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The Alliance for Peacebuilding Conference 2009

2009 September 29

By Juontel White

afp_logoThe Alliance for Peacebuiliding (AFP) is a network of organizations dedicated to international conflict resolution. Search for Common Ground is one of its many members, which are located throughout the U.S. and abroad.

During this week, AFP held its 2009 annual conference in Boston, MA. I attended this meeting as a representative for Search for Common Ground and was able to gain insight from the shared experiences of other peacebuilding organizations.

The conference consisted of several workshops on a variety of topics. SFCG’s Executive Vice President Sandra Melone was a panelist for a workshop titled, “The Relationship between Conflict and Media” in which she addressed the close connection between the role of the media and conflict.

Other workshops addressed the concept of teaching conflict resolution, the holistic approach to peacebuilding and the interface between peacebuilding organizations and government agencies.

The holistic approach to conflict resolution suggests that all players in the peacebuilding field—community leaders, government agencies and NGOs—should develop a collaborative process in order to achieve greater and more effective results.

Rob Ricigliano, Director of Institute of World Affairs and the Peace Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, cited the Interagency Conflict Assessment Framework (ICAF)—a method recently adopted by several U.S. agencies—as the guide to this holistic approach.

“Collaborations between NGOs, government agencies and the United Nations can make the process more effective. The most important lesson, however, is that it is possible,” writes AFP President and CEO Chic Dambach, in his foreword to Building Peace: Practical Reflections from the Field.

An underlying theme of the conference was that the complexity of peacebuilding, in its efforts to establish long term stability by addressing several systemic levels within a country, can be a seemingly daunting but it is certainly possible, particularly when organization successful leverage their resources.

Those resources are available in several forms. For instance, support groups consisting of organizations bound by a similar purpose (typified by the AFP network) can serve as spaces for organizations to seek advice and words of encouragement from other groups in their field.

Resources can also be found within other systems and agencies. For peacebuilders, who often work at a community level, partnerships with government(s) and military forces can be valuable.

In his workshop on the relationship between peacebuilding groups and government agencies, Dambach explained how such partnerships are of mutual benefit.

He says peacebuilding often plays a role in foreign policy and international development and as such, peacebuilders can leverage their expertise to assist government officials in shaping policy. Conversely, sponsorships from government agencies are vital to the success of peacebuilding operations.

The media can also serve as a key resource for peacebuilders. As seen through the use of cell phones and twitter in broadcasting news surrounding the recent elections in Iran as well as violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the media can be a helpful tool in identifying areas of conflict.

With the creation of social media sites, the potential for viral communication has greatly expanded and peacebuilders can use these platforms to further publicize their message and also learn where their help is needed.

Overall, the conference was a gathering of scholars, practitioners and evaluators sharing and analyzing their experiences within their respective organizations while also gaining helpful information and resources for improvement and progress.

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