Shaping Peace Together is the theme for this year’s International Day of Peace. The United Nations chose this theme as a call for people to celebrate the day by spreading compassion, kindness, and hope in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to stand together against attempts to use the virus to promote discrimination or hatred.
The European Union has brought peace and prosperity at home already for more than seven decades. Through its external action, the EU works for peace across the world. Since the pandemic began, the EU’s external actions have sought to provide stability in conflict-affected regions and help communities across the world to combat the pandemic. Key in this work is to engage with local community organisations and actors, and support them to further strengthen their capacity building.
In Somalia, the COVID-19 pandemic has strongly affected well-being and the economy in the Galkayo region and its environs. Most communities have little information or knowledge about the spread and prevention of this disease and therefore have limited capacity to deal with its impact.
Thanks to the support of the European Union, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) has been running a COVID-19 awareness-raising and response programme in Galkayo. Galkayo is jointly administered by the federal states of Puntland and Galmudug and is strategically located near the centre of Somalia. Also a trade hub linking north and south Somalia, it is the socio-political ‘melting pot’ of the country. The administrative division of the city mirrors a historic divide between two dominant clans who vie for control. The EU’s support has enabled the parties in Galmudug and Puntland to engage in a process of dialogue between different groups and hence to diffuse tension.
The project also supports awareness-raising campaigns about COVID-19 in highly frequented public places such as mosques, markets, restaurants, transport hubs, and hospitals, as well as in refugee camps in both the north and south of Galkayo. The awareness-raising includes disseminating information on local radio stations, posters and billboards in the Somali language, hand-washing demonstrations, installing locally-made touchless hand washing machines and delivering soaps to those in need.
In Cameroon, Mali, and Nigeria, the EU is working with partners in several regions to create inclusive dialogue for peace and security under the project ‘Security for all’. Taking into account the different national contexts, the project aims to put in place forums for dialogue between governments and civil society organisations. The objective of these dialogues is to reinforce democratic governance and to make access to public services more fair and effective and better adapted to the needs of the local populations.
In Zimbabwe, the EU is shaping peace by building trust and social cohesion at the grassroots level at a time when fostering reconciliation at the national level has been challenging. Building trust at grassroots level could serve as a model for future reconciliation efforts at national level.
Thanks to EU support, churches working together under the Churches Convergence of Peace Project (CCOP) supported the local communities to form Peace Committees and design local peace plans. These Committees are made up of different stakeholders from across dividing lines and include traditional leaders and political party leaders. Their inclusive composition enabled them to deal with common conflicts, thereby building cohesion among community members.
“I am a widow with 5 children and a member of the opposition. I am happy because I am now getting maize that is distributed to families that need food. I used to be left out because I was not a member of the ruling party. The project has taught us to tolerate one another and respect our differences.”- A participant in Zimbabwe
By way of example, in some areas food aid was being distributed along party lines. However, the Peace Committees negotiated for food to be distributed to everyone, regardless of political affiliation or party allegiance. In another example, the Peace Committee in one area managed to engage rival groups that had been in dispute over an artisanal mine. The dispute had left one person dead; the involvement of the Peace Committee managed to defuse the situation.
Read more about the International Day of Peace.
Read more about the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace.
Read more about how the EU gives peace a chance by saying no to armed conflict and yes to political solutions.