Civil Peace Service: Inclusive dialogue, psychosocial support and conflict transformation in Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region
Title: Civil Peace Service: Building peace in Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region by empowering people to live together in constructive harmony
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Burundi, Rwanda
Overall term: 2001 to 2018
Over the past few decades, the Great Lakes Region has been the setting for various violent conflicts. These have led to the deaths of several million people and caused huge suffering for the populations of Burundi, the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. Despite considerable differences in political stability, economic development and the way in which the legacy of the past is dealt with in these countries, the current social situation continues to be shaped by the consequences of mass violence and its impact on the population.
The experience of trauma is a defining social topic and poses a challenge for society in the Great Lakes Region.
How to deal with that violent experience is a question that is relevant not only to those who have been directly affected, but also to future generations. Trauma can be passed on from one generation to the next, and is also related to domestic and sexual violence in the present. Young people are often caught between the official, political interpretation of the past, their own perceptions and that of their parents.
The various stakeholders in the region overcome the dividing factors and create a social coexistence which respects and values the opportunities for the personal development of individuals.
The Civil Peace Service (CPS) has been supporting civil society organisations in Rwanda and neighbouring regions in their efforts to secure peace and reconciliation since 2001.
Alongside numerous civil society organisations, CPS cooperates with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Rwanda and Burundi.
CPS experts provide advice and support and also strengthen existing potential; they oversee processes and build the partners’ capacities to recognise conflicts early, to resolve them peacefully and to promote comprehensive social inclusion. In close cooperation with the Association for Development Cooperation (AGEH) and as part of a network with other international stakeholders, CPS carries out cross-border activities in the Great Lakes Region, addressing the following areas:
- Psychosocial support for displaced persons and other vulnerable groups
- Dealing with the past: CPS identifies and strengthens peacebuilding and unifying elements in order to support reconciliation efforts in the region.
- Dialogue: Spaces for dialogue and cultural projects enable the various stakeholders, particularly young people, to develop and support their own views and opinions regarding constructive conflict resolution and a tolerant and inclusive society in Rwanda and the region. At village and regional level, changes of perspective and the dismantling of negative stereotypes are promoted.
- Reporting for peace: Young people produce radio broadcasts and in so doing practise conflict-sensitive journalism. Joint broadcasts with youth projects in Burundi and northern Congo transcend boundaries and promote mutual understanding. School media clubs raise awareness of what people have in common.
- Conflict transformation: CPS experts support partner organisations in focusing on a non-violent approach to dealing with old and new conflicts.
- Adapted mechanisms of psychosocial support and prevention allow the consequences of traumatisation in villages and refugee camps to be managed and provide those affected with the prospect of a full way of life and opportunities to participate in society.
- The population is familiar with the existing structures providing psychosocial support. Victims are making use of them, which helps in terms of their rehabilitation and reintegration into their communities.
- An integrated culture of remembrance and dealing with the past shines a light not only on the victims but also on the consequences for perpetrators and the groups to which they belong, thereby helping to prevent renewed violence.
- Social inclusion and pluralism of opinion form an integral part of daily life in the region. People have a repertoire of non-violent behaviour available to them.
- Spaces for dialogue and exchange, such as participatory radio broadcasts for young people, reciprocal project visits and dialogue groups in villages between perpetrators and victims, make it possible for polarised groups to change their perspective. They get to know one another and discover what they have in common, thereby dismantling hostile prejudices. The broadcasts, which are based on dialogue and inclusion, are transmitted by Voice of America, the US international radio broadcast service, and therefore reach an audience of approximately 700,000 people in the region.
- Conflict-sensitive media work, discussion sessions and public speaking competitions are helping young people to develop the ability to think independently. Young people are also able to reflect on their own perspectives and those of others. They can recognise potential instances of instrumentalisation and calls for violence, and can analyse them critically.
- Conflicts at local level, and between young people, are increasingly being resolved in a non-violent way, using the social resources available.