Saturday 7 March 2009

Reflecting on Peace Practice - an application

In early March, the German Welt friedens dienst (WFD or "World Peace Service") celebrated its 50th anniversary with an international conference in Berlin. Guest Mary B. Anderson, President of the Collaborative for Development Action (CDA), shared critical reflections on peace work and, in a workshop, demonstrated the importance of defining one's notion of peace and one's theory of change before engaging in such work. The CDA Reflecting on Peace Practice research into the work of some 200 NGOs suggests that effective peace work addresses all four quadrants of the grid above (from CDA's Confronting War, 2003). The grid is not a planning tool but can be used to screen ideas for activities that better flow from a rigorous conflict analysis.

On my way home, it occurred to me that the grid could also help analysing other work involving difficult truths. Last month I visited a women's shelter near Bethlehem in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. I had expected to be taken to a secret, inconspicous place. I wasn't. The Mehwar shelter is a proud, fortress-like building; near its entrance, it boasts a multi-purpose hall where regular public events take place. Those who have fought for the shelter feel it is not enough to support women in crisis individually. Establishing Mehwar as a public, highly visible institution, they show that femicide is a public concern for the entire Palestinian society.

Breaking the silence on violence creates the connection between the upper and the lower quadrant - the shelter, with its imposing presence and regular public events, makes sure the silence won't be mended. (And the founders have convinced "key people" in local government and the police forces to offer the necessary support and protection, creating a link to the right side of the grid.)

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