I dare you to finish this paragraph about peace | Ozonnia Ojielo

29 Jul 2013

Kenyan children with cell phones In Kenya, UNDP pioneered crowdsourcing for conflict prevention during the country’s constitutional referendum in 2010. A toll-free SMS service allowed people to report threats, which civil society groups and police responded to. The referendum passed without violence. (Photo: UNDP Kenya)

“The core mandate of UNDP is to strengthen national capacities for development. From this basis, the concept of ‘infrastructures for peace’ has served to guide UNDP’s support to assessing and addressing country structural vulnerability. ‘Infrastructures for peace’ can be defined as ‘the network of interdependent structures, mechanisms, resources, values, and skills which, through dialogue and consultation, contribute to conflict prevention and peacebuilding in a society.’”

Still here? Congratulations. You are probably in the minority.  

My point in presenting this eye-watering statement unedited is perhaps facetious, but important: All too often in development, jargon is used to obscure activities that are not only vitally important – but actually quite simple as well.

The “infrastructures for peace” concept is a case in point. What could be more important in a conflict-ridden country than giving governments, police, quarrelling groups and factions the skills they need to engage peacefully? This means giving communities the resources and support they need to mediate and resolve conflicts, analyze where conflict may re-ignite, and to be warned in time so that rapid response is possible.

For example:

•  In Lesotho in 2012, the political environment was becoming heated and violence was a possibility. UNDP gave mediator training to four church leaders to help defuse the situation. Over two years, the church leaders helped feuding politicians reach a series of agreements that established trust. Last year, in part as a result, Lesotho saw its first ever peaceful democratic transition of power.

•  In Chad, where arguments over land and livestock often turn ugly, UNDP is reducing the risk of community violence by providing similar mediation training to individuals, local NGOs, women’s groups, trade unions and government officials. “Peace caravans” now travel the country to   help many communities resolve disputes.

•  Following the August 2008 conflict in Georgia, communities living along the South Ossetia administrative boundary line continue to face security challenges. UNDP and an international NGO are helping monitors to report on security threats using text messaging, giving authorities a very clear picture of continuing threats to peace. Incidents can be resolved quickly, in cooperation with the local communities. In many cases, text messages led to the quick resolution of the issue.

1.5 billion people live in a place that is affected by conflict, violence or high levels of crime. In these places, development is often an unattainable dream. Having the skills and support to resolve differences sustainably is vital. And with UNDP support, the dream is becoming a reality in many places around the world, despite the sometimes unintelligible jargon.

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