purpose, despite the different contexts into which they would go.
The ASC also helped provide this kind of support in Durban, where 40 peace and solidarity activists were drawn from a wide range of organisations and movements and gathered for a two-day capacity-building training workshop. The training combined analysis, discussion, information sharing, presentations and practical engagement with tools of conflict analysis, and concluded by developing a vision for the communities and identifying key areas for collaborative initiatives.
In addition to these activities, the ASC has been involved in a number of initiatives that address youth challenges and the positive role that the youth can play in their communities. One such event was a local social dialogue and raising awareness effort on the many socio economic issues faced by the youth in South Africa. This was based on the following topics; lack of service delivery, utilization of skills improvement and the current economic challenges facing youths. Some of the suggestions made during the dialogue were for the government to provide library facilities in the community and provide space for arts and culture activities, such as drama and music. The youth also felt that they should receive career guidance from experts.
At another youth event, the dialogue offered space for open and robust discussion on issues around land, migration, renaissance, solidarity, peace and security, poverty and inequality, xenophobia and afrophobia. The outcomes of the discussion included a selection of 15 young people that will receive training on thought leaders and conflict transformation, and 10 young people to be trained on entrepreneurial skills. All these young will also form a Local Peace Committee in the area. These youth events acknowledge and validate the importance of youth perspectives and involvement, as the people who will be the future leaders of our world.