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Conference on Somalia: RIGOs present

All blog posts by evalineschot

Tomorrow, the 23rdof February, representatives of governments, the UN, and regional inter-governmental organizations, such as the African Union and Arab League, will gather in London for the Somalia Conference (organized by the FCO UK). The aim of the conference is to develop a new international approach towards the most pressing issues related to Somalia, including counter-terrorism, humanitarianism and local stability. News on the conference can be followed through twitter and blogs. For further information, check

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All blog posts by andreamtz

Join the peace portal and then join this community to participate actively! You can share your insights, blog, rate and comment, publish documents, reports, and events.

Strengthening peace and security is a responsibility of all! Partners for Peace seeks to engage different actors to work together towards conflict prevention. Engage in this initiative!

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"We have no other choice than but to work together". Albert Ramdin

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During his intervention, Albert Ramdin highlighted the importance of the collaboration between Civil Society and Regional Organizations and the contribution of the International Conference “Strengthening Peace and Security for Development” to this goal.

In his opening remarks, he emphasized the unique character of the Conference as a major step toward realizing a vision of joining key global actors working on peace, security and development and to allow to learn from each other’s experience.

Through his second intervention during the last day of the Conference, OAS Assistant – Secretary General, reinforced the necessity of having a an effective and inclusive framework to promote peace, enhance security and advance towards sustainable development.

Visit www.partners4peace/backgroundto see the complete speeches of A. Ramdin

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Conference final report is coming!

All blog posts by andreamtz

The final report about the conference will be available soon in our website:

About the rapportour:

Sally Holt

Sally is an expert on questions of cultural diversity and social integration. She has been a Research Fellow in Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, a project manager for the Aga Khan Foundation on the social inclusion of Muslims in Western Europe, and Legal Officer for the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM). She is the principal author of a forthcoming IQd handbook on the management of cultural diversity and holds an MA (with distinction) from the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London.

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OAS Asst Secretary General Ramdin Speaks on Risks to Security, Opportunities for Peace

All blog posts by brianredondo

Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Albert Ramdin started the second day of the conference delivering an important speech that provided a frame for the ongoing dialogue between RIGOs and civil society.  He outlined the major risks to peace and security and their link to development. He then proposed a new development paradigm that allows for social inclusion, while reducing inequity and creating opportunities that can bring about conditions for social, economic, political and cultural development. This calls for increasing confidence in social justice and the full participation of peoples in decisions relating to their own development.

In light of the global economic crisis, the massive unemployment of youth around the world has produced a level of instability ripe for conflict.  This "epidemic" in which youth are three times as likely to be unemployed but better educated than adults has created a "lost generation," one that is increasingly marginalized and disillusioned. Ramdin called it a "fertile environment for discontent."  Organized crime, drug traffickers, terrorist groups are recruiting from this pool of young people who have few legitimate options.  Youth everywhere need jobs but also  the equitable access to education that provides skills catered to changing economies.

Ramdin referred to demographics and inequity as two challenges to peace and security. He added that "We must address the worldwide population growth, characterized by the explosive birthrates in the developing world." These communities are clamoring for more resources and economic opportunities in a world that is wrestling with the challenge of integrating this population explosion in the midst of a global economic downturn. Ramdin stated that "We can no longer remain complacent about the real development needs of the majority of our populations." Currently, there are more than 3 Billion people, nearly half of humankind, subsisting on less than two-and-a-half dollars per person per day. The inequalities suffered by these populations extend beyond income to health and well-being and pose serious threats to peace worldwide, he added.

Climate change was another global challenge Ramdin touched upon.  As a problem that obviously does not discriminate and knows no borders, it is the one where global coordination is an imperative.  The damage caused by climate change exacerbates the competition for scarce resources and by extension instability.  Ramdin warned that it "could potentially cause mass migration" because of rising sea levels and limited resources.  Scores of new refugees would destabilize markets.  

Instability has also increased as governments around the world have not lived up to people's expectation that democracy will improve their lives.  When social and economic goods are not delivered to the people, government legitimacy erodes.  Rather than investing in development and its people, funding continues to go towards conflict instead.  Meanwhile income inequality is increasing even as there is economic growth in many countries.

To promote stronger democracy, Ramdin called for increased transparency, checks and balances, accountability, and the participation of all sectors of society.  In particular he expressed a need for civil society, private sector, academia, and labor to be involved in government processes.

Assistant Secretary General Ramdin highlighted that "given the current complexities of the challenges and needs in our societies and the difficulties many governments have in delivering on expectations, we all are individually and collectively responsible to play our part in generating and maintaining peace in our respective societies."

In light of the broad array of political and governance challenges in the current global setting, the high-ranking OAS official stated that "we must tap into the collective knowledge and experience of our different regions, placing sustainable and inclusive democracies and development at the heart of the peace and security agenda."

Multilateralism then is necessary to address these transnational problems.  Ramdin called for an annual conference between intergovernmental organizations and civil society, as well as with business leaders and other stakeholders, that would enable targeted collaboration on these pressing issues.  The hope for these dialogues is to start a process that would create a new template for the world.  This template would take into account important regional contextualization and the participation of people in decisions that affect their own development.  This conference is the first step in starting that process.

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Day 2 Panel 3 – The Way forward: Recommendations on Improving Cooperation between RIGOs and CSOs

All blog posts by m.hellema

The main goal of the conference was to make a contribution to the global peacebuilding architecture. The longer-term outcomes that the conference aimed to contribute towards were three-fold:

  1. Increased cooperation and exchange between Regional Intergovernmental Organizations (RIGOs) from different regions in the world;
  2. Increased cooperation and exchange between civil society organizations (CSOs) from different regions;
  3. Increased cooperation between CSOs and regional and sub-regional organizations in their respective geographic area. 

Hence, the last session saw presentations from one civil society representative, one from the private sector and one of the attending RIGOs to present and discuss different options and recommendations for follow-up of the conference. The presentations included very specific recommendations for both RIGOs, CSOs and private sector, some reflections on existing mechanisms of engagement that can serve as examples and concrete commitments for future follow-up. More thorough representations of what was being recommended will be shared soon.

In the following discussion much focus was given to the potential role of the private sector. Recognizing that much has been done by the private sector to contribute to different humanitarian challenges – both out of altruistic aspirations and own interest – but that much remains to be done. Additionally, although the recognition on the side of RIGOs and CSOs to cooperate with the private sector has increased, more efforts should be undertaken to realize this.

Similar reflections were made when it comes to the cooperation between RIGOs and CSOs, recognizing that much progress has been made, but that more efforts need to be made to structuralize and institutionalize engagement, amongst others to convince the own constituencies on both sides of the value of collaboration.  

Additionally, the conference organizers proposed a draft declaration, which was, aside from some minor requests for adjustments, accepted by all participants. This document too will be shared shortly.

In closing words of thanks and appreciation were expressed by all co-organizers and hosting organizations. As well as a firm commitment to assure that the conference will have a strong follow-up.

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Day 2, Session 2: Structured Cooperation Between CSOs and RIGOs

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In the session Structured Cooperation Between Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Regional Intergovernmental Organisations (RIGOs), delegates engaged in a frank discussion on the current status of engagement between CSOs and RIGOs and the  best ways to improve this relationship.  

Many agreed that current and past experiences of communication between the two parties has not been particularly profound.  Some felt that current mechanisms for engagement do not always allow for rich CSO involvement in policymaking and in the implementation of policies.  Often times interaction is limited to the presentation of CSO considerations, and moreover, this does not guarantee incorporation or follow-up.

Indeed some RIGOs representatives agreed that interaction must extend beyond big meetings and conferences.  Instead it must be carried out on an ongoing basis so that CSOs could be involved in policymaking before decisions have already been solidified.  The current problem is that by the time CSOs voice their opinions, RIGOs members have already determined policies and produced language before allowing for input.

Most RIGOs representatives expressed a desire to incorporate CSOs in policy development and implementation in a more meaningful way, acknowledging that the grassroots nature of CSOs provides many useful opportunities.  In order for this to happen in a practical manner, they suggested that CSOs coordinate themselves into an organized structure that could represent them better.  The diversity of opinions within civil society can minimize their coherence and makes collaboration with RIGOs difficult.  CSOs should develop such a structure and select individuals to represent them in dialogues with RIGOs.  These parties would also require training in policymaking to help them be optimally effective.

There was a general feeling in the room that new, formal mechanisms for partnership needed to be created, with specific attention to how CSO partners would be identified.  This reflects the common desire and in fact current trajectory of CSOs and RIGOs moving away from a traditionally oppositional relationship to one that is collaborative. 

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Day 2, Session 1: Developing a Strategic Cooperation: Overcoming Obstacles and Identifying Complementarities

All blog posts by m.hellema

The first session of the second day looked at how Regional Intergovernmental Organizations (RIGOs) are increasingly expected to play an important role in ensuring peace and stability in their respective regions. There is a need and an opportunity for RIGOs to enhance their capacities in this area through the establishment of strategic partnerships with different stakeholders, particularly with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). 

While CSOs, have been developing significant capacities in areas such as early warning, track II diplomacy, policy analysis, advocacy, media outreach, and others, it is not always common knowledge within RIGOs what role CSOs can play in the development and implementation of peace and security strategies. The same can be said of CSOs, which are not always aware of the mandates, capacities and roles of RIGOs.   

Emmanuel Bombande, Director of the West African Network of Peacebuilding (WANEP) and Chair of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) spoke about the cooperation between theEconomic Community Of West African States(ECOWAS) and WANEP in early warning and early response in West Africa. 

Even though the region of West Africa is rich in resources, it has been plagued by obstacles of violence and conflict. The region has had a history of prolonged civil wars accompanied by devastating causes and consequences, including the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, drugs trafficking, poverty and competition for natural resources like oil, gold and diamonds. Efforts to intervene were undertaken, but often not well coordinated nor well planned.    

Such challenges resulted in the understanding of the urgent need for early warning and early response to be able to create peace and security, and improve people’s livelihoods. An interest in developing capacity to detect and prevent conflict. Early warning as a means to anticipate armed conflict to be able to act to attempt to prevent. 

This was the trigger for the creation of the ECOWAS Early Warning and Response Network (ECOWARN). A regional early warning mechanism, which included a partnership with civil society as an integral to the new protocols. Something which gave CSOs the necessary legitimacy to cooperate. The partnership between ECOWAS and WANEP was formalized through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of 2003, a legal document grounding the partnership.

The operationalization of ECOWARN as the first-ever regional early warning system in Africa, has changed the peace and security architecture of West Africa. 

Andie Fong-Toy, Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF)gave a short introduction to both the Pacific region and PIF. More so, she gave an overview of the work of the PIF on security and peace issues, including Biketawa Declaration. 

For PIF, a GPPAC Pacific meetings led to the first CSO consultations on conflict prevention and human security. Throughout its work, PIF has a strong recognition of the importance of civil society, amongst others in research, consultations and the development of the Pacific Plan.     

More recently, this has resulted in the PIF Secretariat being mandated to develop a more structured engagement with civil society, which has led to the creation of CSO Dialogue meetings. These meetings are organized bi-annually and attempt to create a space for CSOs to give direct input on the development of policies of PIF. The PIF Secretariat has also just appointed a liaison for non-state actors.

 The full text of the presentation of Ms. Fong-Toy will be made available shortly.

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Session 1: Managing Political Transitions and Preventing Violence

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The first panel discussion of the conference delved into the challenges of preventing conflict in the midst of political transitions.  It focused on transitions in Southeast Asia, the Arab world, and Africa.  Miguel Alvarez, President of SERAPAZ, speaking in Spanish moderated the panel.

Rodolfo Severino, former ASEAN Secretary General provided a historical overview of ASEAN.  He described the genesis of the RIGO during the tumultuous 1970's in which conflict and transition permeated the region including wars in China spilling into Thailand, the overhaul of Indonesia's economy, communist revolutions sprouting in multiple places, and obvious conflicts in Vietnam and Cambodia.  Over time ASEAN states reached agreements on free trade, non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, and minimalized Cold War divisions.  The states also coordinate against international crime and terrorism, drug trafficking, and the trafficking of women and children.   

Repeatedly Severino discussed the difficulty of reaching consensus amongst its ten members while respecting the sovereignty of individual states.  To this end he said that despite ASEAN's openness to civil society, engagement with civil society often has to be performed with individual member states.

Hassine Bouzid, Head of the Mission of the League of Arab States in Spain, spoke on the interrelation of peace and development, citing the need for peace to achieve sustainable growth.  He noted that in the Arab Spring, the younger generations were fighting for increased employment rates and individual freedoms, and a decrease in corruption and social inequality.  He emphasized the importance of nonviolent means to transition out regimes while introducing reforms.  Furthermore, he called for improved associations with the EU and the UN to generate a more positive interaction with Arab states that would help propel growth.  

Vasu Gouden, Director of the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), begged the question, "How do you get equitable development while managing political transitions?"  His answer to this problem was a call for a strong and independent state, private sector, and civil society.  These three facets of a country must each function separately and function to balance one another.  The resources that sustain each area though must be spread to the whole of society however.  In places like Sweden, nearly 100% of the population is employed across the three areas.  In places like South Africa on the other hand, employment only reaches 30% as resources remain concentrated amongst the powerful elite.  This creates instability, low life expectancy, high infant mortality and an environment conducive to conflict.

With elites in parts of Africa clenching tightly to power and resources, any challenge to that authority can result in violent conflict.  Losing political actors arm themselves, often spilling across borders to do so, and fight to retain their influence.  In contrast, with more opportunities and options for a state's people and employment available to all, political losers simply move to another sector of society.  To that end, Gouden emphasized the need to cultivate an educated society, able to participate in all its facets.  This would create true democracy in the region.

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Session 3: CSOs, Private Sector, and the UN in Promoting Peace and Development

All blog posts by brianredondo


Gus Miclat, Executive Director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), moderated the last session of the conference's first day that attempted to address the core issue of the conference: collaboration between CSOs, the private sector, the UN, and RIGOs in promoting peace, development, and security.  Each panelist represented a different stakeholder in this process.

Levent Bilman, Director of the Policy and Mediation Division of the United Nations Department of Political Affairs (UNDPA), described that even within the UN system, official involvement and recognition of RIGOs are fairly recent, only within the last couple decades. 

In the last three years, the UNDPA has developed capacity building programs with RIGOs to promote awareness of mediation processes and to share expertise between RIGOs and the UN.  Most recently the office has worked with the African Union in Sudan and the OSCE in Georgia.  The local knowledge offered by RIGOs is essential for the UNDPA, providing them perspectives and expertise they would not otherwise have.  

Billman invited RIGOs and even CSOs to approach the unit for its involvement since the UN benefits from that on-the-ground perspective and expertise.  In situations of conflict, parties sometimes prefer a third party to become involved in mediation that is unaffiliated with government or the UN.  Civil society can enter this space and the UNDPA has assisted such third party mediators by providing knowledge on mediation processes and offering capacity building trainings.  Billman emphasized the availability of his office for trainings, assistance, and sharing of expertise regardless the size and international attention of emerging conflicts.

Enrique de Obarrio, Vice President of the Private Sector of the Americas, asserted that peace and security cannot be achieved without support from civil society, the business community, and especially the workers.  He asserted that societies with strong social cohesion lead to economic growth.  Social cohesion requires a mutual sense of belonging, shared vision, and a common project.  One approach in Panama involved the state's institutionalization of the council of development that incorporated different sectors of society that the government calls upon for recommendations.  Such a mechanism has been codified through legislation.

The OAS provides another example since it creates specific spaces for private sector, civil society, workers, and youth.  Particular bodies exist to hear considerations and recommendations from each sector.  de Obarrio advocated the perpetuation of such mechanisms across regional organisations around the world.  He envisioned a new, broader entity that would incorporate these sectors.  He also emphasized that for such a body to work, networks of private sector, civil society, and workers need to designate a single representative from each respective sector to communicate with government in a productive way.

This mechanism would also require assured follow-up, bi-annual meetings, and no singular ownership of the process.  An emphasis on public services and especially education would help ensure public trust and enforce social cohesion.

Florence Mpaayei, Director of the Nairboi Peace Initiative (NPI-Kenya), spoke on the role of civil society in situations of conflict.  In the disputed 2007 presidential elections in Kenya, violence broke out between the government and the opposition.  During this period of instability, civil society, diverse and heterogeneous, called for calm and began putting into place mechanisms for dialogue and peace.  Civil society groups reached out to Desmond Tutu and the African Union for assistance.  They collected data on incidences of violence.  They also offered help in counting the votes and correcting the administration of the elections.  They appealed to mainstream media to present the news in a sensitive manner to quell the violence.  Civil society engaged with different actors to resolve the situation.

Civil society recognized the moment and intervened when government had failed.  Rather than addressing the issue of disputed elections themselves, civil society groups focused instead on calming the public so that order could again be reinstated.  The issue of justice could be resolved afterwards.  Civil society thus engaged multiple actors of society, both within and outside Kenya, and helped carry out delivery of social and health services.

The disputed election only functioned as a trigger for violence but previously the unequal distribution of wealth and struggles over land ownership amongst other issues helped produce a discontented population that could be provoked to violence.  

Looking into the future, Mpaayei expressed a need to embrace new ideas to help further a paradigm shift in promoting peace and propelling development.  Miclat echoed this point and called for a true multilateral approach that incorporated the work from society's different sectors.

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Session 2: Governance, Peace and Security. How to Respond to Transnational Threats?

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The second session tried to address issues of how regional organizations and civil society organizations (CSOs) promote  good governance and the development of strong and inclusive democratic institutions? How to respond to transnational security threats – oppositional armed groups, organized crime etc. – challenging the authority of the state and the stability of the region? 

Dr. Kwaku Asante-Darko, Senior Expert on Conflict Prevention, Department of Peace and Security of the African Union (AU)spoke about how the AU deals with challenges of transnational threats to peace and security, given his own work with the AU on early warning and early response through conflict analysis and the development of recommendations for Member States on how to prevent violence and armed conflict. 

“We have threats on the content [of Africa], and often one leads to another.”, mentioned Dr. Asante-Darko, “The interconnectedness of the threats, requires recognition that you cannot deal with one without looking at the others. This makes our work as analysts very difficult.” The AU though aims for economic development, and sees peace and security as requirements to create the conditions to reach such. Challenges dealt with have been for example elections, unconstitutional changes of government, as well as “people being evoked by powerful leaders to do what they want to.” 

The landscape of the continent, an area of political and economic fragmentation, and the AU having 54 independent sovereign states, including South Sudan that recently joined, assure that the  work of the AU is extremely challenging. Especially when it is noted that the continent has serious challenges related to armed conflict, as well as deals with consequences of such conflicts, including Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and refugees. 

The AU recognizes that instability in certain countries will have regional consequences, and therefore has developed different instruments and structures to attempt to respond to such challenges, including mechanisms to monitor threats and identify responses. However, the development of structures is not the test, the actual implementation of these instruments is where it becomes truly important. 

Carlos Manuel Echeverria, Director of Communications and Public Relations at the Central American Integration System (SICA),presented a short history of SICA. Highlighting that SICA attempts to attain Central American integration as a path towards peace. In this objective, it is especially recognized that having the private sector participate with the rest of civil society is of great importance. “Often the private sector has the upper hand, and therefore its participation is essential.” 

Central Americais a diverse region, where countries share challenges. Democratic practice has taken hold of the region. There is a right and duty of civil society to organize themselves and complement governments. Yet, drugs-trafficking and organized crime have weakened societies. It is not a health issue, but a security threat to the Central American states. The economic and social consequences of drugs-trafficking and organized crime have been enormous. Central America cannot solve these by itself. 

Through SICA Central American states have organized themselves. It is not replacing national sovereignty, it is complimenting it. SICA has developed a Central American Security Strategy which is structured around four pillars; law enforcement, prevention, rehabilitation and development. Yet it should be part of a greater strategy at all levels and of all dimensions. The Strategy would have been incomplete without the input of civil society. Very soon the actual test will come, which is the implementation. Here again it will be impossible to do so without the collaboration with civil society. Improving security levels starts with the family, and from there to community and so on to other levels. On all of these levels civil society is indispensable. Governments even though they have financial instruments and power, they cannot do this without civil society. 

Lastly, Natalia Belitser, Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy from the Ukraine, the moderator of the session, took the opportunity to add some of her thoughts. Questioning the participants on different forms of cooperation between organizations working on issues of security and peace, whether it might be on national, regional and continental level. 

Continuing she underlined how hard it at times can be to identify where and what a region is. As well as depending what institutions to engage with. Regions or sub-regions cannot be identified by geographical choices alone. Questions on who civil society want to engage with, frames how they organize themselves. Such questions define the possibilities of effective cooperation. She exemplified this through her own experience in Crimea and Black Sea region. 

In closing she emphasized the importance of the gender dimension in our line of work. By nature women oppose the taking of live in forms of war and conflict. It is of great importance to involve women more in conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

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The Conference Has Started: Words of Welcome from the Different Hosts

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Welcome addresses of Enrique Iglesias, Secretary General of the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB), Albert Ramdin, Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) and Emmanuel Bombande, Chair of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) and Executive Director of the West African Network of Peacebuilding (WANEP).

Mr. Iglesias reflected on the changes in challenges and confrontations when it comes to security and peace in our world today. As well as the means of responding to these, specifically through the United Nations. Yet, also noting that many things have been done, for example relating to some of the main challenges of today's world, including environmental and climate change, terrorism and organized crime. 

As a global citizen seeing all these challenges, it is hard not to be concerned. They present disruptions of peace and security in our world. Turmoil that is being enhanced by the financial crisis and high unemployment rates. 

These issues require responses, and that is exactly what we will be doing during these days. First of all, we need to cooperate, amongst others with the United Nations. We need to recognize the shift of economic power from the West to the East. This requires changing our concepts of multilaterism. Part of this, in closing, is the importance of working through Regional Intergovernmental Organizations (RIGOs), as well as cooperating with and supporting civil society organizations (CSOs). 

Mr. Ramdin shared that he sees this conference is a unique opportunity to show not only that we should cooperate, but also that we can do so. The chance to share experiences and learn from each other, is of enormous relevance to enhance the richness of our knowledge. Having RIGOs and CSOs from all sides of the world together provides us with the opportunity to learn of experiences that we might have never heard  of before. Additionally, it is a great asset that we have representatives of the private sector here, since they are such a key factor to our solutions.

I hope this meeting will be a start, which we can translate in actual follow-up strategies. Since we do not have the opportunity to be together so often, we need to make sure that we translate this into further future cooperation. We need to be frank and share our institutional experiences, and maybe this will lead to more peace and security.

Mr. Bombande expressed his appreciation for everybody present, as well as thanked the different organizations that have been working to make this event happen. GPPAC was set up to try to create a shift from reaction to prevention when it comes to armed violence. In this, the role of RIGOs is of crucial importance, as you see in some of the developments in our world today like in the Arab Spring, but also in my own region of West Africa, where the role of ECOWAS, supported by the AU and the UN in preventing further election violence has been a great example of such prevention. In Southern Africa SADC is dealing with the challenges in Madagascar, and more such examples can be mentioned for IGAD in East and Central Africa, as well as ASEAN in Asia.

There are many examples to mention. And additionally in all of these it is essential to recognize the key contributions of civil society and the United Nations. More so, we need to start to include the private sector. I look forward to fruitful days, and would also want to echo the words of Mr. Ramdin in the importance of follow up.

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Follow the Conference Live From Your Computer

All blog posts by brianredondo

For those of you who are not in a position to travel all the way to Madrid, different means and tools will be made available to still follow the presentations, weigh in on the discussions and ask pertinent questions. You will be able to:

  • follow the conference live, since the entire first day of the conference will be broadcast live on-line, at  
  • participate in the on-line discussion forum, and even send in questions to be asked to any of the speakers.
  • follow the live tweets straight from the conference, by following @gppac and respond or pose questions through #partnes4peace.

Both in the lead up and during the conference, different forms of content will be posted on-line at, including videos of interviews with some of the  participants, blogs, articles and statements

To participate and engage, you need to become both a member of the Peace Portal and of the community of the conference in particular. You can do so by following the following two sets of instructions;

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Roundtable on Building Bridges and Promoting People to People Interaction in South Asia

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23-24 October 2011, Kathmandu, Nepal  – The Centre for South Asian Studies in Kathmandu in collaboration with the GPPAC South Asia Regional Secretariat organized a two-day seminar  titled “Building Bridges and Promoting People to People Interaction in South Asia” in Kathmandu, Nepal, from 23 to 24 October 2011. The roundtable aimed to share experiences and lessons learnt from other regional organizations and to promote greater interaction among South Asians as well as encourage wider participation in SAARC's activities as a means to contribute to the progress of member states of South Asia. The inauguration of the roundtable was held on 23 October and was graced by the Secretary General of SAARC, H.E. Uz. Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed.

Delivering the keynote address, the Secretary General elaborated on the various efforts made by SAARC in facilitating Regional Corporation in diverse areas. However, it was also highlighted that the regional body had not always met the hopes and aspirations of South Asians. Her Excellency stressed on the need for strengthening SAARC and its institutional mechanisms and also of the importance of promoting people-to-people contacts within the region. For a full transcript of her speech, please click here.

The roundtable was attended by members of various civil society organizations in Nepal and across South Asia. On 24 October, the participants visited the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu and met with Secretariat officials where the role of SAARC in the region as well as possibilities for greater CSO engagement with SAARC was discussed. The participants also visited the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament(UNRCPD) in Kathmandu where they were briefed on the UNRCPD activities as well as on how civil society organizations can collaborate with the Centre on peacebuilding and conflict prevention activities. A report on the roundtable proceedings together with the papers presented will be published by the Centre for South Asian Studies and RCSS.

For more information, check here or check out an article in the Telegraph Nepal.

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UN and Private Sector Representatives Confirmed!

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Multiple stakeholders coming together is also essential for achieving greater peace.  To that end we are pleased to announce the confirmed participation of Levent Billman, Director of the Policy and Mediation Division of the United Nations Department of Political Affairs.  The UN's support of these collaborative efforts will be essential, and so his contribution will be much appreciated.

Also attending is Alejandro Eder, High Presidential Counselor for Social and Econmic Reintegration of Colombia.  His vast private sector experience will be helpful in providing insight into how business can play a role in peacebuilding processes.

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Latest RIGOs Representatives Confirmed!

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We are happy to announce the recent confirmations of high-level representatives of Regional Intergovernmental Organisations (RIGOs) including:

To learn more about the other individuals attending the conference, go here.

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Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation Available Online!

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Need some reading material to prepare for the conference? The second volume of the Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation is available online in its entirety and entirely for free:

According to the think tank Berghof Conflict Research, this volume covers "new insights into nonviolent ways of managing inter-group conflict and what is needed for consolidating positive peace."

Of particular interest to conference participants and supporters are the following articles:

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Kenya Enters Somalia; East Africa Bogged Down in Conflict

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As the conference fast approaches, the need for better collaborative strategies in stemming regional conflict becomes more and more evident.  This past Sunday hundreds of Kenyan troops, backed by helicopters, crossed the Somalian border.  With African Union (AU) peacekeeping forces from Burundi and Uganda already there, Kenya is only the latest state to enter the fray. 

A Kenyan security official speaking to the New York Times declared that the troops are headed towards the southern Somalian port city of Kismayo “to clear the Shabab out.”

The Al-Shabab are an insurgent group that controls much of southern Somalia despite combat efforts by the internationally backed transitional government.  Kenya blames Al-Shabab, which is aligned with Al Qaeda, for a recent spree of abductions of Westerners in Kenya.  Though independent analysis shows that the kidnappings are most likely the work of Somali pirates, Kenya is pursuing the Shabab as recourse.

See BBC’s comprehensive profile of Al-Shabab   

According to the BBC, Kenyan officials claim this military operation came at the request of Somalia’s transitional government.  Yet the Somali government, already reliant on AU forces, denies it made any such request.

Meanwhile, an Al-Shabab spokesman has declared that retribution will come for Kenya’s current intervention, making the threat that “tall buildings in Nairobi will be destroyed.” 

Indeed Kenya has responded with new efforts to secure transportation hubs within its borders and seeks to weed out Al-Shabab within Somali communities in Nairboi.

This conflict will no doubt result in scores of additional Somalis fleeing across the border.  There are already hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees in Kenya and Ethiopia.  The instability in Somalia may indeed spread through the entire region with increasing reprisals and displaced people.

This situation continues to unravel and the implications remain uncertain.  How will the African Union respond?  What will be the human cost of this outbreak of violence?  How can all parties establish a peace?

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Crowdsourcing in Preventing Election Violence

All blog posts by brianredondo

With Kenya’s next presidential election just around the corner in 2012, efforts to prevent the violence that tarnished the 2007 elections are already underway.  Can community stakeholders, governments, and the international community work together to maintain peace during this potentially volatile situation?  Crowdsourcing technology and crowdsourcing philosophy may provide the means to do so.

In July of this year, GPPAC convened a roundtable discussion with East African civil society organizations and the United Nations Development Program to consider ways crowdsourcing platforms could be harnessed for preventive action.  Using Ushahidi—the crisis mapping tool born out of the 2007 election violence—as an example, participants identified key considerations such as field monitors, information verification, and access to the masses. 

It was clear though that new technologies enable more organizations and more individuals to participate in early warning processes by generating and disseminating on the ground information in real time.  Integrating these voices with the initiatives of international organizations can significantly improve the chances of violence being averted.

This notion of effectiveness through the collective power of many lends itself to the “Strengthening Global Peace and Security for Development” Conference.  There CSOs and RIGOs will explore ways to work collaboratively in peacebuilding.  The combination of RIGO resources with CSO on-the-ground knowledge and influence can lead to productive results. 

Indeed, Florence Mpaayei, Director of the Nairobi Peace Initiative, will speak at the conference on the role of CSOs in managing tensions and preventing violence during election periods.  The 2007 Kenyan elections were marred by violence but the lessons learned, particularly on crowdsourcing, may provide a roadmap for a better 2012.

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ASEAN Working Towards Engagement With Civil Society

All blog posts by brianredondo

“Civil society is the real power of a democracy. Power is derived from the consent of the people,” declared Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  His remarks last March at a workshop on increasing involvement with community stakeholders highlighted ASEAN’s growing acknowledgement of needed cooperation with CSOs:

“We hope to have a relationship with stakeholders…Let us learn how to manage this relationship for the benefit of ASEAN and the global community.”

This was the second workshop of its kind held by ASEAN.  A report on constructive engagement with civil society from the first workshop, held in 2009, describes examples of institutional mechanisms for information and opinion sharing with local NGOs.  It also suggests a number of initiatives to involve civil society including an ASEAN-CSO Council and an ASEAN Development Corps similar to Peace Corps. 

The report however does not discuss the topic areas most relevant for collaboration with civil society.  This is especially important because stakeholders can play different roles depending on the issue at hand.  The “Strengthening Global Peace and Security for Development” conference hopes to fill this void by specifically addressing the tangible steps RIGOs and CSOs can take together to stem violent conflict and ensure peace.  The conference aims to unlock the collective power of both groups, so that regional stakeholders can solve regional problems.

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