2012 marks a new step in efforts to promote peace. NGOs Interpeace and Peace One Day partnered to launch the Global Truce NGO Coalition 2012. The coalition involves NGOs from all sectors and welcomes individuals wishing to create a day of world cease fire, the Global Truce, on 21 September 2012. Scott Weber, Interpeace's Director General, told us about the project and Interpeace's role in promoting it.
What is Interpeace?
Interpeace is an international peacebuilding organization that works to strengthen the abilities of societies to manage their own conflicts. One of the things that we learned early on is that for peace to be sustainable, the solutions have to be developed by local people themselves. They have to feel a sense of ownership of their issues; Then, they need to work together to find a solution to the problem. That’s really at the heart of sustainable peace: it’s when the solutions are broadly owned and developed by local people.
How did Interpeace get involved with Peace One Day for the “Global Truce 2012” campaign?
We were approached by Jeremy Gilley, the founder of Peace One Day to join the Global Truce 2012 campaign. What we realized is that our own partners and teams on the ground were doing activities on Peace Day and have been so for many years. They find it a very useful framework to start conversations and get different groups who would normally not talk to each other focused. That’s the first thing. The second thing is that one of the biggest obstacles to action is skepticism. People do not really believe that peace is possible. What I am most inspired by is the fact that we are bringing organizations together who would not normally work together to mobilize communities for violence reduction and peace. People start to realize: “we can achieve more together than we ever thought possible.” It does not mean we are going to eradicate violence. But it does start to break down the biggest obstacle to peace and to change, which is skepticism.
What can Interpeace specifically bring to Peace Day?
We are going to be taking action. We consulted our teams on the ground around the world to see if it was a good idea to be part of this campaign. By doing this we build bottom-up ownership of our involvement in this effort – just as we do in our peacebuilding processes. We have also inspired them to be more active on the day. We are taking a leadership role on Jeremy’s behalf within the NGO community to help mobilize the NGO Coalition. The Coalition was launched a couple of months ago in London in order to bring together an even larger community of NGOs to work together on the day to reduce violence.
In mid-June the Global Truce 2012 NGO Coalition was launched by Peace One Day and Interpeace alongside Accord, BRAC, MAG (Mines Advisory Group), Mercy Corps, War Child and Viva Rio. We are coming at this from various angles. We have NGOs that are solely peacebuilders and negotiators; we also have NGOs who work in conflict zones and provide services, or help to build capacities or are more focused on security sector issues. It is by working across different sectors within the NGO community that we can have the greatest catalytic impact. That’s the beauty of the NGO Coalition. It is bringing together 240 organizations in over 100 countries. We have already doubled the number of NGOs since the launch of the Coalition in mid-June. We are using the nucleus of the group we have now to create a gravitational pull for other organizations to also get on board. What we want to do is to help them gather ideas on ways to reduce violence. Then, we gather all of this knowledge and share it so that others are inspired. The other thing is to capture the results. The key is: what does a reduction of violence allow a society to achieve? One example is from Jeremy’s trip to Afghanistan in 2007 where a negotiated ceasefire allowed for the vaccination of 4.5 million children in areas normally unreachable due to conflict. What will the ceasefire on this year’s Peace Day allow us to achieve that would normally not be possible?
What is Peace Day bringing to Interpeace?
It is an amazing opportunity to focus the world’s attention on these issues. We are constantly bombarded with messages and stories of conflict and suffering. Many people think the world is in very bad shape - that there is nothing they can do about it and that our institutions are failing us. I think Peace Day is about demonstrating that hope is not a fantasy, that you can actually effect change if we work together. It is focusing the world’s attention on what can be achieved. Peace Day gives us a framework in which we can do that. In that sense, it is extremely useful to Interpeace and the work that we do.
What are some of your concrete actions going to be?
Our teams on the ground are already planning a whole series of activities in Burundi, Rwanda, the Somali Region, and elsewhere. We are discussing right now what the most effective ways would be to get different groups involved in marking the day. We are for example partnering with the United Nations in Geneva and the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform to host a panel discussion on the subject of inclusiveness and peacebuilding.
What is the expected impact?
I expect it to be significant. We are going to have a level of mobilization like we have never seen before and we are going to start gathering stories of what has happened on the ground. I think in the September to November phase, as we dig through the data, we will really be able to tell the larger impact. What this first year should do is to build momentum: this is not a one-off effort. Our vision is that this happens every year from now on.
It’s a question of laying the foundations in 2012 and building momentum. That’s not unusual for normative change. Many of the things we take for granted now took 10-15 years to get into the mainstream. Jeremy deserves a huge amount of credit for pushing for Peace Day. We realized that while we have been focused on our fieldwork for so many years, we need to look up and broaden out, to see how we can have a catalytic impact on the general public. Peace Day and the NGO Coalition are a wonderful way to do that: the messages are very consistent with our own. It is by joining forces with others that we can have a greater result. All these things are resonating with us very much and it’s just the right time!
Will it have an impact on your longer-term activities?
We are committed to make this work. We want to learn the lessons from this year so that we can do better next year, and the year after, and so on. For anyone who is truly committed to peacebuilding, this is a great opportunity to reach many people and to change mind-sets. And that’s what I’m really excited about. I think it is going to make a great contribution. We are honored to have been chosen to play this role within the NGO community. But it’s not about us; it’s about making this a platform for all.
Why do you think you were chosen?
One thing that is very important in our approach is local ownership of peace. We build capacities within societies to deal with their issues peacefully. While we are a leader in our field, we are not self-promoters, we are about building coalitions. I think we were chosen for our integrity and inclusivity.
Photo © Pascal Dolémieux for The Global Journal
Interpeace is a leading international non-profit organization dedicated to building lasting peace in post-conflict societies.
Peace One Day is an international non-profit organization with the objective to raise awareness of the International Day of Peace that occurs on the 21 September each year by promoting a Global Truce.
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