International Day of Peace: How the EU supports recovery and reconciliation to build peace
21/09/2018 - 08:29
The European Union has started as a peace project and has successfully transformed a war-torn and conflict-prone continent into a global actor in peacebuilding and conflict resolution. The European Union promotes peace across the globe by addressing the root causes of conflict, contributing to creating the necessary conditions for the reconstruction of societies and supporting the recovery of affected civilians. The International Day of Peace reminds us that peace is not a given. Three projects in Ukraine, the Philippines and Niger show how local actors, with the support from the international community, can build peace.
Healing the wounds of conflict in Ukraine
The conflict in Ukraine is leaving deep physical and psychological scars in society. While the physical damage inflicted is plain to see, the psychological trauma is often hidden and forgotten. Yet, this massive trauma has long-lasting effects going beyond individual reactions and affecting societal dynamics of affected groups.
To break the cycle of violence and build a peaceful future for Ukraine, the EU, together with International Alert and the Global Initiative on Psychiatry, provides psychological and social support to children. So far, 25 summer camps with a focus on peace education have helped over 3,000 children from across Ukraine cope better with their emotions when they go back home and empower them to become active agents of peace. Overcoming societal trauma from the exposure of war is a crucial step towards longer-term peacebuilding.
“We see the difference in their eyes,” explains Iryna, one of the volunteer camp leaders. “At the start, they don’t look at you, but by the end of the two weeks, they will look you in your eyes, they breathe normally and you can see the tension going away.”
/file/women-and-girls-building-peace-ukraine_enThe women and girls building peace in Ukraine
Philippines: A road to peace cleared of mines and explosive remnants of war
The road to peace in the Philippines is fraught with pitfalls. Central and South-western Mindanao have witnessed five decades of fighting between islamic rebel groups of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government of the Philippines. The conflict has left the island contaminated with unexploded ordonance that puts innocent lives in danger, in particular those of civilians, refugees and returnees.
Local villagers and FSD Community Liaison Officers put up a UXO warning sign in Pikit, North Cotabato, following a Mines and UXO Risk Education session in the village
Since 2012, the EU has supported unexploded ordonance and mine surveys, risk education and clearance on Mindanao island to prepare parties to the conflict to go down the road of peace hand in hand. The comprehensive peace agreement, signed between the MILF and the government of the Philippines in 2014, was a key milestone. Its full implementation is still under way and requires many small steps by every party involved.
With the support of Fondation Suisse de Déminage (FSD) France and the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines, the EU brings together the different parties to the peace process in Mindanao. Activities include the training of joint (MILF and government) peace and security teams, mine and unexploded ordonance risk educations sessions for local communities, and bringing the two sides together to clear unexploded ordnance in conflict-affected areas. The establishment of a Bangsamoro Mine Action Centre is also foreseen. These are significant steps towards increasing the mutual trust of the parties to the peace process.
Supporting the local dimension of justice to back reconciliation and dialogue in Niger
For the first time in July 2018, the city of Diffa, Niger has hosted trials against alleged ex-Boko Haram members, which previously took place in the capital, Niamey, more than 1300 km away. Thanks to the joint efforts of the Nigerien Haute Autorité à la Consolidation de la Paix, civil society organisations and the EU, victims of attacks perpetrated by the terrorist group Boko Haram in the Diffa region can now deliver their testimonials on site and see their perpetrators brought to justice.
Establishing local justice plays a major role in enhancing the dialogue and alleviating tensions between the Nigerien government, former members of Boko Haram and affected citizens across the country. It also allows for the rehabilitation and reintegration of former members of Boko Haram into Nigerien society. This paves the way to reconciliation, peace and stability in the Diffa region.
Beyond Ukraine, the Philippines and Niger, the EU works towards peace and stability in many other conflict zones. Find out more about the diversity of its actions for peace across the world.
Iraq - Back to school!
Leyla is happy to be back at her home school in Mosul teaching English to primary school students. “I love my job!” she says. Leyla taught in the camp where she lived after being displaced by Da'esh, but now that families are gradually returning to their houses she is back teaching in her old school thanks to EU support. The challenges for Leyla and her colleagues are huge. They have to teach students traumatised by violence, loss and displacement in a city that lived almost three years under Da'esh occupation. A city where many areas are completely destroyed, but where Internally Displaced People (IDPs) are eager to go back to as soon as it is safe to return and basic services are restored.
Following Da'esh territorial defeat, the EU wants to help the Iraqis "win the peace" achieving their aims of reconstructing their country, putting citizens at the core of the project. "Reconstruction is not just about buildings, roads and rails. We also need and want to help Iraq rebuild its education system, its institutions and its society," the High Representative Federica Mogherini said at the Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq (February 2018).
"We want life to flow back into the Iraqi cities and the countryside. We want to address the Iraqi people’s urgent needs, as a solid foundation for reconstruction," added Mogherini.
Talking to teachers like Leyla, it is clear that restarting education in the liberated areas is an important building block for social cohesion and to turn the page in a spirit of true reconciliation. In order to see more kids and teachers go back to school, more IDPs need to go back to their households in safety and feel that they can trust the local institutions. The pupils' parents and older brothers and sisters need to be taken care of as well. Poor families need to be convinced to send their kids to school and not to work. “Teachers, visit those families, encourage parents and try to motivate children to come back to school – and we succeed," Leyla says.
In order to rebuild families, communities and indeed the whole country, it is necessary to create job opportunities, through sustainable livelihoods, and develop skills through vocational trainings. For this reason, the EU is working to train young people equipping them with the skills and abilities they will need to take up jobs, particularly jobs that do not yet exist. Through EU funded programs, we are developing the capacities of teachers in Central and Southern Iraq for them to be able to impart new knowledge in new generations and shape relevant capacities for the future job markets. As this work is strategically important, the EU support will continue in the long term with special focus on women and youth.
Since its establishment by the United Nations General Assembly in 1981, the International Day of Peace is celebrated each year around the world on 21 September. In 2001, the General Assembly voted to designate the day as a period of non-violence and cease-fire. It aims to strengthen the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. The theme for the International Day of Peace in 2018 is “The Right to Peace – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70”, thus celebrating the 70th anniversary of this milestone document in the history of human rights.
Managed by the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI), the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace provides short- and mid-term assistance on conflict prevention, crisis-response and peace-building actions around the world. There are currently around 200 projects in over 75 countries. These projects are implemented by Non-Governmental Organisations, the UN and other International Organisations, EU Member State agencies and regional and sub-regional organisations.