MARCH 2012 – No 30
East Africa Youth Conference Youths for Peace: Together Making it Happen was the theme of the second Eastern African Youth Conference from 8-12 February in Kampala, Uganda. Over 60 from Burundi, Cameroon, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda took part. Dan Kidega, a Member of Parliament from Uganda, opened the conference talking about how his involvement with Initiatives of Change had impacted his life since his teenage years. ‘That is the reason you will never hear anyone say that I have stolen anything from the public.’ He challenged the young audience to live for others as well as themselves, pointing out that ‘it is greed that has caused the absence of peace’. Over five days participants discussed the role of civil society, the importance of accountability and values for good governance, non-violence and tools for conflict transformation, and how to create a culture for sustainable peace. Guest speakers included the Chief of Uganda Defence Forces, General Aronda Nyakairima, and John Ntimba, former Ugandan Ambassador to India, who both shared their experiences as peacemakers. A ceremonial planting of trees by participants marked their commitment to peace, both in their lives and the community around them. The conference closed with a call for the youth to be ambassadors for peace from
the Prime Minister of Bunyoro Kitara, one of Uganda’s four traditional Kingdoms. ‘We want Africa to rise and shine and that Africa is none other than you and me,’ he said. The most important outcomes of the conference were expressed in the individual commitments written down by participants. One wrote: ‘As an African, I commit to stop violence within myself and others.’ Another wrote, ‘I will be a change agent in all spheres of my life, be it social, economic or spiritual, everywhere I go. I will be a peace ambassador daily.’
After the Riots forum
behalf of the organizing committee. ‘Many of the individuals here have hands-on experience in dealing with critical issues, such as social exclusion, family life, youth offending and community cohesion.’ Dr Peter Selby, former Bishop to Her Majesty’s Prisons and former Bishop of Worcester, gave the keynote address, saying that custodial sentences and bail provisions for some of the rioters had been too harsh. It reflected ‘a system of punitive attitudes’ that disregarded what effect this would have on the welfare of young people and the future of society. He contrasted this with ‘individual acts of over-indulgence at the top’ by some bankers and politicians who ‘bent the rules to their own interests’ and were resistant to regulation and control. ‘If you propagate a system of disregard you are acting outside the guarantees of a moral universe. Last August was a call to live for a system of regard.’ During the day there were presentations by young people involved in the riots and by people working for solutions through community building and social work. Anas Altikriti, Chief Executive of The Cordoba Foundation, closed the forum observing: ‘What we have learnt today is that the greatest resource and asset we have is people ... All of us can make a change. All over the world, we see the resurgence of the youth as a force to transform society.’ A young rioter commented afterwards: ‘I did not know that there were many people who cared and listened to people like us. This event is a rebirth for me.’
A forum held at the Initiatives of Change centre in London on 1 February brought together some 100 community and faith leaders and representatives of non-governmental organizations to discuss the theme After the Riots: From Blame to Positive Action. The forum was organized jointly by the Burning2Learn leadership training programme for young people, the Civil Society Forum, the Cordoba Foundation and Initiatives of Change, UK. The event was a listening forum, explained Don de Silva, Head of Programmes at IofC UK, welcoming participants on
Youth representatives present their research findings to the forum
Ugandan MP, Dan Kidega, addressing the conference
Horn of Africa leadership training Heads of non-governmental organizations, community leaders, a senior diplomat and student leaders from Britain’s Somali, Eritrean and Ethiopian communities participated in an Effective Leadership for Change training programme over four weeks at the end of 2011 at the IofC centre in London, UK. The programme, which took place over weekday evenings and weekends, was organized jointly with the Women of the Horn and the International Centre for Eritrean Refugees and Asylum Seekers. It was designed, said Zahra Hassan, one of the organizers, as a ‘flexible training programme that can be adapted to suit different communities and situations…. We can take this to any part of the country.’ Asha Hashi, a former Somali diplomat, said he had learned a lot of skills from the workshops that would be useful in his volunteer work in the community. Faz Ali, a trainee community TV presenter, said that she had boosted her communication skills and gained in confidence. ‘For minority ethnic communities, courses like this are rare and costly,’ she observed. African Peacemakers Mohamed Sahnoun, former President of Initiatives of Change International, spoke at the University of Geneva at the end of January, about his decades of peace-making work in Africa. It was part of a three-day seminar of ‘Africa-Geneva meetings’ organized by the University in collaboration with UNITAR (the United Nations Institute for Training and Research). Sahnoun drew on his long experience as an international civil servant. As well as roles as UN Special Advisor and Special Envoy to the UN for various African countries and regions, he was also Deputy Secretary General of the Organization for African Unity, served on the Brundtland Commission and cochaired the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty,
News in Brief
Mohamed Sahnoun speaking at the University of Geneva
which produced the report Responsibility to Protect. Sahnoun is also the founder and President of the Caux Forum for Human Security. Sahnoun shared the platform with Aminata Djermakoye from Niger, who served as Head of Protocol at the UN headquarters in New York, and in the office of the UN Director in Geneva. She had worked on conflict resolution in Eastern Europe, in the Caucasus and the Balkans. Both stressed the importance of listening, of empathy, and of sensitivity to the human aspects of conflicts. ‘To make peace, you have to talk to those who are making war,’ they insisted. New Caux Scholars video released A new video about the Caux Scholars Program (CSP) has been launched to mark the 20th anniversary of this month-long course in peacemaking held at the IofC conference centre in Caux, Switzerland. The film features interviews with students and faculty during the 2011 CSP showing how understanding of the personal and structural aspects of conflict evolves as students reflect from the inside out. It can be viewed on the IofC Youtube Channel: http://youtu.be/ucXSRL-Darg Working for change in Brazil In October and November 2011, Initiatives of Change Brazil partnered with Gente Que Avanza (GqA) to give a series of leadership development workshops as well as artistic and cultural presentations in several Brazilian cities. The programmes combined a focus on human values, personal development, self-knowledge and teamwork with
rich exchanges of cultural experience. A group of 17 young adults from across central and south America based at the GqA Latin America Training Centre in Montevideo, Uruguay, joined representatives of IofC (including two young Australians) to give a message of personal change leading to global change. In the process, the two organizations were able to strengthen their connection and deepen their dialogue about future effective collaboration.
calendar Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 22–25 March Tools for Change – KL Baia Mare, Romania 23–25 March Foundations for Freedom regional meeting Sihanoukville, Cambodia 27 April–3 May South-East Asia Life Matters course Yaounde, Cameroon 7–11 May All Africa Conference: Governance, Leadership and Corruption in Africa Caux, Switzerland 1 July–8 August International Caux conferences See www.caux.ch
GLOBAL UPDATE is published every two months by Initiatives of Change International, Rue de Varembé, 1, CH 1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Readers are encouraged to photocopy and distribute it. Please send news/comments to: IofC Communications, Armagh, 226 Kooyong Road, Toorak, VIC 3142 Australia, or to email@example.com. Free email subscriptions are available by writing to the same address, or through www.iofc.org.
MARCH 2012 – No 30
Rajmohan and Usha Gandhi with Malaysian Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and his wife, Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail
Dialogue on Democracy
Responding to the wave of movements for democracy, a dialogue on Making Democracy Real took place from 8–12 January, co-hosted by Initiatives of Change India and the IC Centre for Governance. Report by Mike Brown, Jonathan Edwards and Patricia Mukhim.
Making Democracy Real was a response to the
fledgling movements for democracy that are emerging across the world, from the Arab Spring to Africa and South East Asia. It set out to provide a platform for people engaged in courageous non-violent struggles for change; to explore the impacts of conflict and corruption on democracy and share examples of good governance and ethical leadership; and to address the challenges of extremism through an alternative culture of reconciliation and honesty.
‘We need to be independent from our own weaknesses, which allowed the decades of military regime to rule’ Participants from 32 countries responded. They ranged from Ministers and MPs to Egypt’s Tahrir Square revolutionaries, from American academics to Indian social activists, from a Rwandan peace-builder to a Japanese aid-worker. From the start, the Dialogue
set out to model inclusive and responsive democracy in the conference itself. Participants joined service shifts, an interfaith prayer meeting, and forums in ‘Freedom Square’, where anyone could speak on any subject for two minutes. Early morning sessions on Nurturing Democracy’s Wellsprings brought depth and reality as people shared approaches to reflection and moral change. The Dialogue opened with a video message from Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s leading democracy campaigner. Burma was ‘on the verge of a breakthrough,’ she said. But, ‘we need to be independent from our own weaknesses, which allowed the decades of military regime to rule. Shaping our own destiny requires not only a sense of purpose but also a sense of responsibility.’ Her request for ‘our friends from all over the world’ to maintain an ‘intense interest’ in developments at this critical time was warmly received. The world’s newest democracy is the Republic of South Sudan. Former IofC President Rajmohan Gandhi welcomed South Sudan’s Vice President, Dr Riek Machar Teny, who came with his wife and a delegation of 20, including two senior Presidential Advisors, the chair of its Anti-Corruption Commission and three
MPs. Speaking on ‘South Sudan’s challenge to bring national reconciliation and good governance’, Dr Riek Machar said that 30 years of war, at the cost of 2.5 million dead, had left his country traumatized. Almost three quarters of the population were under the age of 30 and knew nothing but war. Beneath the surface, a ‘simmering violence’ was leading to inter-tribal conflicts breaking out. He pleaded for ‘bold steps’ from the international community to help in a process of national reconciliation. In her opening remarks, President of IofC International, Dr Omnia Marzouk (from Egypt/ UK), noted two events that stand out from 2011: the ‘Arab spring’ and the birth of South Sudan. But recounting the ‘starker facts’ of their shared history, she apologized as an Arab for the slave trade through Sudan, despite the fact that Islam ‘categorically’ forbids slavery. She offered IofC International’s support in the reconciliation process, in the hope that ‘the Arab world and South Sudanese will rise above the wounds of war as well as the wounds of the past… to create a future with peace, stability, democracy and development for all.’ Many powerful examples of reconciliation were shared at the dialogue. An evening focused on ‘healing wounded memories’, heard moving stories of the national apology by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia to Aboriginal people for the policies which led to the ‘Stolen Generations’. A young Lebanese told of bridging religious divides through education; and one of the ‘Lost Boys’ who trained as a child soldier in Sudan told of his long journey through hatred to working for healing among his people. Media executive and presidential candidate in Kenya’s forthcoming election, Bedan Mbugua, related his attempts to win a violent movement of marginalised youth from their killing and torture, visiting their leader in prison till he renounced violence and embraced a life of faith.
‘If you face the arrogance of power with the arrogance of revolution, their power will beat you’ From South Africa came an amazing story of people moving forward together after conflict. Ginn Fourie, whose daughter was killed in a terrorist attack during the apartheid era, spoke alongside Letlapa Mphahlele who, as an officer of the militant PAC forces, had ordered the attack. Though Mphahlele has not on principle apologized for violence in a ‘situation of war’, his actions have matched Fourie’s wholehearted forgiveness. Afternoon workshops drew vigorous participation on such subjects as ‘The challenge of democracy – addressing corruption’, and ‘Building participative democracy from the grassroots up.’ An outstanding example was social activist Aruna Roy, whose village-
based organisation in Rajasthan helped provoke the strong ‘Right to Information’ (RTI) bill passed by India’s Parliament. She told how 100,000 villagers have been trained in ‘social audits’ to uncover government corruption, and $20 million has been returned through the 300,000 complaints lodged under RTI. Only hours after his acquittal, Anwar Ibrahim, former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, came with his wife. On his way, mindful of earlier conversations with Rajmohan Gandhi, he had drafted a media release saying now is the time to move on, to forgive, to work for justice and accountability. ‘The most important struggle is with the dictates of conscience: what is morally wrong cannot be politically right’. He warned against the West’s obsession with Islamophobia, pointing to Indonesia as the largest Muslim nation, which had democratic elections in 1955, and, despite a period of dictatorship, had returned peacefully to democracy. Environmental scholar and film-maker, John Liu, used video to tell the story of restoring 35,000 square kilometres in China’s Loess Plateau. His impassioned challenge to what he called ‘the crazy and relentless pursuit for production and consumption’ was backed up with documentation from seven countries, showing it is possible to rehabilitate large-scale damaged ecosystems. Evidence of what is possible was also shown in a presentation by villagers at Gram Pari, the rural ecology centre at Asia Plateau, the IofC centre in India which hosted the conference. Here, over decades, a barren hillside had been transformed into lush forest sustaining a vibrant ecosystem. The largest delegation came from Egypt. Anissa Hassouna, of the Egyptian Council of Foreign Affairs, compared the delivery of democracy to the painful birthing process – more difficult now, having kicked out the doctors! She outlined the stakeholders – military, Islamic forces, liberal groups, and the youth ‘who brought the change’ – saying the time has come for all to put their cards on the table and talk. Two young ‘revolutionaries’ from Tahrir Square spoke passionately of their support for ‘mothers of martyrs’ and many of the 1,200 undergoing military trials. One reflected on Gandhi’s advice to Nehru – ‘that if you face the arrogance of power with the arrogance of revolution, their power will beat you’ – and concluded that humility in their struggle would be their strength. Among the 32 people giving their conclusions in the final meeting was former Cabinet Secretary of India Prabhat Kumar. His personal view was that ‘these four days have been among the most memorable of my life... I have learnt more about democracy than I ever knew. We have learnt that for a new created future ... to overcome the past legacies, we need the collective will and collective action of people.’ Then as president of the IC Centre for Governance which co-hosted the Dialogue, he pledged that the Centre ‘would follow up the deliberations and decisions’ taken by participants.
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Published on Mar 5, 2012
Issue 30 reports on the Eastern Africa Youth Conference, which took place in Uganda 8-12 February. The conference closed with a call for the...