Both the direct and indirect human cost of violent conflict in Eastern and Central Africa have been tremendous: the failure of military interventions, the lasting negative impact on communities and the high cost of peace keeping operations and reconstruction indicate that a fundamental shift from reaction to conflict prevention is necessary for the promotion of peace and development.
Civil society has a strong role to play in conflict prevention in the region as the complexity,scale and diversity of conflict are too great for any single entity to deal with adequately. Due to their proximity to the communities involved in and affected by conflict, civil society actors may have the trust of conflict parties or insights that governments lack. Stronger ties and closer cooperation between governments and CSOs are therefore vital in the prevention of armed conflict in the region.
Nairobi Peace Initiative -Africa (NPI-Africa) is the initiator for the Global Partnership process in Eastern and Central Africa. On 26-29 October, NPI-Africa organised the Regional Conference “Towards Effective Partnerships for the Prevention of Armed Conflict and Peacebuilding ” which brought together more than 60 civil society actors, researchers and academics as well as representatives from the Government of Kenya,COMESA,IGAD and the UN Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region.
The main objectives were the identification and analysis of key issues pertinent to conflict prevention and peacebuilding in the region, the creation of space for sharing experiences and lessons learned and collaboration between CSOs,UN and government representatives,generating a Regional Action Agenda,and forming a Regional Steering Group for the Eastern and Central Africa Region.
The Regional Action Agenda that resulted from the conference is still in the process of being finalised and endorsed, but will be available on the Global Partnership website(www.gppac.net)in the near future. However,with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region held just three weeks later an additional set of ten recommendations was made,addressed specifically to the participating governments of the Great Lakes Conference. What follows is a summary of these recommendations.
1. Because there is currently no specialised agency with a regional approach to conflict prevention,the regional conference recommends that the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) be transformed into such an agency,and renamed the Intergovernmental Authority on Peace for Development (IGAPED).
2. It is important that a fund for post- conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding be set up, to be administered through the COMESATrade and Development Bank. This fund could contribute to activities that will help prevent recurrence of conflict, such as trauma counselling and reconciliation.
3. A “Regional PeacePrize” should be established to recognise and valorise institutions, statesor individuals who have showed courage in saving lives and promoting peace and mutual understanding.
4. Governments should implement in full the Nairobi Declaration on Small Arms and Light Weapons,and commit themselves to a regional approach to the control of illicit arms.
5.Given the increased use of sexual violence as an instrument of war,the conference recommends that governments in the region create special courts and legislation to deal with these offences. Government should also support and facilitate research into gender-based violence, and lobby the UN to pass a resolution that condemns rape as an instrument of war.
6. With the number of resource-based conflicts on the increase, the conference made a series of recommendations regarding the creation of a code of conduct,accountability and transparency in the management and use of natural resources in the region,and the development (in cooperationwith C50s) of an early warning system.
7. A number of recommendations were made regarding the protection and healing of refugees,and the sensitisation (in cooperationwith C50s)of local communities on the rights of and the need to co-exist peacefully with refugees and IDPs.
8. Encouraged by the emerging political will to respect human rights and the rule of law, a series of recommendations deal with the strengthening and monitoring of human rights and the abuse thereof in the region.
9. In recognition of the relationship between poverty and conflict, the conference recommends that governments in the region redouble their efforts towards poverty reduction through a set of both existing and new mechanisms and methods,and show a united front when negotiating with international instruments such as the WTO.
10. Finally,a set of country- and issue- specific recommendations were made.
The recommendations were forwarded to the office of the UN Special Representativeon the Great Lakes Region and the Kenya Ministry of Foreign Affairs for consideration in the drafting of the Dar esSalaam Declaration during the Regional Preparatory Committee meeting in Kampala, Uganda on November 8 and 9. Prior to this preparatory meeting NPI- Africa had the opportunity to give input in the draft Declaration during a meeting called by the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where they were able to further share ideas stemming from the recommendations.
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