Since prehistoric times, humans have been impacting the environment. Whether it’s hunting for natural resources of food and water, shelter, exploring new territories, exploiting, displacing, and replacing other life forms (humans, animals, and plants). Contemporaneous advancement has seen humans creating boundaries and destroying nature through urbanization and industrialization.
The growth and expansion of the human population and the demand for essential lifesaving sustenance, modern amenities, and other human activities have placed an additional burden on the environment—a shift in temperature and weather patterns. Climate change has generated extreme temperatures, drought, fires, rising sea levels, and floods leading to habitat destruction. In some cases, complete extinction, pollution, deforestation, and displacement have resulted in a compromised and shrunken ecosystem.
The events of land degradation and drought produced by the change in climate, increased industrialization, the exploitation of humans by humans, depleting natural resources, and violent conflicts all impact infrastructure and livelihood, both directly and indirectly. When these changes happen, there is an increase in the movement and or displacement of the human population. Countries and communities continued grievance and conflict over resources, without peaceful resolution, also have a devastating effect on the people and the movement of people.
Forced migration and displacement are environmental, social, and political problems, whether the migration results from extreme weather conditions, people fleeing armed conflicts, suffering from the loss of livelihood, or urbanization.
Naturally, unplanned massive migrations don’t have the resources, proper infrastructure planning, the management, strategies, or a clear guideline to mitigate the far-reaching effect of further environmental damage. There may also be weak, divisive community political systems and a policy breakdown to manage immediate or sudden changes.
Caring for the community and the environment is of equal importance. As peace fellows, we are now aware of the interconnectedness of the environment, natural resources, and forced migration. We are also aware that all life forms are essential and need to be sustained for the continuity and well-being of planet earth.
We cannot deny knowledge of the complexity and fragility of the social, political, or environmental influences and processes that shape each community. However, we now have the tools and opportunity to reshape decision-making through our new understanding of environmental security and sustaining peace. We can now harmonize the relationship with the local community and government to build resilience, resulting from and or preventing the impact of armed conflict and or abuse of the natural environment and the deliberating challenges posed to the community. We have the opportunity to improve the well-being of humankind on the whole.
Oberlene Smith-Whyte – Jamaica
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 32Read More
In Ethiopia, many agriculture dependent families have a long history of facing the effects of extreme weather events and unpredictable rainfall variations. Disasters disproportionately affect family members including children in the crisis period and afterwards. Regular intervention of humanitarian food aid has offset various crisis levels in assisting vulnerable families with provision of basic survival in-kinds. While this saved lives, it often failed to protect livelihoods, and this became a growing concern. The impact of climate change has attracted a growing number of studies and policy debates to shape the emergency food aid model towards more productive approach of providing conditional and predictable assistance through food security program.
Care givers are still active participants in studies related to impacts of climate change and periodic assessments to inform the safety net provisions. Engaging a diverse web of stakeholders and implementers is important to align programs with its intended purpose. However, Ethiopian children are not often part of consultation regarding climate change or crisis response, at family or community level. While children are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, they are not passive victims.
Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) grants a child who is capable of forming a view the right to express that view freely in all matters affecting him or her; and these views should be given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child. Children growing in CFI families have collective knowledge about many things like what capacities and vulnerabilities exist in their family and the community they live in. I would like to argue that identifying children’s feelings and reactions is not straightforward because caretakers’ decisions often play a key role in informing program designs. The perspectives of children within the field of climate change or its effect on food security have remained unexplored and is vital to better inform how we advance our programming. It is therefore important to work with children (who belong to vulnerable families) to understand children’s experiences and feelings about their own insecurities. Article 12 applies at all times, for example around family decisions and/or as related to a child’s food insecure life.
I would also like to highlight the intersection of children’s other rights, like the right to access information (Article 13), parental responsibilities (Article 18) and the right to life, survival and development (Article 6). Importantly, vital consideration of effective communication among children, parents, communities or local government officials can inform research with inclusive evidence while enabling children (as knowledge holders) to share information and engage them in program designs, implementation, and follow-up. Participation enables children with the opportunity to express their views, engage and influence research processes, in any matter concerning them directly or indirectly. For example, in the aftermath of the tsunami response in Asia[M1] , evidence was provided that demonstrated that children’s engagement in the design and delivery of related disaster-risk-response activities enabled them to play an active role in their communities and managed to minimize the negative impact of the disaster for themselves, within their families and communities. Therefore, the development of feasible models that mainstream children’s engagement—from listening and understanding their perspectives and experiences to supporting their engagement—is important to address the changing needs of children impacted by a change climate. This will also promote a reduction of inequalities among children and promote their future resilience to climate change and other disasters.
Beza Teferra – Ethiopia
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 32
Insightful analysis is essential to any conflict transformation process, from prevention to mediation to reconciliation. A one-size-fits-all approach cannot be applied given, for some examples, root-causes and the interests of stakeholders differ in each conflict context. Effective conflict transformation approaches must be based on the comprehensive use and understanding of peace, conflict and development analysis. Therefore, understanding the tools of peace, conflict and development analysis are essential when designing, implementing, and assessing all peacebuilding projects and programs.
During the 11-year Syrian war to date, thousands of social action programs/projects, and even organizations have emerged to respond to communities’ needs, to prevent, transform and respond to violence across the country. Many approaches were designed without an analysis of the evolving conflict dynamics resulting in potentially impactful social actions diminishing for many reasons, including the exacerbation of conflict, the intervention of other parties, and the imbalance of powers. As in any conflict, peace is not a static condition defined by the absence of war but is instead a dynamic and nuanced structural process required to advance toward more positive peace. The sustainability of any peace intervention is based on how practitioners are able to analyze, understand and maintain transparent and subjective perspectives regarding evolving conflict and development dynamics. And, how practitioners integrate this nuanced approach into their methods to ensure that continuous analysis is conducted to support the innovative and creative orientation for future peace action.
During our week exploring analyses methods, we engaged with our instructor Dr. Bernardo Venturi (Director/Co-Founder, Agency for Peacebuilding (AP); Associate Fellow, International Affairs Institute (IAI), based in Rome) in dynamic discussions on conflict and development analysis and how they could be applied to our SCIs and overall peace and development interventions. Conflict analysis is the systematic study of the context, causes, actors, and dynamics of conflict from a variety of perspectives that helps development, humanitarian and peacebuilding organizations to gain a better understanding of the context within which they are working. Dr. Venturi noted the importance of distinguishing between conflict and development analysis and context analysis where context analysis refers to the broader situation in conflict-affected areas. Dr. Venturi also emphasized the necessity to consider conflict and development analysis as an integrated, ongoing and frequently up-dated process that gathers information from a full range of stakeholders to nurture practitioners, activists, and peacebuilders work. We had the opportunity to analyze our different conflict and development dynamics through different essential analysis tools refined to our SCIs. Moreover, we had the chance to familiarize ourselves with other tools and methods utilized by international agencies and organizations, such as the World Bank, USAID, Swiss Peace, etc. We reflected on the theoretical and practical skills related to the analysis of global conflict, peace and development dynamics while mainstreaming youth and gender inclusion in peace, security, conflict and development.
Lama Drebati – Syria
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 32Read More
We are in the 13th week of the Rotary Peace Fellowship (Class 32) and just had a brilliant session lead by Dr. Jessica Senehi on Storytelling: Coexistence, Social Cohesion, Reconciliation and Healing. The professor helped us step back and think about storytelling in various contexts but starting with us.
Stories. There are so many of them around us. Every day. Every interaction is either a story or a plot for a bigger one and several small ones. We reflected and shared one such personal story that made us think about why we do what we do. Too often, in our hyper busy lives in the peace, development and social work sector, we may not be reflecting on the powerful, inspirational and yet immensely human stories we come across, most of which help us keep going.
With the group of fellows, I shared one story project: People’s Archive of Rural India, called PARI in short. Interestingly, PARI also means “Angel” or “Fairy” in the Hindi language. This archive is an ongoing attempt to record and share the everyday lives of rural Indians in photos, videos, audio clips and text. In their own words “PARI is a living, breathing journal and an archive aimed at recording people’s lives. Many worlds, one website. More voices and distinct languages. It means an undertaking unprecedented in scale and scope, utilising a myriad of forms of media in audio, visual and text platforms. One where the stories, the work, the activity, the histories are narrated, as far as possible, as far as we can manage, by rural Indians themselves. By tea-pickers amidst the fields. By fishermen out at sea. By women paddy transplanters singing at work, or by traditional storytellers. By Khalasi men using centuries-old methods to launch heavy ships to sea without forklifts and cranes. In short, by everyday people talking about themselves, their labour and their lives – talking to us about a world we mostly fail to see.”
I am talking about rural India, specifically in the context of non-violent movements and storytelling, because of the rich history of India’s struggle for independence from the colonial rulers. Growing up in India, we are told so many stories of the movement for Indian independence, steered by the non-violent principle of Mahatma Gandhi, called Satyagraha. Even in modern India, Satyagraha is a powerful tool against oppression and tyranny. Over the last few years, India has experienced inspiring, peaceful, non-violent protests, such as the Farmers’ protests and Shaheen Bag women’s protests against the Citizenship Act (CAA-NRC) in the national capital region.
Similarly, there has been a rich history of non-violent movements in India that have fought for human rights, environmental rights and the mitigation of climate change through the power of storytelling, puppets and theatre. The origins of green activism in India goes back to Gandhian ethics and social philosophy. For example, the Chipko Aandolan is one of India’s oldest non-violent, environmental and social movements that initially started to save trees and grew to be much more than that in the years to come. The country is home to several green movements, started by ordinary Indians, many of whom didn’t or don’t have access to social media and the other tools of technology we enjoy now.
For an important example, The Barefoot College in the Tilonia village of India has used giant handmade puppets to spread awareness about various causes in the villages and tribal hamlets for several decades. Even in this digital age where mobile internet is easily available, storytelling in various forms is fundamental to bring social change. And that will remain so, irrespective of technological advances and changes
Srini Swaminathan – India
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 32Read More
Thinking and working in the peacebuilding field has become more nuanced and complex while every day is full of richness. After ten-weeks engaged in the Rotary Peace Center Fellowship Program with Chulalongkorn University, I have learned there is an important inter-relationship between different areas of thematic work and also sometimes confrontations between them. Based on this growing knowledge, I have several questions I would like to share with all of you.
When speaking about innovations in the peacebuilding field, a great deal of focus seems to be placed on the “technical project” where the focus is placed on efficiency. Therefore, my first question is: Does such a technical approach lose the people centered vision and intended impact? Yes, “peacebuilding must have results,” as detailed by Professor Kai Brand-Jacobsen. From my perspective, with too much of a predominate results oriented focus as driven by requirements from many donors, the “before and after” for me misses the longer-term social process that is required for a people-center vision and nuanced impact.
As a person with a business background, it is easy to understand that peacebuilding projects need to be efficient, with an important focus on innovation and resulting impact. Impact, from my point of view, should always be considered when we talk about peacebuilding projects regardless of the intersectionalities: peace and environment; peace and security; inclusive peacemaking; etc. Further advancing my thinking, when we explored “community peacebuilding”, Professor Zahra Langhi emphasized not looking at peacebuilding as a series of “projects”, because we are working with people. People who are living and suffering from stressful situations, and this goes beyond a “project”. Peacebuilding work is about people foremost, and must always be advanced with a “people-centered” vision, must be inclusive, participatory, and representative, taking into account local contexts, self-organization, etc. Furthermore, from this perspective, any peace engagements will interact with the conflict and such interactions may also have positive and negative impacts.
As a Rotary Peace Fellow with Class 32, I want to highlight our focus on these methods and the challenges we will face as we continue to advance the design and implementation of our Social Change Initiatives (SCIs), any and all peace work that we do now and into the future. From my perspective, a “people-centered” approach is vital to ensuring a vision and impact that is nuanced, respectful and impactful – and ensuring more durable peace. This is even more important now as human relations appears to be becoming more dehumanized, social media environment contributing to further divisions.
Peacebuilding as a field of study and engagement remains young, and growing; we must assume ourselves as part of its development in the near future.
Alba Purroy – Venezuela
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 32Read More