Civil Peace Service: Peace work and psychosocial support in the Great Lakes region
Title: Civil Peace Service: Fostering peace literacy and civil society networks in the Great Lakes region
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo (East)
Overall term: 2019 to 2021
Over the past decades, the Great Lakes region has become the scene of numerous violent conflicts. These have caused great suffering to the people of Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, and have led to the deaths of several million people. A key factor in the conflict is the failure to establish political systems that guarantee social participation and a peaceful transfer of power. The polarisation of ethnic groups has repeatedly led to the outbreak of violence within the countries in the region. There has therefore always been a risk of violence spreading to neighbouring countries. In a similar way, mass expulsions and displacement in the region are exacerbating the impacts of the respective conflicts. The exploitation of natural resources, land scarcity and the spread of small arms across national borders are also contributing to instability in the region. Even though the project countries differ considerably in regard to their political stability, economic development and how they come to terms with the past, the consequences of violence for the population and the social fabric are very similar.
The population in the region is aware of its own scope for action and is using various options to build peace and communicate. Through critical reflection, it is resisting possible attempts at manipulation and calls for violence.
The Civil Peace Service (CPS) has so far supported 16 civil society organisations in their peace and reconciliation efforts. Twelve of them are in Rwanda and four are in Burundi. Partnerships are currently being initiated with four other civil society organisations in the Kivu region.
The experts from the CPS advise, support and strengthen existing areas of potential and oversee processes. In addition, they support the partners in their capacity to recognise conflicts at an early stage and to resolve them without violence while valuing and involving all people (social inclusion). In close collaboration with the Association for Development Cooperation (AGEH) and in conjunction with other international actors, the CPS works across borders in the Great Lakes region on the following topics:
Psychosocial support: For displaced people, traumatised population groups and other groups in need of protection
Dealing with the past: The CPS identifies and strengthens peace-building and unifying activities to support reconciliation efforts in the region.
Dialogue: The CPS creates opportunities for dialogue and stimulates cross-border exchange processes. These enable young people in particular to develop and represent their own views on what non-violent conflict transformation and a tolerant society in the region can look like. A change of perspective and the reduction of negative stereotypes are fostered regionally.
Peace journalism: Young people produce radio programmes and thus practice conflict-sensitive journalism. Radio broadcasts produced in conjunction with youth projects in Burundi and North Congo overcome barriers and foster mutual understanding.
Conflict transformation: CPS experts support partner organisations in focusing on the non-violent resolution of old and new conflicts.
Network and advocacy work: Partner organisations are actively involved in relevant local, national and/or regional networks that foster a shared understanding of conflict dynamics, common positions and goals, and effectively advance peace-building strategies.
- Art, film and sports projects are offered as part of the cross-border Tujenge Amani peace-building programme. Within these projects, participants from Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were able to rethink and break down their prejudices and negative perceptions of other groups.
- Volunteers were trained in trauma counselling and conflict management. They have provided psychosocial and mediation services.
- A series of memorial conferences, workshops and mobile exhibition tours were organised to facilitate dialogue between generations and to share experiences of violence and genocide. This has supported an understanding of commemoration and reconciliation based on a willingness to compromise.
- Key actors were trained in methods for managing conflicts and raising human rights awareness.
- School pupils and teachers have utilised their skills in the education through cinema (Cineduc) method and in ‘methods for public speaking and exchange’ at local, regional and national levels.
- The CPS partners have developed a ‘toolbox for critical thinking’ to inform lessons and discussions in schools and peace clubs.
- Conflict-sensitive radio programmes are listened to by young people throughout the Great Lakes region. Young people are valued as responsible actors in developing future prospects for sustainable peaceful dialogue.