By Mark Clark, CEO of Generations For Peace

United Nations “2030 Agenda” and the Sustainable Development Goals: the contribution of Generations For Peace and the importance of partnerships

On his first day in office, on 1st January 2017, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres pledged: Let us resolve to put peace first”. That was a powerful opening statement making clear and direct the importance of the linkage between peace building and development at the heart of the mission of the United Nations.

Indeed, the United Nations 2030 Agenda which sets out 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be met by 2030, includes specific mention of “peace” (in Goal 16). This is all the more noteworthy because the previous Millennium Development Goals did not mention “peace” at all.

I believe that all citizens and organisations, whether public or private sector, governmental or non-governmental, have a responsibility to identify how they can play their part towards achievement of the SDGs; to harness their unique strengths, talent and efforts to make their contribution towards the goals that are most relevant to them. This is the spirit in which the SDGs shall truly become the “Global Goals” for all humanity.

For Generations For Peace (GFP), it is clear that our efforts around the world contribute directly towards 5 goals in particular:

Goal #4 Quality Education: in many countries GFP is working in schools. Often this is because there is serious systemic violence within schools, and by changing capacities of teachers and students and transforming the relationships between them, GFP activities can reduce violence, improving school attendance and educational performance. But GFP also works in schools because schools are strong, existing, sustainable structures in communities, through which to engage teachers, children and youth. GFP’s peace-building curriculum also supports informal education in youth centres, sports and civil society organisations.

Skopje, Republic of Macedonia

GFP’s approach directly supports Global Citizenship Education (GCED) to nurture respect for all, build a sense of belonging to a common humanity and help learners become responsible and active global citizens. GFP has collaborated with UNESCO on youth peace-building components of GCED and is also working with UNAOC on young peacebuilders education. GFP’s peace-building education model promotes youth leadership, community empowerment, active tolerance, and responsible citizenship in order to strengthen social capital and resilience, reducing vulnerability to violence and extremism.

Whilst GFP’s approach can therefore be seen as peace-building education and supporting global citizenship education, it is worth emphasising that at GFP:

·       we believe that education in the form of workshops or training alone does not lead to impact in communities: it requires participation in activities. Lasting behaviour-change impacts require a series of activities sustained over time, so our GFP approach ensures youth participants have between 40 to 60 hours of “contact time” with each other in high-quality carefully-facilitated GFP activities.

·       the activities support peace-building, critical thinking, peer group dialogue and reflection: all essential components of peace-building and global citizenship education.

·       towards the end of the series of activities, the youth participants are supported to lead their own small “community initiatives”. This provides experiential learning of designing, implementing and evaluating social change actions in their own community. It gives youth a critically important experience of feeling trusted to demonstrate their leadership and responsibility. This feeling is reinforced by the positive feedback loop of community recognition and appreciation in the participatory evaluation focus group discussions, where – often for the first time – youth may receive positive feedback and acknowledgement of their efforts from respected adults such as teachers and community elders.

In this way, we believe GCED can also strengthen resilience to radicalisation and recruitment to violent extremist organisations and be part of a strategy for Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE). Please click here.

Goal #5 Gender Equality: GFP seeks to address all forms of gender-based discrimination and violence, to promote gender equity. We understand that as an imperative supporting all human development, but we also see it more explicitly as one pervasive domain of persistent violence (whether direct, structural or cultural violence) across different contexts. Whilst gender equality is mainstreamed across all GFP programmes, some communities identify gender equality as their chosen objective for their programme. In accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1325, our conflict analysis examines the gendered experiences of direct, structural and cultural violence, to determine the most effective responses. GFP programmes seeking to empower girls and women always also engage boys and men, since it is their attitudes and behaviour that also need to change. Research by the GFP Institute on gendered communication and issues of masculinity in conflict and violence also helps to inform our activities.

Soroti, Uganda

Goal #10 Reduced inequalities: GFP supports community-level conflict analysis which examines structural, cultural, personal and relational dimensions of violence. Vertical and horizontal inequalities can manifest themselves in cultural narratives and structural norms, creating discrimination and unfairness, and even legitimising and normalising direct violence. GFP programmes use different tools to surface issues of inequality in communities, and to engage children, youth and adults to foster greater understanding, acceptance respect and trust. Apart from gender, inequalities may manifest themselves along any identity trait which may create minorities: nationality, ethnicity, tribe, religion, political affiliation, physical or mental ability, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, and these may be especially amplified in contexts of displacement and migration.

In addition, GFP also believes strongly in overcoming that sense of inequality that marginalises and instrumentalises youth as a problem to be fixed; instead, GFP seeks to engage and empower youth as equal citizens able to demonstrate their leadership to contribute positively to their communities. In this regard, GFP is a key promoter of UN Security Council Resolution 2250 and the importance of youth-led peacebuilding. In contexts where youth feel disaffected, disengaged, and without reasonable prospects of employment, social justice, dignity or hope for the future, this is more important than ever.

Goal #16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions: GFP is dedicated to promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development. We engage through strong existing structures in communities, use participatory methods for design, monitoring and evaluation, and demonstrate our long-term commitment through successive programme cycles, ensuring local ownership and institutionalisation within the community.

At our grass-roots level, each community is a complex adaptive system, and we seek to support a positive shift towards a peaceful and stable dynamic equilibrium. Our focus is deliberately at the grass-roots, because this is where we see an important unmet need and an opportunity to have a positive impact in a manner intended to complement other interventions in other sectors, including in the economic, political, security and justice domains. This approach, informed by systems thinking, also acknowledges that sustainable peace will generally require all needs across all sectors to be addressed to at least a reasonable level of satisfaction. And this is where the linkage between all the SDGs and Goal 16 becomes clear. It is also why Goal 17, and partnerships, are important.

Goal #17 Partnerships for the Goals: in recognising the enormity of the scale of ambition of the SDGs, and acknowledging the spirit of them being “Global Goals” for all humanity, it may seem obvious that achieving them demands a collective effort across people, organisations, sectors, structures and borders. Translating that into practice requires all of us to improve our competencies in nurturing effective partnerships, and this is an area GFP has been focused on developing.

The importance of partnerships: 

For GFP, our relationships with partners might traditionally have been articulated as both “vertical” (upwards with donors, downwards with local implementing partners) and “horizontal” (with partners across different contexts sharing knowhow and good practices and supporting capacity development). But actually, we find more and more that even our vertical relationships are more effective if we consider the more horizontal aspects. Thus, our relationships now with donors and local implementing partners often include mutual knowledge transfer and capacity development, and with corporate social responsibility partners and media partners are seen as mutually beneficial horizontal relationships towards complementary objectives.

Two examples of partnering for a more effective systemic approach are:

·       in Sri Lanka: GFP is partnering with the National Peace Council (NPC). This partnership means we are able for the first time to link-up our grass roots community-level people-to-people peace-building activities (the core strength of GFP) with national-level policy advocacy (the core strength of NPC) to inform the government’s national processes for truth and reconciliation (T&C) and transitional justice (TJ), with the mid-level nexus being District Level Inter-Religious Committees. This allows information about the T&C and TJ processes to flow down to people in communities, helping them to be aware of such processes, whilst the people-to-people peacebuilding interactions also foster readiness to participate in such processes and feed positive narratives upwards into the national policy media and policy domain. We expect to find other contexts where we can partner with other national-level actors to link their efforts with our grass-roots peacebuilding, for the benefit of both.

·       in the context of the Syrian Refugee crisis, with UNICEF and European Union support, GFP is working with Syrian refugees and local youth in host communities across Jordan and Lebanon to strengthen social cohesion and resilience, and to reduce violence, vulnerability and extreme coping mechanisms such as isolation, school drop-outs, child labour, early marriage, and sex work. GFP’s efforts are not implemented in isolation, but as a coordinated effort guided by the Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan (3RP) under which GFP programmes contribute directly to the Education and Social Cohesion priorities. Such complex emergencies demand multi-sector responses and capacity for large-scale rapid implementation, and in this context GFP is a member of a consortium of six NGOs working together to provide interventions across the education, health, livelihoods and youth development sectors.

Sport For Peace activity, Jordan

Without doubt, nurturing partnerships requires a sustained input of energy, and a consortium involving multiple partners magnifies the challenge exponentially. Poor partnerships may drain more energy as a cost than the partnership outcomes deliver as a benefit. It is important to say “no” to partnership proposals that do not convincingly resonate. But I am convinced that to make progress towards the Global Goals, it is inevitable that we must wrestle with complex “wicked” problems demanding and adaptive responses which link up niche expertise and innovation joining-up vertical hierarchies and working across sectors, across disciplines and across diverse contexts. We must therefore all embrace partnerships and strengthen our “partnering” competency to ensure the partnerships we enter always deliver a net energy benefit for ourselves and all partners involved, and ultimately a more effective and efficient result for the beneficiaries we seek to serve.

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