About the series
2020 laid bare that crisis and conflict are not just something ‘out there’. They are here and now and touch all our lives. And while the deficiencies of our existing models for creating just and peaceful societies were being revealed, so were the enduring sources of resilience in our world. It is now imperative to do things differently – to listen, share and learn from the extraordinary stories of peacebuilders working in contexts of entrenched injustices, in deeply divided societies and understand what does it take to build just and peaceful societies in an era of escalating inequalities, polarization, conflicts and injustices and of fast eroding human rights and democracies.
Through the ‘let’s build peace, here & now’ series the Foundations for Peace (FFP) network and its partner Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace (PSJP), are creating a space for telling the stories of those who have been closest to the ground. Our approach is to tell our stories through deep and authentic conversations. Stories and narratives are powerful because they stick, narratives can convey complex ideas, help transcend borders and artificial divides speaking to us all as one and inspire to forge new ideas, behaviours and connections. Often in the fields of development and philanthropy stories are watered down by the need for brevity, bullet points and reporting templates. We want to change that and share our narratives freely, authentically, directly and provide an opportunity for people, who are looking for ways to #buildbackbetter, to listen deeply.
Martin Macwan and Stephen Pittam are two seasoned activists from two different countries but united in their commitment to social justice, human rights and peacebuilding work have a candid conversation. Drawing on his own extensive experience from UK and in particular Northern Ireland, Stephen talks to Martin about his activism in India to end caste based discrimination, violence and the historic social, economic, and political suppression of the Dalits. They talk about what it takes, on the ground, to create transformative change, to build peace that lasts and what is the role of philanthropy in all this?
Dawn Shackels, a local activist from Northern Ireland speaks with Bassma Kodmani, a fellow activist and peacebuilder who has worked for over 30 years on what she describes as the cause of her life, Syria. Dawn and Bassma draw on their shared experiences to talk about what drives them to dedicate their life to the cause of peace in their respective contexts? What motivates them to take the risks? What keeps them going in the face of adversity? And what have they learned over the years about the key elements of building enduring peace? They share their stories as individuals who feel a visceral calling to the cause.
“Reconciliation is postponed when people’s truth is not told”
Mary McAleese Former President of Ireland
Memories are stories we tell to convey our personal or communal experience and so they become particularly important in contexts of prolonged conflict where grief, trauma, hurt and anger are passed on from generation to generation. What role do stories and storytelling play in the process of healing divided societies or finding new pathways to building peace – the stories that are told but also the ones that are contested, silenced and untold?
In the third episode of ‘Let’s build peace: here and now’ conversations Kamala Chandrakirana, Indonesian feminist and advocate for peace, human rights, justice, and democracy and Gabi Kent a storytelling practitioner and researcher based in the UK who works in and with conflict-affected communities talk about the role of stories, storytelling and memory in building transformative peace.
In previous conversations in the series speakers spoke about the transient nature of peace. ‘Peace, not conflict, is episodic.’ In the fourth episode of ‘Let’s build peace: here and now’ Serbian peacebuilders Jelena Memet, Anita Pantelić and Galina Maksimović talk about the ways in which ‘war’ continues in Serbia highlighting the economic dimensions of conflict.
Equally, they draw attention to the interminable and complex nature of peace-building efforts years after the war has ended: the long history of how young women in Serbia have resisted war as well as their efforts to create spaces for dialogue and build solidarity to this day.
The problem of oppressed minorities within a society is not just the problem of that minority – as it is often perceived to be – it’s a problem for the whole of that society. As Martin Macwan of the Dalit Foundation puts it, ‘if some of the citizens of your country are not treated as citizens, then the whole country cannot grow, no matter how much development, so called, you bring about.’ South African human rights lawyer and activist, Albie Sach’s echoes this: fighting injustice is an endeavour that, ultimately, is pursued even for the sake of the perpetrators.
Participation in women’s peace activism is an act of solidarity and care for all the people who are going through the most terrible moments of life. It also provides some meaning, and in days of great crisis, some relief. Anita Pantelić, a Serbian Activist at the Alternative Centre for Girls in Kruševac reflects on her life and work growing up in Serbia which she describes is ‘like a barrel of gunpowder ready to explode at any time’.
Peace is not the signing of a document to the accompaniment of media fanfare. After the compromises have been worked out there are still issues which divide the contending parties and which take time to work out. What’s more, these can endure beyond the life of the generation which actually experienced those issues and become a memory of collective grievance. And peace will never be peace as long as the voices of those at the margins are excluded. Andrew Milner draws on a conversation among peace activists, mainly Syrian peace activist Bassma Kodmani and Dawn Shakels from Northern Ireland on their difficult and interminable work as peacebuilders.
Conflicts don’t just end. Peace-building is not peace-making. Peace-making can mean simply the cessation of violence. Peace-building is a slow, day-by-day process between people at the sharp edge of antagonisms. Many of those who work for peace, such as Indonesian activist Kamala Chandrakirana and Northern Ireland peacebuilder Dawn Shackels feel that, despite appearances, it is peace, not conflict that is episodic and as conflict matures and breaks out over long periods of time, so building peace is an effort of long duration requiring patience and the willingness to keep doing what it takes to make that effort.
The human rights field has given preference to theories, yet, stories can be more powerful than other forms of narrative because they depend on images more than ideas. Kamala Chandrakirana, Indonesian feminist and advocate for peace, and Gabi Kent a storytelling practitioner and researcher working in and with conflict-affected communities talk about the role of stories, storytelling and memory in building transformative peace. Stories allows people to recognise others as people, not just as adversaries and to move beyond their divisions. They can also be a double-edged weapon and needs careful handling, since they can be told by the unjust as well as by those seeking to be just. Story-tellers also need support – they need safe spaces to tell their stories when what they say is unwelcome. Perhaps above all, story-telling bears witness, the witness of those who are seldom heard.
Galina Maksimović talks about the ways in which ‘war’ continues in Serbia highlighting the economic dimensions of conflict and how anger and identity and reproduced, to keep people in a state of hostility and distract from essential problems of the economy.
‘This is where we connect’ – Jelena Memet
Foundations for Peace (FFP) is an international network of independent local philanthropic organizations working towards peace and social justice. As local activist funders, we play a vital role in delivering and sustaining peacebuilding and social justice programs. With local knowledge and direct access to affected communities, we are the “bridge” to create relationships and work towards achieving equity and diversity.
We seek to positively influence the global agenda for change and the development aid architecture in conflict/post-conflict regions. We do this by developing and sharing learning, training and other resources to enhance local leadership, skills and potential to deliver sustainable peacebuilding work.
About Our Partner in the series:
Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace (PSJP)
PSJP supports the development and adoption of ideas about what makes a good society and to connect and strengthen different spaces and agents that serve these ideas.
- To contribute to the reframing of the operating principles for a good society
- To help a new vision for the civic space to emerge centred on transformative work for justice and peace and to support the role of various agents in this work, including philanthropy, civil society, social movements and community organizing
- To examine how different systems can create a good society and shift the power to include the most marginalized communities in realizing good and just communities
For more information about this event and FFP contact Rasha Sansur at firstname.lastname@example.org