NGOs dialogue on peace, mediation
By Phyllis D. Osabutey & Janina Broker
THE MEDIATION Support Network (MSN), a global network of predominantly non-governmental organizations that support mediation in peace negotiations are meeting regional intergovernmental organizations (Rigos) in Accra to discuss ways to coordinate and deepen mediation efforts across the globe.
The peace building stakeholders are seeking to promote and improve mediation practice, processes and standards to address political tension and armed conflict. In view of this, the MSN connects different mediation support units and organizations with the intention of promoting exchange about planned and ongoing activities, to enable synergies and cumulative impact.
Also, they aim at providing opportunities for collaboration, initiating and encouraging joint activities, and sharing analysis of trends and ways to address emerging challenges in the field of peace mediation.
Speaking at the MSN Annual General Meeting in Accra on Wednesday, the Executive Director of the West Africa Network for Peace building, Mr. Emmanuel Bombande said the meeting would help stakeholders to discuss how to maintain peace by increasing the space for dialogue in the mediation process.
He said the theme for the meeting; “Regional Intergovernmental Organizations in Mediation Efforts and the Complementarity Roles of International Actors” would help all appreciate the role of Rigos in mediation across regions.
According to him, dialogue is a good solution to many conflict situations and this is why the United Nations (UN) continues to maintain dialogue at the center of its operations.
He said the West African sub-region learnt its lessons the hard way when it emerged from a very complex conflict situation. Thus, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was now seeking solutions that would promote dialogue and avert conflicts that would stifle development.
He added that civil society organizations (CSOs) have been engaged in the dialogue process and since 1989, challenges have emerged but there were protocols for working to address them, saying, “let us enrich our efforts and encourage one another in the challenging work we do.”
Mr. Bombande noted that though conflicts were generally decreasing across regions, they were at the same time increasing internally at the national level. The reasons he mentioned included the increasing competition for resources, and an increased awareness of citizens’ rights.
Also, he mentioned the distribution of resources and the sense of equity, stressing that, “political power and how it is able to distribute resources can facilitate how a country can be peaceful or increase tension when people perceive that resources are not being equitably distributed.”
He expressed worry that access to political power was currently generating tension whereas the West African sub-region was also beginning to see a rise of violent extremism on the basis of beliefs.
He said this new trend posed a threat to peace in the region, which calls for stakeholders to get an understanding of the problem, and figure out how mediation can be used to mitigate the effects before they pose a bigger problem for the entire sub-region. “We need to identify what capacities exist at the national level to handle these problems and open up space to involve civil society organizations in dialogue to help find solutions”, he stated.
In a welcome address, the Deputy Director for Africa and the African Union (AU) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ghana, Mrs. Florence Akonor said in recent times, there has been a significant paradigm shift in peace and security globally.
As a result, the international community, regional organizations, governments and their agencies have come to the realization that only states can have the exclusive preserve of peace and security, she indicated.
According to her, efforts and strategies to address the complexities of conflict and post conflict resolution, and reconstruction through partnership have intensified to further enhance mediation processes.
She pointed out that peace building ensures human security and is therefore the collective responsibility of all actors and stakeholders, and in view of this, “the role of the actors such as WANEP and MSN are being recognized and appreciated.”
She emphasized that the government of Ghana particularly recognizes the role of CSOs such as WANEP and the network by opening their doors for constructive engagement towards the management of state and interstate conflict, which continues to confront Ghana and the sub-region.
Also, in West Africa, the ECOWAS, through its various protocols have recognized the significant role of civil society in complementing government’s effort at upholding peace and sustainable development, she added.
Mrs. Akonor stated that Ghana’s foreign policy is committed to promoting international laws, treaties obligations and settlement of international disputes by peaceful means.
She observed that the meeting was timely and appropriate because in less than two months, Ghana would be holding its general elections that result in a lot of tension and speculations.
On his part, the Senior Researcher and Head of the Mediation Support Team, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Dr. Simon J. A. Mason said the MSN meeting was the first to be held in Africa, saying, “it a milestone for the organization.”
He said the founders of MSN observed a lack of communication and coordination between mediation organizations worldwide. Thus, they formed the MSN to ensure communication flow, get to know and trust each other to avoid duplications in their work towards achieving a peaceful world.
He further pointed out that the network was seeking exchange ideas and interact, embark on joint activities, and take up trends in the field of peace negotiation that would help put theories and ideas into practice.
The MSN members include the WANEP, UN, Initiative on Quiet Diplomacy, Berghof Foundation Swiss Peace, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Crisis Management Initiative, Conciliation Resources, and The Carter Centre among others.
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