Concordis peace-builders

Some of the participants at the recent Concordis Darfur consultation (T. Hayden-Smith)

Peter Dixon, September 2005

Twelve months on from becoming an independent charity, we look back thankfully on a year in which Concordis International has built up trust on all sides in Sudan, currently our main area of operations. We have brought key Sudanese together to seek peaceful ways out of their conflict.

We have also pressed on with exploring and developing other possibilities – in Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine, Nepal and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – for applying the Concordis model of peace-building, derived from biblical concepts of peace and justice. Relationships are the foundation of our work. The focus is at the strategic policy level, rather than the grass roots, but the aim is to benefit those who are impoverished by violence.

Darfur

While major aid agencies have rushed in to deal with the horrific humanitarian crisis in the Sudanese region of Darfur, Concordis has been informally bringing together individuals from the government and rebel sides, with the help of international experts. In September 2004 a consultation on land use and tenure built on the trust we had developed over five years of Sudanese work. The meeting developed equitable and constructive solutions to one of the most significant issues behind the conflict, and the participants moved on in December to work on the economic, political and cultural marginalisation of their region. Our third Darfur consultation, in August 2005, worked on the pre-conditions for the safe and sustainable return of refugees and the internally displaced.

Together, the conclusions of these three meetings represent Darfuri and Sudanese consensus on most of the significant Darfur issues, and therefore form a sound basis to go beyond ceasefires towards long-term peace. As the formal talks are about to restart in Abuja, Nigeria, our Sudanese participants have asked Concordis to present their conclusions to the negotiating parties and to the African Union mediators. This is a very practical demonstration of our working in parallel with, and in support of, formal negotiations.

Eastern Sudan

The Eastern region of Sudan, in many ways equivalent to Darfur in its marginalisation and poverty but much less visible on the world stage, is also facing potential violent crisis. A Concordis consultation in February 2005 brought consensus on the building blocks for a peaceful solution and led to a request for our help in bringing the Government of Sudan and the Eastern Front together. This sort of work can be slow and frustrating; the need for long-term engagement, rather than ‘crisis-chasing’, has never been clearer.

New projects

A short consultation in Cambridge on the Middle East, project development for Afghanistan, and initial research for the DRC are examples of small steps to expand our boundaries. It seems clear that this work has the potential to make a crucial contribution to peace, stability and democratic institutions on a much wider canvas than is currently possible. However, our non-Sudan projects will only move forward as resources become available, within a framework of prudent but ambitious development.

We hope also to ensure that the results of our work can be disseminated as widely as possible, through:

•       imaginative use of culturally appropriate media, e.g. video

•       publication of a series of ‘Concordis Papers’, in Arabic and English, to harness concepts developed by Sudanese participants for the benefit of post-conflict institution-building in Sudan

•       filming and production of a DVD about the work of Concordis, explaining the complex arguments about the effectiveness of preventive intervention

•       formation of an associated non-profit organisation to enable more effective garnering of support from government and private sources in the USA.

Lessons learned

This year has taught us that the relational ‘model’ makes sense and is worth persevering. That trust from all sides is crucial; impartiality and avoiding advocacy should remain part of our modus operandi . That on-going individual support for the organisation is essential if governments, trusts and foundations are to be persuaded to support its projects. And that the informed prayer of our supporters should remain a key component of our strategy.

Building relationships behind the scenes between people thousands of miles from each other – and from us – was never going to be easy. A very limited budget makes life difficult, although it can help to be able to show that we do not waste money on unnecessary luxuries. ‘You people make money go further than almost anyone else I know!’, said an American conflict expert.

Yet there is much more we can do if the resources are available. If you feel able to help, please do get in touch with us at Jubilee House or visit www.concordis-international.org. Most importantly, please remember Concordis in your prayers as we work patiently to bring a precious gift to others that many take for granted – peace with justice.

Peter Dixon is Chief Executive of Concordis International

 

 

 

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Category: News and Reviews

September, 2005

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