Nava Sonnenschein describes her strong impressions from the Global Peacebuilder Summit (September 4 – 9, 2016), which brought together peace builders from more than 30 conflict zones around the world.
I have just returned from an amazing five day conference which gave me a rare opportunity to meet activists from many countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Byelorussia, Serbia, Nigeria, Kenya, Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, northern India, Sri Lanka, Rwanda and Colombia. It was unfortunate that the intended Palestinian representative, Randa Siniora, could not be there for medical reasons, but she did send greetings via Skype.
It was both interesting and inspiring to hear from the participants about their work – which in many cases involves longterm personal risk.
This special meeting was an empowering experience for me. One of the issues raised was the resilience required by peace builders and human rights activists. We also discussed issues such as the price paid by women in areas of conflict, the issue of exclusion of religious or ethnic groups shared in many national conflicts, the importance of identifying the key factors of conflict rather than just treating the symptoms.
The Summit was held in the village of Paretz near Berlin, which hosted us wonderfully. The conference was organized by the Culture Counts Foundation, in cooperation with the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, the Helga Breuninger Stiftung, the Berghof Foundation, Ashoka and the network “der kongress tanzt”.
The Summit gave us an opportunity for mutual learning about our work for peace and human rights, for clarification of common challenges and for discussion about issues we want to advance at the local and global level. The conference dealt with and moved between the personal and organizational levels, and from there to the global level.
One of the issues that arose is the need to deal with the reigning in of civil society and the threats felt by organizations working to promote human rights and peace in conflict areas. We talked about the urgency of setting up a joint body to protect the rights of organizations who feel at risk. We stressed the need to maintain contacts between us. On the two last days of the conference we were in Berlin to meet with German MPs and the German Foreign Ministry. We shared with them our expectations for continued development of the forum and our hopes that it will be continued.
Many thanks to the organizers.